What’s the difference between a parent brainwashing their child versus successfully influencing them? After all, a child will ultimately grow up and make up their own mind when it comes to stuff like moral issues and relevance of religious faith. Yet it would be unwise to discount the impressions made on a child by an involved and encouraging parent.
Brainwashing carries a connotation of something forced and militant. That’s obviously not how I aim to influence my child. Instead, it’s a matter of making what’s normal and accepted to us as parents, normal and accepted to him.
My strategy is to simply raise my son in the way I know as right, so that when he is older, he won’t depart from it. My son Jack was born into a specifically Christian household. His exposure to our family’s religious beliefs won’t be presented as a respectable suggestion, but as reality and actual history.
But I can’t make him believe anything for the rest of his life; nor would I want to. As his dad, I can only influence him in ways that most other people will not be able.
What parts of our parental influence will really stick with him by the time he’s our age? I guess we’ll know when we’re sixty. But as for now, we’ll continue brainwashing influencing him in our quirky ways.
On a related subject, I am giving away 5 copies of a brand new book called Sticky Faith, which specializes in giving parents everyday ideas to build lasting faith in their kids’ lives, specifically at key transitional stages (i.e. elementary, middle, high school, etc.).
Just be one of the first 5 people to leave a comment on this post, and within 60 minutes, send an email to nickshell1983@hotmail providing your name and address so the publisher will know where to send the books to.
UPDATE: Congrats to the winners of this free book!
Cliche phrases annoy me. Perhaps the one I despise the most is “patience is a virtue,” which is often assumed to originate from the Bible, though it is instead taken from a poem from the 5th century entitled “Psychomachia.”
The reason it probably urks me so badly is because the people who tend to say it the most are typically people who are… too patient!
There’s a decent chance they are also the same ones prone to use other worn-out phrases on a daily basis, like, “I’m not gonna lie…” as to anticipate telling some candid revelation, which they don’t. Another one is “just sayin’,” as to excuse themselves after saying something that is passive aggressively rude.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m not a patient person. Sure, it’s probably something I should care about trying to improve. But really, I’m a parent. I have a 10 month old son. If anything is going to teach me patience, whatever that even means, then it’s going to be my dealings with him.
Yes, I know: I’ve got it easy. My kid is very laid back and loves to be around people. It’s easy for anyone to love him. I know I’m one lucky guy.
Still though, he doesn’t have a pause button. Sometimes, especially on a Sunday afternoon when I am aching for a good three hour nap, I wouldn’t mind a pause button.
I wouldn’t mind being able to carry on a meaningful conversation with my wife during dinner without him interrupting because he’s not being engaged enough as we eat and attempt to feed him in the process.
Instead, the only pausing he does is during the 11+ hours from around 7 PM to 6:30 AM each day. But by that time, most of our energy has been spent.
Thank God for my son. I love him so much. I adore him. Awesomest baby ever.
Admittedly, I am not daring enough to stick my finger in Jack’s mouth to see how hard he will bite down. But my wife, Jill, is.
Having seen the “Charlie” video, she stuck her finger in Jack’s steel trap, and sure enough, Jack knew right away what to do:
“Ouch, Jack!”. Just like Charlie, Jack started giggling. He thought it was pretty hilarious each time Jill did it, until her finger hurt too badly; and that didn’t take long.
Do baby boys come preprogrammed knowing that painfully biting someone’s finger is universally funny?
I’m thinking so. It reminds me of the way that babies like to “accidentally” drop food and/or toys off their high chair repeatedly, looking down at the floor until a cooperative adult picks it up for them.
Babies are funny. But it’s not always that they actually understand why what they did is humorous.
Evidently, a ten month old boy can comprehend that hurting a family member is funny. No blood, no fowl.
If I wasn’t a devout Christian, what would I believe in instead; especially after becoming a dad? I try to imagine…
I don’t have enough faith to believe in nothing at all, so I would probably think that my life as I know it is just a figment of some big computer program in which I play a small role; unaware of how insignificant I really am; basically, I’m getting the idea from the movie The Matrix. Or maybe I would believe my life is simply a dream inside of a dream inside of a dream, like in the movie Inception.
Either way, it’s clear to see that if I didn’t take the words of Jesus Christ literally, along with all 66 books of The Bible, that I still would be led to believe that I am part of someone else’s plan; that there is some all-powerful force behind it all and for some reason I was chosen to play a part in it.
Something I hear other parents say a lot, or at least grandparents, is that when they look at a young baby, they see an innocent angelic being. I’m not knocking that concept, because I totally get it. But for me, what I see more of when I think deeply about my son Jack, is a human currently incapable of understanding right from wrong, but who nonetheless needs no instruction on how to make the most destructive decision possible.
Jack naturally would choose to crawl down the stairs if I wasn’t there to stop him. He would stick my car keys into the electrical outlets if I wasn’t already 23 steps ahead of him. He would never sleep, never get his diaper changed, and never leave the presence of his parents- using his crying power to try to sway his parents’ interception.
So the fact that Jack needs no help in being prone to make the wrong decision would definitely say something to me if I had no religious beliefs. It would clearly show me that despite man wanting to be good, on his own, he is prone to do the opposite.
That would cause me to realize that as a human, I am in need of some kind of intervention or path to lead me to be reconciled of my flawed nature- which is wired with good intentions but ultimately bugged with morality viruses.
But I wouldn’t be okay with the belief that there is simply some “higher power” who would usher me into a heavenly afterlife just because I was a “good enough” person. Because what exactly would be the standard of “good?”
What would make the most sense to me at this point is that there must be a God who not only created this whole universe but who also Himself would be willing to intervene in my morally imperfect state, helping restore flawed mankind to the state of Paradise that this world once was.
That way of thinking would ultimately cause me to be curious enough to pick up a free Bible in a hotel room somewhere and start reading The Old Testament, taking notice of the reoccurring theme of a perfect man who would eventually show up to willingly take on imperfection and sacrifice his life for all of mankind.
Then as I would move on to The New Testament, I would read about how God Himself came to Earth in the form of man; bringing to life the ancient predictions of The Old Testament.
I would ultimately become fascinated by this Jesus fellow, eventually believing that He was the answer to my state of moral depravity. I would recognize that no matter how hard I tried to be good enough on my own, I would ultimately fail and never be “good enough.”
Humbled of my pride and eager to embrace this mysterious yet somehow practical savior, I would become a solid believer in this man from Galilee.
Even if He wasn’t God, who He claimed to be, I would still be so enamored by a man who has managed to lead so many millions of people astray by his false teachings within the past 2000 years, and who could cause people who didn’t believe in Him to still at least say he was a good teacher, despite Him being dead wrong or even lying to people that He was God.
And that’s how ultimately, I would have become a follower of Christ, simply by observing the nature of my son. That is the gospel according to Jack.
I would love to believe that I am not at all judgmental of other people; that I don’t think or act as if I am “better” than any other person in this world. Because to my conscious knowledge, I firmly am convinced that is the case. In fact, I don’t want the responsibility of having to judge others- even down to a performance review of a coworker. If it’s up to me, I just want to stay out of any situation where critiquing someone’s value and worth in society is left up to me.
But it’s obviously not that easy. To think I am so not judgmental is, if anything, conceited: I’m no exception to human nature. Saying that I am not judgmental is almost as much of a paradox as a person bragging about how humble they are.
If I knew I was shaking the hand of a convicted child molester who just got out of prison, despite believing that God’s grace and forgiveness is more powerful than any wrong a person can commit, and despite that because of God’s grace and forgiveness I myself have been forgiven of “much lesser” sins, there would still be something in my subconscious that would judge that man even though I wouldn’t want to.
The reason? Like everyone in this world, I have what’s called “judge of character,” which is a very important and necessary trait to live by.
In general, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but when my instincts warn me about a person, I follow them. And I need to instill those particular instincts in my son to serve as a guide in his decision-making processes throughout life.
What I don’t want to teach my son is to think, however, is that he is ever cooler, more physically attractive, richer, or simply “better” than any other kid.
So really, the question is this: What’s the difference between being judgmental and having a good judge of character?
I believe it has a lot to do with whether or not we generalize another person as “good” or “bad,” or if they are “better” or “worse” than we are, in an overall sense.
Recently, as I was pulling my car out out from where I work onto a road with a 35 mile per hour speed limit, I saw that there was another car coming. But based on my learned perception, I wouldn’t have slowed down the other driver at all; if they were going anywhere near the speed limit.
Turns out, the person in the other car was driving somewhere around 55 miles per hour and had to cross a double line to pass me to keep from running in to me. Then the driver did the same thing to the car which was in front of me, which was also going the speed limit. By the time this speedy driver passed that second car, they had to immediately stop; there was a red light.
Whether or not I said it out loud, I know I at least thought it: “What an idiot! This person is so stupid!”.
Right through the red light, just about one block away from where I pulled out from my employer’s parking lot is KinderCare, the exact place I was going to pick up my son. Interestingly enough, the speedy driver had pulled into KinderCare right before me. She got out of the car and walked in. I followed only feet behind, then stood there waiting on her so that I could “clock out” my son on the computer.
I think it was more awkward for her than it was for me, but she mustered up a hello along with a smile, as if her daredevil driving stunt hadn’t just happened.
This same “idiotic” and “stupid” person who had without a doubt put herself and others in some serious danger, only to be stopped by a red light and ultimately only beat me by 7 seconds to KinderCare, is also a wife and mother. The truth is, I’m sure her abilities to raise her child are nothing like her ridiculous driving habits. I’m sure she’s a very decent woman and a wonderful mother.
Yet I labeled her as a stupid and idiotic person, based on just one of her actions.
For a guy who doesn’t want to teach my son to be judgmental of others, I’m sure there are plenty of other examples where I negatively label a person overall because of only one thing I see. Who else do I think is a stupid idiot, and for what reasons am I superior in some minimal way?
I am not ashamed of my “judge of character,” but starting now, I am attempting to make a habit of not generalizing people as good or bad, based on a solitary trait. I want to make a conscious effort to refrain from calling people names; because after all, it’s pretty juvenile. If through my speech habits I teach my son to call other people names, then I want them to be good names.
If I want to set out to be less judgmental of others both consciously and subconsciouly, this is my starting point.
Granted, I’ll never be completely successful at this new “no name calling” campaign. But surely I can improve. I just need to be careful not to begin thinking that I am better than all the people who still call others names. (Insert laugh tracks here.)