Keeping a Wolf at the Door
He had my attention. He had just said the sort of phrase that makes me look for my pen and paper. He had said “twenty years ago I was given the most valuable parenting advice I’ve ever heard.” I think this guy was a pastor because he spent the next 3-4 minutes without sharing the advice but instead building up the anticipation and giving context. Finally, he said the following, “You always need to have a wolf at the door, if you don’t have one, rent one”
What? I was a bit let down. I don’t like living in a state of fear and paranoia, I’d prefer to live with a goal rather than fear. Yet apparently this man had been really helped by this theory so I listened more.
His point was that the threat (wolf) keeps us diligent and working together. When we don’t feel threatened, we end up becoming separated from one another, complacent and vulnerable.
I’m still not convinced this is the best parenting advise that I’ve heard but I think it’s helpful in the following ways.
It reminds us that having a “common enemy” reduces the likelihood of us fighting each other. I have two older brothers and my older brothers could be really mean toward me, but if I were picked on by other kids when at the playground they came in force to rescue me. We were closer when we protected each other.
It’s also important to realize that the wolf changes and that with time what used to scare us may now seem tame and we may be lulled into complacency. The idea of “renting one” to me is just to show how important it is to identify changing threats.
Finally, teaching our kids to appropriately handle risk is one of the most important things we can do. It’s a risky world out there and almost everything involves some risk. That doesn’t mean that we are careless just because danger is unavoidable. It means that we know when something is risky, we measure the risk, and if we choose to accept the risk, then we try to minimize it. The purpose of talking about risk isn’t to make kids paranoid, it instead helps them form a reasonable plan which is much better than a “all or nothing” approach.
So, what do you think of the advice, “You always need to have a wolf at the door, if you don’t have one, rent one”? I’d love to hear your thoughts.