After many years of teaching and parenting I have discovered something. Attempting to teach something as a negative is extremely difficult. Human nature and our amazing brains can come up with a million other things to do when told “don’t.” Tell a classroom full of most any age students, “Don’t talk,” and soon you will hear whispering, humming, singing, the scribbling of note writing, singing, and using every form of communication other than talking. I’ve asked a classroom full of preschoolers about what our rules should be and they came up with, “No hitting,” but that wasn’t enough because as a little person pointed out, “kicking isn’t nice either.” So we ended up with “no hitting, no kicking, no spitting, no slapping, no hair pulling, no poking, no punching,” and the list goes on and on. After doing this for a minute or so I would stop the class and say, “Yes, those things aren’t nice. Let’s make our rule ‘Be kind and help each other.’” What I was trying to do was to change the negative to a positive. “Don’t run,” is better worded as, “Walk carefully.” I’ve heard people criticize positive wording as being overly sensitive and espousing the idea that kids these days are too soft to hear the word “no”. I disagree and would argue that telling children what we expect from them and what kind of behavior they should exhibit will allow them to succeed.
I think we need to apply this to the people we are exposing our children too. I am tired of weak, stupid characters in TV and movies who do what is best for themselves. I am tired of celebrities who speak with apparent passion and authority about social issues then go back to living the lives of the rich and famous. I am tired of video games and apps that mindlessly entertain without instructing our children about anything useful. We tell our girls to be women who are powerful and strong then let them keep up with the Kardashians. We tell our boys to look for girls who are confident and followers of Christ, but we let them lose on social media where the goal of being “liked” by other people reigns supreme. We tell our kids to grow up, be successful, serve God, but then cling to news of celebrities whose version of those things are very different from our own. This must change.
Heroes. In our present political and social climate we have lost the love of heroes. We are quick to point out the failures of people and note where they failed. We use the fact that George Washington was a slaveholder to shadow all his other accomplishments. This can be dangerous because when we are done picking everyone apart what are we left with but a bunch of failures? Why should anyone bother trying to be successful. Now, I am not saying that we should blindly worship other humans and never notice their moral failures. Slavery is abhorrent so when we study George Washington we should note his failure in this area but look with admiration toward men like William Wilberforce who fought tirelessly to eliminate slavery, Then we can evaluate Washington's character, acknowledging that flaw, but learning from his other positive character traits.
We need to stop telling our kids what not to do and let them find heroes. Heroes who have changed the world and can inspire our children. We are not lacking for heroes. Brave men and women who have stopped diseases, stood up to tyranny, lead countries, boldly lived out the gospel, or pushed their bodies in physical and mental exertion.
The following is a list of individuals I’ve found inspiring. I 'm not an expert in their personal lives and you may find they did something objectionable in their life. But, uh, if I could be so bold . . . you probably have too. I'm not thrilled with the idea of my life story being front and center, because just like you I am imperfect. They are human there will be negatives along with the positives. But these are people who have been brave, courageous, and have done something for which they should be remembered. Perhaps their story will inspire you or your child to greatness. I don’t have gender specific lists and here’s why: I want my son to hear stories of brave women who stood for what was right. I want the girls I know to read stories of men who did what was right and loved the world because God loved them. Boys need to learn to respect strong women. Girls need to look at men who possess qualities they can cultivate in their own lives.
Here are few of my heroes in no particular order:
Corrie Ten Boom
The Wright Brothers
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."