As an education professional who works in an urban area, I am extremely alarmed by what’s happening to our nation’s children. Children today are not being raised at all. With each passing day, I see parents abdicating ever more authority and control of their children to the State and to the media. No matter how much support is provided to help them with their children, they always seem to need more. They want Hollywood producers and TV producers to be responsible for their children’s morality. They constantly opine about how TV shows and movies need to be more child friendly because they don’t know how to say no to their children and turn the TV off. They want their children to spend more time at school as they clamor for more before school and afterschool programs. I even recently heard one of the NYC mayoral candidates speak about how she wanted to have schools open from 7:00 in the morning until 7:00pm at night! When I heard that I couldn’t help think, “In a generation or so we’ll have state sponsored boarding schools for children from birth to 21! That way if raising kids is too much of a hassle, you could just give birth, send your child straight to the school and just visit when you felt like it.” After all, nothing should get in the way of working or anything else you want to do for that matter.
When the children are not at school, these so called “parents” rely on some electronic babysitter to deal with their kids (i.e. video games, smart phones, computers, ipad, television). Whenever you ask such parents to do the simplest things for their children (who are supposed to mean so much to them), there’s always some excuse or reason why they can’t. They can’t help them with their homework, or come to school functions, can’t pick them up when they’re sick, etc. It seems the only thing they can do for them is provide a shelter and maybe one meal a day (most often something unhealthy from a fast food restaurant or from a can). They don’t discipline either. It seems they don’t have the patience or time for it any more. Most times parents are asking teachers how they should handle discipline if they aren’t asking the teacher to do it for them. The most these parents are willing to do is give the children whatever they want and tell them they’re wonderful (but don’t mean it). It’s to the point where I don’t think we should call people who have children “parents” anymore. Instead we should call them “the child’s adult roommates.”
In the wake of this non-parenting epidemic, our children are suffering beyond belief. Since most parents don’t spend enough quality time with their children, they are not getting the validation and emotional security that allows them to be independent. The result is a bunch of emotionally needy children who will do anything to get attention. This is why there are so many behavior problems in the schools. I will tell you without a doubt most of the children I have worked with who have behavior problems have said from their own mouths that their parents have little time for them. When these parents do spend time with them they are tired and frustrated and take this out on the child. This makes the child even more insecure because the parent is unpredictable as well as unreliable. This insecurity makes them the perfect target for pedophiles and internet perverts who are seeking just such children as their victims.
Another result of absentee parenting is that our children lack basic skills and common sense. I have seen children as old as 9 who don’t know their own address or phone number, can’t tie their own shoes, distinguish their left hand from their right hand, or follow a set of simple instructions. There are junior high school students who have absolutely no table manners whatsoever. When they get up from a cafeteria table it looks like a group of toddlers has eaten there. There are high school students who don’t know how much change they’re supposed to get back when they buy something from the store. They will stand in front of a store for hours waiting for it to open, before reading the hours of operation sign and realize that the store is closed for the day. These aren’t developmentally disabled children. These are “normal” children, who just aren’t being taught anything. You can’t take for granted that something is “common sense” anymore. These kids just don’t have much adult guidance in their formative years to help them understand the world and their place in it. Many times when I’m traveling about town, I see children sitting beside their mother on a bus or a train and I hear the child saying the most outrageous things (ex. “You can kill people and they’ll come back, right?”). Does the mother bother to correct or explain anything to them? No. She’s too busy arguing with someone on the cell phone or ogling some electronic device. Then if the child gets too loud, she takes out some kind of electronic device and gives it to the child to ‘shut him/her up’.
The worst result of the non-parenting that’s going on is the half-baked discipline being used, which is resulting in a bunch of spoiled, narcissistic individuals who have a hard time establishing and maintaining relationships with others. Our children have no empathy for others and have difficulty seeing things from any perspective but their own. They feel they should be treated well no matter how poorly they treat others. They are unwilling to compromise and believe that every environment they enter needs to become tailored to their unique tastes and preferences. They don’t value contributions of people of other cultures and are xenophobic to a fault. As a result children make more ‘frenemies’ than real friends. Kids just use each other to have access to ‘cool stuff’ and social clout. Bullying in schools has reached cruel and unusual proportions to the point where children are murdering and even mass murdering other children. In other cases some children provoke others to suicide. Even the boyfriend/girlfriend relationships of the teens are marked with more violence and sexual exploitation than in the past. I’ve even heard young girls remark casually about the presence of violence in romantic relationships as if violence in relationships is totally normal. I thought these adult roommates were trying to give their kids self-esteem. It looks like the opposite has happened.
The self-esteem cult has managed to create children with a very flimsy sense of self. Too many adult roommates don’t praise their kids enough, while the other half engage in giving phony praise. This phony praise just sets up the child for ruin when they encounter the real world and have to endure constructive criticism. Most of the time when our children hit the real world at 21 or 22, their first encounter with the real world will crush their spirit and make them feel useless and helpless or they will become that bitter person that thinks everyone is ‘jealous’ of them. The phony praise makes them think everything in life is or should be easy. They never learn the satisfaction that comes from persevering through difficulty to accomplish something. They never learn to earn anything. Instead they think accolades and awards should be given to them simply because they want it. After a while they believe everything is “owed” to them. It is the beginning of the entitlement mentality. They have absolutely no morals, nor any distinction between right and wrong. For them right is whatever they want and wrong is whatever is thwarting the fulfillment of their desire. They become adults who are either all ego or id with no superego to check them or make them consider how their actions affect others. If we don’t stop what we are doing to our children the results are going to be beyond scary.
Part of changing things lies in changing our perception of parenting. We used to take parenting seriously as a nation. Somewhere as early as the 1920’s there were a bunch of women’s lib groups that were shouting a lot of garbage about how raising children was “unfulfilling.” It was grunt work that wasn’t worthy of real women. It was supposedly a waste of their faculties. After all, men didn’t have to worry themselves with such non-sense. (Which was a lie: before industrialization, men had a significant role in families). Real women should be competing with men in the workforce and actualizing their potential. On the other hand, any idiot could raise a child. The self-centered, rich, and pampered women who were spouting this nonsense had a condescending attitude toward childrearing because they never actually raised a child. Their nannies and housekeepers took care of that for them. If they felt bored, it was because of the choice they made not to do anything to contribute to their own home. If you talk to any middle or working class woman during this time, you would have gotten a different story. Eventually, regular working class women started drinking the poisoned kool-aid from these harpies and started getting the ‘desperate housewife syndrome’. They felt bored and wanted to get out of the house to work 12 hours a day for some corporate tycoon. With the advent of industrialization in the mid to late 1850’s, families had already lost fathers to the workplace and then by the 1970’s the mother would follow behind. No one wondered who would raise the children. Why? Because we had convinced ourselves that childrearing was like painting by the numbers: no real effort needed.
Most people you talk to want to thump their chest about how they are “super-mom” or “super-dad.” Sure they get them up in the morning and make sure the kids get dressed and ready for school. Then they make sure someone picks them up from school. There’s the call home to make sure everyone’s there and in one piece. Then they come home from work and check the backpacks for notes, sign the trip slips, sign the homework and look in on the kids before bedtime. They ask a few superficial questions and half-listen to the responses. Then they send everyone to bed and check off the parenting tab on their ‘to do list’ for the day. On the weekends they may take the kids out shopping or something, multi-tasking at the same time. At the end of the day the super-parent checks off another parenting box on their things to do. Then they pat themselves on the back and think they’ve done something. Meanwhile, the 7 year old is being bullied but is afraid to tell anyone. The 15 year-old daughter is sneaking off with a friend to get a pregnancy test and the 17 year old son has a stash of marijuana and 35 caliber hand gun under the bed. The super-parent doesn’t realize all they’ve been doing is the bare minimum, which is less than a cat would do for a kitten. We need to wake up!
Raising children is one of the most important things a person can do. It is more important than creating the i-pad, or other useless device that only serves to entertain and promote anti-social attitudes. Raising children is more important than sending someone to the moon or creating the light bulb. Why? Because all of the great people who did these things had parents. As a parent you are helping to shape the future. Parents are the ones who are supposed to instill moral values, pass down tradition and history, and yes, even teach. As the Parent, only you have the understanding, wisdom, expertise and experience to do this, NOT THE CHILD! The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs, 22:6). This is the parent’s responsibility, not the school and certainly not Hollywood or Madison Avenue. Why aren’t we sharing this with our children? Why are we allowing them to raise themselves? We do so because we are being guilted by the media into doing so.
The media is always out there telling parents that they shouldn’t parent. They label good parents who look out for their children’s interests “helicopter parents” or “tiger moms,” based on a few people that go to extremes. They will tell you that you need to give your children space. If you try to monitor your child’s behavior, they’ll tell you that you’re invading your child’s privacy. If you try to establish mores and traditions, you’ll be told that you’re not allowing your child room to “find out who they are.” If you discipline your children, you’ll be told that you’re hurting their self-esteem. The media does this because they want to be the ones that teach your children. They want to teach your children to buy and be loyal to their products. If you spend time with your kids and teach them your family recipes, your kid may not want that cheeseburger from the fast food place. If you teach your daughter what it means to be a young lady, some company may not be able to sell her their new lip gloss, or those jeans worn by some questionable celebrity. If your son finds satisfaction in Christ and not in worldly things, they can’t sell him the new sneakers or the new techno gadget.
Don’t let the media teach your children. It is their goal to create consumer drones that will feed the corporate machine and make the rich richer. Bring the family back. This is what children need. They need a mother and a father. They need to be connected to caring adults in their nuclear and extended family that will provide unconditional love, support, and discipline. They need time with you to really engage in a conversation and talk about their feelings and what’s going on with them. Despite that fact that many might disagree, I feel they also need to be brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. They need to be your priority and not relegated to the sidelines.
Try to live on less or below your means. The main reason why so many parents neglect their children is because they are trying to live out the lavish lifestyles they see in the media. They believe that having lots of material things is the key to their happiness and happiness for their children. I was watching a popular talk show one day and the topic was about children who were from homes of “superparents” who worked long hours to afford the lavish life style. The host asked the children if they would forgo the lifestyle to spend time with their parents. All of the children said they would rather be with their parents than have the material things. ALL OF THEM! As I stated in an earlier blog, children don’t need the latest sneakers. They need their moms and dads. Living below your means will allow you to spend more time with your children. Then maybe mom or dad can stay home and really care for the kids. Living on less shows your children how to be frugal and how to differentiate wants from needs. It also teaches them they don’t need to listen to the Madison Avenue machine, which tries to get us to spend ourselves into debt. Think about it. Do you really need a large flat screen TV in every room? Do you really need three cars? Do you really need twenty pairs of shoes? Who are we trying to impress with all the finery? Does it mean anything in the final analysis? It won’t make you happy. Just ask some of these celebrities whose lives are spinning out of control.
Tune into your kids. Now I don’t mean you have to hover over them every minute of the day, however, they should know that you’ll be there if they need you. They shouldn’t have to compete with your job or anything else out there. Put the gadgets away when you spend time with them. Engage in real activities with them. Don’t be afraid to have fun and share your old memories and listen to what they are going through in the present. Really learn about them. Find out what their favorite color is, what kind of music they like, and all the different things that interest them. Help them explore their interests and share it with them. In the same way share your interest with them. Make a decision to have dinner as a family every night and special Sunday dinners. This will help you to bond with your child, which will in turn help them to open up to you.
Discipline your children. A lot of parents give their children everything they want and let them do what they want because it makes them feel less guilty about not spending time with their child. A lot of people do it because it’s easier than having to deal with a temper tantrum or teenaged attitude. Others do it because spending money and seeing the children smile for that moment makes them feel like more of a parent. These are short-term rewards that have long-term consequences. Children need discipline and guidance that is clear and consistent. Discipline makes them feel cared for and secure. Remember your children are too young and inexperienced to be making certain decisions for themselves without any guidance. It’s overwhelming for adults to face life head on, so it’s not fair to throw a child out there on their own.
Teach your children. You are your child’s first teacher. You need to be providing the moral center for your child, which, in my humble opinion, should be rooted in biblical values. They need to learn culture, mores, traditions and history from you. This is important so that when they go to school or elsewhere and encounter dubious people bent on indoctrinating them to a specific worldview, they will have something to reference. There are many people who are out there who know how naïve and impressionable young people can be and are determined to use them for diabolical purposes. It is your job as a parent to protect them from such.
Overall, parenting is an important job. It’s even more important than the President’s gig. In fact, I’d say the President can’t do his job well if parents don’t do theirs. It is not easy by any means. You can’t get it done in a few minutes a day. It takes a lot of time and investment both physical and emotional. Children are people who need love, discipline, and guidance. They are not toys that you can put down when you get tired of playing with them. They are not trophies that you put in a case to show your friends when they come over, nor are they wish fulfillment tools that you can live through vicariously. They are not glorified science projects or a way to get easy money (i.e. welfare, tax rebates, SSI compensation). If you can’t or don’t want to do the work required, please do us all a favor and have yourself fixed. As an education professional my heart breaks every day as I have to witness countless numbers of children who come into this world unwanted and uncared for. Lot’s of people decide to have children for dubious reasons, but the only reason to have a child is to give of yourself to another. If you’re deciding whether or not to have a child and all you can think about is what’s in it for you, I think you should opt out. Like I’ve said before, children don’t ask to come here. If you bring them here, you owe them a decent life. Peace.
Lawrence Cherry is the author of The Christian Fiction novels Commencement and School of Hard Knocks: The Re-Education of Jim Reid If you liked this blog, please show him some love by buying his books!