13 parenting tips from 'The Hunger Games'

By Ryan Jardine

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 20 2013 11:55 a.m. MST

5. Don’t disregard your quietest children because their hidden strengths and talents will inspire generations. Katniss is not an extrovert. Yet, in dire circumstance, she survives and thrives. The loudest on the world’s stage, however, often get attention, while the quiet are relegated to the periphery. If your child is shy, you don’t owe the world an apology. As Susan Cain observed in her book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking," "We make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly. Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions — from the theory of evolution to van Goghʼs sunflowers to the personal computer — came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.” Embrace your children’s innate personality.

6. If your child hasn’t asked for a bow-and-arrow yet, don’t worry, they will. Just a quick tip: Katniss and her prowess with a bow-and-arrow “helped to give archery a hip factor it’s just never had before,” said Teresa Iaconi, USA Archery spokeswoman. She continues, “No disrespect to Kevin Costner, but he was an old guy in tights.” Archery is on the upswing, similar to the bump martial arts enjoyed alongside "The Karate Kid."

7. Carefully exercise power and authority within your children’s lives. The Capitol and the Gamemakers attempt to levy and maintain absolute power. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t end up well for either one of them. As a parent, you also possess a certain degree of power in our children’s lives. Be careful how you use it. Set thought-out rules, and then be measured in your response to disobedience. A warning: Your children will take arbitrary rules that are subject to change and use them in ways you couldn’t have imagined.

8. Kids are capable of more than you may think, both for good and bad. In "The Hunger Games," the Tributes faced challenges in both positive and negative ways. Virtue and sacrifice clashed with wrath and brutality. As a parent, never forget that the best and the worst adults were once children. Your influence and sacrifice for your children will have a deeper impact than you realize, as will neglect and indifference.

9. Your child’s generosity and kindness will surprise you. Whilst competing for survival, many Tributes found opportunities for kindness and generosity. For all the bad press and time immemorial lamenting “kids these days,” they are, as a whole, far more kind and thoughtful than they get credit for. Look for the kindness and you will see it. Acknowledge and reward it, and you will see it more often.

10. Children do not appreciate you making them your parents. Katniss’ was forced to be a mother to her sister, as well as to her mother. Don’t make your child suffer a similar fate and rob them of their childhood. Create consistency in your life and within your home. Be the responsible one who makes the smart decisions. Don’t relegate that role to your children. Give them the freedom to experience life and make mistakes.

11. Excitement and a magnetic smile turn a minor character into a star of the show. Ceasar Flickerman, the always-positive host, is one of my favorite characters. Even with limited screentime, his energy and magnetism were highlights of the movie. You can be that character in the lives of your children — especially as they enter adulthood and spend less time with you. As your babies become young adults and then parents themselves, make each moment count. Despite your decreasing screentime in their lives, maintaining a positive energy will bring you and them joy and happiness.

12. Avoid distraction and pay attention to your children, or they may demand it in counterproductive ways. Katniss taught the distracted Gamemakers a lesson with an arrow threaded deftly through their group. Parents in this technologically driven world constantly face distraction. Don’t let that distance you from your children. Your children need your attention, especially when demonstrating some skill they worked to perfect. By ignoring them, or being distracted after a failed attempt, you encourage behavior that will demand attention.

13. Don’t underestimate the importance of a supporting cast of extended family and friends in your child’s life. The proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” might be rephrased for today as, “A village will raise your child.” Whether you like it or not, your children will be influenced by a host of people including parents, extended family, friends, teachers, celebrities, the media and religious leaders. Katniss and Peta only survived "The Hunger Games" with supporting friends, mentors and sponsors. As a parent of young children, make every effort to create a village that is supportive and kind. But, more importantly, as your children grow, teach them to seek for a village filled with people who support them in positive and productive ways.

There you have it: Thirteen tips, one for each District. Now I’m headed off to wait in line for opening-night tickets. And may the odds be ever in your favor. We might need that more in parenting than in any other aspect of our lives.

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