This is a re-post of a blog I wrote on Debbie Dodson’s blog Any Given Day.
Let me start by saying I am not a parent. I don’t have any children.
But don’t worry, I’m not one of those people without kids who think they know everything about how to raise them. I am, however, a fairly recent college graduate who is considered someone who just finished “growing up,” so I’m going to reflect on something that personal experience has shown me many parents don’t quite get, or won’t quite face. And it’s this:
What you don’t know about your kids can hurt them.
Here’s what I mean:
Your children, no matter how young, are sinners. And not just other people’s children, but yourchildren. I don’t just mean they sometimes do things they shouldn’t because they are “kids” and still have a lot learn, I mean because they are in fact sinful human beings. The Bible’s pretty clear about that, about how we’re all—every single one of us—literally born that way. (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, Romans 5:18-19 and others.) That means that without the right kind of, and consistent, guidance, we’re not going to naturally make good choices.
See, when I was growing up I often heard this phrase, or a variant thereof, from other parents around me to their kids, “I didn’t teach you to ______ (lie, cheat, etc.).” Or, “I didn’t raise you to be ______ (racist, a bully, etc.).” But here’s the thing, because all of us are born sinful, unless you really intentionally (and often) teach your kids differently, they don’t just “default” to being honest, loving, patient, gracious, giving, etc. None of us do. And all of us will do what comes naturally to us if we’re not intentionally and consistently taught differently.
Your kids know more about the world than you think they do. And that you’d like them to. In fact, many high school (and college) students in this age of total internet and social media access, not to mention TV/movie offerings, etc., know more, have seen more and have heard more (and may have experienced more) about sex, drugs, porn, theft, alcohol and other things than you would even believe. Or that you would think possible at their age. Trust me. They have.
They don’t always act the way you assume they do when you’re not around. I can still vividly remember specific instances in high school where I thought, “If this kid’s parents knew how he treated _______ (a certain person or others in general), I’m pretty sure they would be ashamed and shocked.” Now I was absolutely no saint growing up (just ask my mom) nor am I anywhere close to that now (I mean, like nowhere even close), but because of how I was constantly taught, it mattered to me the choices I made, so I did try to make the same basic moral and ethical choices whether I was with my parents/other adults or my peers. But trust me, that’s not easy when you’re surrounded by so many peers making so many less than positive choices, with so much peer pressure and a slew of other ongoing issues/bombardments.
So those three points above to say this: what you don’t know about your kids can hurt them. And you.
You’ve got to talk them. Regularly. Don’t avoid asking your kids tough questions about their life, issues, choices, etc., just because you’re worried about what they might say or admit. Or because you don’t want to “taint” them with subjects you’re convinced they know nothing about. (Again, I’ll bet they do.) Or even worse, because you can’t find the time, or even more worse, because you won’t make the time. Because I’m telling you, ignoring things will not make them go away, nor will your kids just grow out of it someday. If your teenage son looks at porn because you have not put anything in place to monitor his internet usage, then not asking him the question because you’re afraid the answer may be “yes” does not change that the answer is still “yes,” and that there’s a world of trouble ahead because it’s not being dealt with now.
Remember this too: you’ve got to model in your own life how you want your kids to live and the choices you want them to make in theirs (which is a whole other blog posting), because I’m telling you, it won’t matter one bit what you say to them if you’re not living it out yourself. This is totally “do as I say AND as I do.”
So parents, as a recently “grown up” young man, keep in mind that what you don’t know about your kids can hurt them–really hurt them—because they still need your guidance—not Facebook’s or Twitter’s or Google’s or anyone/anything else’s. Get in there and know things like what your kids do with their friends on the weekend when they aren’t at home with you, when/if they’re struggling with the idea of a real God—a God who exists and has absolute moral standards, and/or any other issues you might have been wondering about but just haven’t sat down and dug into.
And remember that what you don’t know not only has the power to hurt them, but you too—more deeply than you can probably imagine.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children,and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” –Deuteronomy 6:4-7