What to Do When Your Children Outgrow “I Told You So”
By Tess Farrand, Staff Writer
Have you ever found yourself saying things like, “because I said so,” or “that’s the final word,” to your children? In their early days it’s important to establish your God-given authority over your children for their well-being and instruction (Eph. 6:4, Heb. 12:11, Exod. 20:12). However, as they grow into maturity and start making their own decisions, what then?
To combat this potentially hazardous crossroad where “I told you so” no longer works, a great thing to practice is to train your children to grow into discerning adults, rather than having the harsh realities of modern culture thrust upon them by the media with no knowledge of how to combat it.
At its most basic level, discernment can be something like looking both ways before you cross the street or “don’t talk to strangers.” Yet, as your children get into their teens and approach young adulthood, it’s critical to be able to trust their ability to make good discerning choices on their own (Prov. 22:6). This is especially vital when it comes to every form of media.
So how do we accomplish this in a world where the average American spends nine hours a day consuming media? An open conversation is a great place to start.
Dialogue with your children or teenagers about biblical beliefs and values and explain to them how or why a specific movie, video game or TV show doesn’t align with those values or faith in Jesus. For instance, ask questions like, “was the movie blasphemous towards Jesus?” Or, “did the show feature language that attempts to debase God’s holy name?” In unpacking these elements, your children will begin to see what it means to think critically.
Another tactic is to is ask your children what they thought of the movie. In hearing their responses, you’ll learn how to better understand how their minds process what they see in media, or in the world. Their response may require further instruction, or it may be profound insight. Never underestimate the
A critical aspect of this conversation is understanding susceptibility. While your children are young, their brains haven’t developed the key skillset of discerning reality versus fantasy, and they need their parents to help them with this. Children are susceptible to different content at different ages, such as scary images or copy-cat behavior that could prove dangerous. Flash forward about ten years, and the landscape of your children’s understanding is very different.
Have you ever watched a movie as an adult and thought to yourself, “wow that was way different than I remember?” That’s due in part to your ability to critically think and discern carefully orchestrated innuendos and ideology from filmmakers. In The Culture-Wise Family, Dr. Ted Baehr discusses this very idea when children enter into young adulthood and the “relationship stage” of development. “The adult is able to conceptualize the consequences of his or her actions and take the necessary steps to reduce risks.” This very idea plays out more often than you may think.
I have a friend whose father is a pastor. Growing up, he wasn’t allowed to watch choice content due to his parents’ parameters. However, as he grew older, he gained an interest in movies and filmmaking but couldn’t study many movies because of his father’s stance. After carefully considering an argument, he respectfully approached his father to reopen the topic of what was acceptable for his eyes and ears. To his surprise, his father allowed him to make his own decisions with his media consumption, but only after he had proved to have a thoughtful, discerning mind. Seeing that his discernment and decision-making skills were mature and handled in a respectful manner, the son was ready to differentiate good and evil in the world.
I also think back to my own childhood. Occasionally, my parents didn’t allow me to watch certain movies or TV shows as well. This perplexed me because I saw all my friends gabbing about the latest episodes or new release, and I felt left out. “Why can’t I just fit in?” I would ask myself. Even though I didn’t always want to do so, I knew I couldn’t go against them and watch because they would surely find out (I could never get away with anything). It wasn’t until I was an adult with a greater sense of maturity that I understood why my parents put those parameters in place to protect me, our Christian walk with God and my innocence.
I can only imagine that my friend’s father and my own parents are patting themselves on the back right now. Their hard work of healthily allowing us to grow into media-literate adults paid off. When the window for “I told you so,” grew smaller and smaller, I was able to step into a more discerning perspective that allowed me to honor the Lord in the shows or movies I decided to watch. What’s more is I can say that I respect my parents for raising me with a discerning authority and hope to raise my children in the same way.
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