A note before I begin: These posts are directed at adults, not parents specifically. I often say “parents” and talk about “families” because that’s a primary place for young people to interact with adults. This is about far more than that, though. This is about adults stepping up for the next generation. For our own kids, for the kids in our extended families, and for the kids in our schools, communities, churches, and so on. For many kids, your God-centered marriage may be the only one they ever see. Many kids will never see that example from their parents – and even if they do, what kid couldn’t use a second example of a God-centered marriage to offset the hundreds of other negative examples he’ll see? So consider: How can your life and your marriage influence the next generation – whether your kids or others’?
In some important external ways our world is a lot safer than it used to be. There are safer plastics, safer foods, safer cars, vaccines, no mandatory draft. Even zip lines and parachuting can be done with little risk. But internally, I think things are far more dangerous.
The chemicals and addictions, the accidents and monsters that are killing us often aren’t outside — they’re inside us (even if we use external things in the process). We’re eating ourselves to death, or starving ourselves to death. Obesity and anorexia are inside problems with clear outside manifestations. And our self-indulgence and self-deprivation are hardly limited to food. Many of us are shells on the verge of collapse.
I can see this in the eyes of my students — the panic and despair. Even male students regularly come into my office on the verge of tears – overwhelmed with the prospect of an exam, an essay, or a presentation; his grandfather’s funeral that he can’t find a ride to; his porn addiction; his tenuous connection to 1, 506 facebook friends; a girlfriend he can’t communicate with because his dad has always been a yeller, and he knows he doesn’t want to go down that path, but he knows no other way to relate to a woman; the feeling that he never has time for any of this, even though if he looked at his days, he’d find something like this:
2 hours=fantasy football
2 hours=texting/talking on cell phone
1.5 hours=video games
2.5 hours=TV (while “doing” homework)
And when I think about one of these problems – his inability to communicate with his girlfriend, for instance – I think: What ever happened to reading about something if you don’t know how to do it (e.g., a book on communicating with the opposite sex). And then I’m shocked by the fact that my default is to seek out a book (self-help or textbook) — because, what happened before books?
I mean, for solving a problem, my instinct is a solitary solution. Not entirely for me, personally. I tend to talk to my husband and one or two close friends. However, my default advice would be to try to match a person with a problem with a written resource. This is partially because I know that if a young person comes to me about such things, then he probably doesn’t have (or doesn’t think he has) a support system to talk to. (You don’t usually pick your professor to confide in if you have a mom, dad, pastor, etc., whom you trust.) But I start to wonder: What did we do before the myriad of web pages and books we use to self-diagnose, self-treat, and self-delude?
We learned by example. And we learned through conversations with the generations that preceded us. And these are two areas (examples and conversations) so desperately absent in the lives of many teenagers and young adults today.
[One caveat here: You may provide a wonderful home full of support for your child. You may be doing a wonderful job. This post isn’t supposed to make you feel like you aren’t. In your case, it’s meant to point out that your child’s situation is an anomaly. Many of his friends won’t come from the same home situation — even if, at first, on the surface, they seem to.]
Sure, we have conversations with the younger generation. Kids are micromanaged like never before by constant messages on facebook and texts from parents. But they are often ignored in much bigger ways. Sure, you might text your college student each morning to make sure he gets to class on time, but consider the other messages you’re sending with this action: the message that you don’t trust him to meet that responsibility, the message that he doesn’t have to meet that responsibility because you’ll do it for him, the message that you care more about him getting up and getting to class on time than about what would actually cause a 20 year-old boy to not be able to do this on his own.
When kids are nagged, but not really known by the adults in their lives, it becomes difficult for them to respect these adults. And as we know, when kids don’t have adults in their lives that they respect, lots of things go wrong.
Until the next post, consider the kids in your sphere of influence: How do you interact with them? Is it only on a surface (texting, nagging) level, or is it also on a deeper (talking, knowing them — even the parts you wish weren’t true) level?
Want to read more?
Read part two: (becoming) a role model, part 2
Have trouble saying “no”? Check out last week’s post: (becoming) a good steward: the necessity of “no”
Struggle with nagging? You might be interested in: (becoming) a more godly wife: nagging=marriage sabotage
Want to go deeper in your walk with Christ? Click here for the start of the Fully Submitted Series: (becoming) fully submitted