If you’re a parent, you know there’s one thing you’ll never lack -- advice.
But I'd actually like to get more of it from some very special people: readers of my column.
I hear enough from you to know that your real-life parenting success stories and the way you face challenges are so much better than the tripe that often fills magazine after magazine at the local newsstand. And most of you share the same worldview … the one that teaches us that our children are a gift from God … that it’s a privilege and a joy to shape and mold their little hearts and lives.
We know that it is mom and dad -- not the school, not the government, not the village -- who actually do the best job of raising sons and daughters that tower above the modern culture.
We also know that with the constant barrage of toxic garbage thrown at our children, it is tougher than ever to navigate them safely through the clutter to find what is pure, lovely, true, noble and just.
Being a parent often means standing tough -- and doing so on a consistent basis in the everyday tasks of life.
Take something as simple as clothes shopping. What should be a mundane task has become, in today’s over-sexualized society, a cultural minefield. My regular readers may recall a time, a few years ago, when I wrote about the time I took my daughter, Kristin (who was then 13), shopping for a bathing suit for our summer vacation.
Anybody with a teenage daughter can tell you the problem: Nearly every swimsuit is far too revealing. And for Kristin and me, an afternoon of fun turned into one of frustration:
We try on item after item, hoping against hope that maybe the next pair of shorts actually comes up somewhere close to the waist, or the next bathing suit isn't really as tiny and baring as it looks on the hanger. But time after time, I have to shake my head and say, "no." Which is why tears are starting to well up in Kristin's beautiful green eyes.
For a moment, I think of ignoring the reddening eyes as we continue our mission to find something decent. But I think better of it, sigh, and simply, softly say, “Sweetheart” as I step forward and hug her close. … We remain in our silent embrace for several minutes and then I step back and wipe away her tears. She sweetly smiles as I say, " We'll keep on looking -- no matter how long it takes -- until we find something you like, and that also reflects the honor and respect for your body that you deserve."
There’s a reason that I like to share such personal anecdotes: I want my fellow parents to know that you're not alone. I want to encourage you to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s incredibly difficult.
And that's why I'm requesting that you share your stories with me. I’m working on a follow-up to my 2005 book, Home Invasion, and I’d like to use some of your best tips -- and even your frustrations -- to illustrate what real parents have done to solve some of the problems that many of us face these days. I’d also like to include them in a future column or two. (Any stories chosen for publication will be identified by author's first name only.)
Your real-life challenges and victories can serve as real encouragement to others. If you have any that relate to the following topics, please send them my way. Both short and long e-mails are welcome and may be edited for clarity. For those of you who responded to an earlier request, a special thanks. It's wonderful to see just how much my readers have in common.
Specific topics I'm interested in hearing about from you include:
How do you teach your child that he has intrinsic value in God's eyes?
When do you know to uphold your desires for your children -- and when to let them have their way?
What problems do you have fighting materialism and unscrupulous marketing?
How do you uphold standards without turning your home into a "no zone"?
When are the best times -- and what are the best ways -- to have meaningful discussions with your child?
How do you model true friendship for your kids through interaction with your own friends?
How do you teach your kids the value of money?
Feel free to send me your general thoughts on the techniques you've found helpful as you work to protect your kids -- and why. And don't be afraid to share the problems that you’re still striving to overcome. E-mail your stories to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even the best parents can use a little help now and then. So let’s put our heads together and share what works. Maybe, by spreading the best advice out there, we can make our toxic culture a little less poisonous -- and our world a little bit brighter.