At what point do we, as parents, begin to imprint our personal beliefs on our children? Arguably from the time we bring them home from the hospital; after all, we are teaching them about our values and beliefs simply as a matter of course in how we live life each day.
The question is, when do we become aware that’s what we are doing and decide to be intentional about it? I’ve had this discussion with myself, and my husband, on numerous occasions over the past several years, and most recently 30 minutes ago…on the topic of selling popcorn!
Our son is 7 and is a Wolf in his local Cub Scout Troop (or is it a den or a pack? Frankly, all those distinctions elude me, but I digress…). The biggest fundraiser for his group is selling tins of popcorn, caramel corn, and chocolate coated popcorn. Some members of his troop will sell by going door-to-door in their neighborhoods, after services at their church, by setting up tables outside local merchants to catch shoppers on their way in and out, and, presumably, some of their parents will even sell for them at their places of employment (I’m not sure this actually helps the child grow in any way, even though it does raise more money).
To motivate the kids, there is a listing of the incentives one might obtain by selling at a certain level. The more you sell, the cooler item you can receive. For example, if you sell $550 worth of popcorn, you can have a Lego Fire Truck (this is what my son has his eye on!), but the levels gone on up into the thousands of dollars sold.
In full candor, I cringed knowing this day would come. I understand the growth opportunity for the kids and the need to raise funds for the Troop. I am not a fan, however, of what the items are that are chosen to sell (usually cookies, cookie dough, very expensive wrapping paper, tins of popcorn) as they are often not anything we will eat or use or send as a gift. I’m not a fan of going door-to-door to sell, either (and have been shocked when young kids ring our bell and I see no parent in site, accompanying them). In fact, I would prefer to simply write a donation check and skip the sales process altogether! But, that wouldn’t allow the kids to experience the process and learn the lessons that come with it. I also recognize my thinking about and reaction to this “opportunity / activity” is not how everyone else looks at it.
My husband explained to our son how it works, and he’s excited. He says he wants to visit our neighbors, dressed in his Scout uniform, and sell them popcorn. Of course, it’s about earning that Lego Fire Truck! And no one has dampened his enthusiasm, yet. So, I’m working on restraint. I’m working on not coloring my son’s experience with my personal thoughts, feelings, or beliefs about this activity and process. It’s actually kind of fun to see his un-jaded enthusiasm for it, even if it’s one of the last things I would want to do.
Thinking this through has left me wondering about how we unwittingly impose our beliefs on those around us and change the way they view the world. Sometimes, those beliefs we instill in them are based on untruths and don’t serve them well later in life. Sometimes, they may bump into enough barriers because of those beliefs that they are forced to unlearn some things in order to achieve their goals and realize their potential. I don’t think we do this to the people around us intentionally, but it happens nonetheless.
All the more reason for becoming as self-aware as possible, so we can be more intentional about what we say, how we behave, and what we expose others to.