Encouraging Compassion While Holding On To Innocence: How Much Do You Share With Your Kids?

During the past few weeks, I’ve shared storied from the developing world. I’ve shared articles about Myanmar, Colombia and India. We’ve met women fighting against corporate greed and a corrupt military in Myanmar. We’ve looked at a Colombia in transition and working toward reconciliation after fifty years of civil war. Lastly, we’ve looked at young girls in India victimized by rape and child marriage. This is all part of an ongoing experiment to learn about our world, and to see people through God’s eyes.

While this has been an eye opening experience for me, I’ve also wanted this process to be something more.

One of the most challenging parts of my life is about being a parent. How do I teach my children? How do I teach them about Jesus? How do I teach them about compassion? How do I teach them about the world we live in?

A few weeks ago, as part of a class assignment, Johanna, my seven year old, wrote about the three things she wanted most in the world (in the following order):

1)     Gold
2)     A House
3)     A Puppy

For Johanna there’s a kind of logic here. If she has enough gold, we can buy a big house and she can get a puppy.

Using this as a teaching moment, I explained to Johanna how our family is really blessed. While we may not have gold, own a house or have a puppy, we live in abundance, especially when compared to the rest of the world. I tried sharing about one of the young girls we sponsor through World Vision. Although Johanna seemed to be listening and understand how we had it much better than others in the world, I don’t think it made up for the fact that she still really wanted a puppy.

As parents of two energetic and precocious children, we live in a delicate balance. We want to teach our girls about the world, which includes teaching them about hard and difficult things, and we want to keep them innocent for as long as possible.

In light of these competing interests, how do you teach your children about the world?

How do you teach your children to have appreciation for other cultures?

This was the question on my mind as I came home from work today. I thought how it might be a good idea to read news stories to Johanna that discussed faraway places. This could hopefully lead to a discussion about the lives of people in other countries. We could read about one story and one country each week and see where this takes us.

Thinking about these things, I sat down for dinner with the family.

At our dinner table we like to ask the girls about their day. Sharing about her day at school, Johanna talked about going to the library and getting a new book.

“What did you get from the library Johanna?” I asked.

Johanna replied, “I got a book about kids in other countries.”

Children Just Like Us

It’s sometimes amazing how life works and how God answers the questions of our heart. Here I am thinking about all the things I can do to proactively teach my daughter about the world. In the midst of this plan, Johanna walks into the room with her book.

All of this reminds me how teaching our kids is not always about forcing something on them. Oftentimes being a parent and teaching our children is about receiving those opportunities presented to us. It’s about waiting until our kids show us they’re ready and then listening and responding to them.

The questions I’ve asked here in this post are all good ones. I need to be a thoughtful parent invested in the education of my children. I should also continue to look for teaching moments. As their father I need to see my role as parent as something active, but rather than be anxious, I can have peace about it. I shouldn’t feel like I need to strive or struggle, because I can see something greater at work in the heart of my daughters.

2 thoughts on “Encouraging Compassion While Holding On To Innocence: How Much Do You Share With Your Kids?

  1. I also think about this and I like what you describe as “having a peace about it”. Noah and Eli are a little young- Noah is just learning that he’s not the absolute center of the entire universe- but I have to be careful not to place the burdens of the world on him.

    I read a book called “Simplicity Parenting” where they described how some parents could spend too much time talking (that’s me) and some stories of parents who spoke about politics every dinner time, resulting in a burdened and anxious kid. It’s hard to let some explanations wait, and to sometimes embrace abundance when it seems like it’s contrary to what we’re about.

    I was thinking of maybe not talking about other cultures or countries too much- given that Noah and Eli are already quite mixed- and just waiting to see what they observe. Sometimes “other cultures” can feel like “us” and “them”, whereas maybe an appreciation for differences can emerge organically from life experiences, at the same time as an appreciation for commonality. I have to be careful not to make fun of the different ways of doing things in our extended family, and also to work on my internal judgements and baggage.

    • I love your thoughtful comments.

      When I was a kid and expressed any kind of unhappiness about what my mom put on the dinner table, my father would go into “the lecture.”

      “You kids should experience a war, and after you experience what going hungry feels like, you will be more grateful!”
      My dad shared all these things out of love from his own experience as a child growing up during WWII in occupied Indonesia, and yet his words probably did not have the desired effect on me.

      While I may have known better than to openly roll my eyes in front of my dad, his lectures caused my eyes to do little internal loops and backflips. All of this is to say that agree with you on how our lecturing might have less than the desired effect.

      Your remark about your kids being mixed race also struck a chord for me. For the longest time, I was a little ashamed of my Indonesian heritage. I also had some ambivalence about being mixed race. Being a person of mixed race, it’s easy to feel “less than,” which is really unfortunate. In general, most kids hate being different. (Johanna’s latest thing is that she hates the “H” in her name. She just wants to be called Joanna like other girls.) I like your conclusion about giving our children an appreciation for other people (and themselves), for their differences and for those things they have in common.

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