Most parents have a built-in instinct to be protective of their kids. This is God-given and important. But like all good things, it can be excessively adhered to. In modern American life, I believe this is true. There are more products than ever protecting kids from putting things in electric sockets and bumping their heads on coffee tables, to locking cabinet doors that contain unsafe items. In our right desire for protect, we have become obsessed with physical wellbeing to the neglect of the inward life of our children. The reality is that the most formative thing that impacts our kids is not the physical dangers from without but the formation within them of the things they love most.
Recently I read Neil Postman’s prophetic work on how America is Amusing Ourselves to Death. The whole book was worth your time and is a must-read for every parent. I however found the forward to be the most impacting portion of the whole book. In the forward Postman contrasts two dystopian views of the world. The first was Orwell’s 1984 where big brother would control us by an external force with the aid of technology. The second was Huxley’s Brave New World which painted a much different view of the world to come. Huxley didn’t believe an external force would control us but rather we would become a slave to our own desires and would use pleasure and technology to place ourselves in a state of self-imposed exile. Post argues that Orwell was wrong and Huxley was right. I agree with Postman. Huxley looked 80 years into the future and forsaw the Brave New World we presently live in. Postman said this about the difference between Orwell and Huxley:
“In 1984, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”
The tendency for many of us is to believe that what we fear will control us without thinking of the things we love that are forming us. The central idea of Dante’s Commedia was that we fall short of who God created us to be not because of a lack of love but because of misdirected love and excessive love. If we are not proactively helping to form our kids' loves, their loves will be misdirected from God toward self or excessively invested in things that are not ultimate. The Bible over and over explains that our hearts are wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) and prone to wander. Our actions are an outworking of our thoughts and desires. That we are to protect our hearts above all else for out of our heart flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). The most important work you do as a parent is heart work. What you kids love will determine who they become and who they will serve.
How do you help form your child’s loves?
- Family Worship – Worship is how we calibrate our heart, preach the gospel to ourselves and focus on the eternal.
- Church Worship – It is so important to teach our kids that our faith is not individual but communal.
- Scripture – The greatest heart transformation tool available to us is the words of God spoken to the hearts of man.
- Catechism – Kids need to have a systematic basis for retaining and building truth into their lives. Protestant Catechisms do just that.
- Rites of passage – Events that highlight a value are indispensable in reinforcing truths you are building into your kids daily.
- Music – Music is more than entertainment; it is formational. What you listen to long enough you will start to believe; what you begin to believe is who you become. This is why for me lyrics are so crucial in worship music.
- Poetry – Read poetry to your kids. Few things bypass your head and go right for your heart like poetry. Kids don’t read poetry in school like we used to. Read them poems.