The longer you’re a parent, the more you realize there are fewer and fewer hills to die on. I received the following letter from a concerned parent. My response to her applies to many situations as you relate to your children and teens. The mother writes:
In a nutshell, I have a wonderful 16-year-old daughter, raised in church, Christian school, the whole nine yards. I realize that doesn’t make one a Christian, yet my husband and I did our best to instill core biblical values and truths into her since her birth. She never gives us any trouble. I still don’t allow her to listen to much secular music. The most she listens to when I’m around is Radio Disney. She is a reader, which is a great thing. She recently brought two books home from her friend and said she wanted to read them and that they were about vampires. I immediately said I don’t think that’s a good idea. She didn’t understand why I wouldn’t let her read these books since vampires aren’t real. I explained to her that they are of a demonic nature and not something I want her to allow into her life, real or not. There was more we said, but she was very upset with me. She didn’t think I would respond the way I did, because she sees nothing wrong. I don’t want to just say no and not explain why, and yet I truly feel these books are not appropriate for any Christian. Can you give me any advice?
Here is my response to this mother: You may have missed a wonderful teaching opportunity, but it’s not too late. When my children were teens, my family had a few hills I felt were worth dying on, such as no sex before marriage, no illicit drugs, no alcohol, no smoking, nor anything against the law. Let’s evaluate your circumstances:
- You have a wonderful 16-year-old daughter.
- She never gives you any trouble.
- You allow a limited variety of entertainment choices.
- She is upset with you because you won’t let her read novels involving vampires.
Without knowing you, your daughter, or your daughter’s side of the story, may I offer some questions and insight?
- You don’t know if your daughter is obedient because you have her on such a short entertainment leash. Nor do you know if she really wants to be obedient. Her hostile response could be a minor eruption of a volcano of emotions that have been brewing under the surface for a while. It‘s definitely a sign of a deeper need.
- Do you know how your daughter actually feels about most spiritual issues? Is her Christianity based on her faith or your faith?
- I agree with you that books involving vampires would be inappropriate for a 16–year-old. But you get upset when your daughter tries to express her opinion. This can be deadly if you ever hope to teach her how to think biblically.
- Do you give her the opportunity to have an opinion that disagrees with yours without becoming upset? If not, how will you ever discover what she is actually thinking?
- Research by The Barna Group, the Southern Baptist Convention, and others have shown as many as 70 to 80 percent of young people raised by Christian parents will not live for Jesus after high school. If we have the right answer in Jesus Christ, why aren’t more young people living for Jesus when they leave home? Possibly, children and teens have never adopted their parents’ faith as their own.
- By allowing your daughter the freedom to think within reasonable guidelines, you are helping her learn how to think for herself when you are not around.
- Decide which hills are worth dying on and allow the others to be open for discussion. A discussion doesn’t involve criticism or a lecture from her mother.
- Does a novel involving vampires reach the level of a hill worth dying on? I believe it does not. Help her to set reasonable boundaries.
- Discuss your concerns clearly with your daughter and then consider allowing her to read the book. Your unwillingness to stretch in this area may push her into reading it on the sly.
- Ask questions to discover what her opinions are based on. For example, you can ask why a vampire story is appealing.
- Learn more about the author and his or her books. Use the Internet to help you research. The author may be sound in his or her worldview. For example, Frank Peretti, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien wrote books that included demons yet you can trust their strong biblical worldview.
- Use your research as a springboard to compare the philosophies of books using vampires with the truth of Scripture.
- If your daughter still insists on reading these books, you should read them as well and discuss your findings together. What a wonderful teaching opportunity. Ask questions that lead to open discussions. Be careful. This book may not be all bad. Find truths as well as untruths to discuss. These books won’t kill her and the discussions you have with her may help build her faith.
You just read the first section of this chapter. The complete chapter including the Reflection, Response, Scripture, and Application is one of 30 chapters from Al's new book RECONNECT: When your kids are connected to everything but you. Find out how to order your own copy.
founded Al Menconi Ministries
in 1982. Since that
time, Al has spoken to more than a million people about entertainment and its influences. He has
written numerous books and articles on the subject and provides free help for parents on his web
. Al and his wife Janice have two
grown daughters and reside in Carlsbad, CA.
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