A while back I did a little experiment with a group of high school students that ended up teaching me a valuable lesson in parenting.
We simply wanted to see how difficult it could be for kids to do the right thing when there are multitudes of opposing voices. So I asked four volunteers to step out into the hallway while I explained to the rest of the group what we were going to try.
One student was chosen to be the “Good Shepherd”. The job was simply to get the volunteer to walk over to a cabinet ten feet away, open the door and pick up a package of Oreo cookies. While the shepherd was trying to lead the volunteer to cookies, the rest of the group was trying to lead him elsewhere.
When the first volunteer came in, the audience began yelling out instructions – “Spin in a circle”, “Do Jumping Jacks”, “Sing the National Anthem” etc. The volunteer was so confused he just followed the loudest voice.
Before the second volunteer came in, we moved the shepherd to the front of the room. At first it seemed that the volunteer was following the shepherd’s instructions, but as he moved towards the cookies, he got farther from the voice of truth and became confused.
In the third part of the experiment, we allowed the shepherd to stand within five feet of the volunteer. This seemed to be working until the rest of the audience joined forces and started chanting together “Jumping Jacks! Jumping Jacks! Jumping Jacks!” Our volunteer suddenly quit looking for cookies and started doing Jumping Jacks.
As a parent, have you ever felt that your voice was being drowned out by the louder voices of our culture? Do you ever get frustrated when your kids can’t hear you over the roar of media and peer-pressure? Do your kids feel confused by the multitude of messages that are bombarding them daily? noise
Before you get too discouraged, I have some good news for you.
First of all, you are not alone – especially if your kids are in middle school or high school. This is not a problem that is unique to your family. noise
Secondly, there is a way to be heard over the commotion and it might be simpler than you ever imagined. noise
In the first three parts of our little experiment with the group, the volunteers never stood a chance. There was no way for them to hear the voice of the shepherd over the cacophony of instructions from the audience.
But in the fourth part of our experiment, we changed one little thing – and that change made all the difference.
This time, we allowed the good shepherd to gently touch the volunteer. Even when the entire group was shouting in unison to do Jumping Jacks, all it took was for the shepherd to gently touch the arm of the blindfolded volunteer and to whisper in his ear, “Come with me to the cabinet to the right. I have something for you.”
The difference was the shepherd didn’t get louder he got closer. He didn’t yell in exasperation, he whispered in love.
I used this little lesson often as a parent. I found that the most effective way to get my son’s attention was through some sort of touch (hand on the back, shoulder to shoulder, forehead to forehead), and then quiet instruction.
Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:1 when we are correcting a behavior of our children that we should “Guide them in a spirit of gentleness”.
Yes, our kids are being bombarded by many conflicting messages and we often struggle to have our voice heard. But we don’t give up. Our job as parents is to impart wisdom and truth to our children. They need our help to listen to the voice of love in a world of noise.
So the next time you are feeling like your voice is being drowned out by the clamor and commotion of the world, don’t get louder, try getting closer and speaking softer.
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn
Father of two sons
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries