Parents go to great lengths to protect their children from threats of physical harm, and rightfully so. I still remember what happened at age seven when my mom thought I was going to run into the street to retrieve a baseball. Mr. Crawford’s Chevy Impala was approaching, but I wasn't watching so off I started into the street. Luckily, Mr. Crawford had two speeds—creeping or stopped. For really serious matters, my mom used a switch from one of our Chinese Elm trees to get my attention. Let's just say, she got my attention that day.*
In that episode, my mother’s fear for the safety of her little one produced clear boundaries and speedy consequences. But today, many parents fail to set boundaries on the visual temptations, R-rated movies, video games, and popular music that are piped into our living rooms and mobile devices daily. I was amazed at how many of our friends allowed their children to watch movies that even the entertainment industry warned about.
I have a friend who teaches second grade. She was mortified when she caught some of her second graders engaging in mock intercourse at school. Their sex-education may have come from unsupervised television watching. These children were unclear about all the details, but they weren’t blind! While it's likely that all they saw was bare-shouldered couples wrestling and huffing in a bedroom scene, they knew from the faces that something good was going on. Yet parents either knowingly allowed such shows to be seen, or were sadly unaware of the number of such episodes that their children would see on prime-time TV or in PG and PG-13 movies.
Where are the protective walls that in former years kept our children from developing an inappropriate appetite for sensuality? Yes, I know I'm old, and I probably tend to see more good in the 'good old days' than is correct. But really, is the sensuality portrayed on TV today a giant step forward for mankind?
Parents must provide shelter, both physical and emotional, for their children. Clearly, in the preschool and early elementary years, no amount of censorship of harmful ideas and social pressures is out of line. Movies and TV viewing should be limited to only those that are consistent with your ethics and values. If evil is depicted in a movie or TV show seen by your child, speak immediately with the child about what he or she saw. Extreme violence and vivid, scary images will usually result in night fears among young children.
As children enter the upper elementary years, their ability to process make-believe images from TV and movies develops such that rational discussion can help them deal with those images. Explaining the destructiveness of the behavior to the child, why it is inconsistent with your values, why some people act that way, and how they should have acted all are important steps successful parents take to help their children process difficult and frightening thoughts.
Protection is a major part of the job description for parenting. Use wisdom as you begin to allow your child to hear and see mature subject matter. Let them grow up slowly.
Adapted From Parenting Unchained-Overcoming the Ten Deceptions That Shackle Christian Parents
*Spanking is allowed in a Biblical approach to discipline, but it is not the only consequence Scripture teaches. I teach parents to exercise great caution when spanking, never spanking while angry. It doesn't work with some kids or in some situations. Spanking is less common now than it was in the Sixties. My mom used a switch very rarely, and never on my bare skin. I never doubted her love for me, nor did the occasional spanking lead me to a life of physical violence.