Driving to soccer yesterday my oldest sighed audibly and said, “Oh I do wish I had my own room.” She shares a tiny room with her sister and the longing is not a new one. The language though? I don’t speak in formal, old-fashioned English. Lately, I’ve heard a few other odd phrases come out of her mouth too, like “Oh, Bother!” And to her sister, “Sister, won’t you be a dear and get me my cleats?”
Who taught her this stuff? Then I remember. She just finished reading an old British classic by E. Nesbit called The Railway Children. It was written in 1906. Bird realized her manner of speaking was unusual and said, “Mom, have you noticed that I’ve been speaking like Bobby lately?” Bobby, aka Roberta, is the oldest of the three railway children. She is charming, kind, generous and thoughtful. A great role model.
My mind was focused and I actually seized the opportunity, ” Oh, I’ve noticed, Bird. Do you remember how we’ve talked about how we have to be careful what we read, listen to , and watch? It works both ways. The books, TV shows and music you watch can make you more polite than normal, more fearful than normal, kinder than normal, meaner than normal. It works the same way with groups of friends.”
Bird thought for a minute. I knew I scored when she said, “Wow. I guess you are right.” I refrained from pumping my arm in victory.
We’ve had this conversation before. When a friend of Bird’s temporarily started using a very distinct, annoying laugh, Bird picked up the horrible noise too. I refrained from commenting on the guffaw and instead used it as an example of how powerful friends’ influence can be.
My girls aren’t teenagers yet. I am hoping that in teaching these lessons using opportunities that don’t breed defensive postures, they will internalize the truths. I know timing is critical. Addressing the influence of media after she has made a big mistake because someone did it in a movie won’t gain any ground.
If I want my girls to internalize proverbial wisdom like, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Pro 13:20) I need to time the lessons with God’s openings.
I have no idea if my tactics will work, but I am praying. What do you think? If you have older kids, how have you helped them learn about the influence of peers and media?