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Just dropping by ... Teach children to value their minds

Yevet Tenney Published on 10 April 2013

In our world today, so many people feel that honesty is a matter of perspective. They think that they are still being honest if no one sees them and can testify against them. They feel that they can steal if someone left their property sitting around unattended.

“Finders keepers” is the rule of the day. Some even feel that they have a right to take whatever they want. The world owes it to them if they have a good excuse. Where are we getting such attitudes?

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Certainly not from the Bible. I don’t think the commandments, “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness” have changed since they were written by the finger of the Lord on tablets of stone.

Our children are not being raised by Biblical principles. They are being tutored by the television and the media. Even some Walt Disney movies promote dishonesty. The hero in “Robin Hood” steals from the rich and gives to the poor. That makes stealing all right.

Aladdin steals food because he doesn’t have any other way. That makes it all right. Often the hero steals a car or a horse because he is in hot pursuit of the criminal. Property belonging to someone else is often destroyed in massive proportions for the sake of the thrill of the chase.

Oh, I have watched my share of those movies, not giving a second thought to the poor person who would have to pick up the pieces the so-called hero left behind. “It is just a movie,” I tell myself. “What kind of a movie would it be if everyone was honest and the chases never destroyed anything?

Boring, that’s what!” Even so, I wonder what our children are learning about real life by watching such scenes of destruction, violence and dishonesty.

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“The Hunger Games” promotes violence to even a greater scale. Murder becomes acceptable as children hunt down and kill children. Exciting. Chair-gripping suspense. But what are our children taking home with them to shape the life they will lead?

“The Hunger Games” was required reading for my son’s freshman class. He had to study it in detail. What about that? The heroine wins in the end. She shows compassion and tricks the tricksters, but what did my son learn about real life by reading it and watching the movie?

When I was young, I watched movies that influenced my life. “Calamity Jane” encouraged me to be a better housekeeper. “Imitation of Life” made me never want to taste alcohol.

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” brings a haunting sensation every time I see a flock of birds flying south for the winter. “A Man for All Seasons” gave me a passionate desire to have integrity.

We used to watch Biblical movies with deep Christian principles embedded in them. “The Ten Commandments” gave me a greater appreciation of the Bible. “The Greatest Story Ever Told” gave me a deep abiding appreciation for the life of my Savior. It made me want to pattern my life after His.

“The Robe” touched my heart with the beauty of a life after death. As the two heroes walked into the clouds after they had given their lives for their Christian beliefs, I knew I wanted to have that kind of faith and commitment. Did the movie make a difference in my life? Yes!

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“Ben Hur” was one of my all-time favorites. Was it violent? Yes, but not sensational, gratuitous violence where people are killed for the sake of suspense and blood appeal. Justice was done and compassion was shown.

The hero went through almost-insurmountable trials but was healed by the hand of the “Almighty God.” As the blood dripped from the cross into the water and the leprosy left the faces of Ben Hur’s mother and sister, I felt the touch of my Master’s hand healing me.

My witness of Christ was enhanced, and my heart was lifted to a higher plane. The movie did that? Not really, but the spirit that was carried in the movie changed me.

The hero worship in the new movies makes me wonder even more profoundly: What are my children learning? I recently watched “The Avengers” with my children. My son was so excited about it. “It’s a good movie, Mom,” he promoted. “There isn’t anything bad in it.”

Well, that was somewhat true. The bad guys lost and the good guys won. The heroes had unconquerable power and together they were able to be victorious over the enemy of unfeeling, inhuman aliens who wanted to destroy the earth for no reason.

Where was the lesson? Where was the tidbit of truth that could zing into the heart and change it forever? It was just one endless stream of magnificent cinematography and destruction. What did my children take away?

Recently, I heard that the young man who killed the children at Sandy Hook just wanted to feel something and kill a lot of people. I wonder where that comes from. Had he watched so many violent movies that he was “past feeling”?

Did he live in a fantasy world? Had he played so many video games chasing down and killing the human or the alien figures that he couldn’t distinguish reality from fantasy? We don’t know the answer and probably never will, but my nagging question remains. What are my children learning from the media they choose to watch? What can I do about it?

Parents can monitor every movie that comes into their home. They can raid the closets for movies that wander in from other places, but ultimately parents can’t control everything a child watches, especially when they become teenagers – unless of course, you lock them in a cage, homeschool them and never let them visit friends.

In fact, the more you try to monitor their viewing, the more they are apt to sneak around. What will they do when they get out of your house? Go hog wild and do whatever they darn well please.

Your question might be: “So you just let them watch whatever they want to?” No, I don’t. I put ratings on my movie channels, so they don’t get into the hard core stuff.

I monitor their Internet access, and I limit the time they spend on media. Is it effective? Not 100 percent. They go to friends’ houses and watch what they want to. How do you think my son saw “The Avengers” before I did?

So what is a parent to do? You only have about 12 years before they start to run things on their own. Naturally children, as they go into their teens, are seeking for their own identity, and parents become second to their peers, so the teaching must be done in the formative years. From day one, parents must take the responsibility to teach their child to govern themselves.

They must teach them every day to make decisions. In the beginning, you can start with giving them a choice between two acceptable choices. For example, “Would you like to wear the red dress or the blue dress?” You can also say, “Do you want to go to bed now or in 10 minutes?” Those are choices you can feel comfortable with and the child still feels empowered.

A parent must teach self-worth and to value the contents of the mind more than anything else.

A child’s mind is a fertile field ready to be planted. What goes into a child’s mind will never be erased. You can’t just hit the delete button and it will be gone. If a child is exposed to violence over and over again, violence will grow in his/her heart.

If she/he is exposed to good and virtuous thoughts and images, those will grow as well. Parents must spend time teaching their children about right and wrong. They must explain why violence is unacceptable.

Parents must be the example. If the movie is not good for a child’s mind, is it good for the parents’ minds? A double standard never works. Hypocrites are always found out.

As a parent, you cannot shield your children from the world, but you can be there to walk with them through the dark shadows to show them the light. Parents can’t walk in the muck and mire of the media and expect their children not to get dirty. PD

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