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"Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."
—Proverbs 22:6

Sound advice. Of course, Solomon didn't have to contend with MTV, Twilight and Lady Gaga, but the principle still holds true today as we try to teach discernment to young people bombarded by the media.

For some parents, the promise of Proverbs 22:6 inspires expectant optimism. The children are still young. Mom and Dad do their best to make biblically based entertainment choices and monitor what's going into Junior's system. When the family views television together, communication becomes education. As certain programming requests are denied, a rational explanation usually does the trick. No shouting matches. No slamming doors. And, ultimately, hope results from the foundation being laid.

There are, however, many loving mothers and fathers for whom Proverbs 22:6 is like a pebble in their shoe—a painful reminder that, for whatever reason, they missed that "window of opportunity." The children are older. They've developed unhealthy habits in selecting entertainment. And they resist—or rebel against—parental guidance. Storms of conflict rage in the home. Rescue seems hopeless. Even in caring Christian families, this dilemma is surprisingly common.

When I was thinking about this issue recently, I was reminded of the 1969 movie Marooned. In the film, three astronauts face certain death when a malfunction leaves them stranded in space. Ground control scrambles to organize a rescue mission. The crew's oxygen is running low. It's a race against time.

Then, just as the countdown for the rescue craft nears blast-off, a violent storm covers the cape, making it impossible to launch. All appears lost until scientists realize that the eye of the storm is due to pass over the launch site and, if their timing is perfect, it could provide the opening they need. Sure enough, the rocket blasts through the hole and rendezvous with the crippled craft just in the nick of time.

Obviously, the ideal time to attempt a rescue is before a storm hits. Solomon understood that. For many adults, however, the need to help young people be more discerning about the voices of the culture isn't acknowledged until dark clouds have already begun rolling in. Do you feel that way right now? Don't lose hope. While it's preferable to "train a child in the way he should go," a new window of opportunity could arrive in the midst of present conflict … the eye of the storm.

Of course, there's no foolproof formula for renewal. Each situation is different. But with prayer, love and sensitivity, it's never too late to reverse patterns of poor decision making.

In the mid-'90s I spent some time with country and bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs. He's a brother in the Lord and a dedicated family man. Even he struggled with setting standards for media consumption in his home. Ricky admitted, "We came in real late on our teenagers, especially with my oldest son." But in time, his teen son's rebellious spirit softened. "He had come to the end of his rope," Ricky shared. "He said, 'Dad, I don't like the life I've been living. I want to change. I want to get myself right with God, with you and with my friends.' We only have a certain degree of openness with our children unless they open the door all the way. We've got to love our kids where they are, no matter what they do. That's what brought the prodigal back."

Ricky Skaggs' testimony stands as a shining example of hope for frustrated parents of adolescents. By praying and keeping the lines of communication open, we can set the stage for change. A rescue of sorts. Is there a storm raging in your home? Your next window of opportunity could come right in the middle of it.

Published February 2011