Points to Ponder: Training the Eye of the Beholder

Points to Ponder
Training the Eye of the Beholder

I saved the Family section of our local newspaper from last December. It was to me a snapshot of the current culture and its values; or perhaps the lack of them.
It was a Christmas seasonal issue, so some of the main articles gave helpful lessons on the origins of the traditions, songs, etc. of the season. Also, there were the useful suggestions on how to take a small child to a New Year's Eve party. (Should there be a designated diaper changer?) Other information for parents was somewhat disturbing though, sad to say, necessary to deal with, sports heroes using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and the surprise pregnancy of wholesome-looking Jamie Lynn Spears (the "smarter one" of the Spears sisters, someone has said).
Older sister Britney is seen now as the neglectful mom whose public custody battle involving her two helpless kids has many folks praying for those kids. And Jamie Lynn, at age 16, should be commended for not aborting the child. But now what? These two women have huge audiences of impressionable young people, particularly girls, looking up to them. To salvage Jamie Lynn's hit TV show "Zoey 101" the producers want to do a special that will help make this little surprise a teachable moment for parents of her fans. I think that moment has already come and gone.
In the article, one mom was quoted as saying on her blog that she'd told her 11-year-old daughter that Jamie Lynn will be an even bigger star than sister Britney because she seemed to have more sense. Then the mom confesses, "Boy, was I wrong."
The steroids scandal was lifted up in another column in the Family section as an opportunity to teach useful life lessons. What a blow to a child to realize that your hero is a cheater. Taking performance-enhancing drugs is a character issue. The article gave tips on how to talk to your child about the issue and their fallen heroes so that he/she can express feelings and ask questions.
I recall playing catch with a little boy in our old neighborhood. He shared in one sentence the values his coaches, myself, and other mentors in his life had taught him: "Cheaters never win and winners never cheat." I reflect on that now and think: what about when they do? My answer? Define winner.
And that you must do, especially when you consider another article I read about a week after these I've just mentioned. The report told of a mother who encouraged her pre-teen daughter to enter an essay contest in which the prize were tickets to some show, concert (or whatever) featuring the popular Hannah Montana. To make her child's essay impress the judges, she helped her invent a story about her daddy being killed in Iraq. The mother admitted that she (not the daughter) was so determined to win that she was prepared to do just about anything. Imagine valuing her husband's life so lightly that she'd pretend he was dead for the sake of a prize that is far less valuable than a man's life. Maybe the prize should have gone to a child who actually did lose her daddy in the war.
Do you notice some common denominator(s) among these increasingly common stories in our culture? Some wonder perhaps how society came to be this way.
Recently my wife and our four-year-old were at a McDonald's PlayPlace for a weekly play date with a friend and her little boy. As often happens with children, the friend's child got into a dispute with another boy over toys and territory. Sharing and compromise are learned behaviors, which our friend tried to teach her boy then and there. However, the other child's father chastised his son for not punching the boy in the face. My wife said the son seemed somewhat overwhelmed by his dad's blustery reaction to a minor incident.
Experts have been in the news lately telling parents to take seriously the issue of bullying. Well, that father certainly does. He's training one!
Training. That's what all of this is about in my pondering here. Training is done when we sit passively by and observe the stars and leaders in the culture skirt the rules, play by them, or try to rewrite them to suit themselves.
Training also goes on very intentionally when a parent passionately expresses his/her values and beliefs, and sets expectations for their children. Children tend to want to please their parents. And despite how they may act, kids generally want to know their parents' opinions and values. We can and should train with intent and purpose. We likewise train when we show no interest, or in practice violate our own standards. We can act out of character, or act like we are out of character.
The best trainers, the best role models, the best chance our kids have in this messed up world is when their parents strive first of all to be the head trainer, top role model, and number- one fan of the kid who's watching. And they all are watching.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
Do this first, by training up yourself in the way you ought to be going. The negative examples in society can serve as the dark background against which the jewels of your righteous example will shine ever more brightly. Good role models are always polishing, mindful of how well their lives display for the eyes of the beholder.

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.