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7 Ways to Keep the Wokeness Out of Your Home and Away from Your Kids

Posted by Theology of Home on
7 Ways to Keep the Wokeness Out of Your Home and Away from Your Kids

By Noelle Mering

Whenever I speak to a crowd about the woke movement, an inevitable comment surfaces in the Q&A. With a sort of resigned sadness, parents will tell me about their teen or adult children who are now woke, uninterested in the faith of their childhood, and disdainful of those who passed it down to them.

Political division is not new, but it is increasingly more ferocious. A contributing factor is the nature of wokeism which relocates moral stature away from the development of character and gives perverse incentive to the adoption of a victim identity. To maintain the status of victim, the aggrieved must become an incessant accuser, unmasking the evil all around him, but rarely in himself. This leads to a society roiled in conflict and unable to self-examine. 

Still, the parent/child fracture is far more painful than the demise of an old high school friendship or a rebuke from a woke cousin in Vermont. There is a patricidal tendency that is particular to totalizing ideologies. Family is a deeply stabilizing force. Cultural revolutions thrive on the instability that comes with the erosion of parental authority.

My advice to parents going through this is perhaps obvious: strive to remain engaged in their lives, avoid political discussion (they already know where you stand), but don't hesitate to clearly and simply affirm what is true when needed. If conversations come up, pointed questions might facilitate introspection and reconsideration of their positions over time.

Such parents also need to be reassured that their experience is a common one, and not necessarily reflective of some great failure or oversight on their part. Most importantly, we all need to remind ourselves that this is far more of a spiritual battle than a political one, and to never underestimate the preeminent place of prayer and sacrifice for our children. 

But as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. What about those parents who are still in the stage of car seats and grade school selection? With them in mind, here are some suggestions. 

1. Cultivate a cheerful, fun, and affectionate marriage and family life. Aim to create a cheerful atmosphere at home and regulate your own emotions. It's unfair to expect children to control their feelings if we struggle to manage our own. Emotions have a ripple effect, influencing those around us positively or negatively.

Cultivating fun in family life builds a reservoir of positive connections and memories that kids will carry into adulthood. The deeper spiritual realities we want to impart to them are not merely prohibitions or propositions, but also embodied habits of life that give them the experience of the joy and love that they will forever seek one way or another. 

Showing them great affection helps to communicate that they are not only loved, but liked. Kids who feel this are more likely to trust that you have their good at heart when you set boundaries. 

2. Get on top of their technology. Once phones are introduced, it's challenging to scale back, so delay giving them a phone for as long as possible -- in our house, that's age sixteen. We've found that workarounds like repurposing an old iPhone with restricted browser access and parental controls are burdensome to maintain and too porous. The Pinwheel phone, which lacks internet access and social media but includes maps and texting capabilities, is a great alternative. Here is a guide that evaluates other options as well and offers general tech advice for family life. 

Though smartphones are uniquely hazardous, there is plenty of trouble awaiting and nefarious influences lurking on YouTube and other media platforms as well as various gaming devices. Exercise caution and ensure that access to such tech is limited, and located in public areas of the home, if permitted at all.

3. Foster discussion and dialogue. Adolescents will have doubts, questions, pushback about everything from family rules to religion. Take them seriously and dignify their struggles with conversation. Listen, ask questions, discuss, and follow up. People tend to embrace more deeply what they arrive at more freely. Allow them the room to think critically about what they believe and why.

The truth can withstand any scrutiny. Have confidence in that. Kids who are encouraged to wrestle with ideas, will more likely become adults who are immune to propaganda.

4. Introduce them to beautiful things. Beauty instructs us that we are not made for a life of mere utility. As circumstances permit, bring them to cathedrals, symphonies, plays, museums, forests, oceans, rivers, meadows. 

Family culture isn’t just about what we’re keeping out of the home, but what we’re bringing in. Have beautiful books strewn about for them to take and thumb through or enjoy together. This requires kids who have the space in their life to grow bored enough to turn to books even if they're not generally inclined to read. 

Consider beautiful scents as well. Light candles for family prayers, cut simple flowers for them to arrange for dinner. If you're a baker, involve them in the process. The sense of smell is intimately tied to memory which is why a scent might transport us mysteriously to another time or place or person. 

5. Think beyond your neighborhood school. Consider alternatives such as homeschooling, a good co-op, or a classical orthodox private school. Expecting children to withstand ideological pressure alone in a sea of indoctrination is unrealistic and unfair. There are of course exceptions: some well-formed kids with a particularly strong leadership temperament might fare well, but we are well beyond the point in time when the neighborhood school should be the default option. 

6. Imbue their days with a sense of mission. Much of the messaging in media and in the ever-expanding Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum in schools prompt children to fixate on their feelings and to identify themselves with their wounds and hurts. For example, in one SEL activity, grade school kids are asked to keep a "Problem Diary" where they're instructed to log their "Trigger Situations." Suggested triggers listed ask students to scrutinize how they might have been criticized, left out, or treated unfairly.

Asking children to filter their days through a lens of grievance is psychologically manipulative. Think of your family dinner table conversation. You likely ask your kids what they learned that day and how they helped at school or in the family or perhaps if they were a good friend to a new student or helpful to a sibling. In other words, kids need to be continually moved beyond their natural self-absorption by being tasked to see past their wants and hurts, and to start to assume responsibility and mission. They need to know that their lives mean something beyond themselves. Without a sense of real purpose, kids tend to drift into contrived ones and will almost inevitably sink into despair and anger.

7. Lead by example in your prayer life. A daily habit of family prayer goes without saying, but never underestimate the importance of your personal habits of prayer and meditation. A tremendous 85-year-old priest friend spoke once of the impact of accidentally walking unannounced into his parents' room as a child and finding his mother sitting with her eyes closed in prayer. It's important to teach kids to pray on their own, at set times in the day, but know that habits are also passed down without much explicit instruction. Your personal perseverance in prayer speaks far more of its importance than most any catechism class can.

Finally, know that even if we do everything perfectly they still have free will. But be assured that we will all do this very imperfectly. That's ok. Keep going. 

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