Jonathan McKee: If I Had a Parenting Do-Over (Part 4)

John FarrellBy John Farrell13 Minutes

John Farrell: Since writing If I Had a Parenting Do-Over in 2017, is there any advice you would change or update today if you were given the option to revise?

Jonathan McKee: No, it wouldn’t be a change. There would probably be some additional pragmatic help because there’s nothing there. One thing I always try to do is I don’t try to be super specific with, “Do this with this app and this screen or this rule.” My concepts really are more based in Scripture and truth. I wouldn’t be like, “No, I’ve realized it’s better to not hold your temper instead.” Most of them are pretty good concepts grounded in truth. So none of them would be changed.

Social Media and Its Effects on Young Minds

What there would be is some additional practical steps. Since 2017, things have changed, and the biggest change is now research is far more clear about the effect of social media on our mental health. The research is more clear that it’s having a negative effect on us, that the pressure that social media is creating is a climate of “I need to measure up, I need to be better.” But at the same time, more young people now than back then want to be social media influencers or YouTube stars or Insta celebs. So, now even more young people are being more careless with how they decide who’s going to follow them. Most young people now have open profiles that are public that anybody could come to.

What has happened is it’s created a more dangerous – both in physical health and mental health – playground that the parents are managing. So, the information I would probably give now – and that’s why I’m writing this new book with Focus on the Family – is “Parents, when it comes to bonding and boundaries, let’s really think about some of these boundaries. When we’re bonding with them, how do we dialogue with them about this?”

When 8 out of 10 kids want to be an influencer – if you’ve got two kids, chances are one of your kids wants to have their own YouTube channel someday – how do you then use these principles and, if I had a parenting do-over, not overreact, but interact? How do we not freak out? How do we dialogue with our kids through this? How do we not become a dream crusher and be like, “Well that’s stupid. You’re going to be a nurse, now shut up and stop.” How do we instead be like, “You want to be a YouTube star? Let’s talk about that. That’s great if you want to be a YouTube star. Does that mean we should be careless with the way we set up our profile?” Well, no. Having those dialogues would probably be the addition now that we’re talking about.

So, You Want to Be an Influencer? What’s Your Back-Up Plan?

My next book coming out is a teen’s guidebook that I wrote with my daughter, and we talk about influencers probably in three different chapters because this is so new that a lot of people don’t know about it and there are so many ramifications. On one hand, we as parents want to, of course, encourage our kids.

“I’m so glad you love building Legos and want to have your own YouTube channel building Legos.” We want to encourage them, but we don’t want to be a dream crusher. At the same time, we also want them to realize, “You just friended Ted Bundy, which is really weird because he’s dead.” So, it’d be good to have those conversations with them.

The other thing too is … I did a school assembly in North Carolina a few weeks ago. There’s about a thousand kids in the room. I’ve done the math and we’re about to put an article out on this. I said, “Everybody stand up if your birthday is from January 1st to October 10th.” Like 800 and something people stand up in the room. I go, “Now look around, look all around you, look behind you. You’re looking right now at your friends who want to be influencers.” Statistically 86% of them do.

I show them the numbers and all the different stuff. I say, “Okay, now everybody sit down. If somebody was born on May 10th between midnight and 4 a.m., please stand up. You’re the one who will be able to go full-time as an influencer.” There happened to be one person in the room.

It’s like one out of 2,500 and something or other. We put this in our book that my daughter and I are writing, this new teen’s guide. My message was, “I don’t want to be a dream crusher. If you like doing this it’s fine, but here’s my message to you: Have a backup plan. Don’t quit school just to work on your YouTube channel because there’s going to be a whole lot of disappointed people here. The backup plan is still plan on going to school and becoming an electrician.” With the kids, I actually go through some of the numbers. “Here’s what you can bill as an electrician, here’s what you can get compared to the majority of influencers.”

There’s a chapter in my book where I talk about this and say here’s an article from the Huffington Post where they grabbed some of the influencers today, and here’s the reality about what they actually make per month. They all have to have another job. I said, “So, if you really want to quit that job at Target and go full time YouTubing, here’s what it takes. The cool thing is have a backup plan.”

I tell them why not go to a two-year trade school to become an electrician and go out and be an electrician on Saturdays? Shoot a video on how to install a ceiling fan and make it funny and pretty soon you can get sponsored by Acme Cable company and be like, “Hey, make sure when you do this, you use this Romex wire.”

I talk about not killing their dreams, but saying, “Just be realistic here.” It’s kind of like saying, “I’m going to be Michael Jordan.” Well, okay, and if not, what are you going to do? Those are some of the things we have to do and talk about.

Do You Really Know What Your Kids Are Up To?

JF: Of all the lessons and advice you give in If I Had a Parenting-Do Over, which one do you find most people struggle with?

Jonathan: I don’t know if it’s a concept in the book. I think it’s just looking at themselves realistically and here’s the reason why I say this. I think a lot of people don’t see their own flaws. Maybe it’s just because I’m so flawed that it’s so obvious. I’m like, “Wow, that’s ugly, Jonathan. You need to fix that.”

I’ll do school assemblies or I’ll be in a church and they’ll bring me in to speak to kids and then let me speak to parents. The interesting thing is I’ve got this book titled Sex Matters. A kid will be like, “What’s that about? Does that answer this question and this?” All of a sudden, the parents will walk up and the kid will drop the book and be like, “Uh-oh, I better not be looking at that book.” Then mom and dad will be like, “This is so good. I’m so glad you talked to him about all this stuff.”

They’ll buy some books and I’ll be like, “Hey, what about this? This would be good dialogue with your kid about sex.” The parent will reply, “My kid doesn’t need that.” I’m sitting there going, “I don’t want to be the one to say, ‘Actually, your kid couldn’t keep their hands off that book because he has some huge questions.’” This parent will be like, “No, my kid can talk to me about anything.” Sadly, I see that so often.

The worst is when you do parent workshops in your own church. I’ll do a parent workshop and talk about a bunch of stuff that’s out there that kids are involved in. Parents will come up to me and they’ll be like, “I’m so glad my kids don’t do any of that.”

I volunteer with middle school and a lot of my friends’ kids I’d see every week, and my friends would say, “I’m glad my kids don’t listen to that music.” And I’d see them on Wednesday night listening to that music. I literally saw it.

I just feel a lot of parents think they don’t have to worry about that and it’s like, no. Most of us don’t know our kids as well as we think we do and a lot of us don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do. We think, “I’m fine. This isn’t a problem for me.” I think our kids might say differently. I think the biggest thing I’ve seen is a lot of us might not know what’s going on in our family as well as we think we do.

Order your copy of If I Had a Parenting Do-Over: 7 Vital Changes I’d Make by Jonathan McKee