Parents painstakingly teach morals, principles, values and good judgment to their growing children in hopes that their virtues will be protected and their standards upheld throughout their lives. Yet, day after day youth are tested in social situations. Sometimes they stumble as they compare their values and morals to the world’s ever-changing social standards and the prevailing misrepresentations of progressive morality as normal and desirable.
What can parents do to prepare their children for a tsunami of social and moral confusion like the world has never seen? It’s become a world where young brains are bombarded with social/psychological messaging that’s making them a generation of experimental lab rats. Never before have children been raised on porn, digital devices, and a steady diet of entitlement — all caused by disconnection from family and parents. This social experiment will likely play out in devastating ways. What can parents do about it?
Strong Relationships Are Everything
The world that promotes the steady sexualization of children through social and digital license also recruits parents to be part of the equation. Parents are encouraged to discuss and normalize all deviant behaviors and social choices. Most parents don’t want to be the kind of parent who is part of the problem. They should heed this great piece of advice: develop a strong relationship with your children. It’s essential for parents to create a habit of open, honest conversation about the world, social settings and how to stay morally safe when Mom and Dad aren’t there to help. Having a strong, open relationship will essentially make Mom and Dad a companion in social settings even though they may not always be physically there.
Years ago I was introduced to the power of pre-planning combined with debriefing. When a person pre-plans his actions and debriefs his results and findings, he’s acting and living deliberately, Acting and living deliberately is essential for personal freedom and self-government. Parents who purposefully have these kinds of powerful conversations with their children not only create deeper relationships with their children, but they also help their youth develop critical life skills.
Truth or Dare
Recently when my 12-year-old son attended a party with some new friends, my advice was with him during a difficult situation.
It’s customary for me to pre-teach my children before we go anywhere. I know it’s my job to help them develop proper social skills and learn how to self-assess and problem solve. Pre-teaching is essential for social and personal success.
Before I dropped my son off to the party, I explained to him that at this party there would be people he didn’t know and that we weren’t fully aware of the morals of all the families or the children he would be with at the party. I told him that if he found himself in a situation that didn’t match our family morals or beliefs, he was to walk away and to even call me if necessary. I further explained that just because someone was of our faith, it didn’t mean they would necessarily follow our standards. He needed to not assume religious belief meant appropriate behaviors.
At the party someone suggested playing a game my son had never heard of called “Truth or Dare.” The first dare made by another boy of our faith was to have another boy pull down his pants and run around the room. The 11-year-old boy that was dared consented to the act, and my son quickly covered his eyes in horror and extreme discomfort. After the act was performed, my son got up and left the room. He spent the majority of the evening disconnected from the group and waiting until it was time to go home.
As soon as my son jumped in my car, we started our usual debriefing discussion of what happened at the party, or playdate. Debriefs are great learning and bonding times. My son looked at me with an extreme amount of discomfort in his eyes. He said that the behaviors at the party were really bad and that he didn’t want to go to a party like that ever again. He shared the whole story, and we talked about his actions and what lessons he could learn from this unfortunate situation.
It broke my heart that my sweet, innocent, young son had to be exposed to something like this and saw a side of these boys he couldn’t respect. But I was thrilled to see how he conducted himself and how the words said before the party stayed with him during the party. Because of our talk to stand up for what was right, he was prepared and walked out when things started to go the wrong way at the party.
Relationships Strengthen and Empower Children
When children have regular talk times or meetings with parents and family and spend time reading and discussing regularly with parents, they become stronger in social situations and empowered to stand for the right choices.
Historically, parents have read scripture to their children to open the door to discussion and connection. Sadly, in many homes nowadays parents are not putting these pre-planned discussion times into the family schedule. When parents have a habit of discussing morals with their children during scripture and reading time, then having open conversations before and after social situations feels completely natural.
These days parents still hope for moral, virtuous children who are courageous enough to stand up for what is right. These children can still exist despite the normalization of parent/child contention and disconnection. But often wishing and hoping isn’t enough. Parents need to act and live deliberately. By doing seemingly simple things — like eating, reading, talking, pre-planning and debriefing together — parents can effectively arm their children with the strength and power they need to pull away from the social and moral traps of our times.
To help your family learn more about how to calmly and lovingly unite as a family read Nicholeen’s new book, “Roles: the Secret to Family, Business and Social Success.”