SUPER KIDS: should christian parents censor mainstream media?

For almost the last 3 weeks straight, my son has been wearing an aqua cot-sheet that I made into a superhero cape some years ago. It has gotten dirty and stretched at the seams from over-wear. He sleeps in it; he eats in it and confidently wearing it, he accompanies me shopping, on errands, riding his bike and playing outside.
He even answers when I call out to, ‘Batman’.
My sweet little 3 year old boy is leaping from our lounges and flying around our house.
He is watching cartoon batman episodes, he wanting to watch more and wanting to watch often.

As I see my little man fly around my lounge room in a cape, making his own super-flying sound effects and rescuing his toys from certain peril, I think,
little dude, you are awesome.”
Then as I see him watching enthralled in his hero Batman- when he is beating up some bad guy with fly-kicks and punches to the face, I think,
 “uh… ok this feels not so awesome.”

Is this appropriate for him to watch?
Should I shelter my children from any negative influence, especially at young ages?
Do I censor his interests? Do I stop him from playing the super hero? Can he still want to play superheroes without any outside-media-based-understanding of what they are?
Can I raise my kids without influences that I am uncomfortable with?
Am I right in being uncomfortable with this?

I find, in general, there is absolutely no safety in classification ratings.
There are few heroes (male or female) that come from mainstream-media to which I say, YES! That’s it! Here kids, this show reinforces our family’s bible-based values.
Just taking Disney heroes and heroines for example (as a widely understood media targeted at children and not for because they are particularly good/bad). Their main characters are a mix of defiant teenage mermaids, Lions preaching animism (tribal/earth religion), thieves who only steal ‘what they need’ and lie to gain affection and esteem, a little jungle boy who runs away. No matter the end result, these are the examples our children are absorbing.
The family movies aimed at ‘family’ viewing depict siblings who tease and belittle each other, speaking of each other with dislike, disobeying parents and calling each other names.

I am not asking, to where can we turn for positive influences on our children?
The answer to that is simple, turn to the Bible. Let our children dwell on Bible stories, pregnant with truth and the presence of God in each story. Here our heroes are flawed human as well, yes, but they are examples God has given us in His Word for a reason. They are deliberately part of His story of redemption and He is an ever present reality in their lives.
We can also turn to the many resources that are available to families for children entertainment, also great resources on inspiring missionaries, on the Church Fathers, on positive, believing role-models. We do in this time; have the ability to provide for our children alternative media for consumption.

My question is;
do I make a cleaning sweep of the majority of mainstream media and protect my children from its influence?
If not, what should I do with this uncomfortable feeling I have when my kids engage in worldly media?
What do I do with these worldly influences and
do I need to make a general rule about TV, Movies and Books?

There are three main ways of looking at the media which we invite into our homes.
 Is it only entertainment? What is the influence? What is being taught?

If we think that media is pure entertainment without any effect then we are choosing to be satisfied in the momentary gratification that TV/Movie watching can provide for the long-day of parenting. And it is satisfaction indeed – I am the first to put my hand up and say I cling with desperate appreciation to my kid’s TV hour each day.
It can be entertainment without understanding; I do understand that many aspects of TV entertainment go over the proverbial head of most children. That may 9 times out of 10 solve the momentary issue but does not change my aversion to seeing them soak it in.

TV as pure entertainment says that children are not going to turn to Witchcraft from watching/reading Harry Potter and they are not going to be morally bankrupt from watching the Barbie material. They will not grow to be violent from killing Zombies on the Wii nor by watching the Teenage Mutant Turtles. Their family values will not be corrupted from the example to given them by the Simpsons, nor will they think to place their value in outward adorning because they were influenced as such by the Bratz Fashion show and dolls.

I do not think that media is purely entertainment.

Any parent who has heard their Aussie kids playing out in the yard with a thick Californian accent or watched their parody of some recent Disney storyline will know that if it passes before a child’s eyes – it can have and probably has already had some impact – be it major or minor.
It is exactly because I think media is not purely entertainment (nor safe to watch regardless of content), that I censor which shows are appropriate for my children’s viewing. If I consider the impact of a show to be something I would not promote to my children, then there is no way I will condone it being promoted to my children via media.
I do not think that media is purely entertainment but neither do I think it is completely without value for my children’s enjoyment.

So what then?
If it is not purely entertainment and it isn’t pure evil either,
then how do we evaluate its influence on our children?

I was once encouraged to know, that I (along with my husband) am the leading expert on my children, and there is never cause to doubt it.
Such liberating encouragement.
So, that means that all the advice from other mothers, onlookers, psychologists and extended family can be used as a resource to better my parenting skills, but I do not ever need to (nor should I) release the responsibility of my motherhood to someone else just because their voice is louder or sounds more authoritative.
I will not try to tell you exactly which media to protect your children from. I know the shows that I have banned from my own children, the ones I’m iffy about, and the ones which I desperately hate (and kinda hope you do too).
But the only children whose eyes I will shield- are mine. For I know how they will be influenced and how best to shield them.
Just as you do with your children.

Here is an example from two daughters,
My eldest daughter is easily snared by beauty and the trappings of instant flattery. From her heart I will shield from her the things which will teach her that she should indeed find her value in outward appearance. I will steer her from media where the heroine uses her beauty as a weapon, or shows which depicts those less ‘pretty’ in negative light. I need to guide her from a path which judges her beauty and gives her cause to value others on the same merits.
I need to do this because the world will teach her a different concept.
But the Bible teaches truth.
My youngest daughter needs to be protected from hurtful words of disrespect. From her eyes which laugh so readily, I do not want to teach her that the world says laughter can readily come at the cost of others. I will shield her from the temptation of easily quoted words used to belittle others for self-gratification.
I need to teach her this because the world will not teach her this truth. The bible does.

Influence is also affected by saturation.
Firstly, obviously if your child is obsessively, daily, continuously watching shows that are promoting alternate religions, a world without God or a worldly doctrine of self without ever coming up for air then… Yes. The influence and impact of these shows will be great. Duh.

But your children have a mother who is herself walking in the light. A mother who loves the Word of the Lord and impresses it upon her children. A mother who covers her children in prayer and guides them to cover others too. A mother who ministers to her family by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in her, pour out from her and drench her home in Gospel truth. A mother who models humility, fragility and an honest human dependence on God.
Let your children be saturated in this.
Into this culture, allow the media of the world to provide entertainment.
Into this family, bring things that are questionable…
…. then use the opportunity to give an answer.

To my son, I asked why he loves Batman so much.
I asked him what makes Batman a hero.
I asked him about his perception of Batman, was he good? Was he justified in his actions?
What about the ‘bad guy’? Was the bad guy always bad? Is there nothing good about him? What makes him bad? Is Batman ever bad?
To my three year old son, I was able to have an age-limited but very valuable discussion on many topics. On sin, on bad guys always being bad guys… and whether God sees us this way.
I talked about good and evil.
I talked about standing up for what is right.
I told him (well… I preached… a little) that Jesus is the ultimate definition of a hero who provided the ultimate salvation. I talked about all the differences between Batman and Jesus.
I told him that I loved how he dressed up as Batman and wants to save people, I told him that God wants us to have hearts which care for others above ourselves.
I told him he is never allowed to fly-kick anyone.
And then with good conscience, I let him watch his Batman show on TV.
I do so ready to have the same conversation again and again and again.
In detail and episode-specific.
I do so ready to change my mind if I later I feel I’ve misjudged.

My belief is that media is not purely entertainment without impact.
 I do think there are shows which are dangerous for our children to consume and should not be allowed into our homes.
I think that the influence of the world will always be pressing in on our children, threatening to be a louder voice in the ears of our children. I do not think we should ever let it be this, (while they are under our authority). I think that a passion for godly example and a readiness to witness will trump legalism and rules most every time.
I think that the influence of media can be measured and curved by the diligence of our parenting.
I think that we can redeem entertainment to have good conversations with our kids and that we can teach them to be discerning consumers.

I think that you are their mum,
and with the help of the One who in His wisdom ordained your children to your care–
you will make good choices
and you will be given the chance to redeem your regretful ones.

I think you should extend that same grace to the mums you know.


The Other Side: An open letter to the anti-smacking community

I smack my children as a form of discipline.

Generally though, I am not in the habit of publically promoting the use of smacking or spanking when dealing with children. I am voicing my thoughts now simply because I am tired of a one-sided view, an un-equal debate and the growing sense that parents who smack should not publically admit the fact.

I am tired of the slew of blogs, quotes and Facebook likes and shares of pictures, depicting a small child, with fear clear on her face, writhing from the clutches of a mother whose arm is raised in full-swing ready for a beat down. She has malice and violence in her countenance. With slogans like ‘abuse’ and ‘violence’ attached.

I smack my children.
I am not that mother.

I am tired of smacking being referred to as ‘beating’. I heard a friend refer to a mutual acquaintance recently as being a strict parent… someone who has rules and if the kids doesn’t obey then you belt em and belt em until they submit.

I smack my children. I smack them more than once in given situations.
I am not that parent.

I have heard the argument that “spare the rod & spoil the child” is the Biblical foundation for physical punishment as discipline, that this proverb is the only leg us ’child-beaters’ stand on.
I do not subscribe to this view. I do not smack because I view this verse as a biblical command to physical intervention in behaviour.
Firstly, the proverb should not be taken literally, since in obvious translation it would require physical discipline by the use of a ‘rod’ or stick. In this instance, the proverb is saying that sparing a child from consistent discipline (however it is administered) will lead to a child without boundaries or a ‘spoilt’ child.
The verse is advocating the use of discipline in parenting.
So why do I choose to use physical punishment?

The Bible is clear in my responsibility as a parent.  One of the responsibilities as a parent is guiding your child in character, which leads to behaviour. I need my children to understand the consequences of their behaviour, I would like them to grieve their sins and I try to place the weight of their decision upon their shoulders.
Sometimes this is achieved through conversation- shedding light on the ramifications of their actions. When my 6yr old consistently sharpened her pencils on the floor, I took her aside & explained how her inability to listen to me, to consider my request had hurt me. I told her that I felt hurt that she was leaving mess for me to clean up, disrespecting my role and hard work as homemaker. She understood, I could tell she was sorry, I could tell the lesson was learnt.

Sometimes it is time-out, the loss of a privilege or something is taken away. Sometimes it is a smack. When my 4 yr. old goes out of boundaries, I call her back and remind her. When it happens again, I will smack her. Why? Because I need her to listen and respect my rules and boundaries. I need to her to learn that it is not ok to disregard them because it will have consequences.
Can she understand that the consequence may be the neighbour’s dog? The cars on the side-road? The snakes in the long grass? No, although we have discussed it, it is beyond her momentary reasoning to understand. She knows not to go out of bounds because Mum will see & she will get a smack.

Now, I am not blind. I know there are other forms of discipline. Very good ones.
I use lots of different forms depending on situation. I note the impact of discipline in my children and order our lives respectfully. With my 4yr old you have to be very careful about explaining the impact of her behaviour on others – she will hold onto such guilt it is heartbreaking. I need a form of punishment with her that does not burden her unjustly.

I resent the general implication that because I smack my children I am an un-thinking and un-creative parent. That I am mindlessly hitting my children when they do not fall into my imaginary line.

I can get angry at the behaviour displayed by my children at times… but anger does not have an active role in my parenting. I am committed to not yelling at my kids. I do not speak in haste, especially when hurt or angry. I am committed to an endeavour not to speak words which will scar little hearts entrusted to me. I will never speak to my children about a lack of moral character, degrade their importance or I pray, give them reason to think I am disappointed with their part in my family.
If I am careful with words, does it not also follow that I would be careful with my hands?
If my children required any discipline, they are told as much. If I need, they are sent to time-out whereby I can take time for self-control. I never smack (or discipline) without explanation. I never smack without restoration and I am confident that my children are not in fear of me, my temper or unsure of my reaction.

I do not smack in anger and I resent the general implication that smacking is for my benefit, my pleasure or as a result of my emotions.

There are specific behaviours that, in my house, call for smacking. And yes, one is disobedience.
If there is wilful and defiant disobedience from my child, they are punished.
Obedience seems to be perceived as a negative quality in a child these days? That somehow obedience as a character trait is evident of a broken spirit, a crushed imagination, of forced inferiority or regime-style parenting.
I don’t get this, for one; Ephesians 6:1-4 and also….Christ calls us to trust and obey. I do not obey my Saviour and God out of blind fear. I do not obey as a mindless robot, from a broken and crushed spirit.

Obedience in my children is not blind.
I explain to them the reasons behind my rules, the need for my boundaries and the reasoning for my decisions as a parent. My 2yr old is entitled to ask me ‘why’ when I set a rule. I allow it. There are no rules for which there are no reasons. Some are simple, (don’t touch the stove, it will burn you) some are because I, as their parent, am uncomfortable with it (No we won’t listen to this song on the radio, I don’t think it is suitable for you to hear).

Do I also require obedience at my word – yes.
I need to know that if I call stop to any of my children, at any age. They will know to hear me, to listen and to obey with immediacy… because they respect my authority, my position and right to command their halt.
It may have just saved their straying onto a busy street, or getting lost in a shopping centre.
It may have just saved them from playing with scissors left out by a sibling.

I do not smack my children to instil fear into them, enabling blind obedience of my command. I resent the implication that I am a source of fear or terror in any of my children or that my desire to see obedience and respect from them is tyrannical lust for power and superiority.

I smack my children. I do not use it as my main form of punishment, nor do I think it is a last resort.
I do smack to hurt them, why else bother?
I hurt them to teach them a lesson, to protect them from greater harm and to punish grievous and intolerable behaviour.
I do not smack for my own pleasure or a personal desire to inflict pain.
I do not smack to vent, out of frustration or thoughtlessness.
I do not smack because ‘I survived being smacked and a couple won’t harm em’ – because I have never thought of doing anything else or considered/researched forms of discipline.
I do not smack to ‘put them in their place’, to demean, demoralise or instil fear.
I do not think, in any situation, I have abused my children through discipline.

The case is argued, isn’t the right to physical safety something a child deserves? Yes.

They have the right to safe boundaries. They have the right to expect respectful and safe treatment from their siblings. They have the right to live in a household where they have no fear of physical abuse. My children do not fear me. At times, they mourn the need for punishment and I have seen them mourn physical and non-physical punishment with equality.
I provide these to my children through resourceful parenting, through techniques and strategies.
One of which is smacking.

So yes, in response to the trend of anti-smacking propaganda that is flooding the parenting circles, yes I smack my children.
But I resent the implication that I do not discipline my children with grace.
I resent the insinuation that I do not teach my children with compassion.
I resent the intimidation of words like, abuse, threats of lower IQs and warped personailities.

I resent the intonation that I have authority without love, method without thoughtfulness, boundaries without imagination, respect without relationship, obedience without trust and parenting without overwhelming love.

Such exaggerated and degrading portrayals of the parent who smacks… it hurts me.
Please consider that.

to sit or to stand?

To sit or to stand… No really…. that is a genuine question.

Me? I am shrugging my shoulders.

Like literally, I am shrugging my shoulders and mumbling ‘mmm’i-dunno” in a flashback to the communication of my teens.
Because I don’t know what to do or think.

My (nearly) 5year old, Evie came home from her kindergarten class, and exclaimed “oh my God” at the traffic on the road. I did not crash the car.. but breathed in & asked her who taught her this phrase. She told me that ALL the kids say it at Kinder. And it’s not naughty, cos so do the teachers.

Initially, we dealt with it by a simple conversation about how not-to disrespect the creator of the universe and left it be. To keep an eye on.

But then hubby and I were talking about how she is still going to be desensitized to these sayings. How she is not offended and is learning in our society, not to be. She is in danger of taking – the taking of the LORD’s name – lightly.
But what should we do?

I’ve spoken to her teachers, and asked if they could be mindful of teaching her about things like ‘good luck’, ‘bad luck’ and ‘karma’. Things that have been adopted as normal by our Godless society.
How far do I take it?

I drafted a letter, using the situation of Evie’s new phrase, to tell the parents of her class – that we are bible-believing christians. That these phrases are serious and offensive to our faith and the world’s God, and I asked them sympathise and have a conversation with their kids encouraging them to refrain from offensive terms.
Hubby looked over it and said he thought it was a good letter – well written (why… shucks.. thanks) but he had some genuine questions. I list them in his words as best I can; 

Is this something we should make a deal out of?
Should we take the stand – that perhaps causes offense to some parents? 
Should we be making this issue not a behaviour issue – but a faith issue?
Are WE coming across as religious fruitcakes – rather than letting it be the gospel which is confronting?
And if we are willing to say yes to the above questions.. is this the hill we want to die on? (I had never personally heard this phrase and got sidetracked over it for a minute or two) It means, is this even the issue worth making it all this fuss over?

This is my hubby. He is wise and smart and biblical & he is questioning me.
So now I don’t know….

Am I that fruitcake mum? Who HAS to have a conversation about Jesus with her daughter whenever she is exposed to a different worldview? I have been teased for being so in the past.
I see every conversation as a chance to get theological… am I going into overkill? Is there overkill?
I started this thought process, thinking that I do not want my children to see these phrases as ‘lesser’ swear words. I don’t want them so influenced by society that the name of the God does not register when taken in vain.
I was thinking that this is the name of my God that is taken so lightly.
That this is something I could do, to say to the parents of Evie’s kinder…
“here is a family that follows Jesus”
“We are salt and light  – to flavour you and shine on you – not the other way round.”

I wanted to make a stand, for all the times I never make a sound…

And the name of the Lord God seemed a really good place to stand on?

Now I don’t know.
Do you?

No really, I’m asking.

the model parent

I am a list-maker.
I love a good list.
I even write things on the list that I have already done that day…just so as I can cross them off my list. I sit on my bed after my shower and gaze into my wardrobe. I’m thinking about what i will wear and in what order I will get dressed. I am all about having an action plan.. and theme music.

When you have a plan (and Eye of the Tiger playing in the background) then you OWN doing the dishes, you attack the pile of clothes and you are a force that all dust and dirt must be reckoned with.
I think maybe there should be more purpose in parenting.
A little bit more offense than defense.
A little bit more training and modelling than discipline and damage control.

What if you had goals for your children? Like, not just the general goals of, “you know, happy and healthy and stuff.” Not just thinking, well obviously I want them to be good kids. But what if you sat down and said….
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.
What if, you assessed these fruits of the spirit in your own life – looked at how you model gentleness and self-control. What if there was purposeful training of your children in these things.
Wouldn’t that flow onto and into their behaviour?
Do I want my kids to not bully the kids next door, because they are not allowed to… or do I want them to have learned and seen kindness displayed in our family and our relationships?
Do I want them to not steal from the jar of marshmallows (It’s a pretty big jar…and i like the pink ones) because they are scared of getting caught? – or because they have self-control and goodness?

I definitely have rules and boundaries in my home for my children and there are consequences if they are broken. But more than well-behaved, I want my children rooted and sustained by scripture. There is purpose to my parenting that goes beyond surviving each day… especially those days.
There has to be graciousness in my parenting – which is hardest to do when it is most needed. There needs to be purpose.
I look at my 2yr old and see a need for kindness in her. So I pray for kindness in my own life, in my own day, that I can model and show it to her. I seek ways to encourage and train her in kindness.
I think that is the key to her being the kind of 2yr old that doesnt bully her neighbour anymore.
What goals do you want for your kids? What can you train them in this week?
Can you go a week without raising your voice in anger?
Do you model prayer and scripture to your children?
Can you show them appreciation and gratitude for all that they accomplish?
Do you show self-control over your temptations and cravings?

Are the prayers for your children  – visible in the life you are modelling for them?
I know that whenever I look at my children and think about their ‘training’ – I am always convicted of my ‘modelling’.

1question, 2answers, 4bowls of ice cream

There are 2 couples who love the Lord dearly.
They drop a couple of kids into the mix and an interest in the mission field.
Then a question is raised one evening, over ice cream.
Though we all finish our ice cream… the question is unanswered.
To the blog, I say, all hail the blog.

So – both parents agree totally that children are a gift from God.  We agree that they belong to God and that we as parents as just guardians over them, entrusting to raise them in Christ and to the glory of God.
No arguments there.
But what is responsible stewardship?
This question divided opinion & caused a night-long debate involving many bowls of ice cream, hot chocolate and the agreement to disagree.
The question was placed in this context –
Is it responsibility to move to an area or country that is considered persecuted or dangerous – deliberately at the risk of your children -to witness for Christ?

One answer was no.
It is not responsible Christian parenting.
God has entrusted us, as parents, to keep our children as healthy and safe as is in our power. We are to commit to raising them in truth and right Christian living, to witness to the world around us. But our responsibility as parents cannot allow us to endanger our children.
Why would God bless us with children if he planned a life of danger and persecution for us? If that was God’s intention for our lives – then we would (as the Apostle Paul did) remain single. To be free from the responsibilities of parenthood – to take the gospel to these places.
Yes – it would be wrong and disobedient to NOT go somewhere God commands you – but God would not command a parent to physically endanger their child. He would not give a gift of responsibility such as children – to then demand its misuse.
God would not command, or approve of parents who take their children to war zones, closed countries, tribal situations or any other physically precarious countries and situations – not even in attempt of His service.
That answer was a ‘no’

The other answer to that question is (obviously) yes.
God would command – and does command parents to follow Him, even into certain danger & persecution. In the bible, in the book of Matthew – Jesus says that if we love our families or our children more than him, then we are not worthy. If the welfare of our children is more important to us as parents, than the Glory of God and the proclamation of the gospel – then we are not worthy.
The bible says that it is God who gives, and God who takes away. It is God who knows every hair on our head and the number of days appointed to us – and to our kids. It is God who is sovereign over the countries of the West, of tribal countries, militant nations, impoverished nations and closed Islamic countries.
It is in God that we should put our hope and align our path. It is His commands that we should follow… and He commanded us to take the gospel to every tribe, to every tounge. He didn’t give free pass to Christians who are scared, to Christians who are married, to Christians who are reluctant or to parents who want to shield their children. He said that we should take up our cross… and follow.

Now, I know which side of this debate I was on.
I love, love LOVE my children and I want with all of my heart from them to be safe, for them to be happy and to grow in age, maturity and faith until they are old ladies and men. But more than I desire their happiness, I must obey my God. More than I desire their protection, I must proclaim Jesus Christ. More than I want them to grow old, I want them to grow in faith.
My beautiful children do not belong to me – they are Gods. He would have them live in persecution and danger for the sake of His name. I cannot deny God what does not belong to me.
I cannot – though I am so, so tempted.

Now, I am not saying that the only faithful parents are those living in ‘dangerous’ places. And I am not saying that we should all let our kids play out the front of our homes on the road – I am saying that I, as a mum, believe that God is king over my family. I believe that he has the lives of my precious ones in His hand and were they to be safe or were they to be killed – it is all in His control.
I believe ‘responsible parenting’ is to walk with my children & my God – though a minefield rather than to endeavour to keep them safe by my attempts – here in Australia.
All the eletrical plug protectors, seatbelts, helmet, rules and supervision in the world is no match for the sovereign providence of God in the midst of gunfire.

That is why I answer yes.