Who should your kids believe?

More Americans get their news from social media, rather than a direct news source such as newspapers or news television programs. The problem with this fact is that social media is an open platform. What is an open platform? It is one that allows opinion to be expressed without any corroboration. People can say almost anything they want without facts to support their claims. 

Why would I bring this up in a blog or book that focuses on the role of dads and or parenting? It is because of the masses of young people that are led astray by the agendas of those online or in social networks. I personally do not believe that there is any such thing as bias neutral information. Every writer, speaker, or artist wants something. At the top of the list are self-preservation and promotion. We will usually support those that support us. We don’t normally bite the hand that feeds us or pays us. 

If you look at traditional news sources, they are owned by individuals or groups of individuals that believe and support different agendas. Their reporting process will usually lean towards that agenda. This means that they will overemphasize or continually report on subjects that serve their agenda. They will also minimize reports that do not serve their interests or will argue points that will discredit those that oppose the agenda. Now, this is organized news media. So, what about open formats with no requirement of corroborating evidence? What about articles, speeches, or propaganda that are strictly opinion? Do Americans really follow these sources blindly? Yes!

The writer Anais Nin once said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” People do not like to be told that they are wrong. As a matter of fact, we will gravitate to those that speak what we want to hear. We will affirm information that supports our own beliefs. We count them as fact. However, what if we are wrong? What if our source of information is wrong? Will we search for truth if it leads us to a different conclusion than that of our own convictions? I would dare say no.

What does this mean for our kids? Do we want them to follow the truth or us? What if we are wrong? Kids develop a trust for those that raise them. They desire to believe in them to a fault. When I use to work with kids that were removed from the home due to abuse, 90% of the kids wanted to reunite with their abuser. They wanted to see someone that loves them. They wanted to be worth loving. This need was/is so strong, that the horrible truth of their scars could not convince them that mom, dad, or guardian were bad people.

As we experience life, we develop these relationships and needs. We know what we believe, and don’t want to listen to those that have a different opinion or evidence that would threaten our beliefs or needs. This is why I believe that the problem does not lie with social media as much as it lies with us. We must teach our kids not to fear opposition. They need to discern by listening, observing, and questioning information. Where did this information come from? What do we know about the source? Can we corroborate this information with evidence to support the claim or idea? Sadly, we live in a society that fears offending people more than the fear of being wrong. We feel that if we challenge some information or its source, we are being disrespectful, and somehow denying peoples rights by doing so. This is a lie. Kids can be taught to challenge statements and information in a polite manner. If someone becomes offended by their inquiry, we need to reassure them that this is okay. It is impossible to please everyone because not everyone believes the same way. 

When my kids were little, I wanted to teach them good questions to ask. “Where did you read or hear this?”, was always a good start. “Is this something you have found evidence of or is it your opinion?” could be another. Please note that common sense must come into play. There is always an appropriate opportunity and those that are given to more conflict. Discuss controversial topics or current events. See if your kids can develop a good sense of testing information and processing it search of the truth.

Dads, your kids will naturally want to trust you. They will want to believe in you so much that they will take your words as fact. The problem is that you are not always correct, and they will encounter other adults and information that stands in opposition to you or what you have taught them. The trust relationship between child and parent is crucial, but they need to get to a point where they can understand that truth should be the goal over opinion. Work together and search for the truth together. Build an even stronger bond in the process. Be the best dad possible.


How to Process Information

This past weekend I was brought back to a lesson that I tried so hard to drill into my kids’ heads as they were growing up. What was that lesson? Do your due diligence to avoid looking stupid. Receiving information should prompt us to categorize it in one of two places. I like to call these places files in our heads. The first file is the “dissociation” file. In short, you are telling yourself, “this information has nothing to do with me or is of little to no interest”. I file a lot of stuff there. To be quite honest, I’m really good at it. The second file is the “important/interest” information. This means that I should pay attention and process what I am encountering.

My father and I just got back from Washington, D.C. where he took part in a USA Veterans program. Long story short, we flew out with a lot of vets, went to the various monuments, and the vets got the rock star treatment for their service. It was very cool. However, we had an incident…kind of. When we went to the tomb of the unknown soldier, the vets, many of them in wheelchairs were lined up with a front-row view of action/ceremonies. The public was up on the steps looking down at this wonderful place. 

Not wanting to do anything wrong, I asked one of our guides if I could go up on the steps to take some pics for my dad. They did not want the old guys walking up marble steps…very slick. Once up with the regular crowd of people, a lady with our group told me that I could not be up there. I politely informed her that I had asked permission. Many of the other guardians of the vets laughed when I got fussed at. It was like I had been to the principal’s office. I laughed too. 

When we got back to the bus, one of the support staff of the organization got up and griped about “us arguing with the staff”. The gentleman I was seated by had also been reprimanded for not standing in the right spot while taking pics. He looked at me, smiled, and said: “I didn’t know”. “Me either”, I replied…and we smiled. At this point, the man speaking called us out and threatened to have us thrown off the tour.

Everybody’s eyes widened at this emotional enigma. Apparently this guy was told that I had argued with the lady. I had no clue, but something set him off. After his angered speech was over, several people said, “what is that guy’s problem?” How did this guy become upset so quickly? All I knew was that he didn’t do his due diligence. He received some information that upset him. Perhaps he was already upset at something unrelated and this sparked his fire. Whatever it was, it made him look like a lunatic.

We need to teach our kids how to handle information. If the information falls into the first category as stated in the first paragraph of this post, then we need to discard the information and move on. However, if it falls within the second category, there should be a process as to how we process the information. At least, we should if we don’t want to look stupid.

If someone gives us emotionally charged information that may call us to action, the first step is to try and remove the emotion from it. Emotions make us puff up information and many times, interject feelings into the facts. Let the person get the information out of their system. If time permits, after they have spilled their guts, their second rendition of the story is usually calmer and more accurate. Ask the individual if anyone else may have information that may shed light on the subject. Visit with that witness away from the original storyteller. Many times this individual will affirm or discredit the original claim. 

Buy some time and ask the original source of you may have an allotted time to process the information. This gives you more time to weigh out the information and allows the originator time to cool off. Make sure that you have the facts, not the feelings as facts in your head. Normally, with time and clarity, you will be able to assess the situation correctly.

I would many times ask my kids, “do you want to be quick or right?” Sometimes you can be quick and right. However, the margin for error is much greater. Charge that reaction with passion or emotion and you have the perfect formula for looking stupid…besides being wrong. Encourage your kids to process information and the feelings of others correctly. Be a good example of this process. Be the best dad possible.


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