Hey Mom! - Five Ways We Limit Outside Influences
"Hey Mom!" Edward came running into the kitchen; I was leaning over the sink with my hands in the dishwater. I was keeping one eye on Nasko, one eye on Louis, and (supposedly) one ear on Edward.
"Hey Mom! Mom. MooOOOmmm!"
I raised my head, mostly because I recognized a sassy tone, not because I had heard what he was saying. I finally noticed he was talking to me.
It's the "Mom" part that threw me.
I've technically been a mom for three and a half years, but no one has ever called me that. Not once. I have always been "Mama" to my boys.
In Bulgaria, moms are usually referred to as Mama; So my oldest son, Nasko, called me Mama on the first day we met. Since my heart melted onto that orphanage floor, I've always encouraged my kids to call me "Mama."
Nasko's special needs and cognitive delays keep him relatively isolated and consistent. He knows me as Mama, and he has never questioned that title.
Edward, however, discovered the World Wide Web this past month. His new favorite pastime is YouTube. Now that he understands enough English, he could spend DAYS watching videos of little girls acting out weird scenarios with their giggly friends. He also loves those videos of the people opening Kinder Eggs to discover little toys and trinkets. (Kill me now.)
That day though, with my hands in the dishwater, I realized that my child is being influenced by the world.
He'd seen videos of kids saying "Hey Mom!" and decided to try it out. Once I finally did respond, he counted it a success and continues to gain my attention with that phrase. Thankfully, those words were harmless and undoubtedly welcome, but it did give me pause because I am not the only influence in his life anymore.
Obviously my children are going to have outside influences. I welcome them, as scripture does teach that we are to live IN the world, just not OF the world. My kids need to interact with people of all backgrounds, races, genders, and social statuses. I will encourage them to have a diverse group of friends, but to always imitate Christ - no matter who is present. Trying to keep them under my wing and refusing the influences of anything outside our home is not a favorable path to take.
For this reason, I'd like to share five ways that our family lives intentionally by limiting and swaying the influences outside of our home.
1. Parental Controls
All three of our boys have iPads, but each one has very strict parental controls. The kids don't have access to a web browser or the App Store. The only music and movies they see are the songs and shows we've pre-approved and preloaded. We choose apps and games based on their ratings and content. As our boys grow older, they'll be given more freedoms, but at this time, we are very strict.
2. Minimal TV
Chance and I don't watch a lot of TV, but when we do, we're very cautious of what we watch while our children are awake. We try to stick to cooking or DIY shows, that we know hold a G rating. We also guard our network TV watching because of the number of ads our children could be exposed to. Recent studies show that kids see around 40,000 ads every year - over 100 daily. In order to not have hearts of discontentment, we attempt to limit our children's exposure to advertisements.
3. Precautionary Teaching
Before a child has even been exposed to something inappropriate, it is best to teach them what is right and wrong. For example, parents should be the FIRST people to explain sex to their children (even if it is only in small, age-appropriate bites). We want the seeds of knowledge and truth to be planted alongside the Word of God. Right now, in our home, we are teaching our boys the ten commandments. A devotion that Chance recently shared was about taking God's name in vain. I know some of Edward's favorite YouTube videos contain the phrase, "Oh my God." He has not imitated that yet, but when he does, we can remind him of the third commandment we studied, and committed to memory: Respect God's name.
4. Small Circle of Friends
It is not that we don't associate with nonbelievers, but our kids know who our closest friends are, and they know that our friends are helping us point them to Christ. We have carefully chosen babysitters and friends-turned-family, so that our boys can imitate these people's actions and speech. One other reason for a small friends circle is that Nasko occasionally repeats inappropriate phrases (thank you Tourette's), and then if he receives a reaction, he can obsessively say it for days (and days and days). We have asked a few of our friends and family to guard their mouths around Nasko for this reason. If those people hadn't been such good friends, they may have been offended or not conceded to our requests.
5. Open Communication
In the occurrence that our children are exposed to something of which we do not approve (it WILL happen), we strive to maintain open communication so that they can ask questions or understand why it is not considered appropriate. We try to never say, "You just can't do that," but instead, we share the heart of the issue and the reasons behind it (example: "You can't say that because it is disrespectful and unkind.") Because of this, we hope that our beliefs and lifestyle will not be filled with legalism, but instead it will be filled with love.