Parenting With An Eye Toward the Future

Posted on September 1, 2011 by

How we parent our kids is our personal responsibility as their mother and father, but it should concern everyone  because the world has to live with the finished product when our kids leave the nest. The same goes for when your kids leave the nest. You will never hear me utter the words: “How I raise my kids is MY business!”

We all know instinctively that this is true. It’s why people ask where the parents were when young boys and girls are arrested for various crimes, or when young girls are attacked during the wee hours when we would demand that our daughter be in bed. We recognize that laissez faire parenting and lack of supervision allow the seeds of trouble to take root.

And this goes much deeper than whether we produce law-abiding citizens. While the kid who stole my dad’s car from the church parking lot on a  school night  a few years back is an easy target to aim for when looking for examples of bad parenting, there are other, more subtle ways that our lack of focus when we parent our children affects society.

An ongoing conversation I find myself having with parents traveling in tandem with me as we navigate the years between young adulthood and full adulthood, commonly referred to as the teenage years, is the one of scheduling. While my children are involved in some activities (we are in the busy band season right now, in fact), I have taken a pretty firm stand against allowing them to be overly committed with respect to extracurriculars, and many parents fail to see why I am so “rigid” on this point. Rigid is our stand that they can each have one season which requires after school activity more than twice a week. The reasoning is two-fold.

The first is this. While I understand the need for young adults to begin to branch out and learn to navigate the world around them, I don’t believe this can be accomplished successfully by immersing themselves in the world at large while completely severing the tether to the family that loves them the most and has their best interest at heart. But this is the approach many parents take. The line of thinking goes something like this:  ”Well, they’re teenagers, they’re supposed to pull away”. While I do believe they should  be increasingly making their own decisions, I do NOT believe that young people are supposed to “pull away” from their families. Nursing homes are full of parents who prematurely pushed their children out of the nest under the guise of letting them soar while they relished their freedom from the drudgery of parenting. The kids, unfortunately, soared away and never looked back.

The second line of thinking governing why we don’t give our children free rein to get involved in any and every thing that comes down the pike might seem selfish at first, but when you think about it, it actually helps curb a selfish attitude in the children. And it’s this: I am NOT spending all of my weekday afternoons and evenings sitting in traffic in my gas guzzling SUV. I am a mother not a chauffeur.

Further, what do I teach my children when I allow them to think that my time, my very life, is to be structured around their hobbies, their interests, and their schedules? That all of our disposable income such as it is,  is to be spent on the things that interest them or on gas to take them to do the things that interest them? Is it any wonder that even the “good” Christian kids that are coming of age show very little concern for the less fortunate and the interests of others? Why should they when parents have taught them that life is all about them?

This is why I implore you to understand that how we raise our kids matters to the rest of the world. If they never have to clean up their own messes as children, they won’t expect to as adults. Bailouts, anyone? If they are taught that life revolves around them and what they want, is it any surprise that we have a generation of young people (and old, for that matter) who flock to the polls to vote for the candidate who promises them the most goodies without having to put in any sweat equity because they can simply take it from the ones who do, same as they did when they were youngsters?

If we don’t teach them to commit to master the first skill they put their hands and our money into rather than drop it when they lose interest  and move on to something more exciting, is it any wonder that they spend 5 years and $75,ooo (of your money, +interest) to obtain a college degree just to enter a totally different career field while you get stuck with the bill? If we allow them to enter the dating scene promptly upon entering high school at 14-years-old, taking up with a new boyfriend or girlfriend every semester, can we really express genuine surprise when they don’t take their marriage vows seriously, especially if we don’t?

All of these seemingly minor parenting issues translate into big problems for society as a whole when we don’t recognize that what we do as parents matters not just to us and to our children, but to every one they come in contact with. The selfishness which permeates this culture, even the church, is palpable. And unbiblical, I might add (see Philippians 2:1-4).

If I was only concerned with whether or not my kids avoided jail time, got knocked up, or have gainful employment, then the typical “good parenting” paradigm might suffice. You must know what I refer to when I say the typical “good parenting” paradigm, but for the sake of those who don’t, I’ll offer a brief snippet.

From the time the baby is born the typical good parent is so enamored with how much of an adorable little miracle their child is, they pull out all the stops to keep  the child happy. They laugh rather than reprimand (dare I use the dreaded S word: spank?) when their two-year-old calls daddy a “stupid poo-poo head”. They dutifully pick up the toys off of Junior’s bedroom floor every day because he moves too slowly and whines about it anyway. It’s easier to handle it themselves and move on. About age five, the activity wheel starts spinning. Kindergarten all day, soccer on Mondays and Wednesdays, music lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and games on Saturday. On Sunday, there’s children’s church/youth group. Dinner in the car after a trip through the drive through is commonplace on weeknights. Most family interactions take place in the car. Despite the nagging voice is telling Mom that this cannot be a healthy (literally or figuratively), we’ve bought into the idea that a crazy schedule is best for the kids. They need to be kept busy and stimulated.

Side bar: I have found that the more overstimulated and busy I am, the harder it is for me to settle my mind, focus, and pray. Are we training our kids to be perpetually unable to seek the Lord?

This pace keeps up pretty much non-stop for the next 12 years. The only thing that changes is the specific activity based on what Junior or Suzy takes an interest in from one year to the next. There’s the occasional volunteer work that gets squeezed in as well because the college application needs to appear “well-rounded.” In the end, we’ve raised kids for whom every thing is about them. all. the. time. Then we look around and wonder how on earth we have ended up with the society we have.

It’s not just “those people”. You know those poor people, those single mothers, those undesirables, that have raised their kids wrongly and helped to dig us into the hole we are now looking up from in disbelief.The typical “good parenting” paradigm has failed miserably. I for one, will do my part by raising kids who understand that life is not all about them. I will do that because I realize that the kind of people I turn out into the world effects your life, too.

It’s an uphill battle some days, but it’s also one filled with laughter, good times, and joy. When I reach the end of this journey I want to have done right by my children and risen to the challenge of this awesome responsibility. My accountability reaches far beyond my own front door, into the world, and even into eternity.

Posted in: Relationships