Where should my husband and me draw the line with our kids when it comes to secular music and movies in our home?
This is a standard question I get as I travel around the country and talk with so many people: where do you get that balance in your home between the world being on the outside and working its way inside?
We want our homes to be a safe haven for our kids’ hearts. We want it to be a place where they can really relax and grow spiritually. But at the same time, we have got to use our homes as also a great lab experiment to grow their faith under a lot of pressure.
Now, two areas make a lot of sense: music and movies.
What we did with our kids, is we recognized that there are two dynamics in their lives. When they are younger, our job is to protect kids, because they are naïve. They don’t know anything. So we would protect them like that, and we would determine all the music they’d see, the movies they’d see, and so forth.
But as they got out there, like six years old, we stopped protecting them as much. We started backing away from it, little by little by little, down to about twelve years old, and then we hardly protected them at all, because our second job besides protecting them is preparing them.
So, as we were protecting them less, we were preparing them more. And when they got up to about twelve, thirteen years old, we were letting them make a lot more decisions about their music.
Now, obviously, there were some bottom-line standards that we would not negotiate on. With movies and music, there were certain things that just weren’t going to get into our home. But there were a lot of other movies that could get in there. So what we had the kids do is choose carefully.
And you know, the rating I was most concerned about was the PG-13. That was the one that was more problematic to me than anything else, because that’s the one that usually went after the sensual side of the teenage years.
But what we would do is, they would bring home a movie, and when they were little, even when they were six, seven years old, we would have them do this—we called it “beeping the movie.” They’d be watching a movie, we could hear the movie. If anything happened in that movie where somebody said something inappropriate or they represented a value that we don’t embrace—like, it’s a Disney movie that would say, “Now, let’s not tell our parents,”—we would want our kids to say “beep” out loud.
We called it “beeping movies.” And they would sit there, and they would just “beep” the movie. If they heard a bad word, “beep.” That means, “I just heard something I do not agree with. I filtered it. I recognize it for what it is.”
That way, we knew, “OK. They are processing this thing through a spiritual set of filters.” And it was good practice for them in real life. As they grew older, because we brought them up to speed on this, then they could know how to choose movies better.
What I have really appreciated about it is that they have been at movies, done their background check on it, think that it’s one thing, they get in there and find out it’s something else, and each one of them have at different times as they were teenagers gotten up, walked out, and said, “You know, I don’t want to watch this movie.” And I’m grateful for that.
You know, if you just are the only filter and you make all the decisions, don’t assume that they have bought into that when they finally leave. That’s a way to set your kids up to really make some mistakes. Work with them.
Now, you’re going to have to watch some of these movies with them, and you’re going to have to listen to some of this music with them.
And then one final thing, if you do that, here’s a neat game to play with them when it’s all said and done: play the game “Find the Lie.” We used to do “Find the Lie” a lot. We would come home from the movie and find the lie. It would tell us that things were in the movie that misrepresented our value system and our belief system.
You see, that’s wise parenting. That’s helping your kids wrestle with life, bringing them up to speed, making them stronger, rather than just protecting them all the way.
If you protect them all the way through their teenager years, and send them off to college, that’s the way to send them right through the cracks and really put them in a lot of distress.
No, no, no. Bring them up to speed. You can do it. God can work with you, and the whole family will be better off for it.