The books that they read have enormous potential to influence children’s minds and attitudes. A popular theologian once said, “What goes into the mind comes out in a life,” and this is certainly true of the material that children are reading. Books can influence their attitudes; their behaviors; and even the way they treat you.
For example: has your child suddenly become defiant? Started sneaking around when before, they were open and honest with you? Even a new habit of secrecy great enough to make you stand up and pay attention should be considered. What are they reading?
Many popular young adult books—particularly adventure stories—involve parents who are portrayed as being part of the problem, mean, or stupid. Their adventuring children must sneak past them in order to accomplish their goals, whether that goal is practicing the use of their new “powers” or “saving the world.” Rules are made to be broken in the proper time, and there are always special circumstances that mean that the protagonist should break them.
For example: the Animorphs books that have captivated more than one generation of children detail a group of young people who acquire incredible powers that will assist them as they fight for the future of their world. There’s just one problem: they have no way of knowing whether or not their parents are some of the bad guys. They have to sneak around behind their backs, breaking curfew and sneaking out at night, as well as lying to their parents about their whereabouts. They can’t ever tell them what’s really going on, and they just have to keep right on breaking the rules because, well…it’s the world at stake!
Or, for older kids, what about the Twilight series? In order to have everything she has ever wanted in life, Bella must escape her parents entirely—and of course her father must never know the truth about what she’s doing. She is more the “adult” figure in the relationship than her mother is; and her father lays a great deal of responsibility and freedom on her shoulders.
How many other books follow this same premise? How many times are the parents being portrayed as the “bad guys” in order to facilitate the adventure story? It’s an easy plot device, of course. No adventuring kid wants to be constantly checking in with his parents; and so they are wicked, difficult, and standing in the way of the characters’ success in order to allow the story to continue moving forward. Unfortunately, it’s also creating a generation of kids with little to no respect for their parents. If all the parents in their stories are “in the way,” they assume that their parents are, too—and as a result, they want to have absolutely nothing to do with them or their rules.
How can a child learn to respect those in authority over him if his role models constantly shrug off the principles of discipline and obedience? How can he learn that parents are valuable, useful, and not at all “ruining his life” by attempting to guide him down the path that they feel is best for him? And it’s not only books in which this is the case. Even Disney movies like The Little Mermaid and Tangled feature parents who are blatantly wrong and misguided at best and evil at worst.
Not that these stories are inherently bad—any of them. Many of them teach wonderful stories and are filled with morals that children would benefit from immeasurably. The problem is the thought patterns they create—patterns that are difficult, if not impossible, to correct from the outside. No, they must be corrected from within—with the very stories that created them in the first place. There must be balance in the material that children are being given, lest they think that any time they are unhappy, they need only rebel appropriately and know that their parents will ultimately bend to their will.