Sunday, May 22, 2016

Raising a Compassionate Kid in an Uncompassionate World

...with a culture that sees "compassion" as a nothing more than meaningless political rhetoric
used to tell us about a quality the other guy doesn't have.

com·pas·sion
/kəmˈpaSHən/  noun
1. sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
2. a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.

We know politicians  as a rule lack COMPASSION. With all the enormous blessings their job gives them: money, power, fame... those we elect to be our nation's "leaders" or "servants" (depending on what rhetoric you want to employ) are so unabashedly nasty to each other and so brazenly ugly to the Americans who—heaven forbid—exercised their right to vote by voting for the opposing party, it's enough to make any reasonable person sick, political affiliation notwithstanding. What's worse still is that every mean, hateful, despicable, spiteful word of it is plastered all over morning, daytime, and primetime TV & radio, and is often repeated at our own dinner tables as we fall into the trap of routine slander and gossip because #1) they're not real people so who cares, and #2) all that nasty, mean, despicable, spiteful stuff is true, right? Right?? At least it's true about the other guy. ...right?

Mothers and fathers used sit around their supper table and tell their kids,
"You can be President if you work hard." 

...back when our Presidents were respected and you didn't have to be a multimillionaire to run for office. Now, mothers and fathers sit around their supper tables and bash either the President of the United States or the President's opposition, depending on their own party affiliation (which is a giant slap in the face to Romans 13 and the Eighth Commandment, btw). And "politician" now stands where "used car salesman" once stood: the epitome of insults and the butt of jokes, the prime example of liars, swindlers, and self-serving greedy frauds who should never be trusted. Are we truly so much better than they are?
So, it should come as no surprise when our children lack compassion.
"Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals."

A general lack of compassion isn't just the fault of our politicians' astounding lack of character and our own compassion-less slip-ups. Have you read what's being written and posted on social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Snapchat and Instagram? You should. As a blogger, I'm sorry to say that I have, and believe me: compassion is nowhere near the online community's radar. I have never, ever experienced such animosity and bone-chilling hate as I've experienced from people online. The anonymity of a screenname and the distance created by a keyboard bring out the worst in people, just like Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel The Invisible Man, which is about the detrimental deterioration of man's moral character when he no longer has to look himself in the eye. The same thing apparently happens to us when we no longer have to look others in the eye and see firsthand just how much "they" resemble "us."

In the same manner, there is no room for compassion in the current pop culture's version of entertainment and music. Have you seen the TV shows your kids watch regularly? Have you listened to the music they listen to every day on their way to school and while they're doing their homework? The media is jamming our kids' minds and hearts with thoughts of sex, power, money, popularity, image, the right clothes, the right hair, the right body, the right car, the right girl or the right boy who has the right body and the right clothes... until there isn't room for human compassion for people they like, much less for a God so full of compassion for people who hate Him "that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16b)

How can one have empathy for another if
one's own individuality: in other words, "one's own self"
is their highest priority?

And yet, the little kidsthose still outside internet, news and pop culture's blood circleseem to have it almost innately. Maybe it's part of that childlike humility Jesus talks about all of us needing in Matthew 18, or maybe they pick it of from us like a sponge if that's what we and their nothing-but-happy TV shows show them is normal, or maybe it's both. During a fictitious movie about the charming life of cartoon ants, my 2-year-old daughter shouted in outrage at the television screen when the mean grasshopper bullies stole food from the decent, hardworking ants. The next day, and even a week later, that same 2-year-old refused to step on an ant because she might hurt "him," not "it." This same 2-year-old cranes her neck to see the baby crying in church and begs me to let her go so she can give the upset baby one of her toys, something her 19-month-old friend taught her when she brought my daughter a teddy bear (without any prompting) when she was crying because she hurt her hand in gymnastics.

I could go on and on with endless eyewitness reports about how empathetic little kids are (when they aren't throwing tantrums about not getting Cheetos for their afternoon snack or something. Hey, nobody's perfect).
And then sometimes something changes.
But what?

How do kids become bullies anyway? Leslie Blanchard has an idea, and an idea how to stop it in its tracks. "It’s simply not enough to instruct your children to “Be Nice!” Blanchard writes. "You’ve got to be more specific than that. Kids think if they aren’t being outright unkind, they are being nice. We know better. Connect the ugly dots. Explain the Darwinistic social survival instinct that’s often motivating and guiding their impulses. I promise you, they can handle it. They already see it on some level anyway. They just need YOU to give it a voice and re-direction..."

The Ugly Online

Before Blanchard's article continues, I would like to give parents and children of all ages the following suggestions when it comes to children and teens using the internet to help 1) ensure that your child is not bullying anyone, 2) ensure that your child is not being bullied, 3) secure your child's emotional and physical safety 4) your child learn and use good judgment.

1. You are not "spying" on your child if you make that child fully aware of the information that youas their parent and most likely the patron of their technologiesare entitled to. Let them know that you will be watching what they are doing, seeing, and saying online, not because you don't trust them, but because you care about them, and bad company corrupts good morals and you don't trust everyone else. If your kid tries to complain about privacy, hand him or her a journal and a pen with a sincere promise that you will never, ever read what's written in it, and neither will anyone else because if privacy is what they want, nothing in the world is less private than the internet. People have lost careers because they dressed up as something offensive for Halloween and posted "selfies" on their Facebook page.

2. Make your kiddo aware that both you and God expect them to treat EVERYONE with kindness and respect both face to face AND online, and continually remind them WHY you expect this of them.
"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." (1 John 4:18-21)
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. […] And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. [...] But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great. […] Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (from Luke 6:27-37)
3. Remind your child often that once something has been posted online, it can never ever be totally erased NO MATTER WHAT and posts have ruined lives. Some posts have taken lives. (Click here to read Amanda Todd's Story: the Canadian teenager who committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied online over nude pictures she took of herself and shared with a man she thought was her friend). Here are some ideas to help get you started when it comes to parenting a kid online, but this list is by no means complete. For more information on internet safety, visit the Internet Safety page of Parenting.com or read "The Secret Life of Kids Online."

4. If your teenager wants a Facebook account or something similar, first make sure your child fits the age criteria (usually 13 years old). Then decide if your child is mature enough to handle a Facebook account in a responsible way. If you agree that your teen fits the bill, tell them that you are entitled to their password and to be "Friended" so that you can know who their "friends" are and see everything they post and everything that is being posted to them, including PMs (private messages). Make sure your teen understands that Facebook privileges can be revoked at any time in response to their behavior on and off the internet. It might be wise to draw up a simple contract for you and your teen to sign so that everyone is clear about the terms

5. If your teen wants a cellphone and you agree that he or she is responsible enough to have one, remind him or her that you are able to request a record of texts from the phone company at any time and can easily see WHAT he or she is texting, WHO they are texting, and what is being texted BACK to them. 
If your teen has a driver's license or learner's permit and a cell phone, please please PLEASE, for the sake of my child and your child and everyone's child, make sure he or she is painfully aware of the dangers of cell phone use—especially texting—while driving and start a ZERO-TOLERANCE POLICY.
Be very clear that a cell phone is a privilege and will be taken away indefinitely (along with driving, for that matter) as his or her behavior warrants. Here are a few links to anti-texting while driving ads everyone with a license and cellphone should watch, regardless of their age:



6. If your teen wants to play a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), stipulate that the game must be played on the family computer with the speakers on (no headphones) so that anyone nearby can hear and see what's happening and what's being said. Read about the game and pay close attention to the game's ESRB Rating (Entertainment Software Rating Board). This will tell you what the game's violence, sexual, and language content is as well as what age the game is approved for. This all might seem a bit extreme for a silly game, but the brutal bullying and highly sexualized conversations that take place in these silly games are equally extreme, if not more so, especially when it comes to female players.

Remember: anyone can lie about their age and intentions online.

7. Your teen's cell phone and laptop should stay in a designated spot (not your child's bedroom, but someplace out in the open, like the kitchen counter or a hall table) to charge overnight beginning at the hour you and your spouse designate. If your teen uses their phone for their alarm clock, a real alarm clock can be purchased for under $10 at your local Walmart. Teenagers do no need to sleep with their phones or computers, and sleep experts agree (see "No Screen Time Before Bed").

8. Learn the lingo: see Chat Acronyms & Text Shorthand

9. Most importantly, BE A GOOD EXAMPLE. Be the person you want your kid to be. Just like when they were 2 years old, our teens and tweens pick up what we do like a sponge. If you disagree with a politician, a law, a tax, or any kind of authority, do so respectfully and pray for both patience and change in the government and that politician's mind with your child. If you don't like a coworker or an ex-spouse or something a friend did, do not badmouth them in front of your child (especially if the ex is your child's parent!) or anywhere at all, for that matter. Keep the Eighth Commandment and pray for them in earnest:
Not a nasty They-are-so-rotten-that-I-have-to-pray-God-will-save-their-soul-before-they-go-to-hell-see-how-much-better-I-am-than-they-are non-prayer. God does not condone non-prayers because non-prayers mean you need to be praying for God to save your soul. See Luke 18:9-14 for Jesus' example of a non-prayer.
Honestly pray for God to help you come to an understanding with this person and to give you the ability to treat them with kindness and mercy despite their actions, and ask God to help this person see how they have hurt you and to help them change their ways. Ask your child to please pray with you and for you! You don't have to give them the details of the event or the person's name, but if they see you praying for someone who has hurt you, it will have a profound effect on how they respond when someone hurts them. So, when your child comes home from school and one of his or her friends has done something hurtful to him or her, read Luke 6:27-37 with your child and pray together before discussing how to address the situation.
Here is the rest of Leslie Blanchard's article on raising the bully out of your baby: