Thursday, April 23, 2009

Discussing the Past with our Children

"Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times." (Machiavelli)

I find it absolutely necessary as a parent to share the many stories of my past with my children. This approach to parenting is not popular among many American parents for a variety of reasons, but in my view the education of the children who have little to no knowledge of their parent's past can be developmentally problematic. We as parent's have made mistakes in our lives that many of our children are making as we speak. Most parents can listen to the stories of their children and smile in nostalgia, knowing that they have experienced those very things when they were 'that age.' In those times the 'teachable moment' becomes profound, and it provides an opportunity to share some valuable insight so that the children are just that much more equipped to make great decisions in their lives. In the spirit of practicing what I share I will provide a personal story of my past that relates to an issue that many of us have experienced growing up; an issue that a couple of my students had shared with me last year which brought on a memory; shoplifting.

When I was around the age of 12 and 13 years old one thing me and my cousins always wanted to do was "go to the store." In those days (and it wasn't that long many of the small corner stores and more extensive supermarkets sold penny candy and cookies, specifically marketed to my age group. Some kids always had loose change, and some even dollar bills in order to be able to purchase whatever snack items they desired. Even though I generally had change to spend as well, I got into the habit of going to the local markets (where security was limited to a lookout at the door) and would shoplift. The reason this particular time stands out is because I had cousins who would prepare small meals right in the supermarket (rip open a loaf of bread and extract a few slices, travel to the meats and cheeses for a healthy addition, and then top it off with the mayo or mustard). I found this quite extraordinary, and because there was always a sense of exciting mischief that came with the "thrill of the moment" we all began to acclimate ourselves into a dangerous practice that would end up biting us all; having our parents pick us up from the local authorities. What I understand now in retrospect is that many children in America experience a very similar development; and though seemingly innocent on the surface, poses an extremely serious concern which must be addressed.

According to statistics, some 1 in 11 American shoplift, which makes shoplifting the #1 property crime in the country. Along with this nearly 25% of American children shoplift; a figure that adds to the $20 billion worth of retail goods stolen each year in the United States of America. Though I am not all that concerned with the profit losses of stores and supermarkets, what I am more interested in is the message that children are picking up as they engage in such a problematic scenario. Growing up engaging in this type of activity helped to alter my behavior in ways that went against the grain of the religious learning that I was exposed to. In the end it made me less ethical as the years went on; subsequently leading to other mistakes that also flew in the face of my religious foundation; fornication and cursing to name a few. The long term consequences of developing an early habit of taking what doesn't belong to you puts one in the catagory of the American who'd rather 'cut corners in life,' as opposed to the high achiever.

I often take the time out to share the many stories like the one above with my children so that if they ever came across situations like I discussed, they at least have a voice a reason ringing in their ear during those moments of weakness. I believe it is absolutely important to the development of children if they know that what they do when with peers is no different (in many cases) from what we did as children. Their knowledge of what happened in the 'past' of their parents is as valuable as what they learn in school because it helps keeps their 'moral clock' rotating in the path of righteousness; a road we want all of our children to travel.

Written by Bee Quiet



  2. You know i'm feeling the Word!!! Keep it up brother..told you I'd show love ;-)