“When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it’s a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity.” Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy sharing this quote would cause someone to think she had stood at the foot of every mother’s bed after she had delivered each of her children.
Wherever a parent is first personally introduced to their child, the thought of all the potential this precious gift offers, is absolutely overwhelming. At times, it is unquestionably the heaviest burden placed on the heart of a parent.
Parenting is such an enormous task. As parents, we recognize the obvious things which a child must learn to survive life. The arduous lessons in children feeding themselves, using the bathroom and dressing themselves are sometimes overwhelming. That is until it is time to teach them how to drive!
One dynamic area of parental teaching is based in the essence of what we believe and what our children will grow to believe.
In previous generations, religious and political beliefs of families were passed from generation to generation, with little or no resistance. The spiritual belief of the family was passed along, based on tradition, sometimes rather than heartfelt contemplation of each person. Even if a child didn’t agree with the traditional family belief, it maintained a semblance of obedience, to maintain familial harmony. This also translated to family political beliefs.
If the patriarchs of the family were conservative, so were the offspring. The same behavior also occurred in liberal families. As society has aged, descendants have developed courage to renounce the family political beliefs. For some, this has been liberating, but for others, it has been tragic.
Politics and religion are the two topics deemed taboo by previous generations to discuss in public. As a result of that encouragement, wisdom from past generations has been denied today’s youth.
There is certainly a need for all individuals to learn, develop and defend a belief system, both politically and religiously, on their own. However, with today’s youth, we are allowing these belief systems to be developed in a social networking environment, sometimes based on nameless and faceless individual’s beliefs and ideas.
Because of our strong desire to allow young people, even our own children, to develop their own ideas and opinions, we are retracting ourselves too far from our children’s sphere of influence.
There is a tipping point, where our avoidance of political and religious influence in our children’s life, becomes dangerous. When we require our children, whether pre-teen, teenage or young adult, to find, investigate and adopt beliefs in these areas, without our influence, we are endangering not only our child’s future, but the future of our country.
When we sit and spend time discussing current events in religion and politics, as well as the history which has lead us to this point, with our children, we are investing in everyone’s future.
To allow teachers, social media and journalists, who are espousing an almost propaganda philosophy, to be the strongest voices in our children’s life, we are abdicating our responsibility as parents.
Open and detailed conversations with our teenage children are a daily occurrence in our home. Our family has been blessed to have those opportunities. I know there are some families where daily conversations aren’t possible, but weekly ones are probably doable.
In a recent conversation with our son, seven elements of “life participation” emerged. These elements are keys to helping our children, no matter what their age; develop a belief system, which will not only benefit their life but also the lives of those around them.
- Study history – In doing this, a person will learn what leaders have done, that was successful and beneficial to their country. A person will also learn what was a failure and brought the demise of countries.
- Study literature – Through the study of literature, a person will learn, understand and discuss the philosophies which have greatly influenced leaders throughout history and today. These are the concepts, good and bad, which create political and religious culture.
- Influence – Through discussion people create and develop ideas. In most cases, when we discuss ideas, philosophies and theologies, we make decisions on major topics. Our conversations with others, are always an influential opportunity.
- Lead – Leading is different than influence. Leading is being the example of a belief or idea. It is acting out that belief or idea, in the hope of creating a positive effect.
- Get involved in the process – Don’t be afraid to write letters, read about candidates, and engage in sometimes intense and philosophical or theological developing discussions. Just because you discuss an idea, concept or belief with someone, doesn’t mean you have to agree or adopt that philosophy or way of life. You will, however, be better educated in what is happening around you.
- Be spiritual – It is obvious that a spiritual drive comes from a deeper place in our heart. Our family’s spirituality is deeply rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible. As parents, my husband and I entertain all types of questions from our children. It would be a lie to say we aren’t prayerful our children will stay in the teachings of God. We also know, for them to stay, they must be allowed to ask questions and find their beliefs on their own. When spiritual beliefs are found, there is a sense of fulfillment and wholeness which is achieved. This type of knowledge and fulfillment assures us, we are not the center of the universe.
- Commit – Decide what you believe and commit to it. Each day do something to move your beliefs forward. If we commit to a belief and never deepen our stand in it, our roots will begin to grow weak and we will be at risk of falling prey to the turbulent winds of despair and confusion.
All of us who are parents realize what Rose Kennedy was saying. It should be our joyful burden, and responsibility to mold our children into adults. Never delegate that opportunity!!