Violence wracks our nation. Each time we collectively experience another mass shooting, we all grieve the loss of life, of innocence and of liberty. We search for answers. The newspapers search for motives. The police search the shooter’s home, computer and affiliations. Where and how did he/she get the gun? Was he/she bullied? We blame guns, mental illness, video games or the ease of finding extremist ideas on the internet.
Perhaps there is not just one answer, but we can all do something. Whether we believe in gun control or greater protection, we can still change something in our lives to create a better society. Parenthood. Many of us have lost the art of parenthood. While our lives have gotten busier, we have willingly handed over the authority over our children to “the experts.” Who are these experts? Teachers? Counselors? Therapists? Teachers are responsible for teaching children. Parents are responsible for raising their children.
We need TRUCES! Children who are the beneficiaries of these following qualities do not go out and shoot up strangers at a mall or a public event.
Time – If a family is to become a true family, it requires time together on a daily basis – breakfasts, dinners, conversation, true communication on what’s happening in each person’s life. Put down the cell phones. Remove the earbuds. Turn off the TV. Talk! Smile at one another. Forget the stresses of the outside world and enjoy each other’s company. Most importantly, we have to give them our time persistently, especially when they negotiate the turbulent teenage years.
Respect – We should never call our children by derogatory names (I have heard parents call their children snot face, butt head, dumb bell, etc), but we should honor the life of God in them. Respect what is good in them. Observe your children and discover what they are good at. Commend them for those things and if necessary, help them develop the gifts and abilities that you see.
Unconditional Love – We must always love them with a feelable love, even when they’ve done something to test our patience. Unconditional love wants the best for each child but it does not give them everything they want. It makes decisions based on the best interests of the child. Unconditional love is forever, even when children become teens and test everything that we stand for.
Consistency – We need to give them the rules, rules that will guide them in life, and let them know what will happen when they break those rules. Then we need to maintain our integrity by applying the appropriate discipline. When we’re consistent with discipline in whatever form we choose, they get the message. Children who have a certain discipline in their lives (without an overabundance of rigidity) are happy and more secure. They can hang on when the emotional teenage years bombard them with unhealthy and even dangerous choices. Consistency is dauntless and yet not entirely without compassion.
Energy – We must find a way to renew our strength and energy either daily or at least weekly – either with prayer, meditation or time to reflect on what’s happening in our lives. If we are frayed at all of our edges, we cannot keep up with the pace and responsibilities of parenthood.
Sacrifice – We have to be willing to give up a lot for the benefit of our children. Sometimes it means the sacrifice of what we wanted to do with our time. It could be giving up something financially so that we can offer our children extra lessons in piano, sports, art or ballet. It most often personally means that I have to give up what I want to do at this moment because my child has a need that must be met. I have to put down my phone and listen or, more important yet, I have to start the conversation with my child by asking a few focused questions. Sacrifice is always important, but it may become more compelling as lives get busier and the children get older.
We need to understand that all parents make mistakes. When it happens, we should own up to it and be ready and willing to change our behavior.
We as a nation need a re-education, a re-involvement and a renewed respect of parenthood. Parents have lost the tools with which they used to raise responsible children. Maybe some of those old tools were flawed. Okay, but let’s not throw everything overboard. Let’s create new tools within the new framework. Do new parents need an app to show them how to deal with discipline, tantrums and responsibility? Then let someone with gifts in creating apps create something together with someone who understands the needs of children. Do parents need a new awareness of their own responsibilities? Then let’s have a national program (or many local ones!) or an outreach to raise such awareness – never to usurp parents’ authority, but to enhance it and protect it.
It may take a village, but most of all, it takes parents who are there and who are engaged in this lifelong process called parenthood.