13 Reasons Why…A lesson for parents

 

The new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has really gotten a lot of attention since it aired. Not all of it positive attention, but attention none the less. The only reason I began watching it was because of the hype behind it. The longer I watched and the more episodes I made it through the more and more it bothered me. It truly bothered my soul. I thought about it through my day, as I watched my own kids go about their day and watching others around me. There are so many messages it gives, how NOT to treat others, how to be a real friend, how to stand up for people, or maybe how to look at your own kids in a different light (not just how you think you know them). These are all great messages but the biggest point I got from watching was not what Netflix had intended.

At 28 I don’t feel like my high school years were very long ago. Granted I do see A LOT that has changed in the last 11 years since I graduated. I believe many kids (in general) still act the same towards each other by being a bully, shy, awkward, friendly no matter what, naive, careless, hurtful, and to be honest just an idiot. However, what I’ve noticed as the biggest change is how kids RE-ACT to a situation. I will go ahead and ruffle some feathers and say, I don’t believe the heart of the issue is the kid but the parents. The way we teach our kids about how they see themselves or feel about themselves…Something is MISSING.  Maybe it’s the way adults are treating each other that’s setting our kids up for failure?

** Alert** I will be going through several parts of this series, discussing different characters and the rolls they played. If you have children that are teenagers I would suggest you not allowing them to watch it. There is a lot of mature scenes and a lot of profanity that needs to be guarded, especially with teenagers that may share likeness with some of the characters. However, I do think it’s a great thing for parents to watch and learn about school life today and what their own teens might be dealing with. I hope this show can help parents start an open dialog with their kids to learn and talk about their lives, all the good and ugly.

Synopsis from Netflix: After a teenage girl’s perplexing suicide, a classmate receives a series of tapes that unravel the mystery of her tragic choice. Hannah Baker’s suicide shocked her family and friends. Now the dark secrets that killed her are coming to light.

Hannah Baker was a girl who, on the outside looked happy and normal but on the inside was struggling with some serious problems. Life problems. People problems. Self-worth problems. The list goes on. Don’t we all struggle with this? The heart of the issue is not the problem itself, but the decisions made along the way and how the problem was solved.

There seems to be a lot that goes wrong for Hannah and it’s portrayed that she is in theory doing the right thing and still getting the short end of the stick (which in many ways is true). Her friends turn against her and are cruel. A boyfriend betrays her. When she reaches out for a new friend things turn upside down yet once again. Even when things do seem to be going right her own head gets in the way and screws it up. Then when she reaches out for help the issues she’s facing aren’t taken very serious, ending in her untimely death.

To start off she meets a boy (a popular jock) in the park, without her parents knowing. The fun ends with her going down a slide while he snaps a picture from his phone. Then they kiss, her first kiss. The next day this picture gets sent around school. Rumors fly that they had sex and she’s now classified as a slut, when in reality nothing happened but a kiss.

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From this point on she is labeled, because of ONE picture. Other problems with boys ensue down the road. In our world of social media everything is open for anyone to see. Are you guarding your children’s life with social media? Do you know what’s going on under the surface?

The choice Hannah made to meet this boy, maybe began innocently, but had a spiral effect on her life and future choices. You can see how she is searching. Searching for meaning and reason. Searching for MORE than she currently has.

“I wanted a purpose, a reason for being on this planet.” – Hannah Baker

This sounds deep for a teenager, but it’s what we all want. What every human is searching for. It’s how God made us. He made us to be missing something, but that something is Him. We will never fill that hole with anything else but God. No amount of money, friends, possessions, career aspirations, or relationships can replace God. We can try and be happy for a while but in the end we’ll still want something more.

Do our kids know who they are? Its not about being the most popular, having the nicest stuff. It’s about our character and that’s established by knowing who you are… a child of God.  Nothing else can satisfy that longing.

When we know who we are (in Christ), cruel words and actions hurt but we know where to turn. We know God is on our side and instead of maiming our identity it strengthens us when we come out of those trials, because we learn to lean on God.  It’s hard for teenagers to work through struggles because their brain isn’t developed enough emotionally.  So when they are dealing with something, even though it seems insignificant, to them it’s going to last a lifetime. It’s hard for them to see the future, they are focused on the now, with the pain and torment, but it doesn’t have to be like that. There can be excitement about the future regardless of what’s happening in the present! That mindset won’t happen without the knowledge of God!

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

That’s why knowing the word and God’s promises at a young age is so important. Parents!!  We’ve got to bathe our kids in Him and teach them what God says about them. One day they are going to start hearing what the world says about them and it won’t be pretty!  If they’re not grounded in the truth they will believe what the world says. Stupid, ugly, lazy, slow, dumb, mean, hateful, or heartless. Instead fill them with God’s word, smart, beautiful, loving, caring, giving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, faithful, gentle and selfless. What do you want your kids to believe about themselves? More so how do you want your kids to treat others and say about others?

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If a child believes the good things, that will spill over to those around them. That doesn’t mean they will be perfect and always do or say the right thing.  None of us do or say the right thing. Try and remember yourself as a teenager or even now. We all make mistakes, its how we deal with those mistakes! When you do something wrong do you ask for forgiveness and try and make amends? Or do you blame the other person for what you’ve done and play the victim? Remember it starts with the small things!

The more I watched the more I hurt for these kids. God is definitely missing and it’s why we see such a rise in drastic events happening. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in teenagers. How can a kid, that has SO much life to live feel like they are so worthless that death is better than life? I firmly believe it’s because God isn’t their center at home. One of the biggest lies the devil will throw is to make you think you’re all alone. He wants to isolate you and pour the shame and guilt on where you feel you’re the only one going through the situation. For many this makes it almost impossible to reach out to anyone for help, which is the most important thing that could happen!

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This leads me to another point with parents. We aren’t here to raise our kids. We are here to train our kids. Leading and teaching them how to be an individual. How to be a friend, co-worker, mother, father, helper and so much more. The classmate that discovered the tapes, we find out is Clay who in reality was extremely close with Hannah. After finding the tapes it literally turns his world upside down. In one scene he’s out with a friend (Tony) and his parents are discussing his actions over the past weeks. He’s been getting into trouble and having issues with other kids.  After some discussion about friends, Clay’s dad says something that really stuck with me.

“My sense is that Tony is a very good influence.” – Matt Jensen

Wow….Seriously? Here I go with ruffling some feathers. Do you know, really know the friends of your child? Do you know their parents? Do you know their general belief’s? I’m not saying you need to get their tax returns and their attendance at church. What I am saying is as a parent we should be so involved with our kids that we KNOW their friends, almost as well as we know our child. We should have a relationship with their parents. Friends are so important, and they shape us into who we are as adults. Being around friends that encourage us, help us through hard times, and tell us the truth is what brings us closer together. On the opposite side a bad friend can tear us down and ruin our character, not to mention the trouble it can lead to.

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

We have to be in tune with our kids and their friends. I say a simple prayer daily over my kids. I have since our first born and we had an amazing sermon from Joe Mcgee (yes I talk about him a lot). He handed out cards with 3 points to pray daily for your kids. These 3 points will shape them forever, if you don’t have a prayer like this it’s never to late to start!

  • I pray my children grow up to know the Lord and fear Him.

  • I pray they are surrounded by good, godly friends.

  • I pray that the Lord will pour out His favor over my children.

Now start praying and doing! Friends are important but only if they are the right ones. Having friends means sleepovers are inevitable but there’s good news! You don’t have to be okay with your kids going to a sleepover. Make your home the place where everyone hangs out.  Having a house full of kids might sound like a nightmare, but the more comfortable it is the more they’ll WANT to come back and stay. There will be a lot less trouble done under my roof than somewhere I’m not able to supervise the situation.

That being said you don’t have to be a helicopter parent. Have you heard the parenting phrase, Trust But Verify? You can trust them to make decisions on their own and you can also call or drive to make sure they are doing what they said and they are safe. That’s part of our job!

TRUST BUT VERIFY

The last thing I want to talk about confirms to me everything I’ve already discussed.  In episode 12 Hannah describes the details of being raped. It’s not from a stranger on the road that threw her in an alley like we expect a rape to happen. It’s from a High School classmate that had already previously raped one of her friends. She gets in a situation where she’s alone with him, not because she wants to but that’s how the scenario unfolds. In the moment she tries to get away but freezes in panic and he has his way with her.  This is what happens all the time! We don’t plan to make bad choices or to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The devil plans it though. If we aren’t diligent in where are kids are, who they are around, molding their character they could easily find themselves in a situation they may not be able to get out of. That’s when trouble strikes.

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It’s sad that Hannah felt like she couldn’t get away. At that point she didn’t feel human anymore but an object. What’s also sad is that he didn’t view her as anything more than an object. Character goes a long way when it comes to how we treat people. Could this all have been avoided if different choices had been made? Of course! Those choices have to start with the parents, and they failed on so many accounts.

I’m also concerned with the boy that did this to her. Where are his parents? He had such low self respect that he had absolutely none for another human. He was numb when it came to people, maybe it was how he was treated at home? For some dealing with struggles/conflict they inflict pain on themselves, others might do it to someone else.

A lot may be left out from what is portrayed in 13 Reasons Why, I don’t see any parents involved with their kids. They have no clue what was going on but instead wrapped up with their own lives. We have been given a precious gift that we are made to mold and care for. I want to be the best steward over what God has given me and that most importantly is my kids!

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Right now the ruler of this world is Satan and he is the author of confusion. That starts young, if he has his grasp on a young kid it can grow and manifest into tearing that person up. So keeping your child under your wing, teaching them about God, and sheltering them in a way that keeps them safe isn’t a bad thing. That doesn’t mean they can’t experience the world. However, when they do experience it I hope they are so grounded in the Lord to know how to handle it and when questions arise or problems arise they know where to turn. Its hard to talk to teenagers about certain subject (sex, suicide, bullying, etc.) but that doesn’t mean we don’t talk about it.

Being open and honest with our kids is the best way to know whats happening. Then if they have a problem they’ll come to us for answers. This also will give us the chance to open up about our life as a teenager and the mistakes we made. Knowing your parent isn’t perfect but human and still made it out fine reassures them they can too!

I feel like there is so much more to talk about on this series. My hope is that we can change how we love each other and how we raise the next generation!

 

“It has to get better, the way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.”  Clay Jensen (13 Reasons Why)

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– The Clucky Hen 

 

 

 

 

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