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Raising Children, part 1: Providing an Alternative

While there is a great deal written on providing love and security for children so they won’t grow into hostile adults, there is nothing very much on how you raise children to be sufficiently alienated from society so they won’t accept things ‘as they are’, and sufficiently identified with it so that they will contribute in creative ways to the building of a better social order.   –Elise Boulding, quoted in Practicing Peace, a compilation edited by Catherine Whitmire


Many of us who spend time on Off The Grid News are trying to live faithfully and sustainably, in a way that runs counter to the wider society’s assumptions. It’s hard to have courage to live this way ourselves, even harder to do it along with the children we care about.

I knew a student at an expensive private college who was frustrated by the consumerism on campus and with the abstractions of academic life. He said he’d have been happier working with his hands… but he wanted to have children someday, and to provide them with all the goods and all the opportunities he could, so he had to stay in college and succeed and get a high-powered job. “So your kids can have the chance to do what’s making you miserable?” I asked.

If we really want the children we care about to have meaningful choices, we can’t just focus on helping them to ‘succeed’ in society as it now stands. Nor can we teach them that a few of us are pure and on the right track and the rest of society is going to hell. We need to help kids understand our choices and values, and the choices and values of good people with whom we disagree. We need to give them the chance to form real friendships with people from different backgrounds and perspectives. We need to offer them meaningful work. We need to treat them in a way that shows that they are worthy of love. We need to expect enough of them so they learn to work well, be considerate and set demanding goals for themselves. We need to offer them time in the natural, created world. We need to involve them in prayer, discernment and service. We need to offer them a space protected from the relentless pressures of media and ads where they can learn what they value and choose, where they can listen to the still small voice of God.

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