To Be a Child

Today’s guest post is from Tina Hollenbeck, Associate Writer for Celebrate Kids, Inc. Tina is a wife to Jeff and mother to Rachel, Abigail and her oldest, Anna Vivain, who is already in heaven. She describes herself as a teacher, writer, survivor, and a voice.  For more information about Tina, visit her blog at http://tinahollenbeck.blogspot.com.

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“Working for early maturity while prolonging innocence.”

That’s a portion of the parenting philosophy espoused by a very wise friend, an approach my husband and I have adopted as well. But what does it mean?

“Early maturity” means we need to help our children grow past their natural tendencies toward childish attitudes, such as selfishness, and childish behavior like temper tantrums. Instead, we need to encourage and empower them to develop and practice positive character qualities – generosity, patience, self-control, diligence, and respect for others, for example – found in mature individuals.

We do this by providing them with knowledge of worthy examples – Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln – by talking to them about what’s right and wrong, by properly correcting them when they stray, and by striving to be positive role models ourselves. Character training is hard work, but it is possible, and it’s worth it. If we help our children develop such early maturity, we’ve given them invaluable life skills.

On the other hand, we need also to be about “prolonging innocence.” That is, we should encourage and enable our kids to remain childlike in their attitudes and behavior. They need time to play – not at violent or self-indulgent video games but using their imaginations with hands-on toys and using their bodies in active, outdoor play.

They need to be sheltered – yes, sheltered – from the pop culture that teaches six-year old girls to dress like prostitutes hunting for boyfriends and eight-year old boys to act like “gangstas.”

We need to stop exposing them to music, movies, and books with adult themes just because we want to experience something “grown-up;” in fact, we need to reevaluate our values if we crave unwholesome entertainment at all. We need to encourage them to remain close to us as parents even through the teen years so that we – not their same-aged peers – provide guidance and security through turbulent emotions and tough situations.

Unfortunately, it’s rather obvious that our culture has it backwards; much in our society communicates that our kids should embrace “delayed maturity and abbreviated innocence.” But we don’t need to go with the flow. It doesn’t matter what your friends or family members do with their kids, you can choose to stand for the what you believe is right for your kids.

It doesn’t matter what messages Hollywood and pop music try to infect them with. You can still get it right with your own; you can still allow your child to be a child in the right sense of the word. Those of us with such a worthy goal can stand with and support each other.

You know, if enough of us do it, the culture just might follow suit!

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6 Responses to To Be a Child

  1. Janine Jolly says:

    Very well said! Let us have this attitude with all the children in our lives.

  2. Maureen says:

    Great post! I feel exactly this way about my kids.

  3. Kathy Koch says:

    I’m so glad Tina writes for us at Celebrate Kids, Inc, and that Jill chose to honor her by posting this today. Let’s pray that more moms and dads would parent with this philosophy. I think many want to and they think it’s too hard or they’re tired of what has been a fight with even well-meaning grandparents who buy toys, books, and DVDs we don’t want children to be exposed to yet – or ever! Let’s be strong and pass the word!

  4. Lizette says:

    Tina, again, an amazing post. I share your views and this is something that frustrates me with friends of my kids – the fact that the parents don’t share this. Kids are pushed towards maturity (doing things, getting things at age inappropriate times) and not taught to first let go of the childishness. It’s a fine act, but as you say, if enough of us do it, it will have a powerful impact on the world.

    • JillSavage says:

      Lizette, I agree. It’s hard to swim upstream, but if enough of us do it, maybe we can change the current of the stream!

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