Three-year-old Ava informed me, “I feel like I need M&M’s,” as though her feelings trumped all possible objections.
Her request did not surprise me. Many children’s movies and TV shows, even acceptable ones, encourage viewers to “follow your heart” and stress, through implication, that a child knows more about what she needs than her parents.
An emotional push
The idea that emotions best direct behavior is not a new concept; my childhood was marked by a diminutive mermaid’s emotionally driven adventure. She followed “her heart” and attained true love, along with an apology from her parent for the constraints that his rules put on her.
Today, children are encouraged to take the same Curious George route to maturity. Children’s programming remains home to many happily-ever-afters that result from listening to and trusting in feelings rather than parental directives.
A biblical path
The Bible has a different take on the heart, however. It reminds us that our feelings aren’t trustworthy or reliable guides (Jeremiah 17:9). So how do you impart this to your children when a tinker fairy or a rabbit named Max tells them otherwise?
First, you need to remember that emotions are not bad. You can acknowledge feelings as real. But also teach your children to submit to the liberating Word of God instead of their changing whims.
Talk about it
When a character is advised to follow her heart, use the opportunity to ask questions such as:
- Why would [the character’s name] want to do that?
- What if [the character] feels like she should [give a good option]?
- What if [the character] feels like she should [give a bad option]?
- How will this character know what to do?
- What might happen if this character prays first, then asks her mommy or daddy?
Walk your children through ways the character could honor God and her parents and learn to do what is right (Philippians 1:9-11).
There’s no need to pull the plug on your children’s favorite characters. With your guidance, kids can learn to balance the on-screen adventures of headstrong princesses and curious monkeys with the real-life wisdom of bold prophets and devout fishermen.