“We don’t trust ourselves or know what to do with our kids and so we’re doing different things; we’re doing what everybody else is doing, we’re doing what they said to do in the magazine at the pediatrician’s office, we’re doing what your neighbor down the street said to do,” Hicks said. “So, tonight, one of the things I want to talk about is instinctive parenting, thoughtful parenting and doing what feels true to you.”
Ground rules for parents
Hicks offered ground rules for parents embarking on this, sometimes difficult, path to remember.
“First of all, you will discover very shortly, if you haven’t already, that you will be counterculture – you’re going to be a counterculture parent,” she said, using the Blessed Mother as an example of the ultimate counterculture parent who was considered chattel in her world and yet became an iconic figure of a woman and mother.
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“We need to recognize that we’re going to do things differently around our house, so that’s become a mantra for us,” Hicks said of her family. “We just do things differently at our house and kids get that pretty quickly and they get pretty comfortable with it quickly and it becomes kind of an identifier of our family.”
It’s not all about kids
Another rule Hicks shared with the group is that God created the perfect authority structure for parenting.
“Too many parents are giving away the power and status in their home to their children because we live in a culture that thinks this child-centered world is where it’s at – it’s all about kids, it’s all for kids,” she said. “First of all, the number one relationship in your home is your marriage. That has to be the center of your family.”
The authority structure of the parent-child relationship is what Hicks said should be a reflection of the authority structure of God over everyone.
“You need to teach them to obey and to teach them to respect that you are the authority over them and then that they’ll learn someday that God’s the authority over them,” Hicks said. “It’s all part of the perfect plan of parenting and raising children.”
Parents know what’s best for their children, which is why Hicks said it’s important to accept that parenting is hard work and that it will be heart wrenching to disappoint them, but unhealthy to give into their every want.
“They don’t know what’s best for them – we do,” She said. “We’re meant to know what’s best for them and so we need to act out of that confidence that we are the adults and they are the children.”
Hicks offered tips on how to raise “geeky” kids who are genuine, enthusiastic and empowered on purpose:
- Raise a braniac. “What it is, is about raising kids who love to learn, who are curious and whose natural curiosity is supported by us in such a way that it causes them to blossom in self-confidence,” she said. “Kids who feel smart are smart because they explore interests and they feel support in that … too many children as they grow up, give up what they love in order to feel accepted and (to be) part of the cool crowd.”
- Raise a sheltered kid. Hicks acknowledged the media is everywhere, therefore, sheltering kids from it is impossible and acceptance is necessary. But for Hicks it means being that much more intentional in the way parents raise children. Hicks compared the media to the ocean – while it can be beautiful and interesting with lots of room for exploration, it can also be dangerous. “You don’t just throw your kids in the water and say, ‘It’s OK, you’ll be fine.’ …” she said. “No, you teach them how to be safe, how to swim, because you stand there and swim with them. You stand on the shore as they get older and make sure they’re swimming right, keep them away from the places that are dangerous and direct them toward what’s good for them and that’s exactly what we need to do with the media,” which Hicks said can be done by making house rules.
- Raise an uncommon kid. “What’s common in our culture these days is materialism and bad attitude – that’s what’s common….” Hicks said. “We need to recognize that we are not helping our children by giving them everything that they want.”
- Raise a kid who adults like. Or, according to Hicks, raise a kid who can talk to adults. “Every child has to be trained to speak appropriately to adults, to shake hands, to look adults in the eyes, to say ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.,’ to say ‘How do you do?,” to say ‘Nice to meet you,’ she said. “…the parents notice and that’s what’s important.”
- Raise a kid who’s a late bloomer. While Hicks said physically kids are growing up more quickly than years ago, it’s important to tell them that their bodies, hearts and brains are on different paths that will meet eventually. “We have to be able to recognize that it’s still possible to raise kids who are innocent about their sexuality, but that doesn’t mean they’re ignorant either,” Hicks said. “You need to empower them with enough information that they aren’t hijacked later,” but with age-appropriate content.
- Raise kids who are team players. In Hicks’ sports-loving family, it’s a chance to teach values. “Let’s use sports for what it’s good for, for most of us, which is to teach our kids great values about effort, about perseverance, about humility, about working together with others, and going for goals and all the things in leadership – all these great lessons that we can use sports for,” she said.
- Raise kids who are true friends. “We want them to have good friends, wholesome friends, friends who support them and their interests and friends who want them to be themselves and like them for who they are,” Hicks said. “So, we really have to help our kids discern good friends and the way we do that is as they’re growing we really do need to direct them toward the people we help them choose to be good for them.”
- Raise a homebody. Hicks suggests claiming time with kids. “Sometimes we have to claim time with ourselves and our families and we have to say to our kids, ‘Well, I know you love your friends and they’re important to you and they’re important to me, but we’re the pack – we’re the ones you have to spend time with sometimes just for the heck of it,’” she said.
- Raise a principled kid. Hicks said this can be done by reconnecting kids to the consequences of their actions, which show character. “We need to make sure that our children learn that those behaviors (lying, cheating, stealing) have names, they have a label and they will label you and your character,” she said, sharing that she always told her kids that while she would love to see the intentions of their hearts, she is not God and must go by behavior. “…and you will always be judged in your life by your behavior. That’s what’s going to tell people about your character.”
- Raise a faithful kid. Children, Hicks said, are empowered when parents remember that they are whole people created by God and spiritually curious. But today, parents aren’t passing on beliefs to their children. “…as parents, we are not doing enough of what we actually believe or saying we believe and we are not passing those belief systems onto our children,” Hicks said, adding that she didn’t choose to evangelize in the book, “…except to say whatever it is you are, relearn it and teach it to your kids because our kids are not learning how to be spiritual and religious people.”
When the job gets tough, Hicks said parents should remember they were chosen by God for their children, to lead the children in their life to him. And when happiness is as fleeting as the next version of the cell phone or PlayStation2, Hicks said it’s important to give children something more.
“We have to be able to give our kids something more than that,” she said. “Something lasting – and that’s where our faith comes in.”
With these steps, Hicks said change might just happen.
“(If) enough of us could turn the tide and do this kind of work with our children, maybe we really can change this country – change the way the next generation turns out,” she said. “We really are a part of something larger.”