"Back When I Was a Kid..."
By Mac Bledsoe
We must eliminate from our minds a few phrases when we
are making decisions about how we will be
raising our kids. They are the sayings like:
"When I was a kid..." and "If I had done that when I was a kid, my dad
would have..." or "Back when we were in school they used to..."
Now, this may sound odd to you coming on the heels of
our last article where we took the stand that as
a nation, we need to "recapture the sound of our
kids among us just like we used to up at old Fairview Hall." There
is an important distinction here. As parents we must never allow
ourselves to fall into the trap of using "because it was done
before," or "it has always been that way," or
"that was the way my parents did it," as
the sole justification for our actions with our kids. It is
imperative that we have a sound
behavioral, moral, spiritual, ethical, or legal
justifications for the actions we are teaching to or demanding of our
children. We must be able to explain to our kids in a very logical
way, why we are asking them to behave in a
particular manner. In essence, we must not only
decide: 1) WHAT it is that we want our kids to do but we
must also decide, 2) WHY we want them to do it! "Because it was
done to me," is never a good enough reason to
repeat it with our children.
There have been a ton of mistakes made in the past and
we are doomed to repeat them if we are not
careful to think long and hard about the
justification for duplicating those actions with our kids. Following are a
couple examples to demonstrate what we are talking about.
Two historical events demonstrate the obvious problems
with doing what has always been done before.
Slavery was common in early America. We certainly
would not advocate the continuation of
that practice today simply because it was done
before. Neither would we teach our children that women should
be second-class citizens in the United States even though they were not
even legally recognized under the Constitution until the 19th
Amendment was adopted in the early 20th century.
Simply saying that women should not vote only
because they never had in the past was a ludicrous idea.
Likewise, it is foolish for us to tell our children that
they should wear certain types of clothing
simply because that has been an appropriate
style in the past. The same goes for hairstyles and many other standards
and customs for behavior. Let's look at establishing dress codes
We are not proposing abandoning all standards of dress
for young people but rather, we are saying that
we ought to make the standards logical and
explainable in a reasoned sort of way and not just on the "If I had
dressed that way my Dad would have killed me," sort of an
We can have dress codes... but why do we have them is
the critical question. Nobody, in their right
mind would say that we scrap any sense of awareness
of how our kids dress themselves.
However, dressing in a certain way because a
previous generation did is rather silly to impose upon our kids
(unless, of course, we would like to go back and begin dressing like our
forefathers who wrote that Constitution did, simply because "that's
the way they used to do it in this country.")
Hey, let's get a few pictures of ourselves as
teens and we can readily see that even we had some rather
strange ways of dressing by today's standards.
The issue is "why?" Why are we asking our kids to dress
in certain ways?
Here is a possible discussion:
"But Dad, why can't I dye my hair blue (wear spandex shorts to church,
wear this provocative Jennifer Lopez top, use four letter words at
the mall like the other kids, etc.)?"
"Well, my child, you probably could do that and in a
perfect world it really wouldn't matter. But, we
do not live in a perfect world. We live in a
world that has a few flaws: one of them being that most people in this
world make a ton of snap judgments based
upon some rather narrow preconceived ideas. It
is a fact that most of the people you meet will not
be able to see beyond the blue hair (or loud dress, etc.) to get to
you. Many of those same people are in a position to control the
circumstances of your life or pass judgments about you that have a huge
impact upon your life. For the same reason that it would be a bad
idea to wear a ball cap to a funeral, it is a
bad idea to dye your hair blue... most people
would interpret it wrongly. A ball cap at a funeral would be viewed
by most as being extremely disrespectful of the person being
the funeral. Blue hair would likewise be interpreted by most people as a
sign of disrespect for others."
"But dad, that's just the point, I'm trying to show
my individuality. I don't want to just be like
"Great son, I am all in favor of you being a one-of-a-kind individual, but
anyone can dye their hair. Why not distinguish yourself by being
truly excellent at something? Or why not try to
undo some terrible wrong done by society? Why
not distinguish yourself by making the world a
better place? I'd love to help you. What is the
cause that you would like to choose? If
the only way that you can come up with to make yourself different
is dying your hair, I would be disappointed in
you because you are such a unique person with so
much to offer."
Let us, as parents, become their teachers and give them
some good solid reasons to choose to adjust
their behavior in positive and productive ways
simply because it makes sense to them.
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