Parents: Not Everying is a Five-Alarm Fire
It is interesting how certain phrases are incorporated into everyday language. For example, Americans often use firefighter code to describe everything from the heat intensity of chili to the seriousness of a situation encountered in any host of situations. Just as with firefighters, the number of “alarms” demonstrates the magnitude of the situation.
As a new school year begins, it is important for parents to remember that not everything their children deem as “five-alarm” situations are, in reality, “five-alarm” situations. From kindergarteners to seniors, children have the propensity to magnify situations to come across as the victims of other children, teachers, or administrators when perceived victimization suits their needs. If not very careful, parents can rush to action at the sound of the alarm and often create a fully engulfing fire when a small flame could have easily been doused. Instead, these should be occasions where the examples of parents teach their children how to handle situations and resolve them as the Lord directs. Fortunately, the Lord has provided the answer for how this is done.
For children of God, attitudes in everyday life should reflect the change one has made for the better through faith in God. To this end, the apostle Paul listed the qualities that bear witness to the fruit that is produced by being in step with the Spirit. To the Galatians, he wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (5:22-23). When one truly bears this fruit, situations that could quickly spiral out of control are dealt with in the manner God desires. Note that these qualities do not depend on how one is treated; godly behavior is the standard no matter what someone else does or says. Thus, when a child rushes home with grandiose stories of mistreatment by another, parents can model appropriate behavior by maintaining self-control. Often, the calm spirit of another can bring situations into perspective. It is then parents can ask the child how (s)he responded; was patience, kindness, and gentleness evident in word and action? This portion of the Spirit’s fruit is not easy; however, if it is not learned in childhood, it is often even more difficult to implement as an adult.
It is also important to teach children that everyone can have a bad day. It may very well be that words or actions directed toward a child may not have been the most appropriate. Still, this is an occasion to help a child to learn how to deal appropriately with others. The writer of Ecclesiastes admonished, “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others” (7:21-22). When parents help their children to understand this, two purposes are accomplished: 1. Insignificant situations are not raised to five-alarm status; 2. Children learn not to be as easily offended. These life skills will aid the child in later life with employment situations, marriage, parenting, and in dealing with fellow-brethren in Christ.
Parents must also exercise great caution in speaking poorly about adults in authority over their children. Administrators and teachers do not always handle situations correctly; long days, faulty information, and stress can sometimes lead to less-than-satisfactory outcomes. This is another test of patience for both parents and their children. Children will learn valuable lessons when they see their parents handle these situations appropriately. When parents allow “little things” to go without conflict, children will learn to do the same. When children see their parents speak to these adults with civility and Christ-likeness, they will learn to do the same. When children do not see parents “lighting up” social media with complaints and insults, they will also learn self-control. These lessons in respect will aid children in learning to deal appropriately with those in authority over them throughout their lives.
Most of all, parents must work to teach their children to live like Jesus. Even when the situation is “five alarm,” this does not excuse one from demonstrating Christlikeness. To this end, the apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). When a child is trained early in this type of lifestyle, the needs of others will be seen as more important than those of self. Even when wrongs occur, a child who has seen Christlikeness modeled by parents will learn to see to the needs of others, even when there is a personal cost of pain. After all, this is what Jesus modeled.
May the 2019-20 school year be one of great success for all students involved. May it also be a time when parents demonstrate the kind of attitudes and actions that snuff out flames rather than ringing alarms, and allow their children to see the love of Christ manifested in every situation.