How much do you know about the people who influence your children? What do you know about their teachers? Who are their friends? What does their little league coach do for a living? Are these people of faith? What faith? Most important, are they people of good character?
A hundred years ago, you would be able to answer all of these questions. If you didn’t know the person, or if you didn’t know someone who would vouch for the person, you would not let your child go near him or her unaccompanied. All that has changed.
Today, most of us don’t know the answer to any of these questions. Therein lies one of our biggest problems. It matters who has direct interaction with, and influence over, your children. These are the people who can lead your children in the right direction, or the wrong direction. These are the people who can exploit and abuse them, who can fill their minds with false and evil ideas. These are the people who can crush their spirit. Or they could become mentors and role models who could inspire them to great achievement.
Obviously not every stranger is bad. Most aren’t. But not every stranger is a saint, either. It’s a coin toss. If you don’t know the people involved in your children’s lives you are gambling with their safety. Even if they’re not in physical danger, they are in constant danger from the exposure to ideas that are anathema to the values you want to instill in them. Even if someone claims he is a Christian, he could still hold values that are contrary to traditional Christian principles. We must know the people who influence our children, if for no other reason than to provide a counterpoint to the beliefs that might be rubbing off onto your sons or daughters.
A story recently came to my attention about a child who last month took candy canes to share with his West Covina, CA school classmates before the Christmas break. Attached to each candy cane was a Christmas message. When the teacher saw the message, she confiscated the candy and consulted the principal. Reportedly the principal agreed that the message could not be distributed with the candy. The teacher then tore off the messages and threw them away. Only then did she allow the child to distribute the candy canes. The article is available here.
The child’s parents, with the help of a nonprofit law firm, are taking legal action against the school. I think the parents will win. The school would have been on more solid ground if they had prohibited the candy, and let the message be distributed. But that’s beside the point. Why didn’t the parents know this would be the reaction of the teacher and the principal? Why didn’t they know that these educators would be hostile to a Christian message being distributed with a small personal gift? The simple answer is they did not take the time to get to know either one of them. How can parents possibly exercise their responsibility to protect children if they know so little about the people who are deeply involved in their lives? It’s not just the parents of the kid with the candy canes. It’s all of us.
We choose to trust other, nameless, people to ensure our children’s safety. The alternative is too much of a hassle, or too awkward, or we think we have better things to do with our time.
It’s no wonder that Miramonte Elementary School teacher, Mark Berndt, was able to get away with sexually abusing children in his Los Angeles classroom for more than two decades. And it’s no wonder that hundreds of thousands of other teachers, coaches, church workers, child care volunteers, neighbors, pastors, priests and pop stars are getting away with it right now.
Get to know—really know—the people who influence your children.