Parenting With QBQ: Raising Contrarians

How many of us heard this while growing up?

“Well, if he jumped off a bridge, would you???”

There’s a whole bunch of parental wisdom in that question!

In the late 1960s in Ithaca, NY, as I headed to my best friend Randy’s house about a mile up the road, my mom would instruct me, “Remember, Johnny, always walk against the traffic.”

I wonder if she was helping an 11-year-old stay safe or giving outstanding life advice—or both?

To go against the flow, to cut against the grain—to be a “contrarian”—is a terrific way to live. And for moms and dads, it’s an outstanding way to raise great children.

While recently doing my new favorite thing—a five-mile walk to keep off the 40 pounds I’ve lost (not bragging, just happy)—I snapped this simple picture of sunny Winter day on the Colorado plains.

For parents doing their best to build their children into strong contrarians, this picture is a metaphor.

Say the first car represents the use of foul language—cussing and swearing—and that’s something you desire your kids not engage in. Though they’ll hear it at school, from teammates, and see professional “role model” athletes mouth four-letter words during a game—you have chosen to teach them to “walk against” this bad habit.

So we’ll let that car whiz on by.

How about the next vehicle, the one pulling a trailer? Drinking? Drugs? Yes, that car, for sure, will be allowed to speed past in the opposite direction.

The car hiding behind the trailer? That’s mean-spiritedness, unkindness, and bullying. And if it’s going one way, we want our kids to go the other.

See those vehicles way off in the distance? They might be envy, winning at all costs, greed, laziness, immodest attire—or discontent that leads to financial debt.

The vehicles in this photo simply represent whatever it is that you believe society promotes today that you will have none of and hopefully, neither will your kids.

Karen and I would label one of the cars Entitlement Thinking. Like you, we’re working hard to raise the three teens we still have at home to “learn to earn.” The four who are now grown and gone are doing well at fighting off this deadly, ever-present worldly disease. We’re proud of them, contrarians all.

Okay, application time. Here are two questions to explore:

What “current societal values” are you teaching your kids to walk against?

How are you helping your kids stay strong?


7 Responses

  1. We don’t have cable or network TV in our house and our daughter hardly knows what it’s like to watch the TV. In fact, she won’t even watch it for more two minutes at a time if we do put on a children’s movie.

    That puts her in a group of American children her age that amounts to about 5,000.

    That is one of many ways we are raising her the exact opposite of how we were raised. And we get a ton of pushback from our family members. Sometimes I honestly want to scream at them to shut up, but I don’t.

    We both turned out all right, but not for lack of effort, determination, tears, and struggle. We don’t want that for our daughter and this is one way we are helping her.

  2. Matt, thanks. An outstanding way to help kids be strong and to keep them from worldly values. We did that 20 years ago for a while, removed all TVs except for using one to watch kids’ movies, etc. Pass this post on to all of your parenting friends, will you? Thanks!

  3. Great post! We really try hard to create a culture of maturity in our home… The modern youth culture is quite destructive to the growing of responsible adults. We have chosen to do that through home schooling, but there are lots of ways to fight the foolishness we see in today’s youth.

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