Screening — Paying Attention to Red Flags

Be aware of what is being taught in any outside groups in which your children participate. Just because your friends approve of a certain group, it does not mean that you also have to approve or will approve of the same group. This applies to church-sponsored youth groups, church-sponsored Bible classes or clubs, scout troops, homeschool co-op classes, library story hours, etc. If you have already chosen to homeschool your children, you are obviously rather particular about what things they learn and how they learn them. If your children are currently enrolled in a public or private school, you may be noticing attitude changes taking place that correspond to their participation in specific activities, clubs, groups, etc.

Any changes in your child’s typical behavior should call you to attention. The changes may be positive ones, in which case you want to take notice of what caused the change and see if you can use that tactic in other areas as well to produce additional positive results. If, however, the changes in your child’s behavior are towards more negative behavior, you will want to investigate what has prompted those changes in order to correct a small problem before it becomes a major disaster.

Does your child look forward to attending the group/activity, or does the child suddenly become unruly, stubborn, and disruptive as the appointed time draws near? Does your child tell you about the group in great detail, or is it nearly impossible to glean any details whatsoever (especially noteworthy in a usually talkative child)? Does the child exhibit markedly different behavior upon returning home from the group/activity — is his attitude towards parents or siblings undesirable: rude, selfish, or extraordinarily superior? These are red flags, telltale signs that your child may be receiving teaching/coaching/prompting that is contrary to your family’s values. It may be coming from the leader of the group/activity or from friends he encounters at the group. Whatever the source, you will want to look deeper into the situation before it becomes a bigger problem.

Offer to assist the teacher with “crowd control” as a subtle way to check out what values are being passed on to your students. Mild differences can be discussed with your students before or after the class while still gaining as much benefit as possible from the class/activity itself. Major differences of value systems may require that your family withdraw their participation from the group. If the group is worth being involved with, it is worth your time as well as your child’s. Volunteer in whatever capacity will obtain you the spot you need in order to see what is going on. Speaking as a former leader, I would never have refused an offer of help; extra hands were always appreciated, whether the group was large or small.

We have run up against other children whose families simply had different values from ours. A brief discussion of “family values” with our children helped to clarify things for them, so that they could evaluate others’ points of view and determine for themselves what was worthy of ignoring. At other times, we found ourselves head-to-head with an important difference of philosophy from the leadership of an entire group. In those situations, we had to spend a great deal of time in soul-searching, family discussions, and meeting with the group leadership in efforts to rectify differences. When the problem was simply a misunderstanding, getting everything out in the open would quickly clear up any problems. Other, larger confrontations stemmed from troubles deep within organizational structures. Investigative probing revealed difficulties so vast that we knew our family’s voice could not have any positive influence. In those situations, we saw that it was time to pull out. When we deemed it necessary, we left immediately; other times we felt it beneficial to stay until a desired activity was concluded, then slip quietly away.

We have encountered anti-family philosophies in a wide assortment of organizations, all claiming to be child-centered and family-oriented. As I have said before, the proof is in the pudding. I have learned not to be fooled by words; anyone can say anything they like. A very wise pastor once said that you can tell a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing by what he eats: wolves eat sheep. A wolf may disguise himself for a while, but sooner or later he has to eat a sheep — it’s what he does; it’s what he is; he cannot change his nature.

I became justifiably suspicious when told by a leader that parents were not allowed to sit in with the group, even when it met in that parent’s home. One leader pulled my child aside and coached the child, “You don’t agree with your parents, do you!” I have confronted administrators, forcing them to admit that, although they did not approve of what their underlings were teaching to children and felt it was wrong to do so, they would not take any measures to correct the behavior. I have also met face-to-face with parents who were not aware of their own children’s poor conduct, who thanked me for bringing it to their attention, and who took steps on the spot to reinstate the damaged relationship between our families.

I may sound rather cynical, but it is only because I have become cynical through misplaced trust. I now know (after more than a decade of homeschooling) that my children’s parents are the best teachers for them, and my children realize this fact also. We have all been taught through the school of experience that no one’s best intentions can replace the care and concern of family. If something about a group bothers you, consider that to be a red flag, and start looking around. As you screen things through your own “values filter,” you may find it to have a simple solution. You may occasionally find a much larger can of worms, but you will be grateful in the end that you took the effort to look. Your child is at stake. The risk is too great to ignore.

Speak Your Mind

*