Thanks to the Huffington Post for bringing this story to my attention. The above photo was shared on Facebook by Eric Gaines with the following caption:
“I watched as this young kid was walking pass, stopped and walked over to this sleeping homeless man; touched him and began praying over him… This was an amazing sight! I pray this kid becomes a leader amongst his peers, and continues on this path!! Not all Baltimore youth are lost!!” (sic)
What a beautiful act of compassion!
Yet as I move beyond being thankful for this reminder of the good in young people, I reflect on what this photo prompts in me as a mother. As a parent, I have many kinds of desires for my children. Of course, I would love for my son to be the kind of young man who would quietly, humbly care about a stranger. But if I am honest, I would also love it if my son were smart, talented, well-mannered and known for such qualities. The question is, which desire is stronger? You see, I find it hard not to live through my children, and veryhard not to puff up my own reputation through their accomplishments. So which do I want more? A child who would stop on his own, alone, to notice and care for another person who may never notice him back; or a child who wins grades, awards, and a great reputation?
Why do I have to choose? Because I expect that the humble goodness this teen demonstrated is snuffed out in families that prioritize recognition; and when grades or talents are prioritized, the pressure to perform leaves little time or energy for selflessness. If I only praise what brings my child (and by extension myself) positive attention from others, it is very unlikely that my child will one day act like the young man in the photo. In addition, my child will do what I do (most likely) — do I model the same kind of compassion as the young man? If this story inspires me to believe that some teens are really doing okay, it should also inspire me to look at myself and my parenting. Am I nurturing selfless compassion in my children by modeling it, noticing it in others, and reminding my child that I care more about how they treat others than how they perform? Or am I just another performance driven parent feeding off the recognition and accomplishments of my children.
And if it were my teen in the photo, would I allow it to remain anonymous? Or would I have to share it with all my friends? What would you do?
For the third year in a row, non-profits, charities and community service organizations have encouraged families and individuals to participate in Giving Tuesday — the day after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is a great opportunity to encourage generosity in our kids!
What Success Looks Like
I have several nephews and a niece in elementary school right now. It is such a privilege to watch them grow up and to see the world through their eyes. Nothing beats watching a child “get it,” whether that’s learning to read or learning to share. Not too long ago, my brother-in-law told me a story about my nephew, who was then around 5 or 6. Their family has worked hard to raise their children to be aware of the needs of others and to act generously. Still, as I am sure all parents know, children seem to have an inherent self-centeredness. So it still brings me to tears when I think about my young nephew spontaneously coming to the conclusion and telling his dad, “I have a lot of toys. Those other kids don’t. Can we box up some of these toys and give them to the other kids?”
Webinar of Ideas
I hope there are many more parents out there working to instill the value of generosity in their children. If you want some ideas, I learned about this webinar coming up on November 24. Consider participating and getting some ideas for your own family to encourage giving this holiday season. I know I plan to participate and I look forward to helping my own kids learn to share!
After the last blog, I started thinking about how parenting in America today means parenting amidst an onslaught of materialism. Not only do we fight our own temptations (I have to own a house that looks just so), we have the task of teaching children to become aware of something that they have been swimming in since birth. How do you teach a fish to be aware of water?
I certainly don’t have all the answers. In fact, as a parent myself, I’m often hoping that the things I try will work at least a little bit. But I read, I research, I look for what works for others and I think about what has worked for me. Here are a few of my ways to try to combat the materialism around us:
Encourage generosity. Make it a point to model generosity, whether that’s donating a bit to the Salvation Army bell-ringers at Christmas, or working with your children to pick a charity and sending them a donation.
Reduce overall media consumption. While I love being entertained as much as the next family, it is undeniable that almost all forms of media come with strings attached. Try an experiment with your family to replace some of your entertainment time with a creative or recreational hobby – a sport, craft, board or card game.
Teach financial literacy. There are a host of resources online that can be used to educate kids about better ways to use their money. Investopedia has a series for kids, tweens and teens. Here is a link to a nice lesson for kids on the difference between needs and wants. And for adults, I strongly recommend this book that has a little something for everyone. Understanding how to use money as a tool may help a family avoid being driven by the need for more and more stuff.
What works for you? Especially as we approach the holidays, how do you parent in a material world?
Once again, I am setting aside my distaste for marketing and commercials to share a video (okay, an ad) that at least highlights a good point. If you have sons, I especially encourage you to share this with them as part of a conversation about the subtle ways sexism can creep into everyday life.
This article builds off of the previous post, which can be read here.
My dad’s parents taught me to play card games and told stories about my Grandpa beating all the other soldiers at Cribbage. My mom’s mom taught me to bake — real, old-world baking with lots of butter, yeast, and white flour. And the stories she told about my mom’s dad taught me about farming and life in the American Midwest. We lived a plane flight away from both sides of the family, and still my grandparents had a profound impact on my life.
Today, grandparents often play an even bigger role in children’s lives. In general, their health is better and they live longer. As more families include two working parents, grandparents are picking up the slack with childcare. And for the grandparents who do live far away, technology like Skype and social media make it easier than ever to stay in touch. Last week we looked at the importance of children having a strong family identity. This week we’ll look at how grandparents specifically can connect with teens and help give them that sense of identity.
How can grandparents connect with their grandkids? There are several obvious disconnects between grandparents and teens. They are separated by not just one generation gap, but several. Their interests, abilities, and experiences are very different. They may not even live anywhere close to each other! Yet intentional steps taken by grandparents and parents can facilitate good connections, which hopefully a teen will quickly reciprocate. Here are some ideas, written as steps a grandparent could take:
Invite each grandchild to do something unique with you — just the two or three of you.
Teach your grandchildren a hobby or skill, such as fishing, cooking, woodworking, etc.
Attend their events, even the boring ones: recitals, baseball games, marching band parades.
Plan an event, outing or vacation for either all the men or all the women in the family. This is especially beneficial when teens hit 12 or 13 and are going through puberty.
Invite your grandchildren to events and social gatherings that are important to you, whether that’s church, the local VFW, or Rotary club. Let them meet your friends.
Ask your grandchildren to teach you a new skill, such as digital photography, or game, such as Minecraft.
Use texting and Skype to communicate, even if it feels difficult to learn.
If you speak a second language, teach your grandchildren some of it. Have a few words that can become part of the family vocabulary even if the kids don’t become fluent.
Talk about family traditions you enjoyed from your own childhood. If the tradition hasn’t continued, find a way to restart it.
Gather a few time honored recipes and teach them to your grandchildren.
Keep track of special events, or big games or tests, and call or text your grandchildren on those days.
Start a collection together (dolls, stamps, postcards) and build it, whether you are together or far apart.
Share this post with the grandparents you know. I hope there will be one or two new ideas for building family connectedness.
Sadly, I know there are many cases where family brokenness makes forming a strong family identity difficult. Next week, we’ll look at navigating the ups and downs in a family.
*Several ideas from this post were first shared in this article, which is a faith-focused article about passing on religious beliefs to grandchildren.
“Sewage.” That was the word that came to mind after I spent the morning reading about and watching clips of the MTV Music Video awards, which was rated PG-14 but should have been R. It was American culture at it’s worst, from Lady Gaga exposing her nude rear end, to Miley Cyrus’ lewd “twerking” (a word I had to look up) that even caused Will Smith and his children’s mouths to gape open. Oh, there was one word MTV bleeped out, “Molly,” referring to a form of ecstasy. But Miley’s simulated sexual act (I wouldn’t call that “dancing”) with the foam finger prop and up against Robin Thicke was beyond lewd and SHOULD have been censored. The New York Times described Cyrus as “molesting” Thicke. Comedian Kevin Hart joked, “Miley better get a … pregnancy test after all of that grinding.”
With two tunes currently in ITunes’ Top 5, “Wrecking Ball” and “We Can’t Stop,” Miley is a powerful pop idol, selling a powerful message to YOUR teens. These lines from Miley’s hit song, “We Can’t Stop” display the values being sold to our kids at every turn, and are worth discussing:
It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can sing what we want
Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere
Hands in the air like we don’t care
‘Cause we came to have so much fun now
Bet somebody here might get some now
Another one to discuss (sung that night by Robin Thicke while Miley licked his chest and rubbed his crotch, etc.) is “Blurred Lines” which many say seems to give the message that when a woman says “No,” a guy can think (in it’s catchy repeated line) “I know you want it.”
By the way, I blocked MTV in my home. Yes, there is a place for censorship…when it involves my money, my kids, my values and my home.
What an interesting concept: Power in modesty! Former Power Ranger actress, Jessica Rey, has a YouTube video discussing a variety of things that have to do with modesty, such as
the history of what we consider showing “too much” and (the most interesting part) research on the impact on the male brain of seeing scantily clad women.
A CNN report on the research revealing what happens when too much is revealed, shows that a part of a man’s brain lights up that has to do with “handling tools and the intention to perform actions,” rather than the part of the brain “associated with analyzing another person’s thoughts, feelings and intentions.” It seems that women who show too much can become, in the male brain (not consciously, mind you), an object, rather than a person. Given that women can be, in fact, objectified when they dress immodestly, and are not valued for who they are (or even seen as a person), doesn’t it make sense that women would have MORE power if dressed modestly? Jessica believes so, and even includes a few slides of her modest, yet fashionable, swimsuit line in her quest to bring vibrant, healthy modesty back into our culture. This video is entertaining, and would prompt a great family conversation about our society, how standards of modesty have changed, and if it matters.
Emma Watson, Selena Gomez, Jessica Biel. Besides being celebrities, they also share the distinction of being in the top 10 celebrity searches that lead people to dangerous websites. According to a McAffee report, “Cybercriminals follow the latest trends, often using the names of popular celebrities to lure people to sites that are actually laden with malicious software that are designed to steal passwords and personal information. Anyone looking for the latest videos or files to download could end up with a malware-ridden computer along with the trendy content. This year, searching for a celebrity name with ‘free downloads’ and ‘nude pictures’ as part of the search term resulted in the highest result of risky sites.”
So, it’s time for a little parental instruction so your teens can be careful as they surf the web. If you’ve been wondering why the computer is going so slow lately, this could explain it. You can clear your computer of malware by downloading free security software. Since downloads themselves can be malicious, a good way to be sure you find safe software is to go to CNET.com (LINK HERE) for safe download links. In fact, the most popular link, at the top right column, is the free security software that our family uses…AVG.
Move over Lady Gaga; hello Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber. As reported on E! News From London, “According to the IOC, NBC’s ratings for the London Olympics among teenage girls is a whopping 89 percent higher than those for Fox’s smash hit Glee. ‘The younger demographic has come back,’ IOC marketing director Timo Lumme said in a press conference Tuesday. ‘Teenage girl viewership is up 54 percent.'”
In an age when media role models are appallingly scarce (at least good ones), it’s heartening to know that girls have athletes to look up to. These are strong, fit, girls with character, who also have handled disappointment (in Jordyn’s case) with class and grace, and success (in Gaby’s case) with humility and thankfulness. I’ll bet, behind each young woman or young man, is a mom and/or dad who encouraged and supported their child to dream, and to achieve. Let’s remember that even if our son or daughter isn’t destined to be an all-star athlete, we can be their best cheerleaders as they move through adolescence into adulthood, becoming the people we know they can be.