My guess is every one of you reading this blog want your kids to grow up to be loving, kind, and virtuous. What does that look like?
After reading No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps: Raising Secure, Assertive Kids in a Tough World by Paul Coughlin, I have a renewed sense of vision for what “loving, kind, and virtuous” means and how I want to parent my children, especially as our culture grows increasingly hostile toward Christian values.
Will my kids have courage to stand up for truth and defend victims if and when the time comes?
Coughlin believes that parents often marginalize or ignore virtues such as shrewdness, boldness, and courage in favor of teaching softer Christian virtues. We believe that our children should be meek, passive and pleasant rather than innovative, proactive, and bold.
The concept of gentleness is often misunderstood, however. When gentleness needs to take a stand, it does. According to Coughlin, if you trace the origin of the word “virtue,” one of its meanings is force. Virtue brings any force that is needful. “The belief that nice equals good is one of the most amazing deceptions of our time.”
In fact, courage is the foundational virtue upon which the others rest (or don’t). It sustains the other virtues. Winston Churchill famously stated: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of all human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
Many parents have never even had a conversation about cowardice with their children because we don’t think courage is necessary.
We, as parents, should guard against overly protecting our kids. “Kids need to feel life’s inevitable stings from time to time.” Children need to know how to lose. Children should be allowed to fail. “The person who has had her life lived for her during her early years” is “vastly and painfully unprepared to take charge.” In other words, children become confident adults when they have been allowed to take risks which sometimes result in failure and sometimes result in success.
Do we deem assertiveness as a Christian virtue? Jesus was not always submissive. See how he behaved toward the Pharisees.
Do we teach our kids that all conflict is wrong? If so, true peace, justice, respect, and goodwill become distorted. “Turning the other cheek” does not mean we don’t defend ourselves. It means that we don’t respond to insult with insult. In Matthew 5:39 Jesus is speaking about retaliation. He is not suggesting that Christians should allow evildoers to trample the innocent or pervert truth. When Jesus himself was slapped on the cheek (John 18:22), he stood up for truth and rebuked the man who hit him.
Church-going kids are instructed almost exclusively on how to avoid sin and what a person shouldn’t do. We need to teach our kids what they should do and how to stand up for what is right.
As I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but think about the people who stood up against the evil Nazi regime. If something like that happened again, would my kids (and your kids) be the kind of adults who would rescue holocaust victims at great personal risk because it’s the right thing to do?
At the end of the book, Coughlin actually raised the example of holocaust rescuers. “Approximately 20 countries were under Nazi occupation or influence during World War II. Why were there so few people, relatively speaking, who stood up to the Nazis? In the early 1960s a researcher named Perry London sought to answer this question and identified three significant shared-characteristics in the holocaust rescuers.”
- Having a spirit of adventurousness
- Identifying with a morally strong parent
- Having the status of being socially marginal
As homeschoolers, we have unique opportunities to instill a spirit of adventurousness in our kids (the author has examples of how to do this in the book), help them identify with us as their moral instructors, and to help them be comfortable in the margins of society (as homeschoolers, we are simply not mainstream people…we are socially marginal).
I was both inspired and challenged after reading this book. What can we do now to help our kids be leaders for truth and defenders of the innocent? Let’s think about that and be proactive about it. Let’s make a difference in this world, and for our values, by raising courageous children.