Parental Veto Power


Thanks to the American sitcom How I Met Your Mother, I had to sit through Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” when it came on the car radio the other morning. The kids immediately recognized it as the first tune on Barney Stinson’s “Get Psyched” mix (from the episode “The Limo”), and they outvoted me when I tried to find a new station. Democracy sucks, but I believe in using my veto power judiciously.

You’re most likely thinking to yourself that my wife and I are fools to introduce the concept of democracy into a family. Our son’s only eight – so much power would go to his head – and at thirteen our daughter’s bound to try to manipulate the system for personal gain. But over the years we have fine tuned a complicated series of checks and balances to make sure that our kids feel as if their voices are heard – that they actually can influence policy – while making sure they can’t do anything to jeopardize anyone’s health, safety or well-being.

Being Canadians, it might seem odd that we adopted an American concept like veto, where the executive branch (the president) can take one look at legislation passed by both houses (Congress and the Senate) and refuse to sign it into law. Truth be told, we do have something similar in Canada, based on the British system of denying Royal Assent, but it lacks the authority one needs as a parent.

In Britain, the queen can refuse to give her blessing to laws passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but this is only a nominal power used very rarely these days. It might have something to do with the queen not wanting to give the masses a reason not to rise up and dethrone her.

The queen’s representative in Canada is the Governor General (also known for a prestigious book award that will never be bestowed upon me), but we’ve written our constitution in such a way that the GG’s signature is more of a courtesy than a formality, and a bill can easily pass into law without Royal Assent. So that’s why we went with the veto.

Also, to paraphrase Robin Williams, veto power makes it sound like you make decisions backed up by an enormous Italian bouncer named Vito.

So, we’ve given ourselves this awesome power to stop our kids from making very bad choices, but I didn’t use it to stop them from hearing a terrible song. And let’s face it, that’s a terrible song. I know there are millions of people out there who would vehemently disagree with me on this point, but that doesn’t make them right. Got a problem with that? Put it on your own blog. Moving on.

Exposing the kids to bad music now and then will only help steer them toward better choices in the future. I voiced my opinion, they heard for themselves just how slick, over-produced and tasteless it was, and I’ve yet to hear either of them humming that tune to themselves.

So it’s a win/win in my books. I got to influence their developing minds without wasting one of my precious veto votes. Let’s face it, there is a finite supply; you only get to put your foot down so many times with your kids. If you waste all your opportunities on trivial things, like Bon Jovi, you won’t have anything left for more critical matters. They’re out there, just over the horizon, and we need to have some veto power held in reserve to deal with them as they come.

Or, you could look at it this way: why waste veto power on a 3-minute pop song when you can use it later to shoot down a half hour of dreadful television like “Dog With a Blog” or “Pokémon”? That’s stuff’s just dreadful.