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  • Jul8Mon

    Caution: Tough Times Ahead

    Are Christians guilty of sheltering their kids? July 8, 2013 by Major Kathie Chiu
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Photo: © iStockphoto/MariaPavlova

    "Life is difficult.” That's the way the book started. I thought, “Oh no, this is going to be a tough read!” However, I soon found myself absorbed in one of the most influential books of the 20th century. Written 35 years ago by M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled is filled with wisdom and nuggets of truth that take you on a journey to becoming a whole and fulfilled human being. If things are difficult for you, welcome to life; things were never meant to be easy.

    In this age where one in 10 Canadian children live in poverty and an embarrassing mistake can make you a victim of cyberbullying, how do we teach children to accept and cope with the reality that life is difficult? How do we help and show them the hope we have? I know Jesus is the answer, but knowing him won't make the difficulties in their lives suddenly disappear. What it will do is give them a powerful ally to walk through life with. As parents, we need to trust God, take a step back and let children grow through their trials.

    When our son won't get out of bed for class because he stayed up too late, he suffers the consequences—he misses his ride and has to walk or take the bus. When our children break something valuable, they pay for it out of their allowance or part-time jobs. When our children don't do the chores assigned to them, they don't get their iPod or video game time. If they're going to live at home they have to contribute. It's called discipline. And we repeat it over and over until it becomes a way of life for them. Peck said, “When we teach ourselves and our children discipline, we are teaching them and ourselves how to suffer and also how to grow.”

    Christine Gross-Loh recently wrote in the Huffington Post that parents in North America have it all backward. She looked at the different methods of raising children around the world and concluded that we protect our children too much from the difficulties of life. We spoil them, give them everything we think they need to be successful, help them too much and are overprotective. We don't let them climb trees or get dirty or use knives and we certainly never let them go hungry. We do our best to keep them happy and satisfied. We also work hard to keep them safe from dangers in the world. It wasn't too long ago that Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, was vilified for letting her nine-year-old son take the subway in New York. Yet she believes it's the way to help children become safe and self-reliant.

    When my two youngest children were growing up, they were exposed to people who led difficult lives. My husband and I worked with people who were homeless and addicted. They attended our church, sat nearby during services, came to my office to talk while the boys played with their blocks on the floor, held my babies for me when I was busy, fixed bicycle wheels for them and scoured the building and neighbourhood for them when they decided to hide in a cupboard one day. Aside from giving my boys a sense of compassion for people, these experiences also had a side benefit—they knew there were pitfalls for people and that life was difficult.

    In the Bible, James tells us that suffering is part of the Christian experience. It builds the character and discipline we need to get through life and face tough times. My prayer is not that my children's lives won't be difficult, but that, as a parent, I'll be able to give them the practical and spiritual tools they will need to handle the difficult times they're going to have.

    Major Kathie Chiu is the executive director of Victoria's Addictions and Rehabilitation Centre.

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