Personality and Nightmares – How Movies Affect Children Differently

The Mind Game

Although it’s a classic children’s movie, Monsters Inc. is one my mom’s all-time favorite films.  That, along with A Bug’s Life, was played quite frequently at our house (if mom had to deal with constant repetition, it might as well be movies that she liked!)  However, although Monsters Inc. is quite enjoyable for me now, I vividly remember all my quick escapes to the back of the couch for the first five minutes of the movie.

Why did I feel like I had to skip those first few minutes?

There are several answers to that question, but it all had to do with my mind.  Many people underestimate the amount of time children spend thinking on the things they see and hear.  As crazy as it sounds, I remember many of the scary things I heard and saw as I child.  In fact, I can still tell you where I was, who I was with, what time of day it was, etc., with each of those scary moments.  Those memories, although they don’t scare me now, caused me quite a bit of fear throughout much of my childhood.

Looking back now, I’ve had some interesting conversations with my mom and my siblings about the movies that scared us the most, and why it was that those specific films caused so much fear.  Interestingly, I see it linked to our personality, our character, and even our struggles with besetting sin.  How we react to films is a part of who we are, and that means everyone will react differently to a film, because what they struggle with is different.

Thinking through this has allowed us to each decide what movies we should or should not watch, based off of how we know we will react after watching them.  Each of us have different tastes and different struggles, and that’s OK!  But together as a family, we have been able to work through what is acceptable to watch and what must be put aside in favor of a pure mind.

Personality and Movie Choice

I am a first-born, type-A personality.  I like control, I like to know, and I like it when things don’t change.

I can’t handle most fantasy films (LOTR and Narnia excluded – those don’t bother me, probably because I like the story too much.)

My sister is a middle-child, a peace-maker.  She loves quiet time, she hates arguments, and she likes sunny, happy days.

She can’t handle most war movies.

My brother is a stubborn youngest with a sensitive heart.  He loves hard-work, he has a creative builder’s mind, and he loves to take care of his sisters and mother.

He can’t stand to listen to foul language and cursing.

Making the Connection

Do you see any of the connections between our personalities and the movies we don’t like?  Let’s break it down together.

I don’t like most fantasy films.  Most producers and directors like to take fantasy film far out there in regards to creating fantastic creatures, new forms of elves or fairies, and fabulously beautiful countries of magical lands.  The problem for me is that there is no limit to the imagination.  Because of my personality, I like truth and tangibles.  I enjoy history, WWII in particular.  Because of that, I watch a lot of war movies.  Although I try not to cross certain lines with the amount of blood and gore, I can handle violence.  I cannot handle made-up, level-10-on-the-scary-chart dragons and spirits.  As I already stated, the imagination can go so far and has no limitations; whereas, truth has a line, a confining space in which it can work.

For me, this means I don’t watch movies like Harry Potter or Fantastic Beasts.  It’s also one of many reasons that I don’t watch Game of Thrones or Grimm.  Also, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have been placed on my never-watch-again list.

There are other similar movies that I do watch such as most movies in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia.  The difference for me is the level of darkness, and how pervasive and cult-like the evil is.  Films that are dark solely for the sake of being dark never make it into my DVD player!  So there is a balance, and there are times when I have to close my eyes still (I can’t take Shelob’s lair. . . why does it have to be spiders?!) But! Knowing this about myself helps me not feel bad about skipping certain scenes or whole movies for the sake of sleeping at night.

For my sister, with her gentle spirit and her peacemaking tendencies, she does not want to watch anything too violent or very bloody.  That is so easy to understand – a peace-maker doesn’t like war movies.  Because it is not complicated, it is also easier for her to decide what movies she doesn’t watch.  In fact, she can just throw out entire genres!  She doesn’t even have to decide whether she should watch R-rated movies – it’s a hard no.  So when my brother and I sit down to watch 1917, Saving Private Ryan, or The Godfather we make sure we do it at a time when she is not home.

As for my brother, he has a tender heart and a tender conscience.  He struggles to listen to foul language, even walking through Walmart.  This is a very good thing!  But it sometimes makes choosing movies (especially new films in theaters that we haven’t seen before) a little difficult.  Keeping cuss-words and coarse talk in mind, we have foregone movies such as Instant Family, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Guardians of the Galaxy.  Although it can sometimes be disappointing to say you skipped certain movies because of language, I believe it has served my brother well in the long run.  Unlike some boys his age, he does not struggle with using foul language.  For this, we are very grateful!

In Conclusion

You have a wonderful opportunity to reach out to your kids and help them work through their struggles.  Parents are in a unique position to help mold a child’s mind and heart towards purity, kindness, deference towards others, and a consideration of their own limitations.  The time I’ve had with my mom over the years discussing these very issues has been eye-opening, and in the long-run it has been extremely helpful in my walk with the Lord.

I would encourage you (if you’ve made it this far through the blog that is – and hooray for you if you did!) to take the time to talk through these things as a family.  We have had some of our greatest times together as a family when we bring up these issues to hear each other’s perspectives.  This also has given each of us the chance to serve each other and when it comes to Friday night, we want to watch movies that are appropriate for all of us.  Now that we know how the others struggle, we are careful not to cause each other to stumble!

Have you had this conversation as a family?  What movies do you avoid in order to protect your mind?  Do you have any safeguards in place for your children as they watch movies or YouTube?  Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time. 🙂

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