By Dr. Lisa Dunne.
Upon visiting America, Edward the VIII Duke of Windsor was said to have remarked at the incredible level of respect that he encountered: He was amazed at how well parents obeyed their children.
PARENTS: PROTECTING AND DIRECTING
Ed Young’s book Kid CEO: How to Keep Your Children from Running Your Life is one of my all-time favorites. His basic premise is that parents have taken the focus off of their own relationship with one another and made their kids the center of the family universe. And, as he says, that’s not a healthy orientation. The best thing we can do for our kids is to have a great marriage.
Unfortunately, though, the current generation of parents is in the swing of a cultural cycle, responding to the authoritarianism and lack of closeness in their own childhoods by being permissive and overly gracious, more of a “buddy” than a parent. This has led to a generation of kids who don’t have a clear sense of boundaries, a healthy respect for authority, or a solid sense of self. There is a great deal of anxiety about families and parenting today, and I believe part of that is the lack of clarity on our roles and responsibilities as parents. We need God’s direction for their protection.
God’s view of our children is much different from ours. Kids are not just cuddly teddy bears; they are arrows in the hand of a warrior (Psalm 127:3-5). It is our job to sharpen these arrows to get them ready to fulfill their destiny, their call in life.
Parents, we are the gatekeepers of our children’s hearts. We have to take that job seriously, for there is no one else in the world better equipped to love and raise your child than you!
Being a parent means being a good steward of your child, helping him or her to grown and learn and become. As a guardian and gatekeeper, we must watch over their lives until they are able to govern themselves effectively. That’s an important goal–teaching them self-government that will help them make good choices throughout life.
Much of what parents compete with today is what University of North Carolina researchers call “the virtual peer”–that is, online influences that can undermine a healthy family foundation. As I discuss in great detail in the book Emerge, there are profound implications for us as a culture when we fail to regulate the intake of mass media and to create healthy family systems. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Know the content: Know what kids are consuming, whether it’s song lyrics, magazines, movies, or TV. The average US household has the TV on 7 hours and 12 minutes per day. Know the content. How much of what they are ingesting glorifies God, and how much draws them away from God through cynicism and anti-Christian philosophies?
- Know your kids: From a biological standpoint, our kids aren’t yet fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is immature, and this leads to impulsiveness; thus, our kids will be largely governed by emotion until the PFC develops fully. Yes, give your kids progressive responsibility, but make it realistic.
- Protect and direct: Guard your schedule. That means learning to say no in order to protect your family schedule. If our kids are spending twice as much time with music, movies, and magazines than with Mom and Dad, who will have the power of influence based on sheer volume?
- Garbage in, garbage out: If we don’t like what we’re getting, we must look at what we’re giving. If we allow our kids to feed at the fount of folly all week, we can’t be surprised if they are displaying rebellious, moody, or sassy behavior. As UNC researchers pointed out, these “virtual peers” have tremendous influence on belief and behavior.
- Pull the plug: 10 leading national pediatric and psychological associations say no TV for kids 2 and under. Zero. And for those over the age of 2, no more than 2 hours of screen time per day. Instead of vegging out mindlessly, we need to teach children to use their imaginations, to be comfortable in silence, to enjoy the beauty of the natural world instead of the buzz of the electronic one. This becomes increasingly difficult if they are accustomed to constant stimulation in a culture that is, as Neil Postman so brilliantly noted, amusing ourselves to death.
Denise Mira writes in her book No Ordinary Child that it’s time to raise the bar for parenting. “What’s the cause of all the worldliness, powerlessness, and ineffectiveness in our homes? Wrong plumb lines. We feed on secular, humanistic idealism (in our education)…we feast on fashion, entertainment, food, recreation, and assorted frivolity (in magazines)… We ingest massive portions of convincing demonic philosophies in the movies we’re renting, yet we wonder why our daily lives are askew.”
Small investments can have huge dividends. Even something as seemingly insignificant as regular family dinners together is shown to reduce substance abuse and violence, and increase grades and esteem. In fact, when we look at the highest level of socio-academic success in our nation’s students, do you know what the common denominator is? It’s not gadgets or money or the coolest clothes…it’s parental involvement. That’s right, when parents are in the game—regardless of the parent’s own level of education—children do better in school.
It’s easy to become self-absorbed in a career or a hobby or something else good that steals away the necessary time and energy needed to devote ourselves to the task of parenting. As I have grown older, I have found greater and greater joy in being a parent. I am tremendously blessed to be a mother. I have learned of God’s heart for me as his child. I have been molded and shaped and stretched and humbled and awed at God’s mercy and love in my life. There is nothing that compares to being a mother. Parenting puts life’s most important aspects into perspective.
To be effective, we have to shift the paradigm of purpose and value. I love the Einstein quote: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. In order to recognize counterfeit values, we have to know the real ones. We have to be intimately connected to the word. Parents, we need to cut out what’s temporal and replace it with what is eternal!
Imagine if we truly considered our children our most precious resource. Imagine if that were more than a campaign slogan. Imagine if we treated kids as our resume.
We need a holistic model for parenting—one that creates a solid foundation for growth in all areas of life:
♣Biological needs (good nutrition, good sleep, balance in schedule)
♣Sociological needs (parents, not peers are driving the growth process, the natural parent-child respect is protected/cherished)
♣Spiritual needs (modeling prosocial behavior, guarding spiritual health, teaching them to know God)
There’s an old saying I learned as a little girl: Only one life, twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.