Picture this scene: It’s a Friday night, the pizza and snacks have been ordered and bought, the pillows and blankets are piled on the couch; everyone is snuggled up and ready to go. It is Family Movie Night. We are all excited and happy to spend some quality family time together. You can feel the family bonding-ness in the air. And then the question happens:
What are we going to watch?
Immediately the suggestions and then prompt rejections begin and then the arguing ensues. The whole episode usually ends with Mom or Dad telling everyone it doesn’t matter who wants to watch what because one of us is going to pick the move... and that’s that.
Does this scene seem familiar? It is an all too common occurrence in our house. And while we may have regular debates and arguments about which specific movie to watch, I am thankful we rarely have an argument about what kind of movie to watch. You see, the rules concerning what we can and can’t watch are well known by everyone in the family. My husband and I decided very early on the importance for us to be mindful about what our kids listened to and watched. We believe what we allow into our ears and our eyes will live in our hearts. And we believe God desires for goodness, purity, holiness, happiness, and joy to live in our hearts. So, what we watch should contain and exemplify those qualities.
We have taken the time to explain this belief to our children over the years. In fact, “What we allow into our eyes and ears lives in our hearts” has become quite the common saying in our household. It is the reply given when someone is asked to turn something off that doesn’t meet our rules for appropriateness. It is the answer to the question “why” when told they can’t watch or listen to a certain something. And I have even heard them say it to each other without parental prompting, which is a definite win in my book!
Now, don’t get me wrong - this did not happen overnight and it does not always go perfectly and without argument. For my husband and I to make this work, we had to decide together on our boundaries for movies, TVs, and music. We had to decide together on the type of content, language, images, etc... we were going to allow and agree to both be consistent in reinforcing those boundaries. And when there is a disagreement or push back from the kids, because it does happen especially as they get older, coming to a resolution is a bit easier because everyone knows the expressed boundaries.
Every family is different and therefore every family’s boundaries are going to look a little different. Whatever your child is engaging in, look at it through the filter of "Will it produce goodness?" and Jesus-like characteristics in your kids' hearts. Because, “What we allow in our eyes and our ears lives in our hearts”. How your family decides to specifically define your entertainment boundaries is a very personal process.
My husband and I also had to learn we needed to be willing to let our boundaries and rules to grow as our children grew. Our boundaries and rules are different now for our teenagers than when they were five. (One of them will even be a whole adult this summer how did that happen!) So of course, it’s changed over time. For example, over time we have moved from a Zero Tolerance rule to a 3-Strikes rule. If something we are watching or listening to breaks one of our boundaries or rules three times, then it must be turned off. This has helped give the children a little bit more freedom as they have gotten older but still helps them know and practice the importance of being mindful about what they let into their eyes and their ears.
One final resource I’d like to share is Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org). It is a wonderful website where you can search for TV shows and movies and it provides detailed information about the type of content they contain. We have used this countless times when trying to decide if something we want to watch is appropriate for our family.
In today’s world of constant influence from cell phones,TV and streaming media it is important to be intentional about what our kids are listening to and watching. Wherever you are in your parenting journey, take some time and ask yourself what you want to live in your child’s heart. Use that to develop your boundaries and rules for your family. It’s never too late to teach your children “what you allow into your eyes and ears will live in your heart”. And we want our hearts to reflect Jesus.