So What About that Grouchy Ladybug?

Yesterday we talked about whether it is truly wise to restrict children's "interaction" with scary situations via story (ghosts, goblins, monsters, dragons, bad guys, etc.) I've known other children who were similarly restricted, not so much about scary things, but about "getting the wrong idea" from reading about disobedient, or disrespectful children. I was one of those kids, actually. There were several movies we weren't allowed to see, because the characters "were rebellious," or "had bad attitudes." One of these was Disney's The Little Mermaid. Looking back, I have to kind of laugh at that restriction, because Ariel's sinful rebellion against her father is very clearly portrayed as wrong-- disastrously so. Her actions put her father's very kingdom in jeopardy, and in the end it's his loving self-sacrifice for his disobedient daughter that saves her life, and everyone's. Talk about a missed opportunity to discuss the consequences of rebellion, the wisdom of following Scripture's command to obey parents, and even to find an allegory of the Gospel! (There might be other cautions to discuss with your kids... like Ariel's less-than-modest mermaid attire...)

One friend recently mentioned a book I have recommended as a favorite here and on my aStore; Eric Carle's The Grouchy Ladybug. It's a gorgeous book with splendid illustrations, that very cleverly portray the passage of time. The story of the very grouchy ladybug, who tries to pick a fight with every creature kind enough to say "good morning," to her is one with which kids readily identify (ok, I admit. I identify with that feeling!!), and they love the justice that puts her in her place, ready to sweetly say "good morning!" to those she meets instead. As a teacher, I appreciate the text's repetition as well as the collage illustrations for which Eric Carle is so well-loved.

As is my habit, this topic has been stewing in my brain for the past few days... As parents, is it wise to let our children see, hear, or read about those who act foolishly? What does Scripture say about this? While it doesn't directly speak to children's books, it is itself meant to be a tool used to teach children (Dt. 6:6-7). Even if we take that verse in the narrowest sense, and say it only means we are to teach our children the Law of God (what was given on Mount Sinai), that law includes plenty of graphic details which most would hesitate to teach their youngest children. Ok. Say we say we'll teach the principles of the law, and use discretion in introducing our children to the more difficult-to-deal-with portions. Next, my mind went to the book of Proverbs-- written specifically for children. Immediately two examples of kids-with-bad-attitudes came to mind "the Leech has two daughters, Give, Give! they cry." (Prov. 15:30), and "the sluggard says "there is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!" (Prov. 22:13, 26:13). The Proverbs are chock-full of descriptions of different types of fools; we taught through them last summer in Sunday School, and they were such potent tools in helping kids see both the consequences of folly, and to judge their own hearts. The more I've thought about it, the more convinced I am that it isn't a bad thing to let kids experience foolishness (including rebellion and disrespect) vicariously through stories, so long as the account shows a true-to-life ending. I mean this: if the kid in the story is always rude to Mom and that's never addressed, you need a discussion with your child and possibly a chucking of the book, but if the kid is rude to Mom, gets a big talking-to, apologizes humbly and makes her cupcakes at the end, cheer!

Trust me, your child does not need a book to teach them how to be selfish or mean. They've got that down pat all on their own. They may use a book's language to convey their frustration and sin, but that just makes it even easier for you, the parent, to point the sin out and deal with it in a Biblical way as you point them to Christ. "You're acting just like the Grouchy Ladybug, aren't you? Do you remember how she got smacked by a whale when she tried to pick a fight? What did she learn? How does God's Word teach us to treat others? Now, you can either learn the hard way (like the Grouchy Ladybug did), by me disciplining you, or you can pray in your heart right now for God to help you to act in kindness instead of selfish grumpiness. Go sit in your room for one minute while you think about it." Hug, sent to room, and hopefully comes out with a better outlook on life.

I think I need to hear that myself sometimes. :)

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