Our 11-year-old daughter has become obsessed with a TV series that we won't let her watch. We have explained the reasoning as calmly as we could (without giving her all the details of course), and are pretty frank with her about the content to which we object. She keeps asking about it anyway, and we are having to shut down the inquiries pretty harshly which seems counter productive.

Any strategies for redirecting the interests of pre-teens? There are alternative choices in the same vein as the prohibited show but she won't bite on those.

Update: We're talking about BBC's "Sherlock" which has a pretty central character who is played as a dominatrix. And in general I don't feel it is appropriate for her. We definitely deliberated on it though as it other than that probably fine for most pre-teens.

  • 1
    "without giving her all the details of course" - Could you elaborate on why you are withholding details of your reasoning? It would make it easier to answer.
    – user420
    Jun 16, 2014 at 18:49
  • The specific prohibited content. "There's this one scene where you can totally see..." However we do explain in general what makes it controversial.
    – Don
    Jun 16, 2014 at 18:53
  • 3
    It would be helpful if you explained it to us. :)
    – Septagon
    Jun 16, 2014 at 18:54
  • @SevenSidedDie Does my previous comment help?
    – Don
    Jun 16, 2014 at 18:56
  • Can you compromise and watch it with her?
    – DA01
    Jun 16, 2014 at 20:35

4 Answers 4


It sounds like you're generally taking the right tack on this - explaining your reasoning calmly. You don't give a lot of other details, so some of these may be what you're already doing, but here's what I'd do.

What you might want to do as the next step, if you're not already doing this, is let your child know when, or under what conditions, she will be allowed to watch the show. It might be in a year or two, it might be not until she's an adult - but having that point be known will help, because when she asks you can simply point to that. Let's say this is something like Supernatural, which is probably not appropriate for a 10 year old but may be for a 13 year old. After you've told her she can watch it when she's 13, if she asks again, you can simply say "Dear, are you 13 yet?" or variations of that - reminding her of the point at which she can watch it.

Another consideration is if this is a series based on a book - like Game of Thrones or True Blood - to suggest she reads the book. Those are both series that probably aren't appropriate for a preteen, but the books are perhaps manageable for some that age (I'd have read either at that age).

Finally, think about where the source of the conflict arises.

Is this something you watch that she wants to watch? If so, you may want to consider not watching it as one way to deal with the issue, or watching it with friends at their house, and not talking about it around her. If you told me I couldn't watch something, but then talked about yourself watching it around me, I'd be annoyed too. Alternately, you could agree to tell her what happens in each episode if she wants to know (such as to keep up with her friends), editing out the bits you don't need to tell her about.

On the other hand, is this something her friends watch? That's more difficult, I imagine, since you're telling her you are making a different decision than her friends' parents. If that's the case you might want to clarify that in the question as that kind of advice is fairly specific to that issue.

Finally, if she's just persistent, you might try to find other ways to redirect. If another show in the same genre isn't helping, you might try other activities - such as games, books, or even writing about the characters or story behind the TV series. Odds are you can find some way to tell her about the plot and/or the characters - a book, a comic book, a plot summary online, or even a personally delivered plot summary like above.

  • Thank you. Funny, we have tried most of the ideas! Having her read the stories (see my update to the Q: we are talking about "Sherlock") which she actually enjoys, and giving her a timeline for watching. Yes, the peer group influence is definitely at play--she has some older friends who are fans, and she just in general is a big British culture/TV fan. More redirecting is definitely a good suggestion and also maybe starting her summer break will help.
    – Don
    Jun 16, 2014 at 19:34

In this particular instance, Irene Adler only appears in two of the episodes (according to imdb), although she is mentioned more often, and if I remember correctly, only "A Scandal in Belgravia" (season 2 episode 1) had a lot of objectionable content (you can review to make sure). Personally, I would allow her to watch the other episodes, and just skip that one. It will probably leave some plot holes, but that's better than missing out altogether.

As far as the pestering goes, in addition to the other suggestions you've received, I would add that if you want the pestering to stop, and the milder suggestions haven't worked, there has to be a consequence for the pestering itself. You can decide what an appropriate consequence is, and at what level of pestering the consequence is triggered, but if there isn't one, she has nothing to lose and everything to gain by continuing to ask you.

Also, there's something to be said for learning about this stuff from you rather than her friends, although I completely support your decision to make sure the timing and circumstances are right. However, keep in mind if her friends are being allowed to watch the show uncensored now, the topic will probably come up sooner rather than later.

  • Thank you. Yes we are going to have to manage the pestering with consequences, I just hope that doesn't make the problem worse.
    – Don
    Jun 16, 2014 at 22:23

The particular episode of Sherlock you are concerned about also alludes to lesbian intercourse, which might raise more questions than a dominatrix, and features male and female nudity, with a central narrative of blackmail using explicit images. I image I'd feel uncomfortable watching it with a daughter, but I've watched it with my 8yo son and he just dealt with those things as costumes and MacGuffin rather than something sexually related - but 8 is very different to 11, and both parents were on hand to talk about any questions he had.

As Karl Bielefeldt says, it might be best if you were to control the context in which it is viewed; your daughter clearly wants to see this and we all know how easy it would be for one's child to do so without your knowledge and supervision. Having said that, I refuse to expose my children to the opening-of-the-ark scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, nor any of Temple of Doom, but am happy for them to see Last Crusade. When I'm asked why, I tell the truth: "It's way too scary, and I don't want to be dealing with your nightmares for a couple of months. Maybe when you're fifteen." Do you know why you don't want your daughter watching this series? Are you able to explain it to her, in a way that she'll understand?

There may be grounds to object purely on the basis of the narrative. If your daughter is a fan of the books, then she may be disappointed that the series is merely inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works - my wife certainly was; having said that, the series has outstanding production values and I think is the best retelling of the detective's adventures. Criticism has also been levelled at the episode from a feminist perspective, as well as purely puritanical concerns. The central character is an unpleasant person, and might be modelling behaviour you don't want repeated, but has been cleaned up from the novels - no more heroin use.

If you're looking for an excuse, rather than a reason, to delay exposure to the show, you could say that it will be more fun once there are more episodes - series four is a lock, given the ratings and cast's attitude, and plotting is laid out for series five. That could buy you a year or two.

Pestering is annoying, that's why it works. You could say that if there's no pestering for x-period, then we'll sit down together and schedule a time to watch the series. If there's pestering in that period, the start date will get pushed back, making the pestering counter-productive.

  • 1
    Thanks very much. We've explained frankly what we object to--the adult way sexuality is handled--which hopefully will sink in soon. I kind of struggle with how much violence/blood is OK to show her (and my younger two), maybe fuel for another post. I actually just finished watching Temple of Doom with her last night! :) I don't want to have a double standard (I have three daughters) but I usually just draw the line at how "real world" and "black and white" the violence is.
    – Don
    Jun 17, 2014 at 15:41

Acknowledge her desire to watch it. Talk to her about why she wants to watch it - what is it about the series that she wants to see so much. Then tell her that it is not for her age range. In the UK it is shown "after the watershed" - after 9pm - which means it is for adults, with adult themes and language. (Dr Who is shown at about 6:30pm for example).

You explain that you are not going to change your mind about this. Then you look for things that fill the gap. Other programmes that Benedict Cumberbatch has appeared in, for example, that are more suitable for her age range.

Or you could just tell her that it is violent and has some scary scenes and unsuitable content, but that you'll watch two episodes with her. Show jer the first two, and have the difficult discussions about murder and etc, and then see if she still wants to watch the rest. Maybe it's just the lure of the forbidden.

(She has good taste - it's a great series, but I agree that pre-teen is too young to watch it).

  • 1
    Thank you! This is helpful. The Hobbit movies of course make a good replacement fix! And of course, the arrival of S.8 of Doctor Who. Just have to ride this out I guess.
    – Don
    Jun 17, 2014 at 15:35

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