My 15 year old daughter often melts in frustration under the weight of our family rules.
“MOM! I am the only Freshman in High School without any social media!”
I listen then give her the same calm and confident reply every time:
“That may or may not be true, however, your character will make you the ONLY person qualified to be the President of the United States in 40-50 years because of this rule.”
Living in the information age can be overwhelming to our spirits. Never before have we been able to soak in so many people’s opinions about who should be our next President. When public figures whom we trust come forward with different opinions than our own, our spirits feel great despair. We can barely handle the overwhelming concern in our souls.
Living in the information age can be damaging to our friendships. God has created us to be passionate individuals, but giving voice and demanding priority for our different passions can rub like sand paper on the kinship and friendships close to us.
Living in the information age can be damaging to our children’s character. The same pervasive information, public opinion, and the berating of one other which is accessible to us, as adults, is also available to our children. If parents feel overwhelmed with the shifting news stories released each day, if parents are feeling the damage and pain of judgment from family and friends for where they stand and what they believe, if parents fear for the future because no one in the world seems to be good and honest anymore – if parents feel all of this, imagine how our children feel!
Many of us would do better to forget about the character of our candidates and begin focusing on the character of our children.
We are unlikely to change a thing about our Presidential candidates. Our opinions and discussions gain nothing except disgruntled and despondent feelings.
We can, however, change, shape, and influence the character of our children. In fact, this isn’t just a privilege we hold or a choice we make by default. Shaping our children’s character is our responsibility.
Instead of fearing for the future, let’s shape the future.
Instead of hating our situation and finding blame wherever we can, let’s accept what we cannot change and own our responsibility to raise children of greater character.
Parents: If you want to see more goodness, honesty, kindness, and faithfulness in the world you must cultivate it. Cultivate it in your homes, with your children, in their schools, and in your communities. If you wish for a different America, a reformed culture, or a more compassionate society when you are retired, the work begins now. The character of the children we are currently raising will become the character of our country.
Parents, I urge you, turn your focus off the candidates, their campaigns and character flaws and onto your children, their capabilities and character strengths.
RIGHT NOW: THREE WAYS YOU CAN SHAPE THE CHARACTER OF YOUR CHILDREN:
1. TURN OFF THE CONSTANT FLOW OF INFORMATION
In your heart, you know media’s power. It permeates your thoughts and controls your mood. Your children do not need this.
If you are on information overload, imagine your child. They are reconciling all the information from television, music, social media and school – all perpetually bombarding their mind.
Yes, media is everywhere but that doesn’t mean you cannot disconnect. Teach your children through your own example. Turn off CNN, News Radio, and the electronic devices and breathe in the simplicity of your own thoughts. Children are rarely given “mental white space” in order to contemplate, evaluate, and formulate their own thoughts and beliefs. Yes, too much information can be detrimental.
Instead of television, gaming, and social media, connect with your children through a board game, read aloud a book together, toss the football, play cards, build Lego towers, or bake together.
A child develops character through human connections and relationships, not through absorbed public opinion and constant screen time.
2. MAKE SERVING TOGETHER A PRIORITY
Right now in America more parents hold Academics and Athletics as a top priority above service and volunteerism. While it is true and often quantifiable that Academic and Athletic aptitude and participation can build character, this is not what we need more of.
Right now we need more compassion, selflessness, and service.
Whether you find a local non-profit, mission, church or local family in need, the value of serving others will cultivate tremendous empathy and compassion in your children.
Our self-serving, self-aggrandizing, and selfie-taking culture is not building a better tomorrow for any of us. We can shift this by stepping outside our own needs and desires to help others.
The possible ways to serve are endless. Mow someone’s grass, make someone dinner, babysit for free, buy an extra coat to donate, serve food at a shelter, volunteer as a mentor at a local school, visit a nursing home, sell lemonade and donate the earnings – do any or all of the above.
Demonstrate kindness and self-sacrifice intentionally and often with your children. Because selfishness will breed like a weed without intentional character developing opportunities. Opportunities you are responsible to present.
3. PUT A STOP TO THE SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS
This is tough advice to give to a society who loves social media. Even more so, this is a difficult standard to force upon children who may already be addicted.
Every word they post, every opinion they share, every joke the make, every picture they edit, every post they like – this is all inextricably tied to their name and thus, their character.
Someone will have to be the President in 50 years – would your child’s character hold true under the flames of critics? We shouldn’t be so willing to readily judge the character of our candidates for their flaws if we aren’t willing to fully dig in and evaluate the possible or potential character flaws of our own children!
If you look through your children’s text messages, Facebook posts, Instagram pictures or DMs, or Snap-chat stories and find material that could be publicly blasted out and shamed – there’s a real problem.
And this, of course, refers to the accounts you actually see. There are always the hidden, non-parent friendly accounts.
My researched belief is the ways our politicians are lying, hiding, sexually blasting, and bullying are the same exact behaviors our children are engaged in through social media. The only difference is our children’s words, antics, and dirty laundry hasn’t been publicly hung out to dry. Yet.
Social media sites are where our children “exist.” Consequently, their digital existence is continuously recorded and stored. Their digital footprints will, at best, follow them into adulthood and, at worst, haunt them as they pursue future goals limiting what they can achieve and subjecting them to character judgement.
Limit it. Stop it. Whatever you can do, change the current trend of children saying and doing anything online with little to no accountability. You will not only change their character but their future. And, in turn, our own future and the future of our world.
If I can be so frank to say, you – the parent – need to stop it too. The iGen is not the only generation carelessly posting. Generation X and Millennials are just as engaged, perhaps not in such detrimental ways, but certainly are at risk for over posting personal information and opinions. Set the example for your child and back off social media.
We’ll all be better for it.
Disclaimer: Brave Parenting neither supports nor endorses any candidate. Our support is to parents and to the development of children of great character.