Is reading your kid’s Facebook or Twitter feed making you wonder if you went seriously wrong somewhere along the way? Are they spouting Fox news talking points? Do they sound like they work for the DNC? I remember being home on leave from the Navy and telling my mom and dad about a book I was reading which had a very particular political slant. As I explained it and how I thought it made sense I saw them making eye contact with each other. It was a very subtle thing; gone in an instant. Their expressions toward me never changed from interested listeners, but they offered no opinions about the politics I was trying out on them. I remember that look. It made me curious but not to find out what they thought about my new ideas. It made me curious about them. For some reason that look said that I was missing something and it wasn’t in a book; it was in my parents. They were people! Do you know what I mean?? Do you remember when you finally figured out that teachers were people, not just a set of lectures and homework assignments? It takes longer to see parents as people. Don’t ask me why, but something in that shared look cracked open the parent suit a little. I knew my politics didn’t agree with theirs right then, but it didn’t seem like they were going to pursue me over that. They were willing to let me go, but they were not going there. Interesting. Ever see the toddler trick where they run away from you while they look over their shoulder to see if you’re going to chase them? Best way to handle it? Don’t chase. Don’t get your panties in a wad. It takes a certain kind of parent to do that. It takes confidence that the kid isn’t going to get hurt for one, but it also takes confidence that they know your voice and you’ve got enough influence to keep them from going too far. Parents who don’t know who they are lack the confidence to let their children run. What I saw in my parents was the opposite. They were not scared to let me run. They never were. Where did it come from, this assuredness? I think they built it together. They were a unit. They believed in each other. I also think they were confident their views of morality and politics weren’t just right because they were theirs, they were right because they were right, and sooner or later, right would assert itself.
So I had and still have a great mom and dad. Now its my turn. My kids have given me plenty to think about. I hear more of their ideas because of social media. I’m also friends with their friends so I get a taste of a lot of political opinions from younger people. How do I (actually Tina and I) handle it when our kid’s opinions seem out of line with our values? First, and this is more important than anything else at all, if you are in your kids social network it isn’t your right to be there after a certain age. It is a privilege. You get to participate in their life. Be glad. Not everyone is invited in, and you can be invited out. Once I get that firmly in place I ask myself why a comment or post or whatever bothers me. I think about motive. Is my child expressing a desire for righteousness and justice? Or is it just trolling? Do you know what trolling is? You may not know what it is currently, but you’ve seen it before. A troll is that kid in your school that always went fishing to get someone stirred up. Put a little bait in the water and see who would bite. Once they get one on the line just keep cranking it up until they’ve made someone so mad they want to fight and then walk away. Some of our kids are trolls. They spout liberal or conservative talking points to see if they can start a fight with anyone. If that is your kid, well, you’ve got problems besides trying to help their politics. Maybe just go back to basic human decency. Trust me on this; I’ve read lots of your kid’s posts and quite a few of them are pure trolls. Maybe engage them on the level of taking them to dinner and giving them some of the attention they so obviously crave. If I sort through this and believe my kid is earnestly putting out their ideas because they want to share them with others and have others speak into them, I look at what they say and ask myself again; is this the pursuit of righteousness? It may sound very different than the way I would express it, but that isn’t the reason it works in the world.
Righteousness works in the world because it is a created world. I have a lot of confidence in this. Maybe more than my own mom and dad. I’m not afraid of letting my kids run because I know Righteousness not only prevails in the end, it prevails in them. They have their own relationship with Righteousness and so instead of exchanging political ideas with my kids or trying to correct their politics, I cut my eyes at my wife and say ‘I know our kids know Jesus so why get worked up over this thing that appears to contradict him?’ Most of you Christian parents are actually pretty crazy. You want your kids to know Jesus and to know him well, you just don’t want to let any of the things that came into your life and broke you to the point you sought Jesus and grasped him to come into your kid’s lives. Let them run with bad ideas and/or great ideals that seem so full of hope to them. They won’t run too far. Jesus is the hope of the world. He really is. The only hope of the world. Ultimately thats how I handle it when my child starts sounding like a liberal or a conservative; I remind myself that neither of those will save the world, only the gospel will. That gives me urgency and peace. Urgency to ground my kids beliefs in the gospel and to point them back to that in all their thinking. Peace that Jesus is who I need to help my kids see, not my flawed politics. I need to help them see God is a person. That is more profound, interesting and life giving than anything else we could discuss.