If you have lived in or visited a major urban area recently, you may have noticed a sign that read “See Something, Say Something”. Designed to encourage citizens to report information that could help authorities prevent a terrorist attack, the phrase could also be the best Christian parenting advice I can give you.
Years ago when I was a child, we knew without a doubt that if just about any adult saw us doing something we weren’t supposed to do, they would correct us or worse yet, tell our parents. In fact, it wasn’t always misbehavior.
I had gotten carsick on a school field trip four states away. When we stopped for dinner hundreds of miles from home, by coincidence a family from our village had also stopped to eat there. We drove all night, but by the time our bus pulled into the school parking lot, my parents greeted me with “Why didn’t you tell us you got sick?!”
Oh, how times have changed. Most of us are terribly afraid of correcting a child who isn’t ours – even if their life is in danger. We would never think of allowing anyone to tell us anything about our kids – except on a rare occasion their school teachers. In fact, we were in a situation where a teen was making some scary choices and we were honestly afraid of being sued or worse if we let the parents know what was happening.
Yet talk with almost anyone who works with children, teens and even young adults, and those children are struggling. Their parents are often in denial and the kids aren’t getting the help they need to make good choices, handle stressful situations and more. As a result, the suicide rate is going through the roof. Drug use is starting to climb again and it’s the scary stuff like heroin.
Our children often need help. We as parents need help. And everyone who could help us and our kids is deathly afraid to provide that help. They are afraid we will ignore them. Or get angry with them. Or sue them. Or even get violent.
Give your kids and your parenting extra layers of protection. Give others permission to “see something, say something” to your kids and/or you. Yes, it means you and your kids may at times be subjected to an eye-rolling lecture of the benefits of wearing a hat in 60* weather, but the vast majority of the time the policy will help you more than you could imagine.
When our daughter was little, we regularly told neighbors, teachers, and people at church to correct her and/or let us know if they ever saw her misbehaving. I don’t know that anyone ever actually fussed at her, but they became very invested and protective of her. She is in college now, but I can’t even go to the dry cleaners without being asked how she is doing at school. When they see her, she has lots of conversations with adults who have a genuine interest and emotional investment in her life.
Give yourself the backup you and your kids need. Enact a “see something, say something” parenting policy with family, friends and more. The high school graduation party for your kids may end up being like the one we had for our daughter. We invited tons of people, not just to celebrate her graduation, but to thank them for their help in raising our child. They had earned it – and we were truly grateful.