There are a lot of voices in the world today within earshot of our children. They are not only given a lot of directions and information but conflicting, contradictory information. This can make it hard for kids who have the primary task each day of making sense of the world.
Yes, children are at work every day trying to determine reality and how to best encounter it. Their little minds are taking everything in, and we must teach them what to keep and what to throw away.
I want to share five key things we should teach our children to aid them in correctly grasping the reality that we live in and set them up for a happier, less painful life. By no means am I claiming to be an expert at raising children. However, with my own experience of being a child who received instruction from society, I do have some thoughts on what should be taught to kids to help them avoid some issues I believe are plaguing my generation. Thankfully, these are issues that God can provide tremendous healing for.
There are probably plenty more we can add to the list, but these five things are a good start.
1. Your teen years and early twenties are not the best years of your life.
It makes sense to say the years of our energetic youth were tremendous when we were without major responsibilities or imposing daily duties that took up all our time. It was fun to be a kid, no doubt about it. However, if we get caught up in thinking that this is the best it will ever be, then we are in trouble.
We should help children see that good things come through living up to their responsibilities. Furthermore, putting off instant gratification can be highly rewarding as well. Regarding the teen years and early twenties being the best that life has to offer, I say no way!
There is such a treasure in growing in wisdom, understanding, and gaining life experience that you get through growing older that I think absolutely trounces the carefree days of youth. With this growth, we can have deeper friendships and experiences that my 19-year-old brain barely valued or paid attention to and missed out on entirely.
Yes, once we’re older, our backs may hurt, and we get tired more quickly, but I think it is an even trade for this more profound experience of reality. It’s a perception that we get where we bring more to each moment because we have lived more and have memories of similar, if not exact, moments that remind us of our humanity.
2. Movies and TV should be viewed with a critical eye.
In times past, children were taught life lessons through fun rhymes and fairy tales. Little Red Riding Hood was a fun way to remind us not to talk to just anyone we meet, especially in the woods. The Three Little Pigs reminded us that hard work pays off. The collection of Aesop’s Fables taught many lessons. Not to say that every story told had the purpose of teaching a lesson to kids, but most still hold some valuable moral for us to learn.
The modern-day fairy tale is not told by grandpa in the rocking chair next to the fireplace. It is found in movies and shows being streamed in and viewed by society, especially children, every day. These modern fairy tales, just like their predecessors, also contain lessons whether we pick up on them immediately or not. We need to teach our kids to watch TV and movies with a critical eye and how to point out the good and the bad, so they know what to take in with their understanding of reality and what to discard.
Another aspect of movies and TV is simply that what we see is fake, and there is a team of writers, producers, and actors behind the development. It might resemble reality, but it has been perfected so that people always have the best things to say or have an intentionally crafted scenario with the best responses. Life may reflect the scenes we witness in the movies, but it will never be as polished as that. Not that they need to show the grittiness of life, but it would be good to share with kids that entertainment is for entertaining, not providing us with an understanding of how life should be.
3. Life is long, and it can change.
One thing I never really understood as a kid is how long life really is. I was told “life is short,” but it really isn’t short, and so much can change within even one year of our lives. We have so much to look forward to when we are kids, and this looking forward gets robbed of us when we are filled with worry and regret due to the passing of the years.
Furthermore, we should teach children there is great hope for change when they are going through difficult times. In AA meetings, I have met people in their 50s who had wasted their lives due to alcoholism up to that point and were filled with regret but were able to start over and are doing amazing now. They suffered but then changed their lives and still have so much of it left.
People are well-intentioned when they say, “life flies by, so be sure to make good use of it.” This is true in some sense, but we must ensure kids know there is still plenty of time to enjoy it. We do not want them to think that if they are having a difficult season of life, then they are wasting their time.
This does not mean kids should think they can have a “party now, convert later” mentality, thinking they can put off seeking to live for the Lord. There is still a lot of pain in making certain decisions we want to help them avoid. Plus, there is tremendous joy found in living for the Lord that we want our children to know.
4. You are not a bad kid.
Kids mess up. They even intentionally misbehave. It is important to help them realize that things they do and the value they possess are unrelated. We as humans are not inherently bad people who sometimes do good. We are all good and sometimes we do bad things.
Kids need help seeing that their behavior does not impact their identity. Can some behaviors impact their relationship with God and others? Yes. However, it would be their behavior that was bad, not them. If a child thinks he or she is bad, it will take a long time to convince him or her otherwise.
5. Just because you CAN do something, does not mean you SHOULD.
This is a lesson that I had to learn the hard way. I had to experience the pain of many actions I took simply because I could do them. We need to teach children to weigh their choices to determine if an action is a good one that will bring about positive results.
Furthermore, not doing this can wreak havoc on one's life. Of course, I am thinking of many painful consequences I had faced in my life when I did something because I could without considering if I should.
By helping the youth of today learn to determine their actions, we can help them escape a lot of the pain and consequences that I and those like me who have made similar mistakes have faced. This will also help others not have to deal with our painful choices.
I think we need to teach our children these five essential things today. The list can be added to, as there is so much wisdom that we need to impart to our kids. Is there something specific that you think we should add? Let us know in the comments or send to firstname.lastname@example.org.