Interview by Dick Rolfe
Rebecca Hagelin is a noted expert, public speaker and commentator on family issues and parenting. She has championed the pro-family message in Washington DC and around the nation for the past 25 years. She is a senior fellow for The Heritage Foundation and appears frequently on FOX, CNN, and CBN as a culture and media analyst.
Rebecca penned her insightful, how-to book, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family for parents who are struggling to raise their kids in this high-tech, media-dominated world where young people are bombarded with powerful messages that do not reflect their families’ values.
Dove: What prompted you to pick a career choice to become a family advocate?
Hagelin: I grew up in a family that was very giving and family-oriented. My father was a pediatrician who did a lot of medical missions work and my mother was a volunteer for every family organization you can think of. Even in High School, I was involved with organizations like Eagle Forum, trying to let my generation know about the sanctity of human life. I enjoyed public speaking and encouraging others. I wanted to spend my life communicating with people about positive values. My degrees are in Broadcast Journalism and Social Science with a Political Science emphasis.
Dove: The career path you chose followed those ambitions throughout your professional life.
Hagelin: I knew that I didn’t want to be a broadcast journalist, but rather use my journalism degree to put forth the ideas I believe in. My social science and poli-sci degree prepared me for my work in pubic policy.
Editor’s Note: Rebecca’s previous best-selling book was titled, "Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad."
Dove: As a wife and mother of three children, ages 21, 20 and 17, you have chosen subjects in your books that deal with intelligent parenting, or parenting in the 21st Century. Does that motivation come out of a passion to protect your own family?
Hagelin: It comes from what I call a “perfect storm” I’ve always been interested in faith and family issues. I worked for Concerned Women of America and wrote for World Net Daily. I received thousands of emails from parents who felt their values were under attack; that the crass marketers and media moguls in Hollywood were after their kids. They felt helpless and needed someone to affirm that their traditional values were true, and to equip them to save their families.
Dove: Was the need these parents expressed the genesis of your book, 30 Ways in 30 Days To Save Your Family?
Hagelin: Yes, my first book, Home Invasion was written as a wake-up call to parents that the media is after their kids 24/7 and they can’t merely sit idly by. I also wanted to affirm that those things they feel in their hearts are true and that they should act on them. After receiving so many letters and emails from parents asking for practical tools to deal with these problems, I wrote 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family. I identified the thirty topics that generated the most inquiries and provide practical ways of handling them.
Dove: I noticed the book is divided by topic so it can be used as a ready reference for dealing with a specific problem. Was that part of your plan?
Hagelin: Yes, I feel that the book will be useful for a lot of people. A parent can pick up the book and skim through the contents and find a particular chapter where you need help. Each chapter is short and to the point. Some parents may need more information than I’ve included in the chapter. So, for them, I’ve included additional resources from outside organizations that have expertise on each topic. For instance, when it comes to understanding Hollywood and choosing the best movie or DVD, I refer them to The Dove Foundation’s website.
Dove: In a chapter titled, Understand How Marketers Target Your Children, you encourage parents to speak openly with their kids whenever the opportunity presents itself. You offer a practical example of how to “tackle this today.” I quote from that chapter: “Don’t walk silently by a Victoria’s Secret display in the mall. Tell your kids why it’s wrong.” What is the advantage of this approach?
Hagelin: Our kids are bombarded by marketing messages beyond anything we’ve witnessed in the past. Why? Because our kids spend over 200 billion dollars a year on trinkets and toys. So, advertisers are after them and they create messages that appeal to their young psyches. When we were teenagers, we didn’t have the kind of disposable income. We have to realize that marketers are trying to increase their bottom lines, unfortunately at any cost.
Dove: What is the result of these types of marketing messages?
Hagelin: The result is they are marketing a worldview to our children. The teenage stereotypes these marketers are creating are of boys who are lazy, sloppy dressers, who use crude language and are obsessed with sexy. The girls are portrayed as sassy, skin-baring sex objects who exercise their sexual power over boys to get what they want. We should be teaching our kids that the way to make it in this world is with a gracious heart, an inner beauty, intelligence and kindness. These are the images parents need to instill in their kids.
Dove: There is a new term that has come to light recently called “Sexting.” What is it and how does it impact our young people today?
Hagelin: This is becoming a pandemic. Recent numbers show that 20% of teenagers are sending nude or partially nude images of themselves to each other through emails, cell phones and on websites. These images can do irreparable damage to these teenagers, simply because they didn’t think of the consequences. Unfortunately, many parents are not stepping in to advise their kids of the eminent harm such decisions can cause.
Dove: I’ve seen statistics where parents and church are being replaced by peers and media as having the greatest influence on today’s kids. What is your take on that?
Hagelin: Actually, the Keiser Family Foundation has done lots of research on this topic. They say that the average teenager spends 8.5 hours a day using media. That includes iPods, TV, DVDs, texting on cell phones, etc. But, if you ask kids, “who has the most influence?” they say, “my parents.” The wakeup call here is that parents are influencing their kids by what they say—or don’t say—regarding the marketing messages their kids are exposed to. In other words, by permitting your child to watch an R-rated movie or a sexy television program, or a violent video game, you are endorsing that activity by your very silence.
Dove: Your book places emphasis on parents creating Family Time. You offer many creative examples of what that looks like.
Hagelin: Under the section, Create Family Time, I suggest that parents need to restore more balance to their frantic family lives; not just by injecting some downtime in it, but scheduling it. They should go for a slow walk, play a board game or card game together. I also advise parents to set aside some individual time with each child. And, don’t neglect their spouse. A regular date can really help strengthen a marriage.
Dove: Thank you, Rebecca. We’re glad you have been called to such a noble purpose, and that you are using your God-given talents to help parents navigate these troubled waters.
Editor’s note: 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family, like the upcoming Easter celebration, is about redemption and new beginnings. Pick up several copies for friends and family. This book will also make a wonderful Mother’s Day gift.
By purchasing your copies this week, you will help get this book on the Best Sellers list so more families can take advantage of Rebecca’s valuable advice. Order today at Rebecca's website where you can also sign up to receive her weekly column and other parenting tips for free.
©2009 Dove Foundation