As a teacher and a parent, I often think about the messages that we convey to children and how children actually receive those messages.
One message that I often hear—and that I have given, myself—is: “You can be anything you want to be.” I no longer believe this is a healthy message to give to children because it’s just not true.
There are many barriers to “being anything you want to be;” these include ability, life circumstances, finances, accidents and biology, just to name a few.
This message, unfortunately, can breed entitlement and narcissism.
What happens when a child grows up and encounters a roadblock on his way to achieving his life goals and plans? When life is all about that child, if something unexpected happens, like say, an unplanned pregnancy or a parent’s debilitating stroke, will the now grown child be able to adjust to the new reality? Or, will he look for ways to get rid of his problems and continue on course to achieve his lifelong goals?
What happens in a marriage when someone has been taught that life is all about one’s own happiness? When marriage gets tough and an accident causes a spouse to become disabled, can these self-absorbed people realize their spouse now needs them more than ever; will they be able to make the sacrifices that need to be made?
I think our message to boys and girls should be: “You were created for a purpose; find your purpose.”
This leaves room for life to happen. We need to fill our kids’ minds with stories of great men and women from the past who showed extraordinary courage, honor, mercy and integrity during tough times. Our children need to hear about people like Mother Teresa, who, when others were stepping over people dying in the streets, she picked them up and took them to a home where they could die with dignity and be loved in their last few moments on Earth.
Our children need to hear of people who didn’t shift with the wind to suit those in power or to get ahead by going along with the most popular thoughts of the day.
I recently read a story about the notorious Nazi leader, Heinrich Himmler, who wrote a letter seeking to transfer a Nazi doctor out of the Luftwaffe into an SS medical unit because Christian doctors in his current unit were objecting to the human experiments he was conducting on prisoners. In his letter, Himmler told Luftwaffe Field Marshall Erhard Milch that in 10 years Germany would be rid of such narrow-minded thinking, but in the interim, he wanted the doctor to be transferred so he could conduct his experiments unabated (512-513 Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy).
When your kids grow up, will they have the courage to stand against the tide just as these Christian doctors tried to do, or will they just go along to get along and allow the unspeakable to happen?
While we as parents are so busy trying to provide for our families, are we making sure our kids are receiving the best messages? Do you know what messages they are receiving on their many digital devices? Do you know what messages they’re receiving in school? Do you really know? Are they messages that encourage self-centeredness, or are they messages that will make them better people?
Take the time to find out, and let’s resolve to fill our children’s minds with good stories—that teach them about humanity’s highest ideals and that motivate them to fulfill their life’s purpose.
Will you join me in this endeavor?