One of my favorite children’s songs warns us to guard our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts. In addition to maintaining a personal standard for what I ingest, it is also an encouragement to me to keep a watchful eye over what my children are exposed to.
“Oh be careful little eyes what you see…”
Television shows and movies are the main culprits when it comes to introducing images that I would prefer my elementary-aged students not see. In our home, the key to monitoring the visual stimulants our children are exposed to is only allowing them to see movies or programming we have previewed—no matter what peer pressure from their friends or well-meaning mom friends would suggest.
Recognizing that our children have tender hearts, and are only young and innocent once, it is important to listen to their sensitivity and not expose them to violent images or disturbing content before they are ready to process it.
Unfortunately, no matter how well we set the boundaries, inevitably, something less than pleasant makes it through. In those instances, I try to take the time to discuss what was seen and how it makes my children feel. That’s when we break down what is real and what is fiction, and what about the images in the clip contradicts the behavior we encourage in our house.
But in addition to monitoring media intake, it is important to model good behavior for our children to see. Am I reacting graciously when someone upsets me at the grocery store? Am I being kind and courteous even when my patience is running thin? What do my children see in my actions?
“Oh be careful little ears what you hear…”
While I mostly listen to praise and worship music or hymns, I also enjoy secular genres. But I distinctly remember when my first son was born, I took the time to listen to the lyrics of each song to be sure they were wholesome.
Tunes get stuck in your head, and with those tunes, the values of the songwriters can begin to influence the way you see the world. If possible, I would like to avoid encouraging my children to sing lines about behavior I would be grieved to see them act out.
Once again, bringing the lesson even closer to home, it is important to watch what we say—particularly around little ears. Children hear—and even understand—far more than they are given credit for. Do I tear my children down to other parents when I think they can’t hear me? Do I belittle others, setting a poor example of how my children should speak of others?
“Oh be careful little mind what you think…”
The Bible admonishes us in Philippians 4:8 to think on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Watching what I dwell on can help center my attitude on inspirational things, giving me better energy for our school day. This standard is also a helpful motivator for directing my children to discuss and focus on uplifting things.
Another way we can encourage our children to think on pure and praiseworthy things is by finding times to highlight them throughout the day. Praising our children for being obedient, or for giving their best at school, will help them focus on excellent and commendable things.
Families can also incorporate focusing on loveliness by finding something from one or two of those categories to kick off discussions at mealtimes or as part of the bedtime routine to settle children’s minds on uplifting things as they drift off to sleep.
“Oh be careful little heart what you trust…”
No matter what age children are, teaching them the elements of what makes a child—or an adult—a trustworthy confidant, friend, or mentor can be a vital skill. For children, are they respectful to others? Do they listen to adults? Do they play nicely with other children? And for adults, are they people your parents have left in charge? Is the instruction they are giving similar to the guidance your parents would give?
As children get older, we can help them evaluate someone’s trustworthiness by adding questions such as whether that person has expertise in the area in question and whether that person’s life has aspects the child wants to emulate.
Hopefully, equipping our children with the skills to discern whom they can trust will set them up for situations they’ll encounter later in life.
The children’s song ends, “for the Father up above is looking down in love, oh be careful little heart who you trust.” As we nurture our children in discernment, we can communicate that the love of our heavenly Father is what motivates us to enjoy the beauty He has created and avoid those things that would not edify ourselves or others.