My daughter, who is now serving with her youth pastor husband, honed her discernment skills by teaching the subject to elementary students in our church. But before grabbing the microphone, she latched onto a best friend in high school, a girl who shared her commitment to honor the Lord in this area. They found it much easier to walk this path together than alone. Together iron sharpened iron (Proverbs 27:17).
Friends like that aren't always easy to find. But it's worth trying to help your son or daughter seek "iron" in his or her life, too. When your child hears from a peer that media discernment has value, you may feel less under siege — and less prone to slip into battle mode.
Many parents take an "all or nothing" approach, rather than teaching and reinforcing biblical principles on a case-by-case basis. These moms and dads tend to swing to one extreme or the other — something that's easy to do.
The first extreme is permissiveness. Some parents seemingly can't say "no" to their children. They so much want to be liked by their kids that they seldom risk setting limits. They adopt an "anything goes" philosophy: No boundaries, everything is OK, do what you want. This approach leads to "indecent exposure" as children wander, aimless and wide-eyed, through the culture's enticements. We must not make this common mistake; we have to be parents who know how and when to say "no."
The other extreme is legalism. Parents at this end of the spectrum rarely explain their decisions, but find the first thing out of their mouths is "No."
"Dad, can I go to XYZ movie?"
"Can I listen to contemporary Christian music?"
"Mom, can I buy a videogame console?"
This type of parenting purports to be about safeguarding. It isn't. This approach may simplify entertainment purchasing decisions, but it also can breed rebellion. Youngsters often bide their time, waiting for the day they can sample the entertainment industry's forbidden fruit: "Just wait till I move out someday. I'll watch and listen to whatever I want." When they head off to college or career, this attitude may play out in unwise choices. That's why we also need to be parents who can say "yes" when it's warranted.
Neither of the extremes works. A discerning middle ground — one that tests entertainment against biblical standards — is the most reasonable and protective plan of action. Teaching discernment encourages balance, leads to critical thinking, bonds families, and gives teens life skills they'll carry throughout adulthood.