It’s the question all parents would love the answer to. How do I raise amazing children to become great adults? Many books have been written on the topic, and yet parents struggle to raise their kids. The many problems that plague our society are, in part, a reflection of this struggle.
One reason is that every child is unique, but no child comes with a manual. Then there are the many other things that take up out time and attention. Work, grocery shopping, and an ever growing list of distractions delivered by the modern world.
Actually, I think we over-complicate things. Amazing kids grow up in amazing families. So, we need to build better families.
But how? I’ve been reading a book called “Building Better Families – A Practical Guide to Raising Amazing Children” by Matthew Kelly, which seeks to answer that question. This blog post is the first in a series that’ll delve deeper into Matthew’s answer.
Full disclosure: Matthew wasn’t a father when he wrote the book (he is now). So don’t expect everyday “how-tos” on diaper changing or teaching your child how to read. Instead, he focuses on the higher level questions, such as:
- What’s the purpose of family, anyway?
- What’s your vision for your family?
- What does successful parenting even look like?
- How do you lead your family?
- What do your children actually need?
Answering such questions determine how you make decisions and, ultimately, the path you and your family walk throughout life.
Don’t let his lack of direct experience in being a father discourage you. He’s grown up in an amazing family of his own (one of nine boys). And, he’s got a wealth of observations and knowledge in leadership to draw from.
So, let’s dig in…
What’s the Purpose of Family Anyway?
I wonder how many people could answer the question: what’s the purpose of family? In a nutshell, Matthew’s answer is: “To help one-another become the best-versions-of-ourselves and in the process contribute to the greater good of society and humanity.”
That single sentence packs quite a punch. Isn’t “becoming the best-version-of-themselves” the ultimate dream for those we love? Of course it is. I couldn’t think of anything I’d want more for both my wife and child.
But, we’re not done yet. Families are the building blocks of society. Great families build great societies, which in turn give rise to great men and women who raise humanity to new levels. So, family serves a great purpose.
The Cultural War
In a perfect world, our society and culture would support families in their mission to help their members become a better version of themselves. Alas, this is not the case for our modern culture. Our culture offers us all sorts of distractions and instant gratification. In Matthew’s words, it’s driven by “advertising and consumption.” We’re encouraged to spend, buy, and consume. Even social media encourages filling our time with the consumption of more and more content.
Encouraging consumption may sound harmless. But, if our culture’s goal is increased consumption, then broken families are great because they need two of everything. Two houses, washing machines, TVs, etc. Encouraging selfish indulgent and pleasure seeking also helps fuel consumption. None of this is geared toward becoming the best version of yourself.
In short, we want our family to help bring out the best in us, and the culture around us wants us to consume consume consume. This puts us in direct conflict. It’s a war.
Matthew doesn’t mention it, but I see another factor at play. The words of Karl Marx and his comrade Friedrich Engels continue to echo loudly around the world, creating political freight train that’s gaining speed. Their ideology (Marxism) rejects family, preferring to replace it instead with adults roaming autonomously as individuals, with children raised by the state instead of their biological parents.
Regardless of the root motivations and causes, the culture around us is an opposing force on a grand scale. It’s power is seen in the increasing divorce rates, suicide rates, violent crime, alcoholism, depression, and addictions to almost every vice imaginable. We’re at war, and building a better family in this culture is an uphill battle.
Are You Willing?
Given all of the above, are you willing to do something about it? Most parents would say that they’d do whatever was necessary for their child. But, are you willing to be countercultural? Because, with our culture being at odds with what we want for our families, that’s what it’s going to take.
Being countercultural means choosing to deviate from cultural norms whenever they don’t help you and your family become better versions of yourselves. It sounds so simple, but being countercultural also means you’re likely to be ridiculed and even alienated or ostracized. At an early age I decided that I wasn’t going to sacrifice who I am in order to fit in. So, I can personally tell you that being ridiculed and alienated can be tough. It was indeed tough, but totally worth it. I am authentically me.
Of course, there’s ample motivation to go against the flow. The fruits of our culture are all around us. If we want radically different results for our family (and we most certainly do), then we’ll need to be radically different. Plus, if enough of us live counterculturally, then we’ll create a new culture. One that’s more supportive of building great families.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to do this all alone. Look to other parents who have been successful in raising their kids to wonderful adults. Matthew gives an example of a family that he knows personally. It’s worth reading, and can be found on page 15 of the book (second edition).
I’m Ready & Willing; What’s Next?
I’ve just covered the first chapter of Matthew’s book. The remaining chapters are all about “what’s next.” However, cramming it all into one blog post would be overwhelming. So, I’ll cover the rest in future blog posts.
I hope you’ll join me next time, when I dive deep into “Parenting in the 21st century.”
EDIT: The next part is published. Click here to go to part 2.
Cover Image by DarkWorkX.