Ever since I saw this quote the other day, I’ve been wrestling with it. Now, granted, my parents probably took the toughen stance on child raising, so I’m a little partial to it. I see that. It’s normal to want to defend how you were raised when you had a great childhood. But, I think it goes beyond that. Thus, the wrestling. I’m asking myself if I’m just defending my own parents, or if there is something deeper? Am I having a knee-jerk reaction away from something sweet and emotional? I do that. I get so fed up with how sweet everything is that I tend to charge in the total opposite direction. And this is not because I don’t like unicorns or something. I do. I own Legend. This is, I think, a difference in philosophy. So let’s wrestle with this.
My first reaction: This is horrible advice. Why? Because the world is cruel and heartless. The world is a cold, dark, selfish place…and anyone who says otherwise is selling something. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.) If you don’t prepare your kids on some level, they’ll get eaten alive. If you don’t help your kids be tough, smart, and strong, you’re leaving them open to all kinds of attacks. I know people this has happened to. I’ve seen it. The world is full of dangers and it is your job as a parent to help your kid be ready to face those dangers. This is why we teach them not to talk to strangers and not to accept candy from strangers. It doesn’t make the world less cruel and heartless if you don’t teach your children this, it makes them open to kidnapping and worse. My dad telling me as a young woman not to help men with broken arms didn’t suddenly create more men like Ted Bundy. It taught me not trust my sense of pity, and to see beyond the surface situation to the dangers underneath. Ted Bundy was out there. It would have been horribly derelict of my father not to prepare me for that on some level.
My second reaction: This quote shows the loss of our understanding of total depravity. Despite all evidence to the contrary, humanist still believe that we human beings can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, ignore God, and somehow become this magically enlightened society with no more problems. Has anyone anywhere ever found this to work? America has so many different utopian cults attempt this in small communes. Has any of them every worked? Even in a small group has anyone managed to eradicate greed, lust, envy, lying, stealing, and all the outcomes of such acts? I’ve yet to read of any group that has done this to any effect, or in any long-term manner. It won’t work. Do you want to know why? Because us human beings aren’t good. In our core, down in the dark center of who we are, we aren’t good. Now, we do good things. We’re generous. We forgive. We heal. We hold out a hand to those in need. But that’s all common grace. And not one bit of that is purely good. We can all be very selfish while doing good. We can be proud. We can be arrogant. So, it is pure folly to think that we can somehow make the world a good place if we just raise our children right. You think serial killers don’t have moms? You think they set out to raise sadistic killers?
My third reaction: Can’t you do both? Can’t you raise a warrior who loves? Is it impossible to raise a boy to be a man who both loves and defends his family? Is it impossible to raise a daughter who knows how to watch out for bad situations and still helps those in need? Is it impossible to be tough and gentle? (It’s not, because my husband is!) I watched my mom work on toughening my brothers up for years so that they wouldn’t be whiny men. They are some of the kindest men I have ever known. She taught them to be tough so that they would learn how to harness their physical power and not hurt those weaker than themselves. I was a bit on the sickly side as a teen, didn’t do well in my studies, and was honestly a bit on the lazy side. My mom was hard on me. She was tough. We laughed at other home schooled kids. They had it easy. Homework in your pajamas? You better be running a fever. I’m so thankful for this now. I’m so thankful my mom taught me how to keep going even when I wanted to stop. Now I apply that to serving my church, my husband, and my family. A child taught only one side or the other is going to be in danger or going to be mean. You must teach your children self-control and generosity.
My fourth reaction: This quote makes me want to sing A Boy Named Sue. Ha! This sounds like something someone would say who got disciplined as a child by a parent who skated close to the abusive side. Like they had a dad who spanked but never hugged afterwards. I get how hard that would be. I’m thankful my dad did both. But I see all the kids out there who need discipline so badly and I think this is exactly the mentality their parents must have: kids should be innocent if we want peace in the world.
I think this is one of those quotes that tugs at the old heartstrings. Who doesn’t want a world less cruel and heartless? But I think it can be a bit misguiding if you don’t have the right place to hang it. You have to understand how to balance toughening your kids up to face life and teaching them how to be kind to others. If you don’t, you’ll either abuse your kids, or you’ll create dangerous situations for them. Discipline your kids and then hug them. Teach them to not whine, but to be kind. Teach them pity and protection.