Facebook ads are usually pretty spot-on with their targeting of me. I suppose it helps having a background in marketing/advertising. I understand that ads are a reality and do what I can to ensure I’m not getting crap that doesn’t interest me. If I’m going to be pandered to, at least let me get a pair of killer shoes out of it.
This ad, though, was very, very wrong. For me and… well… anyone really. Forgive me for being cynical, suspicious and vulgar, but FUCK. THAT. NOISE. I feel so strongly about this that I questioned whether or not I should even link to the app’s article. The irony was not lost on me, I assure you. The issue here is twofold: tinfoil hat and really fucking important.
On the tinfoil hat end of the spectrum you have this quick truth. This isn’t the actual point of this post, but as someone in the tech industry who’s had some experience with this sort of thing I would be remiss not to mention it.
- If you want to easily (and meticulously) monitor every minute, of every day, of every citizen, anywhere in the world, you need access to their mobile devices. The most efficient way to do that is to install software that bypasses security and privacy protocols: a back door. The best way to install a back door into every citizen’s private device (while also getting them to willingly sign away their right to privacy)? Scare parents into opting in. Convince them to install it on all family devices and sign away household minors’ rights on their behalf.
On the less tinfoil-y hat end of the spectrum:
- The single best way for a parent to push their child away and ensure they aren’t prepared to take on the world as an adult is to not trust their ability to learn and treat them as though they aren’t prepared to take on the world as an adult.
PARENTS! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT SPY ON YOUR CHILDREN!! TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN!! GIVE THEM TOOLS, NOT ORDERS!! LET THEM FALL SO YOU MAY TEACH THEM TO RISE!!
The inconvenient truth
Every human on this earth has their own path. Any parent will tell you how amazed they are at the uniqueness of their children—how personalities, likes and dislikes, preferences and sense of humor present themselves unbelievably early in life. As much as we desire them to be, our offspring are not us. They do not learn the same way we learn, do not value everything we value. Their life’s path will be very different from our own, and if they are to become the honorable men and woman all humans have the potential of being, they must be allowed to walk it.
You cannot save them from their path. Our responsibilities as parents, mentors or caretakers is to give our youth the tools they need to navigate their path. They will fall. They will cry. They will scream. They will yell. They cannot learn what it is to be human without these experiences, and they cannot learn what it is to be strong unless they have the opportunity to rise to challenges.
Let them eat dirt
Life is dangerous. It seems even more so with today’s instant connectivity, and it’s scary to watch the ones we love walk along youth’s proverbial cliffside. It’s hard not shouting out instructions or demands. Hard not snatching them up and locking them away in the gondola we’ve managed built over the course of our own lives. But doing this does not teach our children anything. It does not allow them to discover themselves or what kind of person they are to be. It does not give them experiences to draw on during hardships and it certainly does not help them build trust in us. How can it, when we so clearly display a lack of trust in them?
So parents, listen to your children without judgement. Give them advice when they ask for it, ask their permission to give it and respect their answer when it is inevitably “no.” Don’t make their choices for them, help them learn how to make good choices for themselves. Be there to listen—without judgement—when they make the wrong ones, for those wrong choices are lessons in and of themselves. If you show yourself to be an authority figure who can be trusted, over time you will cease to be an authority figure at all. You will become a confidant. An advisor.
Case study: Me.
I share this thought of the day with you not as a parent, but as a mentor and a child. My mother taught me this along with herself; after years of being at odds (to the point of homelessness), in my late teens I noticed a drastic change. I noticed, but until recently had no idea she’d made a conscious decision to stop trying to guide my life and start being a spectator of it. She stopped telling me ideas were bad or decisions were wrong. She told me if she didn’t agree, but her opinion was never accompanied by what I “should” do. Instead, she simply warned of what might happen as a result, then let me happily stumble around my path to discover it’s pitfalls for myself. Sometimes I fell in them. Sometimes I didn’t.
In addition to my mother feeling better about our relationship, less afraid and more secure in her trust/respect of me, I started valuing my mother in a way I never had. I was no longer afraid to tell her about the horrible decisions I’d made. When some came around to bite me in the ass (as some undoubtedly will) and I needed a shoulder to lean on, I didn’t fear the judgement or punishments that used to befall me. The very judgements and guilt that had previously prevented me from seeking her support.
You see, the strict rules meant to protect me from the world, in actuality, protected me from nothing. By loosening imposition she showed me I could trust her. Trust her to respect my sovereignty as a human. My right to my own experiences. Trust her to love me without judgement or impose guilt when I failed. When I started coming to her for advice, I trusted her opinion because she had proven that she trusted me. She never lied, of course. Never said a decision was a good one if it wasn’t. But she did respect my right to make bad ones and stood behind me regardless.
Very quickly I began to see my mother in a different light. Unknowingly, I reversed the effort to push her out of my life and offered her a seat at my table. A seat on my council. When she told me about this decision, she also told me that, while difficult, it was one of the best decisions she’s ever made. And if I’m honest, it just might be the greatest gift she’s ever given me. I am stronger, wiser and kinder today because of her. I will be a better mother because of her.
Do not spy on your children. Do not try to control them unless you seek to teach them how to be controlled. Do not rule with fear unless your aim is to teach them to fear ruling. Instead, teach them to be prudent and objective by being prudent and objective. Teach them to trust by showing them what trust looks like.