Parenting our Community

Right now, I’m reading a parenting book and as I read it, I can’t help but think about how this parenting thing is somewhat like trying to raise a community through a change. Now, I’m no parenting expert (thus, the reading of a “parenting” book), but let me see if I can write this out….if I can put on paper what my heart has been feeling.

In the book*, it breaks down parenting into two basic styles: ownership parenting and ambassadorship parenting. In ownership parenting, you believe it’s your right/job/responsibility to make your child become who you expect, when you expect it, in the way that you expect it. Ownership parents use the “tried and true techniques” of changing behavior – fear, reward and shame. They hope that by using these techniques, they’ll convince their kids to make the right choices, to see things clearly. And while these techniques can and often do provide the visible results wanted, they miss the most important part of change – the heart.

Ambassador parents are forced to understand that they really have no control over how a child’s heart is feeling. They cannot force empathy or compassion or discernment. Their job is to be ambassadors of the truth, sharing it, living it and then gracefully, letting their children discover these qualities on their own. It’s letting go of pride and ego and letting the child become who he/she is supposed to be in a timeframe that is not predetermined.

But, this blog is not about parenting – it’s a letter to our community. Many of us are thrilled by the expanding diversity and new cultural experiences. We want all to feel welcomed in our cities, exactly as they are. We want their differences to be celebrated, not negated and conformed.

But as I read this book, I realized that shaming someone for not feeling the same as I do, or causing fear in them that perhaps I no longer value them, is not the way to do it. While it’s possible that I may get them to stop the immediate bad public behavior, I will do nothing to affect their heart. And if the heart doesn’t change, then really, what’s the point? Then we have secret hatred and distrust behind closed doors that we can’t even address, and we still have a very fractured community.

Photo courtesy of St. Cloud Area School District 742 taken at the Southside Community Café

As ambassadors, it’s simply our job to model the correct behavior. To give grace, along with truth, to those who are misinformed or scared or angry about community change. Show them how to take baby steps and that change doesn’t have to be something to fear. It can in fact, be something to celebrate!

So, my challenge is that instead of searching social media for hours to find someone who needs to be enlightened, and then lambasting that person’s misconceptions, trying to shame them into the truth, let’s take that time to go out into the community and model what a healthy, diverse community looks like. Let’s go to the events in our area that are specifically created to help us get to know one another. Let’s let our neighbors know we’ll be there with a friendly face so they can come too, maybe for the first time. As ambassadors, let’s usher our community into a new and wonderful dynamic, helping everyone to celebrate each other.

*Book name “Parenting; 14 Gospel Principles that can radically change your family” by Paul David Tripp (This book talks about parenting from a Christian perspective, utilizing principles from the Bible.)