Ask anyone in my family and they’ll tell you that I don’t watch a lot of television on my own, and I do so reluctantly when other family members have “the box” on. I have personally ruined many a show for my children (and husband) over the years, as I was quick to point out the unbiblical worldview being presented or an obvious violation of one or more aspects of God’s holy law-word. That said, there is an adage I have repeatedly heard that goes something like this: Everything is good for something, even if it is just to serve as a bad example.
A while back, I viewed one of the current “reality shows” with my daughter, which has as its premise a “Supernanny” coming in to help a couple deal with their unruly children. All my years of homeschooling must have paid off. I didn’t have to say too much, as my daughter did all the talking for me. In the midst of her laughing at the ridiculous situations, I got to hear comments such as, “If I had ever tried to pull something like that, you wouldn’t have stood it for a moment!” “That kid needs a spanking something bad!” “That mother doesn’t even talk to her kids; she talks at them!” Moreover, as the Supernanny (English accented, full-bosomed, and oh-so-perfectly acting like Mary Poppins) took the reins of the household, the mom and dad appeared as though deep magic were taking place before their very eyes. They were so in awe of her methods and techniques that when she took her “mandatory leave” so they would have a chance to apply what they had learned, the overwrought couple doubted their ability to continue in her absence. A cameraman stayed behind in order to provide live feed for Supernanny to watch from a remote location. The “drama” unfolded as the parents were on their own trying to manage their daughters, all the while lamenting their inadequacies. Supernanny remained dutifully glued to her television set, appalled at times, encouraged at others, carrying on a one-sided dialogue to her disciples, “Don’t let her talk to you like that!” and “Remember what I told you!”
Supernanny’s advice was practical at times, although very humanistic all the time. She presupposed that the children inherently wanted to be good and that all mummy and daddy had to do was reprove them (in a stern voice) for not respecting them as parents. She never did offer any genuine reason why they were worthy of respect! Then, when things got really out of hand, it was off to the “naughty stool” where the tirade continued for the four-minute minimum, until the child gave a gratuitous “sorry,” which was the “get out of jail card” so long as it was said without a tantrum accompanying it. It was clear that without a foundation in transcendental law — a law that goes beyond child and parent — all that was going on here was bad TV.
But think of the “Supernannies” that many Christian parents hand their children over to five days a week, 10 months out of the year, many of whom spend more time with the children than the parents do themselves. These are the ones instilling in children how they should act. Whether it is in secular schools or daycare centers, the object is more about controlling behavior than it is about pointing them to their responsibilities to their Creator. Is it any wonder that disrespect and foul mouths often accompany a 12-year sentence in such institutions? After all, most children have some sense of their duty to obey when they are young, when parents outweigh them and have the power of withholding love, food, and shelter. But, why should any kid submit to parents once they’ve apparently transcended the need for these basic necessities? This follows logically from the secular training that encourages autonomy and “making one’s own way in the world.” Modern education inherently programs children to “evolve” beyond their parents.
For education to be classified as faithful to Scripture, parents must impart a sense of a transcendent standard that applies to both parent and child, one ordained by the Living God. Catechizing is a powerful and effective means by which the child learns the doctrines of his faith. So, too, is the memorization of Scripture. However, there is much more to the process. Every subject must be evaluated through the lens of the law-word of God in order to be properly understood and applied. The standard must not change based on geographical location, cultural norms, or circumstances. The child must comprehend that God requires obedience in spirit and in truth, in all areas of one’s life, and all the time. Most importantly, the child needs to learn that the remedy for sin is not the “naughty stool” and a superficial show of remorse, but the sincere application of “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
In all fairness, I’m quite sure that the discipline and instruction in the faithful Christian household wouldn’t draw many television sponsors, viewers, or high ratings for that matter. And, most decidedly, all issues and upsets wouldn’t be resolved in the one-hour time slot reserved for Supernanny. No, ours is a multi-generational pursuit that includes believing God’s plan and promise of victory. Moreover, our calling does not depend on audience appeal or high salaries on earth. Ours is a calling that involves storing up treasures in heaven!
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].