Confession: I Let My Kids Watch The Kardashians and Love & Hip Hop Atlanta

So yeah, a day after talking all that yang about the Dark Knight Rises shooting and how I refuse to take my kids to adult movies, I have this confession to make: I let my daughters, ages 13 and 10, watch Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, The Kardashians, The Real Housewives and a bunch of other messy, dead-wrong reality shows that litter our nation’s TV channels.

I know, I know—this totally makes me a crap mom in your eyes, doesn’t it? Like, what respectable mother raising girl children to be smart, respectable, decent, upstanding black women with a healthy dose of self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect, would ply her babies with the Pimps Up, Hoes Down scandal that is thick-tongued, stripper-turned-side piece Joseline Hernadez? Or the slash-and-burn, bullying ratchetness of Basketball Wives’ Evelyn Lozada and Tammy Roman? Or the “We Don’t Do Much Of Anything But Sleep With Black Guys and Collect Checks For Looking Pretty At Events” antics of the Kardashian clan? I raise my hand and admit it, right here, right now: every Sunday and Monday, Mari, Lila and I kick Nick out of the room, sit down with our popsicles and popcorn and totally fall into the abyss of the curse-filled, glass-tossing, misogynistic, hood rat antics that light up Twitter feeds from Atlanta to Compton, inspire “get it off our TVs, please!” blog posts and online petitions and generally leave a nation of black women feeling like both VH-1 and Bravo just hate our asses.

Please know: there is a method to my madness. I mean, I’m not going to lie—we are thoroughly entertained. But we’re not watching these modern day soap operas simply for the fun of it. During the shows, I work the pause button on the DVR like nobody’s business, stopping the action, sometimes mid-sentence, so that I can explain the ridiculousness, warn about the behavior and show my little ladies how to do it the right way.

When Basketball Wives’ Evelyn tosses a bottle and jumps across a table to twist someone’s neck, I’m telling my girls that under no circumstances is it ever okay to end an argument with fisticuffs. When Evelyn’s castmate, Keisha, responds to Tami Roman’s merciless bullying and theft of her purse by calling the authorities, I’m telling the girlpies, “Yes. Someone slaps you in your face? Takes your Louis? Don’t give them time to give you directions on how to respond or stipulations on how to get your property back. Call the cops. Period.” When Love & Hip Hop’s Mimi Faust stands out in the parking lot, demanding manwhore Stevie J. not to get in the car with Jumpoff Joseline, I’m telling the babies, “Don’t ever stand around letting a man humiliate you like that. If he’s bold enough to wave the next girl in your face, he no longer gives a damn about you. Have enough respect for yourself to chuck up the deuces and get on with holding your head high, knowing you gave it your all but it’s over.” Basically, there’s a whole lot of teaching going on in those hour-long bursts of tomfoolery—wicked shots of wisdom taken straight to the head.

Turns out, I might be on to something. A recent study published in the journal Sex Roles revealed that while two-thirds of a group of girls aged six to nine told researchers they want to look “sexy,” their wholly inappropriate desires were not rooted solely in the mess they see on TV. Instead, the study said, it’s “the interaction between media hours and maternal self-objectification that creates vulnerability for early sexualization.” In other words, kids who were exposed to The Kardashians and had mamas who act like Kardashian knock-offs in the house were more likely to want to want to look like a sexy Kardashian. Other research, though, like those cited in this Salon article, took it a step further by suggesting that girls who are taught by their mothers to look critically at media and given an alternative narrative to what they’re watching are more likely to survive the gauntlet of sexualized images and stereotypes fed to them at every turn and, in the process, learn to think a lot more critically about the music, television, movies, magazines and books they’re consuming.

I’m convinced my girls are getting the lesson. Way better than I did when, after school and during summer vacation, I fell into the abyss that was All My Children and General Hospital—totally unchecked. Mommy worked during the day and Daddy slept during the day so he could work the overnight shift, so the TV was mine-all-mine and by age 11 or 12, cartoons totally took a backseat to the shenanigans of Laura and Luke and Erica Kane. You want to know confused? Consider how I processed the infamous “rape” scene between Luke and Laura—replete with sexy music and soft lighting and, a few episodes later, an intact relationship between the attacker and the attacked. Right.

Of course, I waited quite a while before I exposed my girls to this madness. Up until this summer, they weren’t even allowed to listen to black radio, watch BET, go on YouTube or download music and videos to their iPods without my express approval. All of it was simply too grown for the girlpies and I figured they were much more safe watching Nickelodeon and Disney and taking in my pre-made, mom-approved music mixes. But I’ve raised my daughters well; their critical ears are well tuned. Not pitch perfect; they are, after all, still children. But with my guidance, they’re getting there.

Criticism notwithstanding, I’ll keep letting my girls watch the shenanigans on Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, The Kardashians and The Real Housewives—remote in hand, pause button on my trigger finger, conversation at the ready. The lessons are there, laid out in technicolor—lessons on friendship, relationships, motherhood, conflict and conflict resolution, business acumen, mother-daughter bonding, beauty, self-esteem, self-worth. And I don’t want my girls to miss one, single episode. Because really, they’re worth it.

1. Can’t Touch This: We’re Too Bougie For BET
2. Stilettos and 10-Year-olds: A Dad Says, “Aw, Hell To the Nah!” ”
3. For Tweens, Sexual Images Can Be Overwhelming and Harmful 
4. The Attack Against Black Girl Beauty

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

16 Comments

  1. As a parent it’s sort of a catch-22 however if my son is in the room with me he will watch these shows with me as well. I grew up watching All My Children with my dad. I also watched Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones as other shows as an adolescent and teen. I learned a lot about what not to do/act. So while these shows may influence our kids there can be some positive to it as it provides an example of why you shouldn’t act a “fool” and go off every chance you get.

  2. Well, if you like it I love it. It’s not for me and mine, though.

  3. We all have our methods for raising our children in a way that we think will get them into adulthood well-equipped. I personally stick to the rating systems. I know that adulthood is filled with all kinds of nastiness, so I’ll allow my babies to wait until they are old enough to see all the mess the world has for them. I even banned Nick & Disney shows in our home because they teach our kids too much smart talk and adult disrespect. I am allowing my 15 year-old to view lots of things because she’s now old enough according to many ratings. We discuss it all, as she goes. We discuss it all.

    I gave up the nasty reality shows myself about two years ago because we have a guard your senses policy in our home, no matter the age. Sorta no nastiness in, no nastiness out policy.

    I don’t think your method is wrong though, it’s just not one for me. As long as kids have parents who care about them and really think about what they are teaching them, they come out pretty darn good, I think.

  4. Good strategy, since more likely than not, they will be curious about the show and want to watch it and if you do not allow them to, they will sneak and do it, watching without the parental guidance they are getting from you.

  5. Great article. I am a firm believer that parents have more influence over their children than any form of media could. If mom says it’s wrong, doesn’t matter what TV says. If dad says you’re beautiful, doesn’t matter what a rapper says. It’s better to teach them about the world than to try and shield them from it. JMHO.

  6. This is funny. Your comment
    “Yes. Someone slaps you in your face? Takes your Louis? Don’t give them time to give you directions on how to respond or stipulations on how to get your property back. Call the cops. Period.”

    I was thinking while reading this you were going to end it the way I would…. “…on how to respond or stipulations on how to get your property back. <>> Fight that chick for your property.”
    This is why God has not made me a parent. LOL.

    Good to hear you educate while watching this mess. I cannot watch it anymore it is terrible to my own standards of living. I let these images affect me as an adult. And logically I know I should not, but my sub conscience takes over at times. Thanks for your confession.

  7. Thank you so much for admitting this. I hate when people get all indignant about reality TV when clearly, numbers show that people are watching it. Anyway, I love that you’re open with your daughters when you watch, and take the time out to explain the ratchetness that’s going on and why they shouldn’t emulate it, although, I know they already know considering that they have you as a role model. Growing up, I was watching some questionable things on TV and not getting checked at all. My siblings were 10 and 15 years older than me so when they babysat, which was often, I watched what they watched. That included “Cops,” “The Real World,” “Beavis and Butthead” and a lot of horror flicks and other rated R delights. My mother knew I was watching these things too, but I never got any chats about what’s cool and what’s not I guess because she realized that even at a young age, I was rational enough to look at my reality (I was surrounded by good role models) vs what was on TV/film. l think I turned out ok but when i have children, I plan to take a similar approach to what you’re doing.

  8. Guilty…my daughter is 17 yelling at the TV she replies MiMi why would you even put up with Stevie J’s cheating behind; girl get your life take that child support money and start you a business. So I say Lesson Learned By Her “What Not To Do”!

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