In this “it is all about me” world of texting and social media, children can know way too much for their own good. More importantly, they are easily conditioned to keep the parent out of the equation when they are searching for answers and they risk becoming lost in the faulty-thinking of peer communities that frankly do not respect the individual.
“Group think”, (you have to think like me in order to belong mentality) dominates the discourse; it is peer pressure on steroids. Group think happens when we do not think for ourselves as liberated individuals; we leave God out of the equation, just like parents are left out of the equation.
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: And with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7
If children can “google” anything they want to know, what is a parent to do?
Chances are your child has been exposed to more than you realize. Whether it is in the form of images (sex and porn) that have not been put into proper context, or becoming engaged in risky activities, from consuming alcohol with friends after school, to engaging in conversation with a predator that started when he posed as a peer on-line, or living in an state of anxiety from harassment, children today are for certain more “worldly” than children of generations past.
Think about the content in the “Grant Theft Auto” video game, and you will come up with a pretty good check list.
I share these risks not to invoke fear, but rather to inspire a certain resolve for parents to assert genuine authority, God’s love, which empowers children to be discerning and liberated in this high pressured environment to lower standards for personal security.
Sometimes we need to “stand alone” from the crowd because we know just enough to be discerning about how individual liberty is compromised. This is where your home and a relationship with you offer sanctuary for your child.
What children need to appreciate is that learning and the wise acquisition and application of knowledge is a life long process. You can never “know it all” at any time for any circumstance.
Choose your counsel wisely.
Step 1: Acknowledge that children do know a lot of things and explain the value and source of wisdom.
First, be clear about your child’s relationship with God. It is the model for individual liberty of the American republic. God is sovereign and grants us free will. We give up limited power to government to protect this civil liberty.
- A = God’s authority
- a = free will of man
- Aa = empowered liberty of the individual
(For more about this model of genuine authority in the parent-child relationship go to: The Authority In Me).
Encourage your child to pray about matters when he is feeling stressed or needs guidance. Offer to pray with him. Prayer empowers us to conquer worry and to receive enlightenment about what to do with new information, a problem or quandary because the ultimate source of Wisdom comes from our Creator.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7
Next, reposition the parent in the equation in the search for answers and how to apply knowledge correctly. In this way, you can begin to train your child to choose counsel wisely.
My friend Peggy Harper Lee is a Rocklin mom and author of Spoiled: Fresh Ideas for Parenting the Entitled Child at Any Age. Recently we were chatting about parenting kids who know too much. She offered a great way to start a conversation with a 10-year-old child who “knows it all” – which can be adapted for any age.
Dialogue to explain your position as parent with authority about knowledge.
- Child: You don’t know anything about this video game. Why can’t you just let me play with my friends? Everyone is doing it.
- Parent: Son, let me ask you something. I need to know what you think about this.
- Child: Okay.
- Parent: Do you know more than you did in kindergarten?
- Child: Yes. Who doesn’t? That is a silly question.
- Parent: Okay. I know it seems like a silly question. But follow me, okay?
- Child: Okay.
- Parent: Do you think you will know more than you do now when you are 16 years old?
- Child: Well….yeah.
- Parent: Why is that? What will happen to give you more knowledge? What kinds of things will you know then, that you don’t know now.
- Child: Well, I suppose there will be school work that I don’t know about today that I will be able to do then. Probably will learn more about girls. Oh! And I will know how to drive a car!
- Parent: So how will you acquire this knowledge?
- Child: What do you mean?
- Parent: I mean, how do you get to know what is involved in driving a car? Or making friendships with girls, or accomplishing sophomore math and English?
- Child: Hm…well I am not sure what you mean.
- Parent: What I am getting at is that knowing about something isn’t the same thing as experiencing it, and using good judgment with the knowledge. This is called wisdom. It comes with experience.
- Child: Hm…
So in the conversation above you have given your child something to think about. Let her think about it. Don’t command compliance. Rather allow her to embrace this concept that knowledge and wisdom are two different things that can affect her quality of life. Ultimately she has to choose the wise and correct course. More importantly, the idea here is to help your child come around to the correct logic that parents are sources of wisdom, and wisdom is not found via search engines or a peer community. Offer to compare notes with your child about various issues and topics because you have life experience and her best interest at heart.
By the same token, as a parent, you also have an obligation to set up natural consequences in your home for your children to experience when they make unwise choices. So while you may not be saying “because I said so” as much as your parents, or your grand parents did, you can rule with firm boundaries that are authentic and allow your child to come to the natural conclusion for honoring the protective cover of your guidance. (For more on the topic of bonding around house rules, go to: The Authority In Me).
(Note: This concept of choosing counsel wisely is important for a productive work life as well. Kids who come into the workplace “knowing it all” do not make good employees or team players.)
Step 2: Explain how what you do with knowledge matters. What are the pitfalls?
Just because you know how to drive a car doesn’t mean that you have all you need to know about driving safely. This is why when you are training for driving, you must learn about the traffic laws and also, the importance of being courteous to others. It is for the safety of everyone involved. The traffic laws and driver training includes knowledge that comes from wisdom of life experience to save lives.
So you can ask a question such as, “What would happen if people didn’t understand that red means stop and green means go when they are driving a car?”
And so it is with the Internet.
It is possible for your child to know too much, and yet it is not enough because he lacks wisdom about how to use that knowledge, or to understand whether that knowledge will be helpful or hurtful to use.
An example is “googling” medical information to decide treatment. Some kids are self medicating to treat anxiety with Xanax or other medications such as Adderall or Ritalin to help them focus for tests, etc. It is easy to purchase on any school campus. This is an example where a child has just enough knowledge to do harm without the guidance of a doctor.
Another example is that curiosity about sex and sexuality can lead to exposure to pornographic images which can become addictive.
So knowing how to use a tool, a product or a connection and using it wisely are two different things.
3. Authenticate what you think you know before you act on it
Another benefit of conditioning your child to seek you out for wise counsel is that you can train her to authenticate information and knowledge. This is a life skill. Children need to authenticate what they think they know by sourcing and identifying context of the facts and “how to’s” they are presented, so she can think for herself, and not be one of the crowd going along to get along.
Discernment helps your child to exercise free will in a responsible way.
Most kids don’t want to be duped. If you help them understand how to avoid being tricked or manipulated into believing something that isn’t true, well, this is empowerment.
They will be drawn to you to learn more about it.
So authentication involves asking questions:
- What is the source?
- What is the context of a statement or finding?
- What are the other points of view?
If a fact is presented do not assume it is true. Facts are not necessarily truth.
Fact: A sugar cereal is fortified with essential vitamins and tastes good.
Truth: This does not mean the cereal is nutritious or should be considered a part of a daily diet. Who is making these nutritional claims? Look at all the ingredients and understand how they also influence your health (sugar and hydrogenated oils, etc.). Other things taste good that are nutritious, such as fruit.
Fact: Getting into a good college is a huge influence for your future and career.
Truth: You are not a statistic. The career choices are not only connected to a degree from a certain college. What matters most is your own sense of purpose, discipline, and commitment to apply yourself to pursue your personal goals. Also ask if this school is actually preparing students for the changing job market? Inquire about the employment rates of graduates. (Check out What Color Is Your Parachute? 2013: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers and Setting realistic college and career goals).
Final cautionary note
Be careful of a desire to override your child’s decisions as they grow and mature. Your genuine authority is limited to protective cover – it is a safety thing. That is why it is wise for parents to pray about how to advise our children.
For more about genuine authority and how to establish authentic boundaries concerning free will and God’s love between a parent and child, go to The Authority In Me, Chapters 7, 8 and 9.
Joanna Jullien is an author and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, a contributor for Three Moms and a Mike, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM, Tuesdays.
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