In a world filled with temptations, it's important not only to teach your children — but to sell them on a genuine value system.
A FEW days ago in one of my college classes I did something I seldom do — I recommended a currently popular movie. There was not only entertainment value, but significant historical and cultural information in the movie. That same afternoon, not knowing at all what I had done, another professor mentioned the same movie to his class. But he thought it was unacceptable for family viewing. From his point of view, the innuendo and the possibility, especially for younger children, of acceptance of an improper life-style overrode any educational or entertainment benefit the movie might have. The next day in the faculty lunchroom I brought up the previous day's events — we both were unaware of each other's feelings. A friendly conversation developed that brought in the dean of students and several other faculty members. The conversation lasted most of the lunch hour. Some very cogent thoughts were brought into the discussion. The other professor has four children and I have five. We both share the same common, deep desire to rear our children according to the highest principles and values — values we both very much share. As the conversation developed, it centered, not so much on the one movie, but on how movies, television, magazines and the society in general so powerfully influence our children. Most of us who were at the table are parents and we are all keenly aware of just how true the other professor's warnings are. Plain Truth readers also generally know how strong are the improper influences that surround our children.
The Temptations of Society
The natural question all parents ask is, How can we prevent or counteract all these temptations and influences upon our children? There has not been a period in history when young people, especially in the Western world, have had so many pulls, temptations and struggles as in our time today. The influence of hard drugs, alcohol and liberal sexual values perpetrated through music, movies, television and magazines is almost beyond description. Most parents are not even aware of the messages broadcast in the words of rock music and video. Most parents know little more than that they don't like it — and most teenagers do. But the lyrics of countless popular songs extol drugs and illicit sex. And that is not to comment on the deafening volume at which much of this so-called music is played. Many parents don't watch the television programs or for that matter see the movies, that young people do. They may be totally unaware of the messages to approve of or accept homosexuality, lesbianism, transvestites, pre — and extramarital sexual affairs, rebellion against authority and drug usage — all themes of several currently popular movies. But, again, how can parents prevent these influences from creeping into the lives of children?
Drop Out of Society?
When one comes to realize the power of the impact of these influences in school and out of school, there is a great temptation to disappear into seclusion. But that is neither possible, practical nor frankly the answer to the problem. Even if you took your family to a remote mountain or desert hideaway you probably would not totally escape the influences of this world. You might forbid magazines, television, even a radio. But what kind of child would be produced in that reclusive environment? Would children be better off if they never watched television? If they never saw a movie? If they never heard a popular record? Or viewed one of the new video sensations? Some people think so. However, in that environment children would become introverted, reclusive and probably unable to function in society as adults. That is not the answer. But if parents simply let their children go, they well may be influenced by the immoral and godless messages overtly and subliminally being broadcast. The chances are, through movies and television, your children have already seen enough blood, gore, violence, sex, perversion and drug usage to last a lifetime. A couple of years ago my then 14-and 12-year-olds wanted to see a particular movie. I had read a review about it and didn't feel it was the kind of movie I wanted them to see. It was rated PG (a U.S. movie rating that suggests parental discretion on permitting youngsters under age 18 seeing it). The review noted it had abusive and profane language. When I told the children why I didn't want them to see it, their answer was: "Oh, Dad, we hear language that bad or worse on the school grounds every day. Even from the teachers." What can a parent say? What they said was true. Children are surrounded by profanity and bad language. Of course, that doesn't make it right to hear it in movies, television or in music, but they do hear it all the time: So again what do parents do? Forbid all movies? Throw out the television set? Read every magazine article before the children are permitted to even look at the magazine? Frankly, I know a few parents who come close to this. They almost never permit the children to see a movie and they don't own a television set. That is not necessarily the answer.
Then What Is the Answer?
At that luncheon conversation all of us agreed that if parents are going to succeed in rearing successful and moral children in today's society, it is absolutely essential parents SELL THEIR VALUES to their children. Not just teach them. SELL them! Children have to be convinced there is a better way than that which is depicted in the song or on the screen. They must be shown there is a better way than the examples of so-called success that surround them — the movie and television stars, the sports personalities and the business magnates, some who openly live in and advocate an immoral life-style. They have to have the ability to think things through to a conclusion. What is the result of drugs? What is the result of abuse? Of excessive alcohol? Of promiscuous sexual activity? The words of songs, and the life shown in the movie may extol such life-styles. If parents simply answer with ridicule and forbid, they are not convincing the children. There has to be much greater depth than that. In the earlier days of drug usage many alarmed parents attacked and ridiculed drugs, but were not properly informed — in fact they often were misinformed. The teenagers and young people of that time knew their parents did not have the facts. The teenagers consequently failed to heed warnings. Families were often torn apart. The youths could not accept what appeared to be prejudiced and certainly often improper information. So they smoked marijuana and popped pills. Many parents simply gave up. They could not persuade their children not to get involved.
First — Teach!
The first order of business is to teach and repeat over and over again the values you hold. God tells parents what to do: "Impress them [God's law and values] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deut. 6:7, New International Version throughout). If parents fail to positively teach values and laws, children will grow up following the whims of a society that more and more has turned from the basic values. A few years ago there was a popular philosophy that began to permeate Western culture and education. Many have been brought up with it. That philosophy advocated not instilling or enforcing a system of religious values on children. "Let them grow up and make decisions on church, religion and God when they are mature adults," they (whoever they are) proclaimed. Meanwhile evolution, promiscuity, permissiveness, nonjudgmental instruction and a host of evils too numerous to mention are being foisted off on the young. Don't listen to that diabolical reasoning. Teach your children from infancy the values and morals you should yourself learn from the Holy Bible, the Word of God — the ultimate written source of all true values.
Then SELL Those Values
But teaching alone is not enough. What you teach your children will be only one of many things they will be taught in their developing years. They will be taught by other children, by their teachers at school, by the movies they see, by the television programs they watch, by the books and magazines they read, by the music they hear. They will be literally surrounded by pulls and influences that will tempt them from the way you hope they will walk. But how can you sell them? First and foremost by your example. How you live is even more important than what you say. This method was used by Jesus of Nazareth who, Peter said, "suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (I Pet. 2:21). And John further said of those who would be Christians, "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (I John 2:6). Jesus' disciples were inspired by the personal example he set for them during those three years he spent training them. He "sold" them on God's values. They came to live by them. They taught them throughout the Roman world in the century that followed. If your children observe abusive language, yelling, hitting, sulking, complaining from you parents, there is little value in your telling them to be respectful, polite and patient. If they see alcohol abuse and live with the smoke of hundreds of packs of cigarettes, it is to follow they will not respond to parental teaching not to drink, smoke or use drugs. If parents brag about cheating on their taxes to the government, they should not be shocked when teachers catch the child cheating on a test at school. If a child sees a working parent pretend to be sick and stay home from work, it should come as no surprise when school officials call about excessive absence and truancy from school. If a parent drives down the highway with disregard for speeding regulations, he or she should not be surprised when the police call that the 17-year-old in the family has been arrested for reckless driving and speeding. In other words the first person to sell on a true value system is you. If you believe in and live by the best possible standards, your children will see the result. If there is warmth, happiness, forgiveness, love and encouragement in your day-to-day family life, your children will not forget it the hours they are away at school. That doesn't mean they won't be tempted or that they won't make a few mistakes. But the basic way of life they have been taught and have absorbed will not be wasted.
In this world your children are going to be exposed to many evils and wrongs in spite of all your efforts to keep them from them. In the long run, your success as a parent and teacher will be manifested by how you have sold those right and true values to your children. Part of your teaching will include what you permit your children to view and read. With how they spend their time. Whom they choose as friends. As parents we may not always agree on just which books, television programs or movies should be avoided or forbidden. That is the responsibility of each family. But maybe we can all agree, as the other professor and I both do, that teaching, living by and selling your values to your children is your best assurance they will fight the good fight and walk the straight and narrow way that will lead them to happy and successful adult lives.