I need to add my thoughts about Sunday’s tragic mass shooting in Orlando to what others are saying and writing. Yes, it’s a need.

I couldn’t not write what follows here. Frankly, I’ve had many more thoughts than I include. I’ve decided to focus on these ideas and questions primarily because most of my blog readers are parents of school-age children.

In general, among the most important things parents can do is pass their values and beliefs onto their children. This is important for many reasons, including that beliefs cause behaviors. In other words, when we don’t like children’s behavior, we can ask ourselves what beliefs are behind them. To most permanently change behaviors, change their beliefs.

It’s true that children may discern at some point that they don’t want to adopt our same values and beliefs. But, parents must do what they can so this doesn’t happen. When it does, grieve and pray and don’t give up. Your influence isn’t over.

It’s also likely that children won’t follow in parents’ footsteps if they don’t know what they are. This may be the greater tragedy. They would if they could.

How big are your footsteps? Are you parenting so your children want to follow?

How did you respond when learning of the tragedy? What did your children see you do? What did they hear you say? What questions did they hear you ask? Did all of this lineup with the beliefs you say you have?

Looking back, is there anything you wish you would have done or said differently? It’s not too late. Do it now. Say it now.

By experiencing these encounters with you and through you, your children can learn much about the world, you, themselves, others, and God and His ways. You can use tragedies and times of great blessing to teach much about your values and beliefs. When you’re intentional, your children will more likely learn what you want them to. You can use times like this to evaluate your children’s behavior. Do they talk about and react in ways that indicate they saw your footsteps and chose to step into them?

Let me share some things worth thinking about. I believe they can help us decide what we want to explain, teach, and model for children. They can help us identify beliefs and values we say we have and those we demonstrated on Sunday. For example:

When we heard about the tragic shooting in Orlando did we feel first or think about what to do first? Did we so quickly judge and think about reasons it happened that we didn’t feel for the loss of life? Many people’s lives ended. Partners, parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, best friends, coworkers, neighbors, … So many people are grieving personal intimate loss. I want us to feel their pain. It matters. It connects us. It compels us to better future actions. Do you agree? Why or why not? What’s the evidence?

If we believe “all lives matter” and we say we want children to believe that, then did we grieve the loss of these lives at the same intensity and regret we have when others have passed away, no matter their circumstances? If not, then maybe all lives actually don’t matter in the same way to us. Is that okay? Why or why not?

Do we truly weep with those who weep? What does this grief look like? Sound like? Feel like? Why does it matter? Just because it’s in the Bible? (Romans 12:15) In the case of Sunday’s horrible tragedy, do you think it’s okay to grieve with gays and lesbians even if you don’t agree with their choices? Why or why not?

Do we believe love is the answer to many of the evils in the world? Unconditional love? Why or why not? If we’ve talked with our children about love, have we taught them how to love? Why to love? Have we been practical? In our families, what does loving others look like? What does indifference look like? My friends at the Colson Center teach that outrage is not a strategy. I agree. What makes love a strategy?

When did we pray yesterday? What did we pray about? Who did we pray for? How did we help our children understand God’s love and His ways in light of yesterday’s loss of life? How are our values showing up?

Because there are real problems in the world, have we taught our children the differences between disagreeing, persuading, and arguing? Do they know how we decide when it’s our business to get involved in someone’s life and when it isn’t? Do we say it’s okay to agree to disagree, but not model that?

Do we handle discouragement, frustration, and fear well? Have we taught our children how to?

I know many parents want to protect their children. Absolutely! But, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare them to understand how to handle life. Let’s protect them and prepare them.

How big are your footsteps? Are you parenting so your children want to follow?