Our Life on Christ

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Daughter Flipped Me the Bird: 3 Things I Learned About Christian Parenting

My five-year-old daughter, Truth, and I are in love with Wii’s Michael Jackson Experience! We don’t have a Wii but last night a friend let us borrow the Wii along with our beloved game. Everyone loves this game so our friend could not part with it for long and we were only able to borrow it over night. In what seemed to be just a few minutes (but was actually upward of two hours), we went head-to-head dancing to tunes ranging from “Dirty Diana” to “The Girl is Mine”—thirteen songs in total! Normally, we would have only danced to a few songs but since we only had it for one night, we had to make the most of our time! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about: you need to play this game! It is a great way to have fun as a whole family—AND it’s a great workout!

I’m usually not a very competitive person and I honestly don’t think I was being competitive last night—I was just doing the dances as I saw them being displayed on the screen. I kept winning, though. And maybe I was being a tad bit competitive but either way, by the end of our dance fest, Truth was not happy. We sat down to catch our breath and I turned away from her to grab Serenity, our 9-month-old. Behind me Truth said in a pouty voice, “Mommy, look.”

I turned around. She was gesturing the number three with her left hand while her right hand fumbled to reposition her left fingers. She bent the index finger then the middle so that she was holding up only her ring finger. She looked at her hand. Unpleased, she repositioned again. This time the ring finger went down and the dreaded middle finger popped up.

“Look,” she continued to pout, “that’s what I want to say to you!”

She was flipping me the bird.

I know I shouldn’t have but, I broke out in laughter! I couldn’t help it. The only thing I could do was tell Wil to look at her.

Wil wasn’t so amused.

“Where did you see that?!” he demanded.

“That movie that mommy watched that made her cry--the one with the remote.”

I knew that she meant “Click” with Adam Sandler. It’s a relatively innocent movie but there is a scene towards the end when he flicks off his ex-wife’s new husband. When she saw it she questioned, “What does that mean?” Not wanting to draw too much attention to it, I nonchalantly responded, “Oh it means he’s mad at the other guy.”

She didn’t make a big deal out of it at the time and I figured that if I nonchalantly answered, it wouldn’t stand out; I was hoping it would be something that she forgot about. That was over six months ago.

Last night when it was clear that she had not forgotten about what she had seen, she was trying to tell me that she was mad at me for beating her during our dance off. What if she wanted to express a similar feeling to one of her chums at Girl Scouts and decided to use such a gesture?! I think I would have some explaining to do to the Scout leaders!

When I stopped laughing after she waved her skinny little finger at me, Wil and I explained to her that in our culture the middle finger is really bad and that showing it to someone like she did to me is like saying a very bad word.

From this experience, not only was the fact that Truth is a sore loser reinforced (she never likes losing) but I learned three things about being a parent who is trying to follow God in every aspect of life (including parenting):

1. Be well-aware of what your children are watching, reading, listening to, etc:

Not to be cliché but, children are like sponges—they really do absorb things that are presented to them. Heck, I’m not a kid and things that I see, hear, and read penetrate my cerebral cortex and effect my actions more than I would like to openly admit. I saw The Orphan years ago (that movie about a psychotic orphan girl who kills her host family in an attempt to seduce her foster dad) and I still think the crazy little girl is going to lunge at me if I open a closet door in a dark room. Certain images, songs, words, and even gestures remain in our minds and, as far as I know, it’s impossible to remove them (if you know a way to select memories to delete, let me know)!

We have to be aware of what our children are exposed to as often as we possibly can. I used to think that I could just explain any precarious situations away and everything would be fine. It won’t be. I mean, the world won’t come to an end if your child hears a swear word or sees some especially inappropriate images but just know that your explanations won’t remove that memory.

If our goal is to raise children who know, fear, love, and follow God--ones who are living to please Him and tell others about Him--the environment in which they are raised is very important for shaping them; it can either reinforce our goal or contradict it.

During my teenage years, my dad was a bit concerned that I was being a bit too friendly with the neighborhood boys. He would always say, “You can’t un-ring a bell. Once you build a reputation for yourself, it’s there to stay.” Similar to my dad’s warnings, I am warning you as a parent: you can’t un-ring a bell. Once your children are exposed, you cannot undo that exposure.

Be careful.

As parents, God has called us to be the protective authorities over our children. Parenting is not an easy task and it requires consistent effort.

I would say that pre-screening movies, books, songs, etc—even though time consuming—are good ideas. I even advise pre-screening people. Right now, I am friends with all of my daughter’s friends’ parents but in the future, this may not be the case. Before she ever goes to someone’s house, I will be sure that I am comfortable with her friend’s parents and I urge you to do the same thing.

2. You may have to correct mistakes you made in the past:

I am not now nor will I ever be perfect (shh, don’t tell Wil—I think I have convinced him otherwise). I have made many, many mistakes in life, which includes my parenting. About a year ago, Wil and I let Truth watch the movie Soul Men with us. If you have seen this movie, you know that saying the movie should be renamed “Mother-Effing Soul Men” due to the number of times the F-bomb is dropped would not be a stretch.

Now when Truth asks to watch Soul Men and I tell her no, she points out that she was previously allowed to watch it and questions why things have changed. We have to tell her that sometimes moms and dads make mistakes and that there are many movies we should not have let her see. We use this as an opportunity to talk about the fact that none of us are perfect and that when we realize we are doing something wrong, we have to change it. We also talk about that we, as her parents, are under God’s authority and have to control what she experiences while she is growing up.

3. Be honest with your kids about the world:

In my attempt to shield my kids from the world, I have to be realistic and face the fact that they will be exposed to it. When they question me about things that they may see or hear, it would be downright dumb to lie to them or to gloss over the truth. I am not saying that I am going to give them all the nitty gritty details when they ask me about drugs, crime, teen pregnancy, or the like but I’m also not going to brush them off as if they won’t get an answer from someone else (they will).

I think the best thing to do is talk at your child’s level and, whenever the situation calls for it, just always explain that not everyone does what God wants them to do and that bad things happen as a result.

Being a parent is not easy but know this: even if (when) we mess up, God will still call our kids to him. Think about it this way: if we were perfect, they would never have a reason to seek God!

Have your kids done anything crazy that taught you a lesson about parenting? Share with us. Comment below!

No comments:

Post a Comment