Let me start this post with a preface about myself. Obviously as suggested by the title of this post it has to do with my opinion about what's appropriate for kids to read(and watch on TV for that matter). I'm not an expert or a child psychologist, but I am a father of three and I was once a kid myself so take what I have to say with some security that I do know a little about the subject at hand. Okay then lets gets started.
My oldest daughter is entering that stage of leaving Cinderella behind to wanting to see that movie on the top shelf that has dinosaurs eating people in a poorly thought out idea of a theme park (Jurassic Park). Take a breath and relax, I'm not letting my almost five going on fifteen daughter watch Jurassic Park yet. I don't need blood curdling screams in the middle of the night to wake up to right now. While Jurassic Park's off the table for now the Disney movie Dinosaur that features dinosaurs being eaten by dinosaurs has been a fan favorite in my household for going on a year now. Strange isn't it. It would appear then that there are levels to perceivable violence. Dinosaurs eating each other = Wide eyed fascination, but no nightmares. Dinosaurs that don't talk, but only growl and eat people(deservedly or not) = Possible over exposure to violence and nightmare territory. In short I find that one big factor in what my kids both read and watch is based on a somewhat quasi feely interpretation by me and my lovely wife, as to the gradual levels of stepped up violence that are permissible to expose young minds to. Its not easy by any means and me and the wife have differences of opinion all the time about how far to let our oldest daughter venture out of the security of the parent imposed bubble we have her in. I'm not that worried about my second oldest daughter in terms of violence, as her reaction to scary dinosaurs is to growl at them and stalk towards the tv on all fours before she play attacks my leg and mauls away viciously(mostly painless, but teething two year olds are known to bite involuntarily sometimes). I'll illustrate one such disagreement I had with my wife. I'd say my oldest was around three when I as a man of the Christian faith thought to myself that it would be a good idea for her to watch The Chronicles of Narnia and gain a Christian allegorical perspective on the Bible story of Jesus's redemption of us believers in Him by way of a fairy tale like setting. My wife's reaction was no-way! I was surprised, but I respected my wife's opinion and I let a year pass before I let my oldest stay up late to watch Narnia one night. My wife was wise to delay for a later time, as my girl was ready for Narnia now, but it was clear that a boundary had been passed. Disney movies and Veggie Tales got left behind in favor for those nights when our younger daughter was bad and got sent off to bed early. "Please daddy can I watch Narnia?" Sure, was the rote answer. The next adult thing to get issued into my daughter's emerging conscious was the ever familiar National Geographic rentals from the library where the 'lions rip the poor Zebra up ten ways to Sunday, but human poachers are really bad because they kill animals' kind of movies. My wife hates them. She sits there remote in hand to catch and fast forward through that ever popular aspect of nature videos when they feel the need to show one and all how little animal babies get made. My daughter loves them though. Just today she told me that she wants to be an "ologist" (read wildlife biologist). An aspect that I like about the nature videos is that they clearly show how life is uncertain and that its best to live in the moment because soon the herd is going to have migrate northward because of drought, where they'll have to cross this river congested with twenty foot long crocodiles hungry for lunch. In a way I look at it as a mental primer to graduate her into how life for grownups can be a bit like a survival of the fittest or the luckiest as the case may be.
Now I thought I was the one pushing the envelope with exposing my daughter to the more gritty aspects of life until one day my wife floored me. Now I'm a Christian author, but just because I'm that doesn't mean that I have not found entertainment or inspiration from non-Christian sources throughout my life. As a writer of Fantasy environments such as in my Warrior Kind series I've found lots to admire and be inspired by in the works of Tolken and others like Edgar Rice Burroughs. People say the movie was a bomb, but truly I don't know what they were seeing, because for me John Carter of Mars is one of the best movies ever made in my opinion. It's got lots of violent themes and somewhat scantily clad Martian women and so on. To put an age range on it I would have said that 13 or 15 would have been a good age to introduce such a movie to a child. My oldest sees the cover of the DVD case and sees big monsters and thinks "Cool!" Multiple pleas to watch ensue, but I say no. Wife says, "Why not?" After I pick my jaw off the ground I ask, "You were against Narnia for over a year, but you think this is appropriate? You've got to be kidding!" She shrugs, "There's really nothing scary about it. Let her watch it." I frankly felt myself against it but I trust my wife when she puts herself forward confidently on a matter and so we had movie night with the oldest daughter and she loved the movie and now begs to watch it when second daughter is sent off to bed early or is down for a nap. To tell you the truth I'm confused. Just what is appropriate for kids? I think the answer is one that changes based on the child in question. A bit of a balance act, as daughter two is still hooked on veggie tales, but this amazing emerging person that is my oldest daughter, who is a delight to watch unfold and blossom, as she becomes aware of her reality and makes her unique place in it is asking for a new discovery. My only problem is that it's happening so fast!!!
How do my personal experiences as both a one time child and now father of three carry over into my writing? For instance when would I allow my oldest daughter to read what daddy has been writing all this time? The answer again is probably around 13 or 15, but again am I doing her a favor by trying to protect her from the more violent, real life hardships, and yes sensual elements of my books? I'm beginning to be convinced that the answer is no. Why? Because the world no matter how I try to screen it out of my children's lives finds its way of giving them an education on everything that has gone wrong with society and the world point of focus in general. By the time that I hold back from advancing my daughter's understanding(till she's 13-15) of reading a world view through the Christian influenced and guided words of her father she will already have gained a vast and vividly real array of perceptions about everything thanks to the fast moving digital age of communication we find ourselves caught up in. I think the battle ground to influence children for the better aspects of how to approach life and the living of it is increasingly being focused more and more into how you influence them when they are yet very young. You can either step back and cover your eyes and assume your sweet daughter will remain sweet despite all the distractions pulling her down rabbit trails left and right or you can take the tumultuous ride that rearing a child in this world is and firmly put your imprint into what she sees and what your opinion is on it all, while she still cares what your opinion on any matter of importance is. So I'll probably let her read my books, when she can pull one off the shelf and read all the big words with comprehension. Some may say that I'm stealing her youth by allowing her to experience to much to early, but my answer to that is better the occurrence of that than the hijack of my daughter later on by worldly and evil inspired forces, when her body is hot wired and out of balance because of hormones and the incessant add campaign to sexualize the youth and the associated enabling practices of the powers that be to cause the youth of the world to rebel and never learn the value or hard work or being content with such as one has been given from above by an all knowing and compassionate Creator. What I have seen so far with my daughter, who hasn't quite turned five yet is that she's pushing for more. She wants to learn. Her desire isn't going to say, "I think I'll take a break for seven years and revisit this passion to learn what happens next". The time is now and while it seems so fast to me, even faster than my own progression as a child was, I have to in some way honor it and facilitate it, even as I trust my Creator to let me know when to much is to much. I know as a boy that my imagination needed a creative framework to grow and expand. Fortunately I found books, good books to sink my consciousness into. That isn't the case now. Add three or four years to my daughter and I'm sure you'll find girls her age reading about vampires and twisted romances. I'd rather my daughter read my Christian inspired fiction and see what the definition of a wholesome love relationship looks like, which reflects the way her parents are with each other. She'll read about violence and real world issues and what to look for in a mate probably earlier than many preceding generations have, but it's going to happen so why not mentor her progress down the path I've already hammered out then leave her to the pitfalls of the world's ills and baseless pursuits for self gratification. I think there's this mindset in the mind of so many parents that, "She's four-five, I don't have to worry about anything right now." I think its the early beginning that we should worry about the most! When she's thirteen or fifteen it will be to late to change the mind sets that have set in that I have allowed to occur by not actively taking a part in her developing years to that point, by allowing her to be babysat by a liberal Hollywood inspired agenda to turn your sweet girl into a being that is diametrically opposed to you on every issue by the time she's thirteen. While I wasn't the rebel child myself I fully can attest to the secret life that a child enacts, as they keep their learning process and progress into the big concepts that make up life away from their parents. The thought arises that they(parents) really don't know or they just wouldn't understand, because they(parents) still think I'm back at letter C of development, when I'm already up to letter Q and am actively learning and seeking to find out the rest, which means I don't really care what sources I learn from in my pursuit to learn just so long as I learn, when in reality all I've done is to exclude the very people from the learning/experience process that could have helped me the most, my parents. Don't be that parent! I grew up as child that had my own double life and the face that I presented to my parents to allay the fears that their could be anything up with me that wasn't strictly above board. It's called deception and it finds it author in satan, the god of this world. He hungers for our children! All you parents out there hear this, satan is going to hit them(your children) as early and as often as he can. He doesn't respect innocence, but rather he is committed to the task of stealing it. He doesn't need to hook them on drugs or cause them to fail in school. All he has to do is get them lost in confusion of thought and caught up in the feeling that their alone in their discovery of the world. I encourage parents everywhere to actively involve yourselves in the lives of your children and let them be your guide as to how much discovery should occur. Discovery will happen one way or the other, but I choose to be at the forefront of the chartered journey, as I instill my grownup trial and error won advice to the process of discovery, but yes I wish it wasn't happening so fast and that my first born wasn't so far along the way to discovering life in all of its glories and lurking horrors. I love her though so I'm committed to helping her get it right, when the day comes for her to make her choice and praise be to God my job just got a lot easier because just about a week ago my daughter who was listening to mommy and daddy talking about grown up stuff like demons and endtime events as they relate to the Bible and the plot outline of daddy's next book decided that it was time that she excepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. It's never to early to talk about the big things. I thought my daughter would come to a saving relationship with Jesus when she was thirteen or so, but earlier than that is so much better! Some things can't happen fast enough!