The Real Way to Make America Great Again

On Monday, I wrote about how the Internet poses many dangers to children, which requires parents to pay attention to how their children use the Internet. This is part of the larger task of raising children with good, moral values. It’s a tiring job for parents, but it must be done because of how important raising good children is.

It is in the home when children learn all the habits and the discipline that they carry with them the rest of their adult life (CCC 2207). It is true that people are constantly changing throughout life, adopting new values and leaving others behind, but many of those good values will stick around. This greatly improves their decisionmaking. The better their decisions are the more successful they are at supporting themselves and serving others. People with good values serve the needy and less fortunate, are a positive influence to others, and truly enrich their communities. The biggest impact good values has is when they raise their own children. Many of those good values that they learned from their parents are now passed down to the next generation.

Across a population with good values, the society creates a collective reinforcement of good behavior (CCC 2212). No one is perfect — people make mistakes and commit sin — but others see that sin and call the person out on it. The population corrects itself. How can good values make such a big difference though? It all comes down to the everyday decisions people make. When the majority of people have good values, most of their decisions are going to be good because the foundation of good values is love and love is sacrificial. When the population as a whole sacrifices for others, it automatically prevents many societal problems from happening.

There are fewer divorces, single parents, and broken families. The families are stronger, so when a relative is in need, the family members pitch in to help them out. Business owners treat their workers well (CCC 2213). No sky high paychecks for the top executives while workers at the bottom are stuck with measly wages. In general, people become much more self-sufficient. They, along with the occasional help from friends and family, can take care of themselves. This takes a huge weight off the government, so now the government is no longer in debt. That allows more money to be spent on defense and other services which the people cannot provide for themselves.

In short, people with good values have a habit of sacrificing for the good of the whole. This is why the Church says that families are the foundation of society (CCC 2207). People with bad values are selfish. They do their own thing, maybe not outright ignoring the needs of others, but at least not paying attention. Many of our current problems would just disappear if the vast majority could sacrifice for the whole, but it all starts with children in the home (CCC 2208).

The human race has thrived over thousands of years by passing down good values from generation to generation. It’s a continuous cycle of goodness. When children don’t learn good values, the cycle is just the opposite. Rather than enriching their communities, the children grow up to be burdens on their communities. They are a negative influence and those bad values are instilled in the next generation of children, who go on to to also be negative influences in their communities. We are currently in a negative cycle.

After the postwar boom, life was good for so many years, parents became too hands-off with children. When everything was going so well, parents just didn’t have any worry about their children’s future. The children could find their own way to success because success was everywhere. This started slowly and ramped up until the present, where huge percentage of children enter the world unprepared. While the children are responsible for their actions in adulthood, their parents share some blame for not taking the time to instill good values in them.

We have parents these days with almost no interest in their children. They busy their children with smartphones and televisions, never really spending any time with them. Many times the parents are sitting there, but not really present. Their head is buried in their own smartphone while the children do whatever they want. This is not the way to raise children. When you have a generation of children who grow up being taught mostly by entertainment, it’s no wonder our country is having problems. Entertainment should always be just entertainment. It might teach a good lesson occasionally, but most of this comes from the parents. Just because a problem is known doesn’t mean there is an easy fix. In households where parents aren’t learning good values, what should be done? I don’t know the answer, but I do have an idea.

Right now, there is way too much focus on the classroom when the greater measure of a child’s success is the quality of their parenting, not education. The classroom can teach many good values to children, but it has to be reinforced by parents or else the children won’t carry much of those values forward in their later years. Spending all kinds of money on expensive schools or technology won’t help much. That money should instead be spent on improving parenting. The ideal approach is different depending on the situation.

For all parents, money should be spent educating them on good parenting. A key part of this should be guidelines on how much time to spend with children each week. Many parents are workaholics, showering their children with gifts instead of just hanging out and talking with them. The children don’t need expensive cars, huge houses, or luxurious vacations. They need their parents. Better for parents to work less and have more time to spend with the children, teaching good values and reinforcing values they have already learned.

Some parents have to work long hours just to make ends meet. They should be helped with more than just good parenting education (CCC 2208). Two options are available. Either they can get supplemental money that allows them to work fewer hours, giving them time to spend with their children, or society can organize helper families who have the means to take in the children a few hours a day when the parents are not available. Ideally, the children’s own parents would have time to spend with them, but in some cases, they would need help from others. It would be very important that both biological parents and helper parents would be consistent in how they raise the children.

In cases where parents ignored the good parenting education and continued to be bad parents, the government would have permission to remove the children and place them in a better home. In existing practice children are removed if they are being abused or neglected, but parents not being present for their children and not teaching good values really is neglect. The children might be getting food, water, shelter, and all the basic needs, but having available parents is really a basic need. If parents can’t or won’t provide this, the government should give the children to parents that will. This doesn’t mean they would be cutoff from their children. The children would just live in a home where they were the focus. The parents could still visit their children whenever they wanted.

These changes would require many laws to be passed — it wouldn’t be easy at all — but the only way America will get out of this rut is if sacrificing for others is well-known and regularly practiced by all people. That happens in the home when parents teach their children true love, which is having a habit of looking out for the needs of others. Most good values are about doing what’s best for the family as a whole, something that directly translates into doing what’s best for society as a whole.

Everyone would have to come together to make this happen. Of course, parents would have to listen to the advice given, change their lifestyles, and put that advice into practice, but this would also require the government, charities, and other parents to sacrifice for the good of the children. The government, in its duty to support the family (CCC 2210-2211), would need to shift money into parenting instead of education, watch for bad parenting, and move children as needed. Parents with surplus time and money would need to volunteer to help children whose parents were too busy. Charities would have to supplement government support for both needy parents and helper parents (CCC 2209).

The results would not happen overnight. In fact, there wouldn’t be any results until the next generation became adults, entered society, and got into leadership positions. Children become adults at age 18 but don’t really impact society until middle age, maybe ages 40 to 60. We have had decades of decline due to bad parenting, so it would take decades of good parenting to get back to good values and success. If society became lax and parents started neglecting their children again, the decline would return. This effort would have to continue to maintain a good society and a strong country.

The real way to make America great again is raising great children. That requires having great parents. This idea is possible. It’s a longshot because of how society is so focused on education instead of supporting families, but it is possible. It just requires people to see the truth themselves and teach it to all those around them. When enough people get behind it, change can happen.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

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The Hidden Dangers of Modern Communication for Children

Throughout history the blessings of God have allowed people to invent amazing new technologies. One such technology is the Internet. The Internet is a powerful tool to collect and share information. Initially, it was only available through desktop computers wired to the wall, but now it is available wirelessly. From letters to phone calls to television, it all happens through the Internet now, but like any tool, it can be used for good or evil. I am continually impressed by all the new things I find people doing online that makes human life better, but the Internet also has many dangers. Mature adults can make good decisions, but children need help. What follows is an overview of the big dangers for children on the Internet.

Pornography

In the old days, it was quite hard for kids to access pornography, but that is no longer the case. On the Internet, the lure of easy money has led to countless pornographic websites online. This offensive material then sits there like a trap waiting for children to find it. Over the years, it has gotten worse, with many social networks allowing pornography under the guise of free speech. Kids will inevitably hear about pornography in school, then look it up out of curiosity. This can quickly lead to addiction.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a relatively new problem enabled by social networks on the Internet. Social networks allow users to easily create content and share it with everyone. This has allowed bullying, which used to be confined to the schoolyard, to follow a child wherever they go online. School arguments can now flood into the online world where it is easy for classmates and anonymous people to gang up on a person, writing the worst things imaginable about them. The consequences of cyberbullying can be devastating. It has led many children to suicide.

Progressiveness

Because the Internet is still a new technology, it is mostly populated by those more accepting of new things: progressives. Progressives tend to be liberal, irreligious, and pro-choice, all potentially dangerous things for Catholic children to be exposed to. Most children want to be agreeable and follow their parents beliefs, but when confronted by opposing beliefs online, peer pressure will many times lead them to lie or ignore what they have been taught just to fit in with the group.This might just be lying at first, but after hearing opposing beliefs for years, they can easily come to believe it. Children can be indoctrinated without knowing it’s even happening.

Online Predators

There have been a lot of awareness campaigns around online predators, so this is probably the most well known danger on the Internet for children. In their innocence, many children give away personal information online including their real name, address, phone number, and more. That might be fine when the people they are socializing with our fellow children, but on the Internet it is easy for people to fake their identity. That personal information could now be in the hands of a online predator. Online predators, being adults, can easily persuade children to meet in person, where they are kidnapped, abused, and possibly even murdered. It’s a tragedy that happens too often.

Radicalization

A new danger has emerged in the form of militant groups like ISIS radicalizing teenagers through the Internet. These groups have found many lonely kids online. With just a little positive attention each day, they have slowly convinced many teenagers to believe everything they say, including radical beliefs. Within a year, a teenager can go from being normal kid to making plans to join terrorists. Sadly, ISIS has found this to be a very effective tactic. Seemingly out of nowhere a kid completely transforms. The worst part is that parents usually don’t even know it’s going on.

 

These are just some of the dangers to children posed by the Internet, but I hope I have convinced you the Internet is not a safe place for children. It can even be dangerous for adults, but adults have experience and wisdom to make better decisions. Children many times will not make the best decisions for their future. They need the help of their parents, even though they don’t know it and resist.

It is absolutely critical that parents keep track of what their children do online. It might seem impossible because the Internet is so massive. How can you possibly monitor everything your children do online? The truth is you can’t monitor everything, but there are three things that will greatly aid you in this task.

Number one is educating yourself on the dangers of the Internet and then teaching it to your children. Spend a few weekends researching the topics I mentioned above and any other dangers you read about. Once you know the dangers well, spend a few days telling your children about it. Start a routine of quizzing your children on what to do when they come across one of the dangers. Eventually, your children will do some of the monitoring themselves, letting you know when something is wrong. You can’t trust kids to do everything right though. Sometimes they will deliberately do the opposite of what you want, so the remaining two things are also necessary.

Number two is to let the computers handle some of the work. For smartphones, tablets, video game consoles, and anything else that connects to the Internet, activate parental controls. Educate yourself on the various controls available and how they work. The device will probably have instructions, but more information can be found from a quick Google search. For desktop computers, you should look into an Internet filter. There are paid ones and free ones. A free one called K9 Web Protection has a good reputation, but I’m sure you can find other good ones too. Set it up to be very strict initially. You can loosen the restrictions as needed if your children request access to a website. This way you will have a chance to review the website before giving permission. With properly configured parental controls and Internet filters, your children will be protected from many dangers on the Internet.

Number three is setting some ground rules for appropriate Internet use. Even with your children monitoring themselves and parental controls, some dangers can still slip through the cracks. Implement these rules to capture any remaining dangers:

  • No computers or televisions in the children’s bedrooms – It’s too dangerous for children to use the Internet completely unattended. Keep the big screens out of the rooms to incentivise children to spend much of their time in the more visible, shared rooms during the day.
  • Children’s bedroom doors must be open during the day – Other than when children are changing clothes, parents should be able to see into the bedrooms anytime they pass by. Keeping the doors open will also let parents be able to hear what’s going on in their children’s rooms even when they are down the hall.
  • No smartphones, tablets, or handheld video games in the children’s bedrooms after bedtime – With this rule you must confiscate all these devices and keep them in your (the parents’) bedroom at night. Make sure they are all turned off. This way your children can’t secretly use the Internet in their room at night away from any supervision.

Your children will probably not be happy about all these changes because you will be limiting their freedom, but it is critical for their development as humans and faithful Catholics that you control their Internet use. Stay firm and they will get used to it eventually. Ignoring this essential parenting duty would be like letting your children hang out on the streets all night where anything could happen. It’s negligent to give children full access to the Internet. Take charge of this situation, and your children will reap the benefits for years to come.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared