Throughout The Good, The Bad and The Difference I have said that parents must make their children stronger. Raising strong confident children is the hallmark, the benchmark, of a good parent. Numerous examples are presented—teaching children the courage and competence to say ‘no’ to the drug dealer, not giving keys to the car of an intoxicated friend, informing school officials that a student has a gun or a bomb—or might have a gun or a bomb. The list is endless.
But, I have also emphasized, but perhaps not with equal clarity and force, that parents must be strong—or stronger—also. Parents must implement skills, techniques and the mindset to be forceful in a morally consistent manner. I have written that children want to know the parent is in charge, but more importantly, children want to know that the parent deserves to be in charge.
I wrote in my Introduction the following paragraphs:
“To convey these truths, parents must be credible. Parents are up against the world to establish and maintain their moral standing with their children. To do so, to be competitive, parents must be informed, authoritative and present. The parent who fails to influence its child’s morality can be sure someone else will do so. Trust and credibility are constantly being challenged. They can quickly be undermined and transferred. Parents must continuously earn the trust of their children for it can no longer be commanded or taken as a given. Your children judge your credibility and integrity.”
“In addition to these grim societal distortions, children’s access to the Internet and other easy communication resources can place parents at a competitive disadvantage in influencing their children. Today’s plugged-in, media immersed and savvy children get data, ideas, philosophies and direction from a multitude of sources. There are free markets of delivery systems and free markets of information. Parents have no monopoly. Parents must now compete for what Hugh Hewitt, in his book, Blog, calls “mindspace,” in this case, the conscious attention and awareness of their children.
Parents must talk to their children or they are likely to lose them. I don’t mean your children will stop asking for pizza or to use your credit cards or to pay for their lawyers. Rather, parents risk loss of influence. Parents that do not speak credibly and authoritatively with their children will be defined by other forces. To a significant extent, your children will know you based on what you talk about—what you find worthwhile and value and what you don’t; what you take seriously and what you don’t; whether you value moral reasoning and truth or whether you don’t. A single phrase spoken by a parent that praises or demeans a person will have a greater moral impact on a child than a dozen weighty books or sermons.”
“Parents cannot be like pandering politicians who run everything through focus groups before deciding what to say or do. We cannot stick fingers up to see which way the winds of public opinion are blowing before deciding how to raise our children. Parents must see the big picture and be accountable, duties that do not burden children. Parents can have no exit strategy and cannot be voted off the island. Parents are the island. Parents are, as the poker expression goes, “all in.””
Several moms and dads have said to me, in so many words, that they sought to become more confident that what they knew was correct and proper was indeed correct and proper. They felt and believed that they were unsure. They wanted reassurance regarding their intuitions and their values. And they wanted guidance for questioning and reassessing their intuitions and their values.
They told me that my book gave them that assurance and, equally important, when their beliefs and actions could be improved or refined, the book helped them with introspection and reassessment. With such increased confidence, parents can become more morally and intellectually competitive with the rest of the world. Parents may, thus, become more assertive in an ethically justified way. And their children will benefit.