Children are always learning. They learn in school. They learn when they play. They learn when they watch television. They also learn simply by observing everything that happens around them.

Children are always learning.

They learn in school. They learn when they play. They learn when they watch television. They also learn simply by observing everything that happens around them.

That’s why the Bible says in Proverbs, 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

It doesn’t say to raise a child correctly. You raise vegetables. You train children. If you feed and water a plant, and protect it from disease and pests it will usually grow just as you expect.

Training goes beyond general care and providing for basic needs.

Training requires thinking, planning, and working. You don’t just lead by example. You create a structure within which your children will be led.

If you don’t, you are allowing agencies outside your home to take over the role of child trainer and you run the risk of watching your child drift in whichever way the winds of influence blow. There are many people and groups hoping for the chance to lead your child in the way they hope for them to go. When they are old, it will be too late to do anything about it.

Take Nickelodeon, for instance. My son enjoys watching free cartoons on our cable system’s OnDemand programming. One morning this week, he opened a show I had never seen before. It was called Nick News. In the first few minutes Linda Ellerbee had begun a discussion on freedom of religion in America.

After I choked on my cereal, I asked Blake to find something else to watch until I could see that program for myself. Blake is a thoughtful kid for a second grader, but he might not be ready for constitutional government and the protections of the First Amendment just yet.

I would love to have been in the board meeting when someone at Nickelodeon – a channel whose initial popularity revolved around people getting slimed – decided they needed to venture away from aggravating shows and cartoons for children and into news programming.

It might have gone something like this:

“Do we have the season of SpongeBob SquarePants wrapped up?”

“Yes, SpongeBob finally gets his license to drive a boat that floats underwater. Award-winning stuff.”

“What about Supah Ninjas? Do the good guys win again?”

“Absolutely!”

“Is iCarly on track for another good season?”

“This is the best one yet.”

“You know what we should do, we should get Linda Ellerbee to do current and controversial issues coverage. We can cal it news but fill it with our own opinions.”

It had to go something like that.

I did watch the show – all 22 minutes.

It wasn’t chock full of evil. It was somewhat balanced.

But the theme of the show if summed up in one sentence would be that Christian kids in America need to realize that just because they are in the majority, they shouldn’t pick on kids who worship differently or not at all.

The subtleties couched in the production and script were easy for an adult to pick out. But considering the demographic they were targeting, it came off as more of an attempt to rewire young minds.

I really enjoyed the fact that they spotlighted an atheist club called the “free thinking club” which is an obvious slap in the face to people of any religion whose thoughts are believed to be less free. They portrayed these poor children as mistreated because no one in the school would volunteer to be the sponsor for the group because of the potential backlash by the Christian community. Of course there was no backlash. It is just assumed that there would be.

After stereotyping religious people as cattle, the piece then went on to point out how bad stereotypes are.

But the payoff was in the summation when Ellerbee came back and talked directly to the audience.

“This is complicated stuff but at the same time it is really very simple. It isn’t about what you believe, it is about the right of other people to believe what they believe,” Ellerbee tells the camera. “What is important is for you to look at people like I am looking at you right now and say what I believe or don’t believe is my business. That is the American way.”

I don’t need or want Nickelodeon to teach my children what to believe or how to interact with people with different beliefs.

They should stick to entertainment and let the news channels deliver the news.

But that is just one source of influence that children run into every day. Teachers have influence. Friends and their parents have influence. Coaches teach more than just sports.

It is up to parents to make sure their children are trained in the way they should go.

You won’t always be in the room when something like that comes up. Children need to be secure in what they believe before those moments come along.

We owe it to our kids to be the ones who provide their life lessons.

Don’t abdicate your duties to SpongeBob and soccer coaches.

Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.