My brother shared with me a question posed to parents by one of his friends on Facebook: “What time does your child go to bed and how old do they have to be before they can watch PG-13 movies?” Surprisingly one mother responded that she insisted on 8 pm bedtime for her 10 year old but she “didn’t care enough” to stop him from watching PG-13 movies. (I am sure she meant she didn’t care enough about the movies, not that she didn’t care enough about her child, right?) A few other parents enthusiastically piped up that they don’t censor their children’s entertainment, using the word ‘censorship’ as if it was evil to care for your children’s minds and spirits, but of course, be sure to put them to bed at 8 pm.
This reminded me of a parent I knew, a friend of mine, who was nearly nuts about getting after her child for standing on a chair – SHE MIGHT FALL!- but didn’t seem concerned in the least about dressing her 8 year old child up in sexy clothing or even worse, with her own example of immorality to her daughter as she had been involved with several different men in a the past couple years, hurting her child’s security, safety, and self-image about a thousand times more than a little fall off a chair would do.
I considered this morning the way things would go for me if I just ‘let it go’ – no censorship, training, boundaries, consistent care. Let’s take for instance the garden. Anyone who has every done ANY gardening knows it takes DILIGENT, CONCERNED nurturing, weeding, trimming, pruning TO GET GOOD THINGS TO GROW. It takes a TON of weeding out the very beginnings of the bad!!! If you leave your garden uncensored your pretty much sure to reap thistles, thorns and weeds instead of delicious fruits! (We as a family have done that before, in all ambition planted the garden then left it to it’s own demise! Super sad waste, how much more horrible and devastating to leave a human life to waste in the name of ‘NOT CENSORING your children’. I have found the basic rules of our religion, called “The Commandments of God”, to be the best ‘weed-free formula’ for our family.) Ok, the laundry. (This is probably the best daily demonstration I have in my life of what happens if you don’t constantly apply discipline! I must CONSTANTLY reign in the laundry or complete chaos and depressing dirty piles will take over our home! If for even 2-3 days in our home we didn’t insist dirty laundry was thrown in the laundry pile – tended to and trained by sorting, spraying, washing (all sorts of censorship), pushed through the washer to get rid of dirt again and again, the whole house would be overtaken!! (oh misery!!! I think it’s happened before.) What a bunch of wasted clothing, money, tears and time as we don’t have what we need to wear! Then there’s the dog. Wow, maybe the only thing worse than a child not censored or trained, boundaries and behavior taught is a DOG! 🙂 OK, your right, a child left untrained is still worse in the end. But you know, a dog uncensored can really rip up a house, a yard, a shoe (as our puppy did yesterday, a very favorite shoe). So I censored him, so firmly in an alpha-dog yelling manner that it frightened my baby! I feel super bad about that, but I sure hope the dog got the point that there are LIMITS and BOUNDS to what he can and can’t entertain himself with!! Some entertainment that he thinks is a blast IS super destructive!! Just like our children.
My girls are down at the barn absolutely enjoying their horses this morning! Even with little girls ages 6-10 riding these big animals and living their little girl dreams come true! Did that enjoyment come from just letting the horses go uncensored? No, they were trained and trained and trained again. It came at a great price of time and money. The trick with horses is that they LOVE to be useful!! They LOVE to serve! They LOVE to do well for their owners. Sitting around in a field all day is not the happiest life for a horse. Our children are the same. They will gain and bring us the GREATEST JOY if we train, train and train again, weed, prune, keep the home clear of weeds that would choke their spirits and minds and keep them away from entertainment that would be destructive. They will thrive as they find that through discipline their lives have purpose and meaning and JOY and the fulfillment of all their dreams come true! It doesn’t just happen, it takes lots of gentle, firm, insistent, loving ‘censorship’ to get this result!!
As a parent of my children with many friends and peers of their own I have seen this principle at work again and again. The successful, happy, fulfilled children doing GREAT, HAPPY things with their lives have supportive, caring, censoring, watchful, careful parents who have worked diligently in the ‘garden’ of their children’s lives to offer them the very best, to stop the weeds from choking out the good. I have been guilty of letting my garden, laundry, dog, and horses go ‘uncensored’ at times. It’s HORRIBLE, usually the consequence is quick and painful enough to start censoring and applying the discipline and training that needs to happen QUICKLY! But how much MORE IMPORTANT is it to take careful, guarded, watchful, censoring care of our CHILDREN!
I have, I realize now, even made that mistake with my children from time to time – not guided or trained or censored quite enough in the name of ‘freedom of choice’, which is a whole different blogpost, right? It only returns regret and makes more work for you as parent and for them in their own lives. I LOOVE freedom of choice and teach my children as young as possible that the choice IS THEIRS: THEIR LIFE, THEIR CONSEQUENCES according the THEIR CHOICES. Perhaps training children, like riding a horse, one has to learn how to handle the reins, not too loose, not too tight, just firm enough for the horse to be mindful of you and to know you are the leader. Children will respond positively as they know their parents are always there, watchful of them in love, the leaders of their lives until they are old enough and trained enough to take over the reins.
I have found as a parent that when your children KNOW you love them, that you are only putting restrictions on their behavior for their benefit now and in the long-run, (restrictions like don’t run in the street or you may get hit by a car, don’t touch the stove or you may get burned, don’t view pornography or your self-esteem and most important, rewarding, lasting relationships will be damaged, etc!) then they trust you enough to work quite joyfully with the directions you give and the reward of freedom to enjoy their lives and dreams come true will belong to them and to you!
God bless you all as you continue, like us, to do the best you can for your children!