Teens, Television, and the Befuddling Mix of the Two

A thoughtful anonymous reader posted this in response to my Monday piece on television watching by evangelicals:

“We don’t miss it, but our teenage son is somewhat of a prodigal and resents us for “imposing” our beliefs on him. Of course, we have explained the obvious to him and he is refusing to see reason in the true fashion of teenage rebellion. What would you do in that situation? Just curious. We are not budging, since we have 5younger children, but wonder if we are missing some form of reasonable compromise.”

I always read comments to my posts, which is not usually terribly taxing. But that should encourage some of you fence-sitters out there to write in with your thoughts. At any rate, I thought that this was a great question, and so I decided to give it a hack. Let me first say that I am not a parent of children who exist in physical form outside of their mother’s womb. I do in fact have a child, but it is presently hanging out in its mother’s womb, learning to punch her in all sorts of interesting ways. I am not a parenting authority, then, and do not present myself as one. With that said, I think on a personal level that parents have to set a tone in their home in which they are recognized as the authority. They do not need to apologize for being such and should in fact claim the role of leader as a God-given station in life. They should seek to set a tone for the home, though, in which authority is mixed with grace and love. In other words, children in Christian homes should be happy, inasmuch as parents can make this happen. They should experience life in happy, joyful terms. They should not grow up with a view of the Christian home that sees it only in terms of what it is against, but rather that sees it as being clearly rooted in joy that flows forth from a rich understanding of the doctrines of election, atonement, and providence.

This means that we strive to make our homes happy, that we give our children that happiest childhood we can, and that we root all our parenting in a vision of the Christian life that is not legalistic or stingy. However, we will also have to make difficult choices that our children, particularly our teens, may disagree with. Hopefully, when this happens, we can look back and see that we have trained our teens to trust our authority and follow our leadership, even if they disagree with certain decisions we make. Without such a foundation, I really don’t know what one would do in the situation described above. With it, though, we can point our children to the duty to obey their parents, clearly and graciously articulate the reasons for our decision, and instruct them to seek to live joyfully under our rule.

In this particular instance, it sounds like this young person could have a hard heart. I don’t think it’s the parent’s duty to give in here, as it often is not. Way more often, it’s going to be the child’s duty to follow their parents. Were I in the above situation, I would do what I’ve already written and stand my ground. Of course, I’m not sure that I would necessarily outlaw all tv, and that’s not what I stated in my post. If you have made that decision, however, I would stick to your guns, love your son boldly, and attempt to show him that you’re not making this decision to stick it to him but to usher him to holiness. If he rebels against you, that shows that his heart is hard. Again, he can well choose to watch tv when he’s on his own, but as long as he’s in your house, it is his biblical responsibility to joyfully submit to your leadership and follow you as his God-given authority, one put there for his own health and flourishing. It will naturally only help if this response is given in the context of a home in which a full, happy, rich Christian life is celebrated.

But even still, your son may reject your wisdom, and rebel against you. In such a case, you must not relinquish your authority as a parent and bend to his will, but stand firm and seek to love him.

Those are my thoughts–do other readers have their own? This is a sticky question, I must admit. I gave it my best shot, but as I said, I’m no authority here!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Teens, Television, and the Befuddling Mix of the Two

  1. Pastor Michael

    Owen,

    I’m new to your blog thanks to Challies’ link to your previous TV post. (BTW, thanks for the great moderating job at Band ‘o Bloggers.)

    This and your previous post were reasoned and thoughtful, so allow me to be radical and reactionary: why not just get rid of the thing?

    My wife and I did without one for the fist 18 years of our marriage, only getting a small one after 9/11 to watch the news in case there was another shoe that might drop. We only watch now for the weather forecast and breaking news. I’m hard pressed to name something profitable we’ve missed out on.

  2. Stephen Newell

    You’ve missed out on Food TV and ESPN. ;-)

    Seriously, I think Owen is expressing the same thought I had after reading the first post and this one. I had to sit back and reflect after this one, however: “How much of that reaction is purely what I would wish to do in that situation, rather than what I would actually do?”

    Instantly I said, “I really don’t want to think of what my little baby is going to be like in 13 years!” ;-)

    But I think that what I (and perhaps others as well) need to do is to pray for the courage to stick with our convictions with our children, whether they think we are right or wrong (and whether we actually are right or wrong).

    I need to recognize that I don’t have all the answers 3 months into this parenting gig, and trust that God and his word through the power of the Holy Spirit will provide them when the time comes. Meanwhile, I need to be investigating all this parenting stuff from books, other parents, and blog posts like these!

    We parents really need each other if we’re going to be godly parents and raise our children in such environments.

  3. Marla

    This is anonymous again :D I just got around to checking for your answer and appreciate that you wrote this post.
    We are in a tough situation, here and it is helpful to hear other perpectives.
    It is easy to see how God uses the rebellion of teenagers in the sanctification process of their parents. It is definitely humbling. I have found myself to be much less confident than I was as the parent of toddlers when I had all the answers, of course.
    I am going solo at the moment, too, since my husband is deployed. We have had many interesting email discussions, but it is not the same as having his authority in the home.
    I have one further insight, based on past mistakes: I’m inclined to think it is easier to not have a tv in the house at all, than to try to find the line for allowable programming. Teenagers are so prone to pride and thinking they know more than the adults around them. It is just one more thing for them to question us on. I wish we had removed the tv instead of the cable.

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