Teachable Moments & Conversations 

This one certainly hits close to home. This morning, Ashley and I learned through social media that there was an “active shooter” on the Ohio State University campus. It is hopefully all over now with 10 in the hospital and the perpetrator dead. I have a few cousins who attend the University and live on campus, and we live just a five minute drive away.

Whenever something like this comes up in the news our lives seem to stop. As a community we collectively hold our breath for all the families involved; we hope and we pray that everything will end up alright – that, just like a good superhero movie, the good guys win and the bad guys get caught. Usually we get our bittersweet ending and move on with our lives. Many break down the event and decide to take action – whether it be a campaign donation, a letter to congress, organizing or participating in a protest, taking it to the voting booth, or even something just as simple as a couple rants on Facebook – many of us are moved to do something. But, what are we supposed to do?

After every one of these (it’s a shame I can say that) Ashley and I always have the same conversation – what can we do to stop this? Truth is: nothing. There is absolutely nothing we can do, political or otherwise, to stop crazy people from doing terrible things to the world. That’s just the fact of the matter.

Of course, voting etc. can help to move some of our ideals forward and hopefully make the world a better place. We have 3 kids and jobs that we can’t miss so, yeah – the protest thing doesn’t quite work out for us. I regularly write to congress and I think Ashley pretty well takes care of the ranting on Facebook. But, in the end it all just feels like a coping mechanism. Because, three months later – there’s another tragic situation in another American small town and there we are again having the exact same conversation.

So, again, it comes back to: what are we supposed to do? How do we keep our kids safe in this free world of crazy people – killers, rapists, kidnappers?

Censor the News Feed

About a year ago, Ashley and I went through our Facebook and Twitter accounts and hacked away many of the news sites and blogs that we follow that publicize and exacerbate some of these horrible stories. While I am not taking a political stance on guns and gun violence, I will say that there are enough studies out there to empirically prove that these instances of violence are not as widespread as the media would like it to seem. In fact, violence in America has broadly been on the decline since the mid-1990s. These super-small samples of American society get blown way out of proportion by this opportunistic 24-hour news machine that permiates our lives.

Why is this important? It is important to be informednot ignorant. Ignorance comes not only from the lack of information, but from the excess of bad information. We went through our feeds and were skeptical, scrutinizing – if we found an excess of these hyperbolic stories, we cut it out. As parents and responsible citizens, we want to remain well-informed of the world around us so we kept many of the local and national news sites in the loop, but disengaged from many of the fear-mongering blogs and commentary.

Be a Good Parent

Holy Toledo – do we really want to open up this can of worms? We sure do.

At its core, especially in this context, Ashley and I have agreed that being a good parent in this day-and-age requires us to be engaged and involved with our children. Make sacrifices in other areas of our lives so that we can have good, thought-provoking conversations with our children daily. Having a consistent sit-down dinnertime every night is a good way to do this. Maybe breakfast works better for you. Maybe you sit down and do homework together. Altogether, you need to be up their butt. About everything. If your career doesn’t allow for this, you have to change your career – and quick. Don’t just ask them to do their homework – ask them to see it. Have them open up their planner. What projects are due at the end of the week? What’s your progress? What are you committed to doing tonight? Don’t just let them spend the night at a friend’s house – call the parent. Verify that your child is telling the truth. Call again at 10pm. Call again at midnight. Enable location services on their phones, watches, and other devices. Know where they are at all times and question them when they aren’t where they said they would be. Open up their diaries and stalk their social media posts. When they say something about sex? Don’t yell at them. Have a conversation. Tell them what sex actually means. Tell them the pitfalls of unprotected sex and some of the joys of being a good sexual partner. Be open and honest about it. When they say something about drugs? Don’t yell at them. Again, have a conversation. Share with them your own experiences and what went well and what didn’t. There is a drug epidemic in our country – share that with them. Let them know that good people get addicted to hard drugs and end up stealing, cheating, killing. Let them know what it means when a heroin addict gets pregnant and tries to raise that child. Let them know what that child turns into.

Our children aren’t quite at the homework-doing, drug-using, or sex-having age yet – so what do we do right now to keep our kids safe? Ashley and I talk about this regularly. And, we’re on the same page. This is important – you and your co-parent must be on the same page about your involvement with your children. You must both be fully committed to engaging your children at a very thorough level on a daily basis, and you must encourage your support system to be doing the same. We have committed to having a 1-income household until our children are in full-time school. While this may not be the way for everybody, this is how we are accomplishing total engagement at this age. Our kids are growing up with the enrichment and love for animals at the zoo, science at COSI and Imagination Station, and sports at local baseball, hockey, and OSU football games. They go to the park and interact with their peers daily. They are all enrolled in some sort of athletics year-round. We take a family walk almost every day.

It is important to be committed to raising our children with an inait love for life and a firm grasp of reality. Nature, outdoors, athletics, relationships – immersing our children in these things will go a long way in creating that stable foundation for these conversations to make sense in their developing minds in the future. Challenging them to be honest with you about their thoughts, feelings, and actions will engender an accountability in them that will not only keep them safe but will also help them succeed in the professional world.

In all, we really can’t change the world with the snap of a finger. While we do what we can to impute change upon our society, we will never make evil go away completely. The best we can do is to keep ourselves and our kids safe. The scariest thing as parents is, when our kids are on their own, will they make good decisions and will they be safe? Keeping our kids in the dark about the harsh reality of the world is one of the worst things we can do. A naive child is, unfortunately, a child in danger. While we want to keep them as babies forever (wouldn’t that be great!) we have to accept that they won’t be. Some day they will want to have sex with someone they probably shouldn’t; they will be offered drugs in some sort of way; and, they won’t want to do their homework.

When these big events happen in our society, we have to take advantage of them not as scary acts of violence and cruelty, but as teachable moments. Conversation-starters. That is how we can make our kids safer and, one teachable moment and one conversation at a time, we can make the world a better place.

Citations

Violence in America

The Atlantic – Is Violence in America Going Up Or Down?

24/7 Wall Street – Violence in America: A Survey of All 50 States

Urban Institute – Violence is up in America: What Does It Mean?

Parenting Styles

Parenting.com – Get Your Kid to Open Up

APA – Communication Tips for Parents

Highlights – Teaching Kids Safety Without Making Them Fear

 

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