I was talking with a co-worker this morning and the conversation turned to Facebook. He mentioned he didn't have one; wasn't interested. I said that I started out on the social network via MySpace many years back because my oldest had one and I wanted to keep up with her since she didn't live in town. Then my younger daughter created a MySpace and I "friended" her to keep the wolves at bay. I told my co-worker I had but one rule for my children as they navigated the virtual world: imagine that you were in a room full of strangers. If you wouldn't share that photo or tell that story or post that update to those strangers, don't put it on the internet. So far all my girls are successful at this virtual navigation and I am very proud of them.
This brought to my mind something I had thought about a few weeks ago. Rules for kids. Oh my - touchy subject. There's lots of rules for kids and they run the course of 'anything goes' to boundaries so well defined the poor child can barely move without breaking a rule. I like to think my husband and I have this whole parenting thing down, but I know better. And this was proven when I babysat, alone, for the first time in years this past December....not one child, but 2! I'm a pro, thought I. No problem, said me. And it wasn't, really. But it reminded me of all those little vignettes we say to our children when they are young hoping that at some point the child will catch on and learn that "because I said so" really is a reason, and "I don't care who started it" is a truthful answer.
The Bible is full of rules and rituals. There are tons of books on rules and boundaries for kids, what they should and should not do or say, plus all those little unwritten rules that your parents raised you by. It could drive a parent crazy trying to figure all that out. So I wanted to debunk a few rules, maybe making it easier to parent a child in these virtual times.
1) Children are like the internet. Once you say or show something you shouldn't have, it will forever be imbedded in their memory and will pop out at the most inopportune time.
2) Children make messes. Just learn to be a good mess-cleaner-upper. No matter how careful you "make" your children be, a mess will ensue.
3) Children are drawn to breakable objects. I don't care how many non-breakable, child-friendly things are lying around, they will be drawn to the things that can break. Remotes, laptops, phones, knick-knacks....keep the warranty up.
4) Teach your child to be environmentally minded and never let them do their own laundry. If something gets shrunk, re-colored pink, shredded or lost it will be your fault even if you never touched it. Besides, extra laundry loads means extra waste-water flowing into our environment. Love the environment and take the blame because you actually did it. It's easier that way.
5) Never mix pets and children. Well, ok you will, and should, but be prepared. Pets are just furry children.
6) Use every phrase your mother used on you and then complain to your friends how you swore you would never sound like your mother. Truth is, it worked on you.
7) Set boundaries and then watch your children change and eliminate them. Best thing is to stay silent as you watch and then complain to anyone who will listen. This is what mothers have done for centuries.
8) Children do not understand subtleties. Be direct. "Be careful" to a teenager means "Party! But we can't get caught."
9) Learn to "text speak". Yep, use LOL, ICU, KK, TTYL liberally. They might actually understand.
10) Pre-purchase a lifetime supply of good humor, keep on hand, and apply daily.
Children view their world through Facebook post-colored glasses and will only "like" what they feel is important, such as "Lady Gaga changed her hair color", or "Justin Bieber gets the girl." But really this is no different from kids' viewpoints from 50 years ago. Every girl wanted to know what Elvis was doing but would roll her eyes at mom and dad. The world may change, but how children view it does not. If we can remember what it's like to be that young, we might have a chance at helping our kids steer through this world, just like our parents helped us.