Our Children's Hidden Counselors
by Kristina Matz
Reading through the Old Testament this morning reminded me of how incredibly important it is to surround ourselves with good and godly counsel. And in stark contrast, how detrimental it is to surround ourselves with foolish counsel. Reading through the account of Joash in 2 Chronicles is what brought this truth to mind. While the priest, Jehoiada, was alive and alongside Joash, he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He not only did what was right in his own life, but he spurred on the nation to follow in their devotion to the One True God. But, as we read on, we see that once Jehoiada died, Joash received a new set of counselors.
"Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them." 2 Chronicles 24:17
If you read the full account of Joash and the result of his folly, you will see the huge consequences that came from his choice to listen to the wrong counsel. And we do not just see this truth in the Old Testament. Paul reminds us in first Corinthians that "bad company ruins good morals" (1 Cor. 15:33).
Friends In a Box
This morning I was holding my youngest and thinking through all of these truths from scripture. While I was rocking him I was also half watching the classic Disney's Cinderella that my kiddos had on. Thinking about who my own counselors are and who I have allowed acting as counsel to my children I was suddenly struck by a scary reality. At that moment, Cinderella was acting as a counselor to my children. Let me explain...
There was once a time, believe it or not when other people were the only places that people could go for counsel. Today, we are inundated with choices! We have people, books, Google, and recorded content (both audio and visual). The "friends" that our children cling to from their favorite movies and television shows become their counselors. No, they cannot ask these characters questions directly, but they are still being influenced by them. In a more serious way than I think we realize! However your family chooses to screen the entertainment that your children consume, I am sure that you have some kind of system in place. But I am challenged to rethink our current screening process. To rethink each television show, each movie, each game. What are our children's "friends in a box" truly counseling them to do? What kind of words do they use? Words you allow your own children to use? What kind of behavior do they exhibit with their friends?
Not Once, But Twice...
The reason that this is so vitally important is that our children are, typically, not just watching something once. When I was a little girl Alice In Wonderland was my favorite Disney movie. I watched it so many times that my parents recall being able to walk through the house singing along to all of the songs! I also remember that my brother and I would watch Disney's Robin Hood together whenever one of us was sick. My children are similar in that they can easily re-watch their favorite films over and over again whenever they are given the opportunity. I would imagine that your children are the same. So maybe there's a film that only has one "bad word" in it (and I don't mean a common curse word, but a word that you wouldn't allow your own children to say), but when watched repeatedly that word is now being heard not once, but twice, or (more likely) even ten or twenty times.
My goal is not to tell any family what they can and cannot watch, or even what they should and should not watch, but more so to challenge us all to think twice about what (or who) we say "yes" to when it comes to our children. (I think more of us need to have this same rule with our own consumption, but that's another blog post for another time.) We've all heard that "children are sponges", so what are you letting yours soak up?
Choose to Be Present, Rather Than Absent
No matter what you choose to allow in your home, no programming or gaming will be perfect. Our parental counsel needs to be the most present counsel in our children's lives. Even as we read through scripture together, it is important that we help our children to process through what they are taking in. Joash is a great example of this! His decision to abandon God's ultimate counsel was foolish and wrong. I would not simply read or tell his life story to my children without talking through it. Asking good questions and then talking through what he did that was right and honoring to God and what he did that was wrong and dishonoring to God. The same needs to be true for the entertainment that our children consume. We need to be present as they watch something for the first time. Asking good questions and getting them to think through what is right and what is wrong. And even choosing to be present as they watch it for the fourth time and the seventh time. We cannot assume that simply saying something one time, having one conversation, will cement itself in our children's minds. I think we can all attest to that!
Like everything else we do as parents, it will come down to our intentionality. So let us be mindful of just how influential entertainment is to our children, how dangerous it is to follow the wrong influences, and resolve to make our counsel louder than the rest.