June 26, 2019

Keep It Positive

One of my pet peeves is seeing parents – and teachers – rant about their children/students online. And, sadly, it happens pretty much every day in one way or another. Currently, teachers in conventional schools are expressing relief about “finally having a break from the little monsters” and parents are bemoaning the “burden” of having their kids home for the summer. In a few weeks, that will flip; teachers will begin complaining about having to “endure” the children again and parents will throw horrid little “celebrations” akin to The Wizard of Oz munchkins singing, “Ding-dong, the witch is dead,” as their children pile back onto school buses. In between will come a continual barrage about how “terrible” certain children or teens are.

On the one hand, I get it. Classroom teaching is hard, and parenting is harder; I’ve done both. And sometimes – in order to release it so it doesn’t eat away at us and poison relationships – we really do need to vent frustration at children’s behavior; they are, after all, sinners just like us. However, doing so online – the equivalent of spewing one’s filthy laundry into the middle of a public square – isn’t the place for that. Teens and children – even those whose current behavior is poor – deserve better. And if we think they don’t know – “My kids aren’t on Facebook,” or “My students don’t follow my account.” – we’re sadly mistaken. It gets back to them. And the inherently negative nature of social media magnifies and twists the issues at hand, in their minds and ours. Then our thoughts and feelings spiral down into even more negativity. They know what we really think of them, and then see our plastered-on smiles for what they really are.

So, when you need to blow off steam – and we all do from time to time – keep it private. Offline. With your spouse or one trusted and trustworthy friend. Well out of your kids’ earshot. And, ideally, you enlist that person to help you begin brainstorming possible solutions immediately following your vent, so that neither you nor your kids get stuck in a pattern of angst.

And when you’re online? Keep it positive. Don’t lie or pretend you’re living the 21st century version of Leave It to Beaver; it’s okay to ‘fess up to tiring days and ask for general prayer requests (God knows the details; your 817 Facebook “friends” don’t need a blow-by-blow). Think of it as an opportunity to practice discernment and restraint. And then use the time you might have spent typing up your rant – and subsequently responding to all the commiserating which would have ensued – to try your hand at authentic, in-person problem-solving and relationship-building.

CK


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