By Berit Kjos
(author of How to Protect Your Child From the New Age & Spiritual Deception)
When eight-year-old Joshua’s parents found out what he wanted for Christmas, they felt put on the spot. Joshua only had eyes for the newest rage—Nintendo—along with its most popular game, Super Mario Brothers II. Anything else was “boring.”
Joshua’s folks had heard disturbing stories about Nintendo addiction—or whatever you call that intense focus that tolerates no interruption. So they didn’t relish battling that obsession at bedtime—or any time. A rather pricey toy, Nintendo promised to zap a sizable hole in their budget, and the local stores had already sold out of their holiday allotment of SMB II.
Last year it was simple for Mom and Dad. Joshua just wanted more figures and accessories for his Masters of the Universe toys. The cost was tolerable, and they provided a year’s worth of imaginative play. Of course, the gruesomeness of some of the figures caused them uneasiness.
Heidi’s parents faced a similar dilemma. Their six-year-old daughter asked for Barbie’s Dream House—fully furnished, of course. “They fit together,” she explained, “and everybody has them.”
Barbie’s long-time popularity fails to endear her to Heidi’s concerned parents. They often wonder if the doll’s curvy figure and flashy clothes might encourage values and sophistication inconsistent with their hopes for Heidi. What kinds of aspirations are built by these symbols of self-centered materialism and the body image issues they instill in young girls at an early age?
If Barbie were the only messenger of image-based hedonistic self-interest, a few more accessories would hardly matter. But pagan decadence beckons children everywhere. “Just throw off all restraints,” it shouts, “and let human nature lead the way. Follow your feelings.”
It’s tough to teach restraint to children who are begging for gratification. Schools and the media have often declared parents the “bad guys.” We, as parents, keenly and distinctly feel the confusing values gap and flinch at the thought of being a killjoy once again. Yet we must. God has told us, the parents, to train our children to follow His way, and we can’t turn back now. Also, He promises to enable us. Fortified with truth, let’s make sure our children have toys that enhance their progress toward God’s kind of maturity.
Step One: Develop a Sensitivity to Evil
A young mother driving a carload of children—including two from her church—posed this question: “Who is the master of the universe?”
“He-Man!” shouted a chorus of voices. The mother grieved as the youngsters praised their idol. Her heart sank further when one boy pulled an ugly figure from his pocket and waved it in the air. “And this is Hordak,” he shouted. “He’s bad! He fights He-Man!”
Current delight in false gods and demonic creatures may have begun with winsome magicians such as Papa Smurf and Rainbow Brite. As people welcomed these nonthreatening (in appearance) harbingers of occult forces, they unknowingly opened the door to the grotesque and disturbing realms of the dark occult as well.
At first, we parents closed our eyes to this trend—we didn’t want to overreact. Even within the church community, talk about Satan and his dark realm has often been regarded as too negative or heavy-handed. Since we failed to resist, we gradually adapted and then accepted these practices. Now it’s time to retrench, take our positions, and fight to regain our discernment and freedom. How do we do this?
Continue to read and apply Scriptures.
Share your own observations.
Spark awareness in a young child with comments such as, “That monster looks gross!” or “That creature reminds me of a snake,” along with “Did you know that in the Bible, serpents always represent Satan and evil?”
To express your feelings to a young child, comment, “Who would want that evil-looking figure? I don’t even like to look at him. Let’s find something that makes us feel happy inside.”
Model wise decision-making. Tell your child why you wouldn’t want to buy certain things.
When a child wants something questionable, ask questions that are prayerfully adapted to your child’s age, such as:
What does the toy (or game) teach you (about power, about magic, about God, about yourself)? Discuss both the obvious and the subtle with your child.
Have you seen movies, cartoons, or comic books that made this toy (game) part of a story? What did the story tell you about it? Does the toy (game) remind you of someone who uses magic or supernatural power? Did someone pretend to be God?
What does it teach about violence or immorality and their consequences?
Does the toy have any symbols or characteristics that associate it with either the light or dark side of New Age occultism?
Whatever is lovely, gracious, and good originates with God. Satan cannot produce anything new. All he can offer is counterfeits or clever distortions of God’s gifts.
Step Two: Encourage Your Child To Choose the Good
Develop a mindset that seeks the best, not just the “OK.” You have identified and rejected the worst toys. But the rest are not necessarily good either. Discuss these questions to help your child learn to choose only the best. Phrase the questions according to your child’s age level.
- Does it present a true picture of life? In a time when even adults base their lives on counterfeit dreams and false illusions, our children need to learn to tell what is flight of fancy and what is real.
- How long would the interest last? Fad toys are fun for the moment, but they whet the appetite for every “in” thing, so that decision-making centers on the question, “What will make me feel happy right now?” Determine not to buy that lie. Unfortunately, many quality toy companies have been bought up or squeezed out by giants who can pay the high price for television promotion. The range of major toy lines is narrowing to those that look glamorous on the screen.
- Will this toy be used for playing alone or with others? A child needs a healthy balance of solitary and social play. Good toys will help her interact both with her imaginary world and with the real world, harmonizing the two. That may require some interaction with you. Perhaps you could agree together to find toys that will help you, the parent, participate in your young child’s imaginary world.
- Does it build godly character? Many toys, hobbies, and games do. Review the biblical principles suggested for evaluating movies and television programs.
Step Three: Train Your Child to Follow God, Not Peers
We want our children to feel good about themselves, be liked by their peers, and not miss out on the fun. But as we realize what their friends choose, we wonder how our children will respond to the peer pressure. How can we prepare them to make wise choices?
Counter peer pressure. Children naturally compare us to the parents of peers, challenging us to match their “generosity.” That hurts, since we want them to feel our love for them. We see what they don’t realize: that getting the toys they want will not make them feel secure in our love. It’s more likely to increase their craving and stir discontent. Also, it teaches them to equate love with material things. If your child is old enough, explain this process to him.
Discuss whether “showing off” might be their motive for wanting a toy. Feeding that feeling produces bondage and increased insecurity. Children as well as adults crave superior luxury items, and toy manufacturers are quick to comply.
Be a trendsetter. Have an abundant supply of ideas and tools to help your child and his friends use their imaginations and develop their own play: dress-up clothes (thrift stores are a good resource), fabrics for making puppets, scrap wood for outdoor structures, a refrigerator carton for making a playhouse, etc.
Look to the Bible for guidelines and authority. God understands our desires to follow the crowd; He feels our struggle to be “in” the world but not “of it” (John 17:16-18). According to age readiness, review Romans 12:1-2 together and then discuss 3 John 11 and Jude 18-20.
Self-denial seems out of place in a nation consumed with self-indulgence and self-fulfillment. But God commanded it, and Jesus demonstrated it. Dare we refuse to acknowledge it? According to the age of your child, discuss Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24 and then allow the Holy Spirit to direct your application.
Don’t get me wrong. Far more than earthly parents, God wants His children to be happy and have a good time. But He doesn’t want cream puffs to satisfy our hunger and turn us away from the meat of truth. Self-discipline produces the kind of maturity that brings genuine happiness forever, not merely a pleasant moment today.
Our Heavenly Father, who models parenting better than any of us, doesn’t major on the superficial. He knows better than to give us all the things we want. For just as most children will choose pop over milk, and chips over carrots, so do we, as adults, often choose that which cannot satisfy. God does not want vain deceits, as He calls them (Colossians 2:8), to mold our appetites, satisfy our hunger, and replace the very best.
It’s hard to teach restraint to children who are begging for gratification. Wanting to please rather than overreact, we flinch at the thought of having to continually censor our children’s wants, preferences, and desires. Parental authority simply doesn’t fit the fast-spreading new views of social equality taught through the media and the schools. Yet, we must obey God. He has told us to raise our children to choose His way, and we must rise to the occasion, fight the good fight, and not shrink back.
After hearing God’s warning and praying for His wisdom, nine-year-old Alan Brannan decided to throw away all his Pokémon cards. “My friend did the same,” said his mother. “Her twelve-year-old son had been having nightmares. But after a discussion with his parents about the game and its symbols, he was convicted to burn his cards and return his Game Boy game. That night, he slept well for the first time in a month.”
“It seemed to us that these cards had some sort of power,” continued DiAnna Brannan. “Another nine-year-boy had stolen money from his mother’s purse ($7.00) to buy more cards.” When questioned, he confessed and said he had heard the devil urging him to do it. The family quickly gathered in prayer, then saw God’s answer. Both the boy and his little sister burned their cards, warned their friends, and discovered the joy and freedom that only comes from following their Shepherd.
Training Kids to Love Good More Than Evil
Don’t play games with the occult! Ouija Boards have always invited oppression, but they are far more likely to invoke unwanted “spirits” today. So it is with the new generation of occult games and DVDs as well.
I became aware of this change back in the nineties when a Canadian psychologist called me. He had read my book Under the Spell of Mother Earth and wanted to share some observations with me. In past years, he said, many women would come to scenic Alberta to do a Native American “Spirit Quest” in search of their personal “animal spirit.” Few succeeded. But times have changed, and the “spirits” that now answer the summons are numerous as well as oppressive. Treating the scary symptoms as “multiple personality disorders” is no help at all.
Popular occultism is spreading fast, and the “spirit world” has become increasingly more accessible. But few families are equipped to resist it. Contemporary churches offer little or no help. Most simply ignore the danger or endorse the “fun.” To avoid offense, the word evil is dropped from their vocabulary.
The primary victims of this blindness end up being our children. Unless we teach them to recognize and resist these dangers, many will come to embrace the darkness.
Those who love and follow God will be repelled by occult myths. And those who love today’s popular occultism will run from God’s unchanging truths and wise and loving boundaries. For if we are filled with His Spirit and follow His way, we will—by His life in us—“abhor that which is evil: and cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9).
The world cringes when it hears these truths because its fiction and fantasies are too enticing. That’s why people find all kinds of arguments to justify their misdirected love.
To prepare your child for daily battles against tempting spiritual counterfeits, consider these three other outlines of vital truths:
The Armor of God—These six truths expose and counter today’s most popular deceptions. Even more important, they show us the way to an intimate relationship with God.
The Lord’s Prayer—These truths parallel the ones in the armor of God and serve the same purposes.
The Beatitudes—Jesus’ message, recorded in Matthew 5, show us a standard for holiness that is far higher than we can achieve, but it comes with the promise that—by His life in us—He will make us all He intends us to be. It ends with the reminder that those who follow Jesus will also share in His suffering. Therefore, our children need to be prepared for persecution. Uncompromising faith and God’s unchanging truths have become intolerable in today’s postmodern age.
For more biblical advice on raising children and protecting them from spiritual deception and harmful practices, read Berit’s book, How to Protect Your Child From the New Age & Spiritual Deception.