Dinner Topics for Tuesday
Education, Faith, and Teaching Character
We become more substantive as we serve others — indeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find! ~Spencer W. Kimball
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. ~Mark 8:35
Perhaps you know young adults who are being negatively influenced by their peers? Or rebelling against their parents? Or not interested in reading good literature because all they want to read is text on their cell phones? Or, perhaps most critical —suffering an identity crisis?
The ongoing struggle to conform to the world’s image of success and happiness is based on the outward appearance. We see people doing all kinds of things to their bodies – piercing, tattooing, surgery to change body shape. They seek “happiness” in smoking, drinking, and drugs. They are crying out something. What is it? Look at me! Pay attention to me!
“Self-Esteem” or Sense of Worth?
There is much concern about self-esteem. We note that they don’t feel a sense of worth. So we tell them, over and over again, how wonderful they are. The more we tell them, the more they don’t believe us. Why isn’t this working?
Perhaps the problem is the “self” in self-esteem. Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, rising generations have been characterized as the “me” generation. Over the years, society has become all about “me.” The results are seen in promiscuity, abortion, entitlement, violence, child abuse, etc. The list goes on and on. Yet with all this self-indulgence, people still see themselves as “victims.” Parents in the 60s era who engaged in any of the above destructive behaviors passed it on to their children. It got worse with each succeeding generation, and now it seems to be self-perpetuating. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
For the many parents who care deeply about their children, there are things that can be done, and they are not as difficult as you may think. Experts have begun to recognize that adolescence now reaches into the mid-twenties. (AFA Journal, May 2010 p.15) So if your child has already reached 18, don’t give up.
We know that heart-to-heart communication can be hampered by smart phones, electronic games, TV, and the endless plethora of gadgets designed to entertain, or even to communicate. Teens may be difficult to talk to because they don’t feel safe in opening their hearts to you. Here are some tips to create a balmy climate for communication.
1. Eat Dinner Together. Home cooked meals communicate that you are available, and that you care. Keep in mind that dinner talk is not an event — it is a process.
2. Always Listen. Put relationships first. When a Teen needs to talk, he doesn’t want to wait till it’s convenient. No matter when: be there, drop everything, and listen.
3. Lose the Battle, Win the War. Nothing kills communication like a power struggle. Let them decide on relatively minor decisions, even if you don’t always agree. If they see you respect their free will, they are more likely to listen to you on issues that really matter. Then small things will take care of themselves in the long run.
We all know that character education has not been part of school curriculum for many years. We cannot depend on the school system to transmit traditional family values to their students —our beloved children. Besides, research shows that parents are still the strongest influence on adolescents’ big decisions (Philip Morris). Therefore, if we have a genuine desire for our children to mature into responsible, honorable adults who will be good parents themselves, we have no choice but to direct their character education ourselves, in our home. The following principles will help develop good self-government in your young adults and empower them to lead, not follow, their peers.
4. Anchor their souls in faith. Children feel insecure in a society of moral relativism. They may put up a blustery facade to cover their insecurity, but deep down they hunger for eternal truths that they can hang onto, that can’t be changed or destroyed by peers or circumstances. Those who are given to understand that they are created in the image of God, and that they are alive because someone loves them, tend to face challenges more successfully than those whose identity consists of nothing more than a package of hormones.
Tell them epic stories at dinner time. Tell them history and epic stories from books that are banned at school — such as the Bible. Young adults who are taught the word of God gain a sense of purpose in their lives, building a reservoir of strength to draw on in times of challenge. They discover “the epic hero within”, and also peace, an increased capacity to manage the stress and peer pressure in their lives.
5. Involve them in service. Talking about epic heroes is not enough. Epic heroes are great role models, not because they are popular celebrities, but because they go about doing good works, whether others know about it or not. Likewise, if your young adults struggle with self-respect, the best thing is for them to forget about themselves— to be so busy doing something unselfish that they don’t have time to worry about themselves. Opportunities for humanitarian service abound; they don’t have to look far to see someone worse off than they are. Also, your child may have some great talent. Help him or her to develop it and bless the lives of others with beauty or inspiration. There are all kinds of ways to serve. Help them find things they are good at that will also benefit others. They will love it so much that they will lose themselves in their work.
In this way your praise for them will not be hollow, because they will deserve it, and they will know that they deserve it. This is what Jesus, that greatest of epic heroes, meant when He said, he who loses his life shall find it.
Spencer W. Kimball put it this way: “We become more substantive as we serve others — indeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!”
Copyright 2010 © by Christine Davidson