It’s funny how life’s little moments can serve as great teachable opportunities, especially with kids.
The other day I saw a video on twitter (you may have seen it too). It was of a man in Australia who jumped off a cliff into the harbor only to land about 20 feet away from a GREAT WHITE SHARK! (watch it here) What was so awesome about this footage is that it was taken from a camera strapped on the man’s helmet so you could watch the whole thing from a first person point of view.
Not to be a spoiler, but the man lives and at the end of the video after he swims to shore, he takes off his helmet, looks in the camera, and rightfully says “holy sh*t!” Honestly, I can’t think of a more appropriate thing to say in a situation as crazy as that one.
Now, my 6 year old son loves sharks … especially great whites. His sister, who’s 9, also likes them so I thought I’d show them the video. At first I had planned to turn off the clip before the “holy sh*t” moment to prevent them from hearing that word but then I thought about it and I said to myself, “What am I doing here? They are going to hear it sooner or later so I might as well explain to them what it means and why (at their age) it’s not something they should be saying.”
We sat to down to watch the video and before I started it I told them that at the end of the video the man being filmed uses the word “sh*t” which means “poop.” They both started laughing uncontrollably (especially my son) and for a brief moment I thought to myself, “What the hell did I just do?”
Nonetheless, I pushed on and asked them if they had ever heard the word before. My son said emphatically “no” but my daughter sheepishly nodded her head and said that she had. When I asked her where she said, “a boy on the bus who is ‘bad’ and doesn’t believe in God said it.”
Do you see what happened there? I almost didn’t talk to my kids about the word “sh*t” because I wanted to shelter them. But, as it turns out my daughter had already heard the word. Worse yet, she was a little ashamed of it and had formed the completely misguided opinion that people who said that word were bad” and atheists!
I think we as parents struggle with this type of stuff all the time, especially when it comes to porn or sex.
We want to shelter our kids.
We want to protect them from being exposed to stuff we don’t want them to see or hear.
We mistakenly worry that by being proactive we may inadvertently turn them on to the very thing we want them to avoid.
But here’s what we miss.
Often they already know.
And worse yet, they have it all wrong. See my daughter had already heard the word “sh*t.” But, she didn’t know what it meant and she mistakenly assumed that if people used that word they were “bad.”
It’s just like porn.
If we wait too long to talk to our kids about porn or sex because of fear they will eventually see or hear about it on their own.
The only difference is they won’t hear your perspective on it.
They won’t get an accurate description of what it is and what it isn’t.
They won’t know what to make of it so they will draw their own conclusions … conclusions that are WAY OFF.
But the worse thing is they won’t tell you. After all, if mom and dad are afraid to talk about it then why would they bring it up and risk getting in trouble (or that’s what they assume)?
And so what happens is our kids get exposed to this crap way too early, with no guidance or good advice, and keep everything trapped inside as their little hearts and minds start to decay in shame. Parents … don’t be fearful about this stuff.
Have some balls when it comes to talking to your kids about tough topics.
Take life’s little opportunities and start good conversations. Make these occasions teachable moment and show your kids you are someone they can talk to, not someone they need to be secretive around.
You need to decide to be the one they hear from on these topics and not some snotty nose kid in their classroom or at the bus corner. Step up and take a little risk because if you don’t you are making certain that they will find out things the hard way and undoubtedly the wrong way.