We are fighting a battle for the minds and hearts of this current generation. We see around us everyday that forces are working so hard to influence our children, in school, in entertainment, even in library books. Behaviors we would never endorse are being fed to our children by cartoon characters in our living rooms, or on the big screen in our favorite fairy tales.
When I was about 10 or 11, my parents got rid of our TV, and we went years without it. When I tell most people that, they gasp! “What did you do all the time?” they ask. We lived life, that’s what we did! But even more, our parents were the primary influence in our lives. They carefully guarded our hearts and minds through the choices they made, and helped us to make as we grew older. We were not in public school, we did not have TV, and we did not listen to music that they had not approved. Yes, we tested those limits sometimes. We were kids. But over the years I have looked back only to be grateful for the convictions behind those choices.
As parents, my husband and I place very strict limits on what our kids watch, listen to, play, and who they spend time with. We have a very short list of approved TV shows or movies. These choices are not based on a ratings system, but rather, the content we believe is helpful or harmful. It’s not about a list of rules. It’s about guarding their hearts.
We gave up “children’s shows” long ago, not because they were bad, and it took me a little while to decide what they were.
Worldly. That’s not a word I hear much anymore, but let me try to put into words what it meant for me.
Years ago, I had many friends of mine ask why, for instance, my girls were not allowed to watch Hannah Montana. It seems fairly innocent, right? Just kids being kids. They dress okay, don’t use foul language, etc. But is that all that’s necessary to make it fine? Are you content with fine? Here’s the criteria we used to determine that this show, and others like it, were not acceptable for our family: disrespect for parents, and all authority in general; preoccupation with self; over-dramatization of unimportant things (I know, I know: it’s a sitcom); young kids dressing (and looking) like grown women.
I’ve written before what I want for my kids, and in order to accomplish that, I want their focus, even as children, to be on what is found in Philippians 4: “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Now, I realize kids will be kids, but even children can be trained to focus their thoughts on what is good.
When you focus primarily on these things, you become more sensitive to what’s not good.
I learned this many years ago with billboards. During my college years and the first year of my marriage, I lived in Dallas. It’s a big city with lots of billboards. In certain areas of the city there is a high concentration of billboards advertising “adult entertainment” complete with photos. I drove past those billboards every single day on my way to work. Several years later, I moved away from the city to a very rural area. My trips into the city became fewer and fewer and eventually were very rare. After some time, I drove back into one of those certain parts of the city, and the same billboards were a real shock to my senses. Why? After seeing them daily for many years, I had become desensitized. But with a long break from such visuals, I was again sensitive to them.
It’s the same way with television, music, books, and any other form of entertainment. They may seem harmless, but are they actually good?
We teach our children to make wise decisions away from home, and to honor our convictions. My kids know that they need to check with me when someone offers to “watch a movie.” Nine times out of ten, I’m going to say NO. I don’t go strictly by the ratings system. And if I’m in doubt, the answer is NO. It has caused an occasional problem with other parents. However, I don’t give in to “peer pressure,” even from other parents. My husband and I feel led in this direction and it’s important enough to stand firm.
As my husband says, “You can’t UN-see things, no matter how much you want to.”
Susan and Michael Card, in their book, Home School Journey, put it like this:
“Like etching a design on glass, these visual images etch themselves deeply into our minds. We can never be too careful with protecting our children from what their eyes see or what their ears hear. Striving to protect their innocence, does not, as some suggest, keep them culturally illiterate. Instead, it is the wisdom of knowing how much they can really handle and how soon. Our purpose in protecting them is to prepare them adequately to face the hard issues that lie ahead. The Lord equips us with armor (Ephesians 6:11) to endure trials and tribulations. By keeping a clear image of what is good and right, and by us training them to listen for the Shepherd’s voice, our children will be better prepared to face the battles in the long life that awaits them.”
But there are more problems than just the “harmless” and the “fine.” There is real evil being portrayed as entertainment. Adult behavior and situations are finding their way into children’s books, movies, cartoons, and classrooms. Actions that the Bible refers to as sin are being laughed at in the entertainment realm. Lies, disrespect for parents, sexual sins…they are cleverly worked into storylines and trivialized.
Woe to those that call evil good, and good evil…for they have rejected the word of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 5:20, 24)
Sin (as defined in scripture) should be shocking to see. If we endorse it as entertainment, we are shaping our children’s worldview.
Parents, you have more influence on your kids than you may ever realize. They are not just listening to you, but they are watching and observing. They see the little actions, the silent decisions, the small day-by-day things that you do, the ones you don’t realize matter.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (Mark 9:42)
If we say that we believe the Bible, and represent ourselves as Christians, yet endorse and applaud sinful behavior, it’s confusing, and we shouldn’t be surprised when our children (or the world) question our commitment to Christ.
James 1:27 – Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Right next to the TV we have this scripture posted:
I will set no wicked thing before my eyes. Psalm 101:3
Next time you’re watching TV or a movie, or listening to music, or going to the theater, ask yourself if the content is something you want to meditate on. Is it truly good? Is it pure? Lovely? Of good report?
“If there is any virtue, if there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
So, we will not watch the new Beauty and the Beast. We will not watch children’s shows that are “cute” or “fine.” It’s not about a boycott. It’s not about making a statement. I’m not concerned with Disney’s bottom line. Disney will be just fine.
It’s about guarding my children’s hearts. Until they are old enough to do this for themselves, it is my job — it is my privilege — to do it for them.
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Advisory Board and The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew. You can also find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.