As parents we want our children to achieve some measure of success in this life, in a way that leads them to perfect JOY with God in the next. Unfortunately, in modern culture, that seems to become more difficult by the day — especially with teens and preteens. We want to guide them in the ways of goodness but a distance grows between us. Learning the art of mentoring, rather than badgering, blustering at and bickering with our big kids is an important key in this process.
The Great Divide
Here’s the problem. The most critical divide in our culture may not be noisy red and blue politics. The perhaps more deeply destructive societal chasm is GENERATIONAL. With the help of smartphone technology and social media platforms, our youth are invited to a huge party with no parents. And the folks hosting this device-based party will exploit our kids for power, money and sex. There are a lot of businesses whose survival now depends on our youth spending as much time and attention as possible on screens and devices and in activity that has very little connection to healthy family life. And they make it really FUN. It is essential we equip ourselves to deal with this teen underground phenomenon.
The Art of Coming Alongside
The way we protect and prepare our kids to live a spiritually successful life, one that goes beyond the teen pleasure party, is to find the ways to surf this tsunami alongside of them. Not standing in front and pointing a punitive finger at them. Not standing behind to catch them when they fall … crossing our fingers in hopes things turn out well. Positive character and conscience can come alive in our teens as we gently, daily, notice, discuss, and affirm habits of virtue in them. I call this positive approach to parenting Virtue Mentoring. I founded the ministry of VIRTUE WORKS MEDIA to give parents, grandparent and teachers a lifeline in guiding youth in habits of virtue, not in spite of, but THROUGH the technology, entertainment and media they consume. We can meet them where they are.
When we guide from alongside as virtue mentors, it requires us to MODEL virtue in our own attitudes and actions. But none of us are saints. So our flaws will guarantee that our kids will dismiss us as hypocrites. Right? This is where we must load our parenting pistols with magic bullets. We only need two. Our secret weapons are Humility and Humor. When we are quick to acknowledge our own lowliness and weaknesses, we become approachable. The way UP, for success in parenting and in life, is DOWN. The acceptance of our own littleness, enables us to laugh at ourselves. When we keep a healthy sense of humor, demonstrating how to laugh with and not at people, we win the hearts of our teens and pre-teens.
Humor and Humility
Recently, at an an event I presented with Father Augustine Wetta, O.S B., we explored these secret weapons for effective virtue mentoring more deeply. Father is the Ignatius Press best-selling author of Humility Rules. I love Father’s book because it describes how to build true self-esteem in ways that are completely true and yet fly in the face of conventional pop psychology. Digital access to the video of our event is offered through an inexpensive fundraiser for VIRTUE WORKS MEDIA at this link: Rethinking the Ladder of Success: With Humor and Humility.
Humility is a difficult virtue for all of us to embrace. Prayer infuses our efforts with God’s grace. Here’s the Prayer of the Ladder of Humility that you can download and print to strengthen you in your efforts. Saint Benedict composed the original description of the ladder of humility. It is the true ladder of the best kind of success.
Don’t underestimate the power of IMAGINATION
Tweens and teens can imagine the value of virtues like humility, chastity, and prudence, and more if they consume media and storytelling that demonstrates it. The books, movies, gaming and music teens consume can either deeply imprint or destroy what we teach in our homes and schools. What often deepens the wedge between concerned parents and their teens are the current warning-based media rating systems. These ratings create a forbidden-fruit, coming-of-age desire for more violent and explicit content in teens. We need to help our teens appreciate the reality that some content is NEVER age-appropriate. Coming alongside your son or daughter in conversations about the unintended consequences of the entertainment ratings themselves can build dialogue about using discernment in choosing what is healthy to read, watch and play.
Make Social Media your Friend
If you child won’t “friend” you personally on their social platforms of preference, then connect with their similar-age cousins or close family friends or ask other aunts and uncles to do so. When a familiar family grownup is in the room, the dynamics of the online exchanges shift. The teens make a bit more effort at self-moderation. Go to the movie, watch the video, or listen to the song they like and ask what virtues they are attracted to in it. Listen actively and appreciatively to their response. Don’t criticize them. The power of virtue is accessed in a sequence of tiny decisions for good. Even discussing virtues verbally disposes their thoughts in a better direction.
Moral Compass Mentoring
Another way to come alongside your tween or teen is to join them in consuming some reading or media that actually does exemplify the values of faith and virtue. Try one of the super simple VWM Generations Clubs. These are for fathers/grandfathers and sons/grandsons or mothers/grandmothers and daughters/grand-daughters. By simply reading or watching the same title and discussing the virtues demonstrated in it, you can build their spiritual strength. That strength enables them to climb the true ladder of success to achieve the ultimate goal. Heaven.
Here are two articles that give you all the information you need: Totally Feminine Genius Generations Book Club for women and girls and Man to Man Generations Media Club for Men and Guys.
Give one of these simple one-on-one book or media clubs a try. You’ll be surprised how much you may enjoy it! As you take steps to be a virtue mentor to your tweens and teens, remember: Be humble. None of us are perfect. Laugh together. Relationship is how we keep each other strong.
We can climb the true ladder of success humbly together. The way UP is DOWN.
Do you have an example where humor and humility helped you through a teen or preteen parenting challenge?
Copyright 2018 Cathy Gilmore