Protected or Prepared?

Should we protect our kids from the news of a mass shooting or prepare them for the possibility?

Most schools have implemented a plan and will carefully make it available to your kids as they return back to school. Will your child come home with questions?

Parents.com provided a good article on talking to kids about gun violence, but even the experts have differing opinions. Kids need to know they are safe, but they also need to be prepared for possibilities

Almost all the articles I read agreed on one thing: it is the parent’s job to know their child and know what to say and when to say it.

So . . . how helpful is that? What do we do when we have questions to answer but there aren’t answers for the questions?

I was trying to think with God about this article as I flew home from our vacation. I knew I should write on the subject but didn’t know what to say. Then, my answer came from a little girl seated behind me. I was surprised by the thoughts God gave me, but these are the thoughts I will share.

A lesson from a four-year-old’s tantrum 

Our flight was delayed for three hours that day. All of us were tired, especially the four-year-old girl in the row behind us. She played with her mom’s iPad for a while but then didn’t want it anymore. The mom gave the iPad to the girl’s little brother and he was thrilled. Let’s just say big sister didn’t share her brother’s joy. She wanted it back. 

Mom said no and soon the entire plane was treated to an all-out iWar. 

So, how did that tantrum provide my thoughts for this article?

It is never too soon to teach kids: 

  • Other people matter. I listened to that mom as she tried to distract, entertain, and quiet her child. Interestingly, I never heard her mom say “There are a hundred people on this plane and your screams are bothering all of them.” As far as that child knew, her tantrum was just between her and her mom. That little girl deserved the chance to know how her actions affected other people.
  • Kindness is not an option. The little girl deserved to know she was acting unkindly. Kids don’t want to be naughty; they just want naughty to get them what they want. She deserved to know that her behavior was unkind and unkindness isn’t the road to success in this world.
  • Tantrums result in discipline, not attention. It wasn’t long before the little girl was given permission to get out of her seatbelt and sit on her mom’s lap. In fact, the flight attendant had to remind the mom that the seatbelt sign was on and her daughter needed to be buckled in for landing. Even then, Mom continued to hold her screaming daughter and rub her back with consoling words. The little girl’s tantrum allowed her to break rules for the sake of attention. She deserved to know that breaking rules would receive discipline, not attention.
  • Choose to put others first. I decided to do that mom a favor. I was seated on the aisle and turned my head. I held the little girl’s eyes with mine. She stopped yelling almost immediately and looked at me with a certain “curiosity.” I actually watched her for about thirty seconds, then I slowly shook my head no and turned back around. I heard her ask her mom why I had done that. Her mom told her what she deserved to know: other people on the plane mattered. 

I saw that mom and her little girl at the baggage claim. We exchanged smiles, then I gave her daughter a smile as well. It was a tough flight, for all of us. 

And none of that mattered any longer.

A four-year-old girl and a twenty-something shooter. 

What does a four-year-old’s tantrum have to do with a young man who carries a gun into a Walmart? Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot. 

What if that boy had learned that all people matter? 

Every child deserves to know that they are only one person in a whole world of people—and they don’t matter more than anyone else. 

What if that boy had understood that kindness is not an option? 

I wish that shooter had been treated kindly by everyone in his life, and I wish he had treated others with the kindness he had received. If that had been his past, would he ever have picked up that gun? 

What if that boy had learned that bad behavior is not going to produce the attention he desired? 

One of the common denominators in these young men who kill is that they are loners and feel isolated from most of the world. I wonder if he grew up rewarded for the good things he had done and received right discipline for the bad. All kids deserve strong, loving discipline. That is the attention they need. 

Finally, what if that young man, and all of the people who’ve crossed that young man’s life, had chosen to put someone else first? 

Part of the reason I turned my head to look at that little girl was that I’d learned of the shooting right before I’d gotten on that plane. I’d been thinking about all the Christians who had probably crossed that young man’s path. 

Was he given a chance to know God? 

He lives close to me. What if I had seen him somewhere and missed that opportunity? 

Protected or Prepared? 

I don’t think we can truly prepare our kids for a mass shooting. 

Sadly, I don’t think we can protect our kids from hearing about one. 

But, we can teach our kids to treat the loners of this world with kindness. They have the power to make their world a better place, if they know they have the responsibility to do so. 

First Peter 3:15 is a lesson for our kids and ourselves: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 

We can’t protect them from life in this world, but we can prepare them to make this world a better place to live. 

It’s never too soon to teach our kids what God expects from them. They deserve to know the better way. 

Keep preparing them for that journey and they will be safe.