One of the things I have truly come to appreciate about my faith in Jesus Christ is that His ministry and commands center on the thought leadership of God’s love which advocates respect for the relationship between God and the individual.
Jesus teaches us that God’s love, the supreme force (1 Corinthians 13), is not manipulative or controlling. Rather it respects individual will and endures all things to this end.
This is the authority model of the founding of the American republic.
I am an American born in 1960, raised in Oakland, California, in the Catholic faith and educated at U.C. Berkeley in behavioral sciences. After 30 years of raising two sons in the Sacramento area as a mom who worked outside the home and went full time domestic when the Internet and the mobile phone hit the home front, I have found God’s love to be a resource of emotional intelligence that informs my faith and empowers me with peace of mind in order to confront the lies hyped in the network.
Group think and the bully culture
In this regard, one of the most dangerous things our children confront is “group think” which says that in order to be “loved” or accepted or secure, you have to think like me or us. With “group think” you are not thinking for yourself. There is no critical thinking or dissent. It is a “go along in order to get along” mentality.
It is a form of bullying – which is fear-based thinking.
Group think is hostile to wisdom, and is hyped in the network as the lies of popular culture that tell us we must surrender our own authority to:
- Commune with our Creator and know our own inherent worth
- Think independently or creatively
- And collaborate with different points of view to resolve a controversial problem and deal with a challenging circumstance.
It is through collaboration among individuals thinking for themselves that higher learning happens.
Network pressure, fear-based thinking and emotional intelligence
In the network, there is so much stimulation that it is easy to be manipulated by emotional reactions to all the sound bites and images. We live in a network culture that promotes narcissism. It’s all about me, my profile, my preferences, my network – and instant gratification. Worse yet, the definition of “me” is surreal; a version of a composite of a fashion of a person. The latest “It” boy or girl.
My faith provides me a basis for emotional intelligence essential to be happy and functional. My faith requires me to patrol my thoughts, and not allow the emotional reaction to circumstances to take over and drive my decisions.
One of the most important things we can do as parents is not be fearful when dealing with our children’s circumstances. If your child gets into trouble, the most important thing to do is not freak out, so they can have an opportunity to relate to you about it and seek your wise counsel. We first must be able to help our children know they are forgiven, and their poor or risky choices will have consequences which they can endure, and they can stand corrected.
1 John 5: 18 – There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteh our fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
When we are fearful, we are doing the following things that hinder our children’s ability to become confident and self governing:
- Helicopter parenting – taking action to control the outcomes for your child’s social and academic experiences
- Doing their homework
- Checking constantly about their grades
- Making social arrangements
- Making excuses for poor behavior
The lesson our children learn when we are fearful in relating to them is that you do not have confidence in them, and/or that it is okay to be manipulative and controlling of people and situations when our intentions are “good”.
Emotional intelligence and peace of mind
In this regard, parenting with peace of mind requires embracing the authority of God’s love, as described below:
- Honor the boundary of free will by first modeling independent, respective thought leadership (this means we accept we do not expect to control the outcomes of our children’s lives)
- Provide instruction about expectations for civil conduct (we are God’s stewards of their souls, not drivers of their lives)
- Establish house rules that respect the individual and promote the greater good of the group
- Implement meaningful consequences for good and poor choices
Below is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of my book about the authentic authority in the parent-child relationship, The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture – A parent’s Voice in the Cyber Wilderness (just released on Kindle).
My Happy Child, My Happiness
Most of us want our children to be happy – which is a challenge for parents today because “happiness” is something our children have to determine for themselves, based upon the strength of their character. I would also argue that “happiness” is more difficult to determine in the network culture that seeks to define happiness in ways that are not genuine.
A satisfied customer does not happiness make.
Happiness is a choice; and ultimately it’s a matter of character. Yet we live in a consumer network culture that says: “You are the customer, let me make you happy.” This is the message from the purveyors of prescription drugs, toys, makeup, and clothes – as if you cannot be happy without their products, chemicals, ideas, and images.
You are not enough. You lack the genuine authority to be happy.
Contrary to popular belief, the ability to be happy is actually all about perspective and it requires accepting disappointment and challenging circumstances with grace. People can decide how they want to respond to circumstances and when we tie circumstances to our emotional state, we put ourselves on an emotional roller coaster.
In her book, The Secret to True Happiness: Enjoy Today and Embrace Tomorrow, (2008), Joyce Meyer addresses some of the fundamental Biblical wisdom that sustained the founding of the United States. She quotes Martha Washington, the wife of America’s first president: “The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstances.”
This quote gives me pause to consider this simple thought.
Happiness is within.
It is not something that happens to us, although we can be affected by what is happening around us, it still remains a matter of perspective.
“Many people allow circumstances to determine their attitudes. If their circumstances are favorable, they look at life through a positive lens. If their circumstances are negative, they see every situation from a negative point of view. We must be more mature than that; we must develop a positive outlook on life, no matter what happens. We need to be positive when the car breaks down or when we need a root canal, as we are when we receive a raise or promotion. We cannot wait until circumstances change to decide to adjust our attitudes. We need to be stable and consistent in our upbeat approach toward every situation.” (p.186)
This is the essence of character, which can be developed through emotional intelligence, and can be taught to our children.
In his book, Emotional Intelligence (1994, Bantam Books), Daniel Goleman urges parents to help children overcome challenging circumstances by coaching their children to problem-solve, be present in their lives, and encourage kids to be aware of their feelings, but not ruled by them. At the time when this book was written, Goleman presents data from a massive survey of parents and teachers showing a worldwide trend for the present generation of children to be more troubled emotionally than the last: more lonely and depressed, more angry and unruly, more nervous and prone to worry, more impulsive and aggressive,” (p.xiii). Goleman observes that the quality of our children’s lives is suffering increasingly from emotional malaise.
Since publication of his book, we have witnessed this trend intensify with sensational news reports of school shootings, and road rage. And who can forget the hockey dad, Thomas Junta (Reading, Mass.), who became so angry over how his son’s hockey practice was going, he struck and killed the hockey coach in a fit of rage?
While Goleman’s book delves into the biological make up of the brain which accounts for how emotion can physiologically “override” capacity to reason, his message is so relevant for parents today as it carries with it the hope and optimism of each new generation.
Emotional intelligence is learned behavior.
Goleman makes a case for cultivating in our children the ability to use emotion intelligently in order to do well in life. Goleman posits that intellect (IQ) cannot work at it’s best without emotional intelligence (p.28), and he defines emotional intelligence as self-control, zeal and persistence, empathy, and the ability to motivate oneself. (pp.xi-xiv) These are skills he advocates can be taught to children so they will have a better chance to apply their intellectual potential.
Unchecked the network pressure encourages the opposite.
Parents Catering to Children’s “Success”
“…the more online friends they have, the bigger the target on their back” – Lori Getz
If in our attempt to pursue happiness on behalf of our children, if we are constantly arranging for their successes, and shielding them from failure, then when finally our children are tested by the challenges and failures of adult life, they may not withstand the pressure well.
Emotional intelligence is essential to be happy and functional. There is so much stimulation that it is easy to be manipulated by emotional reactions to all the sound bites and images.
The network culture challenges emotional intelligence because so much of what is featured, discussed, hyped is not really important but nevertheless can appear real. Unlike the broadcast media, the network culture aims these messages 24 hours a day, seven days a week via many platforms (mobile, laptop, desk top). The ‘Net’ delivers circumstances constantly shifting that can define us if we allow it. The images and beliefs are broadcast on YouTube, presented in social media, and reverberated in texting “friend” communities.
So it is important that in guiding our children in their use of Internet-powered tools like social media and texting, they learn the fundamentals of personal security and the truth that life is not really a popularity contest. We need to help our children define success in ways that are authentic and meaningful – like the quality of their relationships off-line.