Don't Raise a Wimp!
By Paul Coughlin
Popular author and speaker Paul Coughlin has tackled the topics of passive men and passive marriages. Now he’s adding another: passive children.
The author feels that today's children are more worried and fearful than children of previous generations, and that parents are raising some of the culture’s wimpiest kids. Yet this father of three presents parents with good news: Raising assertive and confident children is still possible in today’s world.
Through his book he hopes to expel the myth that raising meek and mild children is the Christian way to do things. Instead, he proposes giving children the whole truth of who Jesus was—the ruggedly righteous man—and encouraging them to live as he did.
By showing parents how to shape confident and virtuous children, he is equipping parents to raise a “new class” of children, instilling in them the glorifying virtues of toughness, wisdom, and courage. Because parenting is more than just raising “nice” kids—it’s passing along the tools to help them live a happy and more abundant life, no matter how old they get.
What caused you to write a book that encourages parents, especially Christian parents, to raise more assertive and bold children?
It started with my work with Christian men who think it’s wrong to be assertive and proactive in life. I noticed that they obtained this dangerous view of life as children, often from well-intentioned Christian parents who told them that a true Christian is nice, but not necessarily good. So I set out to write a book to help parents avoid raising such kids, who often grow up very frustrated, depressed, angry, and eventually divorced.
Aren’t Christian children supposed to be nice?
It depends on what you mean by nice. If you mean kind, considerate, and compassionate, then yes. But many Christian parents unintentionally raise children who become doormats for other kids. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you become a doormat.
You have an entire chapter devoted to the “Dangers of a Nice Christian Upbringing.” This is a provocative idea: what’s wrong with such an upbringing?
It can unintentionally create children who are greatly conflicted inside, kids who think they possess no innate value and worth, and that they possess no special gifts that must be grown instead of denied. We give this view to our children when we give them what’s called “Worm Theology” that mistakes low self-worth for humility.
You write that kids are more timid and fearful these days. Why?
One of the main reasons is overprotection, which is prevalent in many church settings. It robs children of self-assurance, making them timid and fearful as young adults.
Tell us about the difference between healthy boundaries and unhealthy boundaries and why it’s important to child rearing.
Kids who have a hard time creating healthy boundaries against others sometimes have parents who have a hard time doing the same. The goal is to become assertive. This is where you put up appropriate boundaries toward others, but allow access to your life by the right people: those who do not abuse you. Assertive people don’t manipulate others, nor do they allow themselves to be manipulated.
You write, quoting Jesus, that we’re training our kids to strain gnats and swallow entire camels. Can you give us an example?
Swearing versus bullying is a great example. We tell our kids that it’s wrong to swear, which it is. But we are not telling them that it’s wrong to turn a blind eye to bullying, which has a far greater influence upon the world around them. We will jump all over a kid who says a bad word, yet we won’t even point out when a kid gives in to cowardice.
What are some of the myths about school-based bullying?
The largest is that kids who get bullied wear glasses or are overweight. In reality, the largest predictors of being bullied are being timid and cowardly. They lack self-confidence. They don’t take good-natured teasing, and they don’t play well with other kids. They don’t reach out to other kids, which is often mistaken for being stuck up or arrogant. They are submissive to others even before they get picked on.
You say that our churches don’t encourage courage in our children, the kind needed to stand up to bullies and to stand up for others. How do you support this claim?
Look at Sunday school curriculum or youth group curriculum. They rarely mention courage, which most thinking people agree is the virtue that underpins all other virtues. You cannot love well and deeply without courage, yet we rarely study it. Why? Because courage often leads to some form of conflict. We don’t like conflict.
You have started an organization called The Protectors (theprotectors.org) to create a faith-based response to school-based bullying. Why?
Because people of faith are missing in action. We can’t expect schools alone to tackle this problem. Our communities need people of faith to help stem this form of violence. The Protectors provides curriculum for Sunday schools and related organizations that helps kids understand that they have a biblical responsibility to help others in need.
What are some of the things you teach in The Protectors?
The power of clarity (being clear about the psychological and spiritual harm of bullying), the affirmation of basic rights, clarity through body language, the power of command (words of conviction spoken with boldness), and the power of two.
How does a parent teach a child courage?
Courage is more caught than taught. They need to see it in action, and then for a parent to say, “That’s what courage looks like.” Courage sacrifices for the good of others, a concept that has been dumbed down today to mean any form of risk. We often take risks for our own good, not for the good of others.
We also have to dispel myths about courage. The big one for kids is that courage is created without feeling fear. Fear is always present when we have the choice to do something courageous or not. We also have to clean up our understanding of honor. For some Christians, they think honor is the same as pride. It’s not. Honor is concerned with dignity, justice, loyalty, and fidelity. It is concerned with the well-being of others. We honor the value of others as made in the image of God.
Purchase your copy of No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps: Raising Secure, Assertive Kids in a Tough World.
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Interview courtesy of Bethany House Publishers.
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