Two bits of news this week shoved this topic my way: 1. a 6-year-old child shot his school teacher with a gun he brought from home, purchased by his mom. 2. 80% of kids ages 12 and under see porn several times a week on their devices.
What are we doing with–and to–our children?
As parents, we have the responsibility of raising, nurturing, teaching, and caring for our children. If we are not willing to do this, we should not have them. It is a parent’s job to keep them safe, well-grounded, and to show them how to think intelligently. Furthermore, it is our obligation to offer them principles and values by which to live. We want them to contribute to society, to use their specific talents and abilities to enrich the world in which they live as well as themselves. We want our children to be discerning thinkers, morally guided by good, free of wrongful, harmful influences.
This is not an easy task. No one said it is easy to be a parent. A lot of essential and good things are not easy, but very worthwhile. Good parenting is one of them.
Naturally as parents we love our children. We want them to feel loved, to cherish love, to know what love really is, and to express it themselves. Pornography has nothing to do with love and when it pops up on a child’s screen he needs to know that and decline it.
One of the many ways we love our children is to give them our time and attention, to genuinely enjoy being with them. We gleefully, gratefully, anticipated their births and were thrilled when they arrived. Playing with a toddler is a delight. It should be no less a delight to play with a teen, to share interests, sports, activities, ideas, discoveries, experiences, travel. Discussions with our kids at all ages–especially when we exercise our ability to listen during those discussions—make a crucial difference. Our children are ours and whatever challenges they present (and there will be plenty) we can meet them and grow together. As I’m sure many parents agree, I’ve found that children–both mine and those I’ve taught–have taught me as much or more than I’ve taught them!
Today there are distractions that tug at both parents and children in separate ways, dividing our innate togetherness. Parents have jobs, careers, duties, amusements, diversions, and internet dictating their time. Children’s activities, too, schedule up their limited non-school hours with practices of all sorts, along with the increasing lure of technology and social media. Children ages 8 through 12 spend an average of 4 to 6 hours of screen time each day (porn included, whether sought or thrown at them). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to no more than 1 or 2 hours a day. The Mayo Clinic lists children’s health issues caused by screen time that include the following: violence, behavioral problems (shooting a teacher might be included here), impaired academics, obesity, irregular sleep, and less play time (“play” being how a child learns, grows, and socializes). Monitoring and discussing use of a child’s electronics is a parent’s imperative duty. Yes, a parent is filled up full. But he or she cannot neglect what’s of primal importance: raising their child with thoughtful attention.
This includes what you allow kids to take in. Don’t relegate them to screens or immature poor choices while you are side-tracked from consummate parenting by your own pleasures, indulgences or busy-ness. Scan Netflix or any other film provider–how many super-dark, depressing, violent, demented themes dominate! Do kids need this? Do you? Books, walks, talks, games, music, growing a garden–a hundred other things–might be better substitutes.
You had these kids because you wanted them, loved what they could become, what they could bring to this world. It is a fine line a parent must walk as their kids grow up: letting their kids go, allowing them freedom to find themselves, to discover their own particular paths, yet at the same time holding them close in heart. But if all along you’ve joyfully given them your best guidance and time, in return they shower you with an abundance of what matters most in this life.
Artwork: Fishing for Lollipops and Rainbows, framed mixed-media collage, 11″ x 13″, $175. One of two pieces I created recently upon finding my daughter’s decades-old handmade paper people. It came to me to fit them into collages with childhood themes. The companion piece to this one is shown on No. 92, Getting Off the Merri-Go-Round.