My last two posts (here and here) were about things parents should NOT do when their kids are becoming cynics. Now, I want to be more positive. Here are four things parents SHOULD do.1
- DO try to understand your kid’s arguments.
Here’s what I do when I see an argument I don’t like–learn just enough to fling an attack at it, then run away. I’m guessing most people do the same thing.
Don’t be like me.2
Instead, understand why your kid has the opinion he does. Learn his views well enough to summarize back to him. This will show that you’re not disagreeing with him because you’re closed-minded, defensive, or stubborn. Instead, you care about finding the truth.
- DO be fair to the other side.
It’s easy to assume the professor who got your kid obsessed with Derrida is a conniving brainwasher.3 And it’s easy for this assumption to seep out when talking to your kid.
Try to be nice.
Think of the crazy Derrida professor as a decent person who happens to disagree with you. This will take the pressure off the conversation. It will also reduce your kid’s inclination to view his professor as the victim of your narrow-mindedness.
- DO employ the Moja principle.
A couple months ago, my parents confessed they used this technique on me when I was a cynic. I can tell you from firsthand experience that it works.
The Mojas are family friends we’ve known forever. I like them and respect them, and my parents knew it. They also realized that, even when I was a “sulky little know-it-all,”4 I would listen to the Mojas.
My parents took advantage of this. Instead of giving advice directly, they would have the Mojas say it instead. And because the Mojas weren’t my parents, I agreed with them.
- DO remember that it’s not all about you.
I don’t want anyone to read these posts and think I’m blaming parents for every evangelical cynic. Parents can only do so much. These ideas are only meant to help parents in their own (limited) roles.
I know people with trainwreck parents who turned out great, and people with great parents who turned into cynics. Your kid is his own person, and sometimes he’s going to turn into a cynic no matter what you do.
Hopefully that’s liberating to parents. It should also give you cause to keep hope, even when your kid seem fully off the rails and you regret the way you’ve handled things.
In the end, you are not responsible for your kid’s faith.
Speaking of kids, they’re my new target. In my next post, I’ll discuss things kids should do when they’re feeling cynical about their parents.
In the meantime, does anybody have their own version of the “Moja principle” to share? The crazier the idea, the better.
1 The cynical among you may point out that this post just reframes the last two in a “positive” light. To this, I respond…umm…
2 Oops, another DON’T slipped in. Must be my natural habit…
3 And let’s be honest. He probably is.
4 My dad’s words