It feels like yesterday when my firstborn would climb onto my lap to read a book. Well, I read. She turned pages–sometimes too quickly. One day, she brought me this book about a sad sheep. (I can’t remember why the sheep was sad.) I liked to do voices when I read (still do!), and I voiced the sheep as if he was horribly upset. After about three words, she turned around with a look of horror on her face and tears in her eyes. Before I could react, she burst into tears and pushed the book away. I’m not sure we ever read that book again.
The method of my delivery drowned out the message of the story.
Twelve years later…
Everybody said it was a good idea. The video starred a well-known teen You Tube personality. Thousands had shown it to their kids. The point, after all, was to shock the teenagers, to make an emphatic point because the problem was serious.
So we did it. We jumped on the bandwagon without thinking it through. Because people on social media said it was good.
We showed our teen and tween a video about internet predators.*
Before it was over, we heard this from our more-sensitive firstborn (the one who cried over the sheep story):
“Do you really think I would friend someone I didn’t know?”
tears of indignation
“Look how those parents are deceiving their children!”
tears of frustration, maybe outrage
“Look how angry that father is! He’s not showing love at all!”
stumbling out of the chair
“How could you do this to me?!?”
rushing from the room
We sat at the dining room table, stunned. We really, really thought it was a good idea. Obviously, we were wrong.
Wise people learn from their mistakes. Wiser people learn from other’s mistakes. I’m trying to be wise here, to hopefully make up for my previous lack of wisdom, and I’m hoping you’ll be wiser than me.
As I see it, we made two big mistakes.
- We didn’t preview the video.
When you present something to your children, you are endorsing that thing. It represents you. Know what message you’re giving. If we had watched the video, we would have seen that, despite the important message, the video didn’t fit our family values of respect and kindness.
- We didn’t think through the possible potential reactions our two very different children would have.
Know what message your children will receive. It may not be what’s intended. We had a good message that our kids needed to hear. But the method of our message drowned out the message itself.
Sometimes I am astounded by how different two individuals can be when they have the same parents (nature) and same upbringing (nurture). Long before our children hit double-digits in age, we knew their temperaments. But we failed to consider those temperaments–to anticipate reactions–before we sat them down in front of the computer.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. -Ephesians 6:4
So whether you’re reading, watching, or just talking, remember this: the way you present your message is as important as the message itself. That’s it. Please, learn from our mistake.
Care to share one of your parenting fails? Have you seen a method drown out an important message? What did you learn? We would all appreciate it if you would share your hard-won wisdom in the comments below.
*I didn’t include a link because, while the video did demonstrate some of the dangers of social media (i.e. internet predators), it also showed terrible examples of parenting. If you know what I’m talking about, consider it a “what not to do” for parenting.