I asked my children this question the other night: How many times do you think I have solved a conflict in my life through violence?
They sat there quietly for a moment, glancing at each other trying to avoid being called on to answer, and I let them. I wanted the question to settle in.
After a moment, my oldest son said “probably none”. Immediately the other children nodded their head in agreement. Granted, as a child I had an occasional spat with a sibling that ended with a hit or pinch or push, and there were a couple situations that almost developed into a fight as a teenager, but in no case did the violence accomplish anything.
“You’re right”, I said. “None. Now, how many times do you think I have solved a conflict by cooperating with someone else?”
Immediately they responded: “All the time.”
We don’t have cable television in our home. We don’t watch the Disney channel or Nickelodeon, or many of the other popular children’s shows and we limit television watching most of the day. My wife and I do this because what we see on that screen is not what we want our children to become, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that children who are fully immersed in popular culture have the challenges they do. It’s not a human development or “terrible teenager” thing. It’s cultural. There are plenty of examples of teenagers who are not self absorbed, conceited, disrespectful towards themselves and others, full of anger and resentment, and wanting to mimic every bad adult behavior they see.
Even though we limit television watching, we like movies. I share this talk because I think it is a great perspective on what we learn from movies. These are the stories that are influencing the lives of our children. These are the stories and images that rattle around in their heads as they develop their character. I don’t believe that all movies are bad, but I do believe that all movies are not good. We need to be deliberate about the things we watch, and as parents, we must take the lead in teaching children how to choose entertainment that is appropriate, positive, uplifting, and that teaches them how to be a cooperative adult.