In my last post, I gave three tactics parents use that (unintentionally) drive their children to cynicism. Here are three more things parents should NOT do.
- Don’t fling half-baked arguments.
When parents realize their kid has adopted a belief that freaks them out–anything from Obamacare to Apostolic Succession to beer brewing–their first response (understandably) is to fight back with whatever arguments pop into their heads.
Fight the urge. You can’t win.
The reason’s simple: if your kid adopted this view, it’s probably because he’s been thinking about it a lot, and has all the arguments fresh in his mind. Unless you happen to have been doing the same thing, your arguments will be half-remembered scraps from that conference speaker you heard two years ago.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid the issue forever. Instead, when it comes up you should ask for more time to look into it. Then you can read some articles, talk to friends, or ask your pastor. This will prepare you to give good reasons for your beliefs. It will also impress your kid by showing that you can handle the situation maturely.
Speaking of maturity…
- Don’t freak out and argue.
Another understandable response. You’re worried, confused, and a little angry that your kid is abandoning what you taught him, so you lash back.
Again, fight the urge.
If you snort and yell and flap your hands, it proves the wrong things to your kid. He already suspects that you hold your beliefs out of irrational stubbornness. Getting angry and defensive only confirms this.
Instead, try to have a civil discussion. Look relaxed and laid-back, and address your kid’s new beliefs fair-mindedly. Let him know that he’s free to explore ideas you disagree with, and that you’re happy to talk about any problems he might have.
This is easy to say, but hard to do.
Speaking of which…
- Don’t entrench on non-essentials.
Of all the advice, this sounds the most obvious. If an issue isn’t essential to your kid’s faith, why freak out about it? And it’s easy to find obvious examples– like those parents who won’t let their sons wear blue jeans, or let their daughters go to the movies.
But outside of the fringes, it’s tricky.
Let’s say that a kid who was raised evangelical comes to their parents and says he’s becoming Catholic. Is this “essential”?
Some evangelicals would be horrified. They’d fear their child had left the true faith and essentially joined another religion. I know others who view Catholicism as another branch of Christianity, and would simply shrug.
It’s impossible to say who’s right without diving deep into the theology. And even then, well-intentioned people might still disagree. It shows a simple, maddening truth: determining what’s “essential” and what’s “non-essential” is really, really, hard (really).
Okay, I’m done with the negativity. Instead of harping on things parents shouldn’t do, in my next post I’ll give ideas for things they SHOULD do.
In the meantime, I want to hear from people on both sides of the parents/kids divide. What were good ways to discuss important issues? What were bad ways?
My parents never talked to us about anything. They didn’t start deep discussions. They didn’t answer deep questions. My theory is that because we went to a diverse public school district, that we would learn how to decipher the world. But we didn’t. All three of us have struggled since leaving their protection.
On the good side, I think they’ve done a very good job of picking their battles. They’re phenomenal at knowing what is essential and what isn’t.