“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” I ran across this in picture form the other day and it struck a chord with me. I was tempted as many of you to take it on face value, but decided to chase it instead. After all, a snippet can be persuasive, but many are taken out of context. Some are designed to be, for lack of a better definition, propaganda to influence you. There are those among us who may recoil at the word “propaganda” as if it was a media term or something that you’d expect to see among the ranks of a communist country’s marketing regime. …Well, you’re not so wrong. Sure, that ideology would be consistent, but whether you’re a communist dictator or a person selling books, many seek to use cliches to attract and impact people.
What do you think of the above quote? All in all, it comes off as caring, kind, and peaceful to me. Your reaction is likely similar. In essence, the quote is challenging us all to raise a generation of children that love much and share that love in place of other lesser actions. I can dig that. I do admit though, the man in me, says with one word change I’d find myself disagreeing with some of the core premise put forth here. What if we removed the word “toughen” and replaced it with “prepare” and reread the quote? Then what would you say about it?
That question was the first thing that stood out to me. If by ‘toughen’ up Miss Knost, an accomplished writer, means through some form of barbarism or inhumanity we make our children callus enough to survive life on Earth, I’m in lock step with her. In some cultures, neighborhoods, and tribes, this exact thing is done to prepare the children for adulthood. That isn’t the path I’m going to take with mine. But, I can assure you I’ll prepare my children for the real world.
It truly is interesting I stumbled across this. Just a few short minutes before I noticed this quotation, I had been on the phone with a friend from church discussing an example of this. The question was raised, “I don’t want my children to be afraid of the world and hide in the basement, so how do I explain to them what they see going on around them?” That’s a good question to ask and equally important to answer. For me? I subscribe to Knost’s quote, but only in part, not in whole. I have a responsibility to raise my child up in the way they should go. That’s a quote I read some place else. I can’t seem to place it at the moment. …Something about getting old and not departing from it, I think… 😉
My wife and I are raising our children with love and tenderness. We point out beauty and kindness to them, and give examples and reward for examples they show in kind. We also shore up things for the unknowns in life. I’m wondering if this might be where Knost and I part ways. When my daughter was scared of the dark, I tried lots of things to combat that. None really worked. I was diligent, I just didn’t find something that gave her comfort. I stumbled across one thing recently that made a difference however. When she was scared I asked her if she knew I loved her. She did, of course. I asked her if she agreed that I’d never allow anything bad to happen to her willingly. She agreed. I explained in short order that I was her protector. There were a couple of what I’d refer to as light analogies I provided, then I broke off the ending precept I needed her to grasp. I told her, I was a loving man and recognize the inherent beauty in nearly everything my eyes see, my nose can smell, my tongue can taste, and my touch can feel. I then told her not to fear the things that go bump in the night, for the things in that go bump in the night should fear me.
I let my daughter know in no uncertain terms that love and kindness are our default positions. It was equally important that she knew I was her protector. That needed to be established for the purposes of comfort and for asserting roles. While I’m not certain, I’m wondering if Miss Knost, as a self proclaimed feminist might disagree with some of those roles. She may not. I don’t know her. But it would be consistent with the stated ideology of most modern feminists. Classical feminists would not disagree with me. There’s a distinct and significant difference between the two, so holler at me should you want to explore the differences.
I went onto briefly explain that just like she sees me helping when there’s an accident and calling in emergency services as a first responder, there is help I can offer. Some day with training, she can help herself and others just like her dad. The same is true for protection and things that go bump in the night. By now you see where I’m going with my examples to my daughter and what they are designed to do for her. They provide her explanation and comfort. They imply her ability to do the same in due time. This not only translates into confidence, but sets the stage for future conversations.
The questions this commentary has no doubt raised, should now be asked. Did I toughen up my daughter to face a cruel and heartless world? Yes, in some part or whole, I did. The next logical question you ask? Was this a correct move? My answer is yes. I believe it to be absolutely vital. The key is understanding that preparedness against and the understanding of behaviors aren’t akin to approval of them when they’re negative, tacitly or otherwise. Could I beat my son with a garden hose to harden him to the pain and ridicule he’ll no doubt face as a kid who is a foot shorter than the other boys at school? I could. Would that toughen him up? It might. Will I do that? Nope. Can I explain to him that fighting happens? Yes. Do I want him to fight? No. Are there times you have no choice? Yes. ….And when are those times? “We fight for people that can’t fight for themselves…” <— That’s the answer, if any, that I’m hoping to hear when the question is asked. Will my daughter be afraid of the noises in the night? Sure, but less and less each time now that she has an understanding of what is and isn’t true of this scenario. That will eventually translate into self reliance and confidence.
We must guard closely what cliches enter the ears of our children. I have no doubt Miss Knost has the very best of intentions and she’s done some really loving and soulful work. But I did note that in her bio, she describes herself as an award-winning author, feminist, and social justice activist. She goes on to illustrate what she founded, where, when, and the list of published works she’d written. Oddly, even though she has written many works, both published literary and blog on faith matters, she doesn’t often describe herself as a Christian. It certainly wasn’t listed on her bio. Either way, I wish her the very best.
As and Elder in my church rightly pointed out a few Saturday’s back at Men’s Breakfast, are we questioning properly? Are we asking for information and context so we can arrive at what is true of a thing, statement, or premise?
We’re quickly becoming a world that doesn’t do that well, or at all. Proverbs 18:2 – A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Oh also, I did remember where I heard that little ditty about training a child up after all. Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Be salt and seek light my friends, not facebook memes and posters. We’ve been handed scripture that is “God breathed” so let’s use it and skip the cliches.