Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Parenting Trend

I am disturbed by a trend among parents to "let their children figure things out for themselves." This parenting style is seen when kids are given a lot of freedom, allowed to break rules with little to no consequences, and have no consistency.
While I agree there are some things that children must figure out for themselves, something in my heart breaks when parents take this approach in regards to their kid's faith.

There are some fundamental flaws that lead to this approach:

1. "My child doesn't really care what I believe." Studies have shown again and again that PARENTS are the NUMBER ONE spiritual influence on their kids. So guess what? If parents have a negative attitude or an apathetic one towards faith and church, the kids will probably inherit it. Even if the child doesn't follow their parents' faith, they will at least respect it.

2. "My child complains when we talk about going to church." Yes, and don't they also complain about going to school, family reunions, or back-to-school shopping? Since when does "I don't want to" register as a legitimate reason NOT to do something? You wouldn't pull your kid out of school for that excuse, would you? If parents cave in to this reasoning, they are teaching their children that church is a consumer product instead of a FAMILY of diverse people (meaning they don't always look or act like me!) who are desperately dependent on GOD!

3. "My child has no friends at church." I hear this one quite often. Most of the time this is uttered by people who are not good friends themselves. They want everyone to care all about them and don't want to take time to extend friendship care to anyone else. I'm not saying that church folks are always the best friends, because sometimes they are not! But church is not supposed to be the place where your best friends are (meaning, people with exaclty your same interests!) but the place where your FAMILY is (meaning, the people you would die for, even thought they are bizarre!) Besides, if church is about being with friends, you can do that in a gang, at a bar, by joining a cult, etc. What I'm saying is that it's also about defining truth.

Where in the Bible does it say "let thine children find their own way in life?"
What I find are sayings like these:
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates..."
(Deuteronomy 11:18-20)

"Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." (Psalm 34:11)

"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:14-15)

Please don't misunderstand me. I know that you cannot force children to accept faith. At some point, faith must be owned by the child.
But, if there's anything worth standing up for, if there's anything worth fighting over, if there's anything worth being passionate about...I would say it is worth it if it has to do with your child's soul, and leading them into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ!!


drjimwhite said...

Good words! Oh, wise one. I totally agree.

Brenda said...

Hey there! I found you through Shane's blog. As a parent of 3 kids, and one that has worked with teens, I totally agree with this.
I do think in life there needs to be some natural consequences for their actions, but quitting church is not one of them. I hear these complaints that you listed weekly. Nearly everytime we walk out the door. I ignore them and keep walking to the car. Going to church in our family is NOT an option. It is a requirement. We've even gone as far as changing to another church and they are only happy for a while, and then what??? Back to complaining. Fact's life.
I do have a different perspective to what you said about having friends. I have many friends at church. In fact, my deepest friendships come within our congregation. I have lots of friends and feel deeply blessd However, for my children, they have NONE. They have nobody they can call, nobody they can hang out with, and I think it makes a portion of their time miserable while they are there. I see them trying to have fun and having a good time when they are there, but outside of those walls, NOTHING! As a person that has always had friends in the church, that is frustrating to me as a parent.

I am fortunate that I have fabulous children and they have great hearts. And just this morning, I was able to drop my 6th grader off for the 2nd time to hang out with the youth group today. Finally...he's feeling a connection. I truly believe that the teaching of the word, spiritualty, and religion begins at home, not at church. Church to me is a tool. A stepping stone. A much needed place to revive us each week and remember why we are here and to have Godly connections. Teaching them to live a Godly life, begins with me living it and them watching and growing. If you pray as a family together, live in the word together, you will be blessed by His unfailing love. Why?? Cause He said so!
Thanks for a FABULOUS post for parents! I'll be back often!

Theresa said...

Wise words, Franklin. A parent's job is overwhelming, but of all the things we must do, the most important thing we can give them is a foundation for a life serving God. We must build their faith by living it ourselves, sharing it with them, and making it the center of our household.

Sadly, Hannah's best friend from school not only doesn't believe in God, but is hostile about it - already at age 7! She refuses to pray with us before a meal and the first time we prayed, I actually had to stop and ask her to be quiet. Hannah prays for her, and so do we.

Thank you for the reminder about the duty we have to raise our kids right!

One Observationist said...

Good post. I don't have kids, but I used to be one.

My parents brought me up with a religious upbringing. Even though I disagree with them on some of the details of our faith I still thank them for taking the time to teach me about Christ. Without their teachings I don't know where I'd be.

They could've been indifferent to the spiritual aspects of life, but they took an interest and it has truly made me the person I am today.

Jeremy Divis

Franklin Wood said...

Brenda, welcome and thanks for your comments!
I think I failed to communicate clearly what I meant.
Friends are IMPORTANT to have at church. I do not doubt that at all. I think our problem is that we have forgotten how to make friends and be friends.
Some people expect everyone at church to look just like them, when God blesses His church with diversity!
What I mean is, it's a sad fact that most of our youth groups (mine included) still have cliques. Small groups of teens huddle together and are friends while some (like yours) are left out. These kids need to understand that church is not JUST a place to hang out with friends that look like you, but to be friends with EVERYONE!
Hope that makes more sense!