We love to go to the movies as a family, but I don’t always love what we see on the screen. Sometimes my gut reaction is to cover my children’s eyes and ears until the scene passes, but that’s not always practical, especially now that they’re older and watch movies with their friends.
Instead of hiding our eyes and theirs, we can train our children to evaluate everything they see, read, and hear in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can prepare them in advance to healthily handle and respond to all sorts of media, including movies.
When it comes to the movies, our family has developed a standard set of questions to ask after we watch one. These questions have opened the gates for excellent discussions and spiritual growth using the world, being in the world but examining it as one set-apart (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Someone usually starts the questioning over dinner the next night…
1. What did you like best about the movie?
This question is an easy “in”—a friendly, non-challenging way to start thinking and talking about what we saw.
2. What didn’t you like about it?
Verbalizing the negative aspects of the movie helps us put it in perspective. We learn to be critical without harshness. The kids increase their emotional vocabulary as they explain why they didn’t like something.
3. What character acted like Jesus?
This is a fascinating question. Sometimes the hero is clearly the Christ-like one, but sometimes the villain has a moment of kindness too. This question also challenges what the children know about Jesus and his behavior on earth. As parents, we can add Christ-like examples from our knowledge of the Gospels.
4. Which character didn’t act like Jesus?
Perhaps the hero/ine did something for noble reasons, but the ends couldn’t justify the means. Perhaps the villain acted from a sense of revenge or vengeance which seems right on the surface, but, in reality, contradicts our calling as Christ-followers. We often talk about motives with this question.
5. What is the message of the movie? (or) What point does this movie make? (and) Is that message/point something with which we agree as Christ-followers?
Every piece of media advocates a point-of-view, but sometimes it’s subtle. As we talk through the underlying messages, we deflate their power to pull us away from the mind of Christ.
Lest you think these conversations heavy or serious, listen in on this exchange after we saw Frozen.
Daughter: You know, Princess Elsa and the Incredible Hulk are similar.
Everyone else: (with surprise) What?
Daughter: They both have a gift—or curse—they can’t control, and they are afraid of hurting the person they love the most.
Everyone else: Hmm.
Daughter: Yeah, so they run away, but they are pursued by people who fear them but want to control them. Then in the end, the person they love helps them come to terms with their gift or curse, whichever you want to call it.
She was right. Granted, it’s no great spiritual break-through, but she demonstrated the kind of critical-thinking, dot-connecting exercise that will help her thrive as a Christ-following teenager and adult.
This job of raising Christ-followers is no easy task. Our set of critical-thinking questions is one way to prepare our children for this 21st-century world they have been called to inhabit.
How do you help your children process what they see and hear
from the entertainment industry and other media?
Please help us all be better parents by sharing in the comments below.
Carole Sparks recently became the parent of two teenagers when her youngest turned thirteen. She is also now the shortest in her family. She prays her lack of stature doesn’t imply a matching lack of influence.
Carole is passionate about the Word of God and how it impacts our everyday lives. When she isn’t thinking deeply about parenting, she writes Bibles studies and devotions, having contributed to several digital and print publications. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and at Intentional Parenting.
cover photo courtesy of Bing images