Care and Feeding

My Daughter Hates Movies

She’s afraid of conflict and emotional stakes and plot arcs and character beats and the whole mise-en-scène of the cinema.

A young girl covering her eyes.
Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Emely/Getty Images.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

Our 8-year-old daughter hates movies. She will watch all sorts of television for longer than the length of a film, but getting her to watch a movie takes guilt, cajoling, and outright bribery—and even that fails more than it succeeds. At first, we blamed ourselves for showing her movies that may have been a little scary or too old for her (think Miyazaki’s Spirited Away when she was 4), but what we have figured out is that she avoids emotional stakes. She hates conflict and watching characters go through trials even though she understands that it will all work out in the end (these are kids movies!). My husband and I both went to film school and love movies and hoped to share this love with our kids by making a tradition of family movie nights and trips to the movie theater, but she’s put the kibosh on all of that. Worse, now her fears are rubbing off on her little sister, who used to watch movies happily and now says she’s scared when I even show her a movie trailer. I don’t want her to be someone who suppresses or runs away from conflict in her life. She is a happy, well-adjusted kid in all other respects. I think she should go to therapy, but my husband, who admits to being conflict-averse himself, thinks I’m jumping the gun. What do you guys think?

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—Missing Movie Night

Dear MMN,

I think you have an awful lot invested in a very specific vision for your children’s artistic and aesthetic development. It is natural to want your kids to be interested in what you are interested in. I studied at a conservatory and know what it’s like to have grand visions for how the people you love and the art you love will one day be combined into a beautiful union. But it’s been my experience that most fantasies we have for our kids fail to consider one crucial factor, and that is the kids themselves.

I encourage you to try on for size the idea that it’s perfectly fine that your eldest daughter doesn’t like movies. It has always been perfectly fine, and if she continues to not like movies, it will continue to be perfectly fine. It’s nice to have kids that are into the same stuff you’re into, but the ultimate goal of parenting is not to create miniatures of ourselves. It is to create good, kind, loving people who are able to contribute positively to the world and to one another. Can a person be one of those without being into film? Of course. So it doesn’t matter that she’s not into it. She’ll be into something, and you’ll get to learn about that.

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But there’s another factor here. I’m willing to bet that your insistence on this path has driven her resistance, which has in turn led her to freak out your youngest. I mean, you are worried enough about your kid not liking movies to have written in to an advice column about it, which speaks to a specific kind of obsession. Teenage rebellion is a trope, but toddler and kid rebellions are the most real. Kids just don’t like when grown-ups seem absurdly invested in something that is supposed to be their own choice. They sense the hypocrisy and resent the control. You cannot parent your children’s taste, nor should you try. Let them go, and they will probably end up being into cooler and better things than you could have ever imagined.

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