A young friend of mine started a relationship with a guy a few months back, and all things considered, he is a rare find. He is knowledgeable about things he considers important (hunting, mechanics, taking care of land, etc.) and incredibly respectful. For the most part, he knows when to mind his P’s and Q’s. He is loyal, honest, and hard-working. There isn’t a lot more you can ask out of a teenager, really. He isn’t religious, but is open to it, and from all appearances seems very sincere.
I think it is from him being so great on many accounts that I held a higher bar for his awareness of the world around him. But, disappointingly, he seemed quite oblivious to the designed messages and propaganda of public school, which he attends.
I tried having a conversation with him while watching a movie with my three-year-old. We conversed, or at least tried to converse, about the underlying themes and messages of the movie. I mentioned how my husband and I are very particular about which movies we watch, considering that many have degenerate themes. (Softer words used, of course.) Being an agreeable guy, he was on board with what I was saying, but completely oblivious to what I was saying at the same time.
I doubt he has conversations like that very often. In any case, he tried to contribute what he thought were similar comments to mine. It mostly just showed he wasn’t following, though, and I let the conversation drop. I mean, I don’t know what I was expecting. I know what films my friend watches, and this guy is no different. Based on what I hear them quoting or laughing about, the whole “monitoring what you watch” idea is a bit far-fetched.
At first I wanted to make a few excuses for him, as I was naturally disappointed that a guy with so many things straight would be just like every other school kid in this regard. But then I considered the expectations we will have for our kids, and it certainly won’t involve holding them to the bar of the “average school kid.” And I’ll be honest, a little drop of fear hit me.
Movies like the Star Wars and Avengers franchises are making millions of dollars. Even my young friend has sunk to the level of buying merchandise and posters of the sickening films, and she have been raised conservative Christian and homeschooled. We always wait months after their DVD release to even bother watching just Star Wars (we just can’t bring ourselves to watch the 37th Avenger movie), and each time are disgusted by the crude jokes, inappropriate attire, and ankle-deep depth of the plot. If homeschooled kids living a rural life buy into these movies, how can any kid be safe?
It has made me consider more heavily when the battle must be fought for our kids. We obviously work hard to avoid hypocrisy, keeping a standard for ourselves that we expect of our children. But how many times do we hear of children straying away from even the straightest-laced of parents? Every child and story is different, but as traditional Christian parents, we raise our children to be healthy physically, morally, and spiritually.
I don’t let my daughter touch any pot or pan on the stove, whether or not the heat is on. While the age and development of a child determines what they are able to separate and process, they are still separating and processing and figuring out how to live and what is acceptable. Right now, my daughter might not understand why I am okay with her touching the pan at certain times, and vehement she stay away at other times. This confusion will seem like a double standard, and she will just want to touch it whenever she thinks it’s okay (which is usually about a half second after I walk away).
I was conversing with another mom from my church the other day. We had brought our kids together for a beach day, and this was the second time we had met in two weeks’ time. At the first meeting, she had brought along a beer to enjoy as the kids played, but on this second visit, she did not. She mentioned that as one of her daughters will be turning 21 in a couple years’ time, she has become more aware of her own drinking habits. She has asked herself, “Would I want my daughter drinking a beer at the beach? No, I wouldn’t!” and so she has decided to live out the ideal she expects from her children.
So it goes with anything we do or say in front of our children. For the young ones who do not understand nuance, a clear line needs to be set. For the older ones who look to us as a barometer of acceptable adult behavior, we need to show self-control. The monitoring of our own selves as examples is perhaps the easiest way in which we care for our children’s body and soul.
But there is a crucial character behind the family scenes that needs considered – the friend. And as parents, we also consider the friend’s family. What standards is the family setting? If those are acceptable and in kind to ours, then we wonder, “Is the child following those standards?” While a child may, in their youth, turn wild, bucking even the best parents’ advice and instruction, many (who are able) turn back to that instruction upon maturity. My brother is a great example of this. But how many wasted years are looked upon with regret? How can we best assure that a rebellious child stay the course during his youth?
The difference really comes down to their peers. Not every kid watches or listens to filth, because not every kid is allowed to watch it. Public school is such a harmful place because there is no one seeking to guard the moral integrity and innocence of the children they teach. It’s all about experience and try-new-things and definitely DON’T JUDGE! But a family that guards the souls of their children, instructs them on how to live, and then shows them a thriving community of peoples of all ages doing the same thing is doing the most they can.
I realize not every family is able to provide their children a community of peers from their church, but that is the ideal, isn’t it? That our church communities be large enough to provide both friendships and eventual marriage partners for our children? It takes a church community committed to the same goal in regards to child-rearing, though. However many or few families with kids there may be, the standard should be high.
Being a young family, the standard is set for us, honestly. The children we see are mindful, quiet during church, involved in youth activities and service roles, and always gabbing with each other outside of church after service. It has helped us to understand what our children are capable of. Every family has different expectations – this is normal. But as a whole, from the pulpit, there should be a set expectation of respect. If not, I suggest first having your family show it can be done, and then perhaps getting to know the families with rowdy kids and showing them your home life by having them over for dinner. No parent wants unruly kids. It’s miserable. But many (myself included at times) just need guidance to understand how to make things better.
Churches can be a fickle thing. On one hand, you could go to a larger church with young families and multiple peers, but none of the families are compatible or even on your page. On the other hand, you could find a great home group with a few families, but fear that as time progresses your children may not have peers or potential marriage partners. Two crucial questions to answer and discuss in depth, then, when finding a church community to join are “Are there kids?” and “What are they doing?”
For those beyond the years of having children, or those who have not yet begun them, understand that as a member of the community, you also have a responsibility towards the youth. If they can see you sitting in the pew or row during service, then they can see how you react to the pastor. They may also see you around town, and note what you are wearing or saying. You are their parents’ peer, and through that role will show either hypocrisy or consistency on the part of their parents.
Hillary Clinton’s nightmare of a village is not what we are going for, but the communal aspect of a church is a reality we all should seek to partake in and keep healthy. When it is normal amongst their peers that Hollywood is full of moral filth and that there are many other forms of entertainment, we aren’t having to badger them about every small decision. But more importantly, everything we stand for, and everything we stand against, won’t translate to the next generation if we do not provide a consistent, rational example for them alongside a set of acceptable peers.