We were talking about media. I mentioned that I used to watch a funny sitcom when Spice was a baby. In this show, premarital sex was casual and normal. Nothing bad was shown, but it was always implied. After watching this show for several months, I began to feel that my view of morality was extremely strange. I didn't think my view was wrong, but I did think it was a little embarrassing to have (in this world we live in).
I decided to stop watching shows where that lifestyle is promoted - not because I was worried that I would do anything bad, but because I wanted my kids to grow up in an environment where they could see things as they really are - a place where they see true beauty and joy.
I've heard people say, "You can't shelter your kids their whole lives! They need to know what is out there so they can be prepared when they go out into the real world or it's going to be a real shock!" I understand this reasoning because the world is in a shocking state, but I want my kids to know it.
I don't want my kids to be in the world and see what "normal" is and then try really hard to get them to trust me that such things are not really normal in the eternal sense. I don't want them to see people having so much fun without consequences (as these things are portrayed) and the to try to get them to trust me that such things actually bring you misery in the long run. Chances are that they won't trust me so implicitly.
What I do want is for them to experience true beauty in their home. I want them to feel real joy - in loving, serving, being close to their Heavenly Father and basking in His light. Once they have learned to walk in light, they will recognize the counterfeit for what it is. When they go out into the world, they will recognize the reality of the circumstances around them. I want them to say as Moses said, after he had seen the Son of God and then Satan tries to tempt him to turn away:
What does all of this have to do with toys? I'm getting to it...
12 And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.
13 And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee? (Moses 1:12-13)
In this presentation, by Keri Tibbetts, she mentioned 5 steps to create an environment where children will want to grow up to be scholars who work hard to educate themselves so that they can influence the world for good. She is giving away a free e-book about this on her site www.headgates.org - I HIGHLY recommend ordering it. I haven't received mine yet, but I heard it should be coming soon. I can't wait. Her ideas really hit home.
The 5 steps were:
1. Create a house of order (in relationships, appearance, etc).
2. Require work (it develops their "discipline" muscle).
3. Inspire learning (like dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit).
4. Lessons and application (short, give them what they ask for, make them wait a little).
5. Close the Headgates - I won't go into detail about this here - she explains it so well that I wouldn't do it justice, but here is where I will explain what I mean about having inspiring toys:
Kids have a natural drive to learn, to create, to know. They are like seeds - already equipped with the material that they need to flourish, but we need to provide the right environment for that growth. Children will use their inner drive in some way, so the question becomes: Are the things in their environment helping them use that drive to become what they are meant to become, or are they distracting them and "entertaining" them so that their "current" of drive is wasted?
I kept this in mind as I cleaned out the toy room on Friday. About toys, she said to ask ourselves:
1. Does the thrill come from the child or from the toy? (The best toys are dull and lifeless ones that a child has to manipulate, not the ones that entertain the child with a push of a button).
2. Who was the creative one - the toy-maker or the child? (The more creative the toy-maker, the less creative the child).
She mentioned that children are loosing the executive control in their play, they are not really playing anymore - they are reading scripts.
I didn't think I would have to get rid of a lot of toys since I often donate toys and I thought I had tried to keep them to a minimum, but when I went through the toy room with these questions in mind - I filled 5 garbage bags full of toys to donate. Sad isn't it? Do you want to know what is even sadder? I was a little worried about what the kids would say when they walked into their toy room the next day and saw so many empty bins, but guess what? They haven't even noticed! I'm sure they'll notice a toy is missing here and there, but they'll probably assume they lost it. Maybe I'll attempt another run through in a couple of months!
For older kids, the questions to ask about their activities are the following:
1. Are the resources for this activity used or wasted (if they are wasted then the thrill of the activity comes from wasting).
2. Is the created object something of value? (something our family or someone needs)
I kept this in mind as I cleaned out our "craft" room. I threw away several things that inspire creating "junk" and I closed the door. I told the kids that children were not allowed in the craft room without an adult because the activities in the craft room are "adult" type of activities. If they want to create something, they can ask me to teach them and I will give them a "lesson" until they are able to create something on their own (a sewing lesson, for example). I am exited to not have to worry about the mess in the craft room anymore and I think the kids will learn to use their creative drive in a real way.
I've only skimmed the surface of what she had to say - I really think the e-book will be worth everyone's time!
Toys and activities play a big role in creating a true environment at home. Do you know anyone that thinks life is about finding the next easy thrill? Do you know anyone who does not see the beauty in a symphony, but thinks a video game is more worth their time? Do you know anyone who remains in a "perpetual childhood" even as an adult because they are looking to be fed their entertainment? Our world is filled with superficial distractions, I don't need them in my home.
Am I getting rid of the Wii? I would love to! The family isn't quite ready for such a step though... I did get rid of it as a daily attraction. It used to be that the children were allowed 25 minutes of screen time per day. Bud is the only one that ever used it and he used it to play the Wii. Bud is only allowed to play it for 2 hours on Saturdays now. At first, this was a hard thing for him. He cried and argued and he was a little angry. I explained my reasons to him as best as I could. One morning he approached me and said, "Mom, I prayed last night that I would feel good about not playing the Wii every day, and I felt the Spirit and I liked it." I think we're heading in the right direction...