Some may disagree with me on this, but I am of the mindset that our children today (and perhaps adults in the general populace as well) are not drawn to what they need, but to what is right in front of them. Truth, goodness, and beauty are available and can be found in nature, great literature, works of art, music, and such, but amusement and frivolity are available as well and easily accessible. Our parents’ generation had the T.V. We have streaming services, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, and the T.V. as well, but with 500 channels that we don’t need. Now, before I come off anti-entertainment (maybe I already have) I want to be clear that I use many of these and enjoy them on occasion. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of it, but there is something wrong in how we use or misuse them.
As a parent I am becoming particularly aware of how the more silliness my children are exposed to the more of it they crave. Take Netflix for example. There are some great shows available on Netflix with artful cinematography and/or meaningful messages, but there are also meaningless shows as well. Some shows are devoid of truth or speak falsehood. Other shows are simply lacking in quality. Yes, there are shows worth watching, and then there are others that are not. Unfortunately, Netflix is filled with more of the latter than the former.
With access to images and sounds everywhere all the time why would our children thoughtfully look elsewhere for truth, goodness, and beauty? Because whoever screams the loudest gets heard. The culture at large is screaming and we are all tuned in. It is our responsibility as parents to expose our children to the true, the good, and the beautiful, and in order for us to do this we must first be exposed to the true, the good, and the beautiful ourselves.
Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). The literal meaning of “think” here is “to dwell” or “to ponder.” How can we dwell or ponder on the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and the like if we are in the words of Neil Postman, “amusing ourselves to death”? Furthermore, how can we expect our children to dwell upon that which they are not exposed to?
This is why I appreciate Classical Christian Education, especially today. I have the privilege and responsibility to guide my children in truth and train them to appreciate and admire God’s creation, great works of art, literature, order, form, and beauty. With reading aloud, listening to music, learning an instrument, walking through nature, visiting museums, and discussing it all through meaningful conversations, we have the opportunity to cultivate the character of our children. And we don’t have to be homeschoolers to do this. We can incorporate worth and meaning into what we are already doing in the daily practices of our home of eating, playing, talking, reading, and enjoying life together.
We can be silly. We do silly real well. But as Solomon tells us, there is a “time for everything.” Not everything is meant to be silly. Our children will crave it, and limited exposure is harmless, but the heart of our home must contain substance, meaning, and worth. We tend the garden of our home and lead our children to what will nourish them, not what will amuse them. If our children are left to themselves, the culture will subjugate our role as parents and our children will perhaps never learn to desire what is true, good, and beautiful, or even be able to identify what is.
We don’t have to scream for our children to hear us. We simply must offer them what is worthy of their attention and will enrich their lives in the long run.