When I was a kid, I hated celery. I am talking loathing with a capital “L.” My mom would put those stringy stalks on my plate and I would just stare at them. Why do I have to eat green beans when there are so many good things in the world to eat? Like potato chips, and cookies, and French fries, and ice cream, and… But my mom and dad made me eat those things…and I am so glad they did. Today, I love celery!
We have all kinds of appetites—physical, emotional, and spiritual appetites—the personal desires that we feed and develop. An appetite is what we strive for and actively desire.
Why are appetites an issue of protective discipline? Because whatever I allow my children to strive after is what will eventually fill their hearts and minds. In most parenting, we typically focus on correction, and yet we still let them fill their hearts and minds with things that are not healthy for young, impressionable kids. If I leave them to strive after things of the world that will never satisfy, those vain things will define them, leaving little hunger for better things.
We, as parents, need to start early helping our children learn discernment and self-denial when it comes to their emotional and spiritual appetites (such as the media they take in, the toys they play with, etc.), both of which are critical aspects of maturity. On the positive side, we can help our children take steps in God’s direction when we fill their hearts and minds not only with Scripture, but also with other stories and activities that are “excellent, praiseworthy and beautiful…” (Philippians 4:8).
Here’s the hard part: our children will pick up their appetites for the things of God primarily from what we value, not just what we want them to value. If we want them to desire the things that will lead them to God, then we will have to show them what that means. If we want our children to have an appetite for music or movies or stories that are wholesome and good, they need to see us interacting with media that is wholesome and good.
Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33). All of us, our children included, have drives, desires, and goals we want to strive after. The biblical response to all of these appetites is to seek first God’s kingdom and His path of righteousness. When those are the appetites that drive a life, everything else will fall into place.