Train them up
By Sally S. Creed, LPC-S, RPT-S
Before your first child enters the world, you make sure to have things on hand to help protect your baby: plug covers, cabinet locks, doorknob covers, baby monitors, car seats, and many other things to guarantee your child will be safe in your care. Parents do everything they can to assure that their children are safe and protected from things that can harm them.
At what age do we finally relax and stop protecting our children? From what I am seeing, parents are doing a fairly good job keeping their kids physically protected. They dress them in the proper clothes for the weather, make sure they have someone to pick them up from school (if needed), make sure they are fed, and have a comfortable place to sleep.
However, what are parents doing to protect them from attacks against their hearts and minds? It seems that this is the area where parents need to be on constant alert in order to keep their children safe.
Our children are getting exposed to more violent and inappropriate content than ever before. Video games children play are actually causing them more harm than good. Parents don’t seem to be aware there is an age rating for these games—if their child wants to play it, then it must be okay. The same goes for movies and TV shows. Children come to my office and tell me things they have watched, and it blows my mind someone has allowed them to watch shows that are way too mature for their little brains.
A child’s brain is not fully developed until their mid-to-late 20’s. Even in their teen years, kids cannot make good rational decisions. Good judgment doesn’t begin until adulthood. So children are not supposed to be the ones making decisions about what they can and cannot watch, read, hear, or see. That’s the parent’s job.
When my daughter was in middle school, she and some of her friends decided they wanted to go see a movie. All the parents gave consent, but I went and watched the preview and read about it. It was inappropriate for her age and maturity level, so I called the other parents and asked if they had seen the preview about this movie. It ended up that once the parents saw what the movie was about, they all decided not to let their kids go to that movie. My daughter was furious with me at the time, but I explained to her that once she was older, she could see it—but it was my job to protect her from being exposed to things she wasn’t prepared to handle.
Parents today need to remember children don’t use their prefrontal cortex to make decisions—this is the rational part of the brain. Children think with the emotional part of their brain, which explains why their decisions can be inappropriate and often hurtful. They need the guidance of someone who cares about them, loves them and wants the best for them—their parents.
A child’s scrapes and bruises will eventually heal, but unless we protect them from attacks on their hearts and minds, they may be scarred for a long time. Do not be afraid to step up and set healthy limits on what your kids can see, where they can go, what time they come home, or who they hang around with. You are not supposed to be your child’s friend, but their parent. If you do your job correctly, you’ll actually be both. For help or assistance, contact a counselor who works with children and families. The Bible encourages us to “train up a child.” Let’s make this a priority for our children.
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)