Originally Published May 22, 2014
Raising happy healthy kids has become a more difficult challenge with each succeeding generation. With the technological, scientific, medical and educational advances in nearly every area of life, parenting has been the one area where we seem to be — if not spinning our wheels and getting nowhere — actually losing ground.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” At some point long long ago parents on mass walked away from this soundest of advice and decided they knew better. The world today informs us that they didn’t know better. The surest way to accomplish the task of happy healthy children is to make certain your dependent child is raised in such a way as to become independent, hard working and self sufficient, no longer with a dependence upon mom and dad or themselves but rather with a dependence upon God.
The genesis of the problem can be found in the simple phrase, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” While technological and other advancement are good because it makes life easier and more comfortable, attempting to revolutionize or institutionalize the raising of kids by making it a special skill called “parenting” requiring classes or saying “it takes a village” (implying that all levels of government need to nurture your kids too) is what has brought us our deep and troubling social decline. Understanding that it is quantity time and not the myth of quality time is the very first step in moving back in the right direction. Young children need to be connected and bonded with a full time parent. There simply is no substitute for this fact.
Studies show that the average father spends less than a minute a day personally engaged with his child(ren). That equates to less than 7 minutes a week out of approximately 57 hours of non working, non commuting, non sleeping time. The average father? Less than one minute per day? And some still say single motherhood is a woman’s right. In my opinion no one has the right to mess up the life of one of God’s precious creations. Does the world really need more selfishness?
The attempt by many adults to parent as if it were a special blend of material ingredients to which they do not possess the recipe is one reason why we are raising such chaotic little people. Parenting is far more than a roof over head, clothing and food for the stomach. Those are necessities of life — basic needs of survival..
The funny thing about parenting skills is they are learned as children, not in a class room. They are ingrained in us by living it, experiencing it and seeing it in the home. This is but one reason single parent homes and two working parent families produce disproportionately fewer kids capable of coping with the real world.
A permissive and democratic home produces spoiled and out of control children. Children need guidelines, boundaries. The home needs structure where everyone knows what is “out-of-bounds” and what is “permissible.” The rules must be explicit, firm and non-negotiable.
The healthy home is centered around the parents. Each spouse partner centered — not child centered. Children centered homes are another prime reason for the collapse of marital relationships. The children deserve parents who love one another first and foremost. As hard as it sounds, the children come second. When the parental relationship is whole, the children will be the benefactors of parents who can provide, love and nurture them all the more.
Obedience by children should be a first priority. Parents who attempt to get their children to love them rather than respect and obey them end up with children who neither love or respect them. Children who are raised with respect for their parents will grow to love them even more as they mature and realize the benefits of such a healthy relationship. Parental love is in the molding of a child to do “the right thing” not in giving in to the child’s desires and demands. An old Danish Proverb says, “Give to a pig when it grunts and a child when it cries , and you will have a fine pig and a bad child.”
The firmness in the home should be reflected in the ability of the parents to never bargain with children. Once second and third chances are given or parents attempt to reason with their children, the children will see that the rules are negotiable. They will act as equals if you treat them as equals. This should not be thought to exclude allowances and rewards for doing “the right thing” like cleaning one’s room or producing good grades in school. Contrary to what some believe financial incentives or as some call it — parental bribes — are proper tools in good parenting, because they instill the idea of reward. Children should not be rewarded for doing poorly and should never be punished for success.
Communication in the home should always be open. Healthy kids talk to their parents. But that starts with parents who are accessible and willing to listen with an ear for concern. Reasoning with children should be avoided, especially with small children. “no” and “because I said so” are complete and sufficient sentences. Parents do know better and parents always get the last word. When the children take control the home becomes an asylum.
When raising children it is very important to foster responsibility and the idea of obligation. Chores, like yard and house work, give kids life experience and prepare them for the real world. Teenagers by age 14 or 15 should be able to properly vacuum the house, wash some dishes, mop a floor, change their own bed sheets, do some laundry (without turning the socks gray), iron a shirt, and cook up something simple on the stove or at least make ice cubes and boil water. By the age of 18, ready for college, a graduating teen should know how to run a home.
Part 2 of 2 tomorrow.
David is a deacon at his local church and a perpetual student of religion, politics and American history. Author, speaker, blogger, David lives in Southern California with his wife and their three children. You can follow him on Twitter @cogitarus or online at cogitarus.wordpress.com. He’s available for speaking engagements upon request.