This is part three of a three-part series on basics of protecting our children, our students, mentees, and loved ones physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. All of those realms are connected. They all matter. All of these fronts require strategies: We need to protect them against the world, their own sin and character flaws, and finally, the ways of the world. So I recommend you catch up on Part 1 and Part 2, then come back to this one.
Sources of strength against the way of the world
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Use the Bible, the many writings on the Enneagram, go to counseling, use the Many Roles Matrix, ask for feedback... but please pick some combination of at least one of these and get insight on who you are (identity) as compared how you show up in the world (personality, habits, attitudes, beliefs, actions). We need to know ourselves, good, bad, and most importantly, the ugly. If we are to truly protect our children we should inform them of their effect on others, model reflectiveness, and offer our kids a spiritual, wholehearted way forward. Our children will be stronger long term if they are humble and honest with themselves. Our role is to offer a non-subjective, clear picture of good and evil, and help them to understand and accept there is no amount of effort we can muster to produce a perfect life, especially with the world operating the way it does. But... And this is a biggie, we can absolutely rally to investigate and pursue wisdom,
as personified in Jesus (via Bible),
as personified in ourselves and our design (The Bible and the Enneagram writings and podcasts I've read are very insightful in this regard),
as found in writings that align with truth, goodness, and beauty (too many to name)
as found in our lives and experiences (we have so much to reflect on, but the way of the world runs direct interference on this)
as found in the quality of the impact that we have had (or are currently having) on others. This leads us to the power of feedback.
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As Kim Scott writes in Radical Candor, you can measure feedback in terms of two factors: care and challenge to improve in a given area. If we are to protect our children, we must teach them to take in feedback and process both the message and the messenger. Our children must learn to take challenging feedback from those of us who care: their parents, mentors, grandparents, and ministers. Without this preparation and experience taking feedback, they will be overwhelmed by aggressive bosses, or duped by manipulative ones.
A growth-minded person will seek out feedback on their impact on others, not just receive feedback when it falls in their lap. Feedback with those with whom we work, live, or worship can give us great protection against the world. If our children see us in community and hear us talk about feedback we've received around the dinner table, it is normal. This protects them from a consumerist mindset that cries out to do the minimum to get the maximum. We must normalize giving and receiving feedback if we are to fight back the "easy everywhere" ethos of the world.
3. Present parents provide a safe place
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As we move from feedback, one more word here: Parents, if they live well, are the best people to give caring and challenging feedback. At any age. We know our children best, and we want them to succeed most. Feedback can't just be orders, it must be based on our family motto, and values. My family's motto is: Help, Teach, Protect. When I give feedback it is in one of those three areas. We as parents prepare (or hurry up and get prepared!) and we offer our convictions to our children in feedback. Those moments of feedback are informed by what we received from our mentors, parents and our faith, combined with our reflections on those experiences. The safety we provide is in being present--not controlling, not talking too much nor asking too many questions, not being too needy of our children to obey or to "be normal", and definitely not wishing they weren't so different or difficult. And certainly we don't want to dismiss their need for safety with our need to get the correction or feedback over with so we can get back to work or get more chores done. I suppose that most parents are not yelling too much, nor too easy on their kids; They are likely too dismissive and absent rather than present and engaged. We must engage our own stories even as we try to respond with more engagement and care to our children's stories. This is true if our children are two or twenty-two... or forty-two.
Finally, the good news is that the only way to mess this safety concept up is to be distracted. When offering correction or feedback, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. No devices. Send other siblings away. Don't rush. Just be with that child. And, ironically, this focus and time spent will save you lots of time later. Our children will not remember the words but they will remember how it felt to experience our concern and care, as we challenge them with deep presence. This is not about a certain method or action, but rather a mindset, heart focus, and intention to pay our strength forward.
4. Developing a conscience
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All the work we do as parents, teachers, mentors, and leaders is to develop and produce people that have a conscience and work hard to promote goodness, truth, and beauty. Our sense of right and wrong comes directly from what our parents taught us, what they said and didn't say, and what they reacted to with admiration and with disgust. All that we experienced in our meaningful relationships formed and influenced our conscience. It is continuing even now. We toil to fight the way of the world and minimize it's impact on those we love and care for. We struggle to help our children interpret and resist the world. This is ultimate protection--to teach them what is happening (situational awareness), and to prepare them to employ proven strategies to fight the ways of the world that would have them violate their conscience. We should do this work from a reflective posture, and a desire to know God and be known by God. I offer you this: If we teach them the way they should go, they will not depart from it when they grow up. We teach our loved ones, children, mentees, and direct reports conscience with the way we live.
The way involves reflection, inner work, silence, solitude, and stillness. It also involves intentional action battling the world, replacing our personality with a fully integrated identity, and fighting our Enemy with resistance. We protect those we love when we reflect on then act upon what our children need to be who they are, not who the Enemy tempts them to be, nor who their personality says they are, and by offering them a counternarrative to what the world tells them. Self-knowledge, Feedback, Presence, and Developing a conscience are critical steps to protect our children's integrity. These four foci can be applied to our children's physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual lives.