The next time I feel overwhelmed by the challenges of raising moral kids in an immoral, sexually charged world, I know what to do. Read your e-mail. Your responses to my recent column on parenting were so encouraging and helpful, I will read and re-read many of them in the years to come. You have reminded me we are comrades in a noble battle – we fight for nothing less than the hearts, minds and souls of our children.
In order to encourage all of us in the beautiful, challenging, exhausting and extremely rewarding role of "parenthood," I'd like to share a little of the feedback with you.
Readers were particularly eager to share their sentiments and suggestions regarding movies. One mom wrote she doesn't let her sons, ages 12 and 15, watch a movie, regardless of its rating, until she checks out the review posted on Screen-It. "Maybe I can't control the rest of the world," she wrote. "But I'm not going to go along with them." I spent some time checking out the site, and although I don't personally like many of the ads or products they sell, the site does an excellent job of screening movies and provides specific details of content. I'm going to use it as one of my sources for movie information from now on, too.
One reader suggested trying an editing service, such as Clear Play, which promises to help you "watch great Hollywood movies without having to worry about the profanity, nudity and gory violence." This site is great, and I'll be using their materials often. Michael Medved says of Clear Play:
Movie fans who have been worried about excesses in violence, sexuality and language can now enjoy their favorite films with a sense of security and satisfaction.
Also among the many responses was one from a man who blamed ministers who won't point out evil from the pulpit. He's right: The preacher who fails in this task fails his congregation. I receive e-mail from many pastors around the country on a regular basis and I know there are plenty of you who understand the importance of partnering with the parents in your congregation in an effort to raise children who love God, His truths and His people. We're counting on you.
A doctor from Louisiana pointed out what should be an obvious safeguard regarding electronic media in general, but is overlooked in far too many homes: Don't let kids have computers or televisions in their own room. These devices are windows to the world. Parents need to monitor what comes through those windows. In our home, our computers are set up in a family "office," the door of which is always open. Our televisions are in common rooms only and contain parental blocks to keep our kids from stumbling across garbage programming.
Two moms wrote to say the hard part isn't picking the right TV shows for children – it's avoiding offensive commercials. One said some of the worst ads come during the sporting events her husband watches. It's a good idea to watch television – even sporting events – with your kids, and discuss with them why some commercials are inappropriate.
One parent said to remember another handy tool – the microwave: "It does interesting things to bad CDs and DVDs that kids might otherwise fish out of the garbage." (Hmmm, cooking CD's must smell similar to dinner in the Hagelin house!)
A retired soldier recommends the videotape "Sex Has a Price Tag" by Pam Stenzel. Although I've not seen the tape, I am familiar with her work. Mrs. Stenzel has served on the National Abstinence Clearing House Advisory Board, and her tape is the recipient of the Charleston International Film Festival Gold Award. Besides that, Sean Hannity likes her and his recommendation is good enough for me!
I found it truly gratifying so many readers of my column have recommitted to being the guardians of their homes. One called the piece, "a cold slap in the face."
I'll close with a story from a stepdad who wrote to say he had encountered the "FCUK" ads I described in Teen People magazine. He explained to his stepdaughter why she couldn't read such trash in their home anymore. He said he wasn't punishing her, merely trying to protect her. He took a deep breath, and then showed her the ad.
"To my relief," he wrote, "she was just as incredulous and understood."
And that's the best part – the kids themselves. They want limits. They want borders. They want a clear sense of right and wrong. They're feeling behind them for those protective walls – for the steady, dependable standards they can count on in life.
Yes, they will learn about the world soon enough. But if, when that time comes, they're prepared to make proper moral judgments – the judgments you've helped them learn to make – then you've succeeded in the most important job in the world: parenting.