If you want to know how I got to have a perfect seventeen year old, I will whisper in your ear that television has been an important part of my child-rearing technique. Among other things, watching television with English subtitles taught him to be a great speller. But maybe more importantly: talking to Squire about difficult stuff was never easy when we tried to do it head on, and so I had to think of ways to approach things sideways. If we lived in the States, we'd have gone for long car rides where we talked about teen angst and teen pregnancy while staring intently at the road, but we're stuck with excellent public transportation and he walks to school so we have to stare intently at the screen instead.
Partly we watch stuff because it's super entertaining. Battlestar Gallactica, Deadwood, every episode of Star Trek ever, the West Wing, Firefly. We seem particularly interested in the epic formation-of-society types of shows, we like a good battle in outer space, and we are partial to snappy dialogue.
Some of the best shows we watched were American high school dramas -- specifically I would say Friday Night Lights, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Veronica Mars were helpful. If you don't know how to talk to your kids about bullying, social stratification, economic issues, vampires, sexism, racism,,, well, this triptych has you covered. We learned about people who love sports, witty repartee and trust, romance and heartbreak, the varieties of parent/child relationships. It was easy to talk about heavy issues after we'd seen it happen to other people -- wow, so that was a hard time for Matt... what do you think he could have done differently? Would you have trusted Spike after what he did? Should Veronica tell her father the truth or should she try to protect him? And through talking about these things we were able to practice talking to each other about most serious issues before they even became issues.
On Friday the Veronica Mars movie came out, and we sat on the couch in our old standard formation, popcorn bowl propped between us, and watched every character we loved light the screen. It has been ten years since the show was on, five years since we watched it, and it felt like it had only been days. Weevil! Mac! We got to talk about how some people change, but not a whole lot, just enough to give you hope that we are capable of change. How nice the respect and love that Veronica and her dad have for each other is. And of course some conversation (because we are way meta) about how entertainment gets funded and the future of media etc. It was great.
That's all. Possibly the best parenting tip I've got, though: television. True story.