(Continued from Whatever Is Lovely: Keeping Consumerism Off the Throne)
I am not a hater of all things entertaining, mainstream children’s programs, or collectable hobbies. We don’t live under a rock or boycott Disney. But I do have a choice as to what influences my young children, albeit, a responsibility to referee the messages that fly in their direction.
At this pivotal time in their lives, (they are now seven and eight), the more that takes their focus away from the deeper rooted principles of scripture, education, and quality time with their family must carry less weight and worth than what I can buy them to be socially accepted.
How can we help our kids develop self-confidence despite the hype and consumerism happening around them? I believe it’s by defining that standard as we’re faced with obstacles – knowing where our values lie, and taking the time to help them understand. Not allowing our kids to be involved in Pokémon culture is only the first example in this line of reasoning that we have to communicate over time:
1. People make their own choices. They decide what’s best for them and their family.
2. Families operate with different value systems. We may not be aligned with the values of another family or agree on what our kids are exposed to. Not every family uses the same filter we do, and that’s based on our personal values. When things happen or are said in their friend circles that affect the spiritual and emotional safety of our family, it’s time to leave.
3. We don’t have to follow the crowd. We have choices, and we as parents are accountable to God for those choices. Taking a stand and living differently is a good thing and will eventually grant you a fresher perspective and freedom to chart your own course. When you’re use to following the crowd, that’s all you’ll know how to do.
4. There are so many other good things that deserve your attention. Let’s practice discerning between the things that are useful and character-building rather than purely entertainment. Art, music, science, problem-solving, communication, memorization. These things do not have to be purely academic to be enjoyable and worthy of practicing.
5. You don’t have to understand all the reasons right now, you just need to trust us. You will start to see the results of the choices other people make and the choices you make the longer you stay back and watch. “I’m sorry you’re upset about that, and I would be, too. But trust that your Mommy / Daddy are saying no because we’ve seen things like this as we’ve grown up. We can honestly say that it’s not worth your time and focus right now.”
Never Stop Teaching Them
The following week, I walked the kids to class and a little boy ran up to my son with a thick book in his hand, excited to show what he had learned. It was a Pokémon encyclopedia – highlighted and marked and tabbed to show his favorite characters and story lines. My son stood there & listened for thirty seconds until he bounced away to tell the next person.
It occurred to me: this little boy was a Pokémon evangelist! What if our kids got that excited about the incredible stories and characters in the Bible? They can – it’s completely possible. When we keep the things of the world off the throne of their lives, there is something far greater to light them up on the inside.
Does this mean keeping our kids in a Christian bubble? Not at all, but it does mean that we’re aware of the issues facing them. At this young age, they need our guidance more than our wallets. They need our time more than trinkets and programming.
Pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie puts it this way:
“One thing I would often do with my kids—and now I do with my grandkids—is watch TV shows with them. Afterwards, I ask them questions and try to help them interpret it. I want to help them develop a biblical worldview for themselves. I want them to see things as God sees things. That is a constant process. So lovingly teach the Word and never stop doing it. I want them to see things as God sees things.”
Discerning between wants and needs is a battle we will continue to refine the rest of our lives. Families, the foundation for those choices begins now, in our home. The template for those choices is measured on a scale of short term pleasure and long term gain. Each family decides where an item lies on that scale, based on what is important to you, and if your goal is to have less emphasis on stuff, then practice saying no to unnecessary stuff and yes to quality experiences with you.