You can’t let your kids live in a bubble. Eventually, it will be popped by something beyond your control and they will have to deal with the outside world. If your children need to walk around with a fainting couch, just in case they hear someone use a bad word, you have failed as a parent.
Better to introduce the outside world to them on your own terms. This takes discipline, wisdom, and patience. Not easy, but doable, as long as you don’t mind doing it imperfectly.
If you are training your kids to jump safely off of walls, you don’t start with the tallest wall you can find. You start with a stool. Then a stepladder. Gradually, they get stronger.
Of course, there is a limit. No matter how strong and confident they get, you don’t want them jumping off the top of 3-story buildings. You need the wisdom to know the difference between a stool and a building, and you need patience so you don’t rush the process or get frustrated.
One of the best ways to introduce your children to the risks and dangers of the outside world is through stories, through books and movies. We live in a cinematic age where everyone’s worldview has been shaped and colored by film, so film will be a necessary place to start practicing.
As you read and watch movies with your children, don’t let them watch passively. Ask questions. Pause the movie if you need to.
- What is this movie saying about women? Is it true?
- The children seem to be rewarded by disobeying their parents. Is that usually what happens in the real world?
- Did the hero make the right decision? Why or why not?
- Who does the movie want us to sympathize with? Should we? Why?
- If you were this character, what would you do? Why?
- How could the story have been changed so it was better, or at least told more of the truth?
As you ask these questions, practice the Socratic method. Keep asking more questions. Let them think through some things. If you disagree with their answers, don’t jump on them immediately. Guide them toward greater understanding. Build up their immune system.
You won’t always be there to shape their thinking in the real world. They are going to have to learn to analyze these things themselves. So train them. Yes, they will get a lot wrong. So will you.
As they get better at it, you can up the ante with more problematic films. Be careful. You still don’t want them watching the equivalent of a 3-story building, or worse.
In order to do this, you need to be a discerning viewer yourself. You cannot preach this without practicing it.
Once you become a father, watching movies for pure entertainment is no longer an option. I’m sorry. But that’s the way it is. You need to pay attention to what you watch and learn to ask questions and dissect the worldviews being presented.
As mentioned, you can use books too, and you should. Films have a quicker feedback loop, however, and real people they meet will be more influenced by films than by books.