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What are you teaching your children?

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But you should continue following the teachings you learned. You know they are true, because you trust those who taught you. Since you were a child you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise. And that wisdom leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching how to live right. Using the Scriptures, the person who serves God will be capable, having all that is needed to do every good work.  ~ 2 Timothy 3:14-17

The one collective comment I’ve heard about me and my siblings about us as children throughout life is “You were well-behaved children.” Some would comment on how clean my mother kept us and how well-spoken we were. Growing up, I used to take slight offense at these comments. To me, the admiration, awe and surprise implied the speaker expected something different from us and a lot less from my Mom. Seeing as how our lifestyle was the only reality I knew, I couldn’t understand why people were so impressed that my Mom had clean, well-spoken and well-behaved children.

Of course, as I grew older, I was able to recognize why folks were impressed with my mother’s mothering prowess. She had dropped out of eighth-grade to have me and she was the daughter of a sixth-grade dropout who worked the Mississippi cotton fields who became a young mother a couple of years later. People don’t expect much from poor, under-educated teen moms. But Mom didn’t raise us with any concerns of our financial and social disadvantages. We were aware our resources were limited and we were aware we were sometimes dependent on the kindness of others for bare necessities. The primary lesson Mom hammered home was respect for other people. She taught us this by constantly telling us to do to/for others as we would have them do to/for us. That was paramount. She kept us aware of our treatment of other people.

I think in retrospect, that respect is what struck people the most. We respected people’s space. We respected people’s possessions. We respected people opinions. Most of all we respected people’s homes. When we went visiting, we sat down where we were told to sit down and didn’t move until we were told to move. That may sound foreign to folks today, but adults knew how to tell children to go to another room to play or to go outside and play. And when we were let loose to play, we played hard. But when there was no place to play, we sat down obediently and respectfully and waited for the visit to end.

Yesterday, I hosted a woman and her two young daughters in my home for the third time. I came away from the experience as drained as I had come away the two previous times. She is a woman who intentionally became a single mom in her late twenties. Her fears of life and her distrust of people have her teaching her daughters the absolute worst about human nature. However, she sells the fear and death she feeds them as love. She has told them their fathers are dead and she is the only person in the world who loves them and who is there for them. Truth is she wanted children; she didn’t want a man or a husband because she has known only abuse at the hands of men – beginning with her father.  Perhaps more damaging, she constantly tells them that they are better than she is, smarter than she is, more than she is. The result? Financially and socially disadvantaged children who are disobedient, dismissive, rude, ungrateful, and unappreciative. Why highlight financially and socially disadvantaged? Because these children will be largely dependent on the goodwill of and good intentions of people they encounter through their growing years to improve themselves in life.

Just as I was. My brother was. My sister was. People wanted to teach us, show us things and share opportunities with us. All the way up to the job I started four years ago that I was wholly under-experienced for. My manager said in the interview, that she can teach anyone what they need to know to work for her, however she couldn’t teach chemistry. What she called chemistry was my ability to speak with her and explore similarities in our backgrounds and personalities where there would appear to be none from the outside, because she was decidedly financially and socially advantaged. Essentially, the way I comport myself and the way I’ve embraced opportunities offered to me over the years are the elements that stood out to her.

Before the woman and her children left my home yesterday, I admonished the oldest girl for her rudeness as a guest in my home and I advised the mother (out of earshot of the girls) that she needed to work on teaching her children appreciation and gratitude. She assured me she was teaching them and that they had said “thank you”. I told her that their “thank yous” are meaningless when their treatment is so dismissive and entitled. Then I told her so many words, “I don’t deal with unappreciative and ungrateful children in my own family, I’m not obligated to deal with yours. If this is how they act when you’re around, how do you imagine they act or receive from others when you’re not around? At school, when people are trying to give them something or help them with something?”

She looked taken aback and I, quite honestly, was irritated that I felt the need to say such to someone I had invited into my home. I am a very laid back hostess, mi casa es su casa, help yourself to whatever you need. So for guests to make me feel as if the hospitality I am offering isn’t worth their respect, well that takes quite some doing.

I called a long-standing friend afterwards to vent and her summary was, “Wow, if someone told me they didn’t like my kids, I would have a lot to think about. But it’s all her fault, whatever she’s doing….”

I started to defend the mother, but truly, what is her defense? Low education? Low income? No family support? Limited economic choices? I’m a product of all that and so are many people I know. None of those situations can prevent a parent from teaching their children to respect their parents, respect others and respect themselves.

As I thought over the afternoon, I realized it wasn’t the children I took issue with as much as the mother, even though I was trying to exonerate her from her children’s behavior. Her children are the way they are because 1) she taught them, 2) she encourages them in the way she taught them, 3) she doesn’t correct them. What she teaches them are lies about themselves, their situation and the world. At one point during the visit, I told her that life was not as bad as she was painting it for her daughters. She was teaching them how to fear everything and distrust everyone – even me as they were sitting/jumping around as guests in my home, enjoying/abusing my comforts and eating/wasting from my supply – all of which are acknowledged and appreciated blessings from my Father God. She’s also teaching them to worry, mostly about things they have no control over.

What a horrible outlook to have on life, every day, everywhere you go – fear, distrust and worry. Being spiritually disadvantaged is no way to live at all.

“My child, don’t think the Lord’s discipline is worth nothing, and don’t stop trying when he corrects you.
The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as his child.” ~ Proverbs 3:11–12

So hold on through your sufferings, because they are like a father’s discipline. God is treating you as children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. If you are never disciplined (and every child must be disciplined), you are not true children. We have all had fathers here on earth who disciplined us, and we respected them. So it is even more important that we accept discipline from the Father of our spirits so we will have life. ~ Hebrews 12:5-9

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