Sunday, June 11, 2006

Gifts or Idols? Part IV

Question #4 from my earlier post asked, "By our parenting methodology, where do our children learn to focus?"

This one hits hard at a cherished American cultural child-raising tradition. This particular tradition, though, is only a generation or so old. What might that child-raising tradition be? It is the idolatry of children.

Oh, but wait! I don't make idols out of my children! I am just giving them every opportunity so they will be well-rounded and find themselves.

We couch this idolatry in the language of "opportunity" and creating "successful" children. The painful reality, though is that it makes the children become idols. We as parents (and yes, I'm guilty here, too) load up our schedules to the bursting point with activities for the kids. Soccer, music lessons, baseball, band, dance, karate, church, youth group, and on and on and on and on. We want to make sure little junior isn't left behind. After all, if he might want to play ball at the varsity level in high school, he has to start in PeeWee before kindergarten! Otherwise he won't be good enough!

We sacrifice family unity and family time at the altar of activity. It takes very little time for the children to realize that the world as they know it revolves around them and their schedule. Mom and Dad jump at every notice of a game or practice. Mom and Dad sacrifice their schedules for those of the kids. What is the unspoken message that gets communicated here?

I dare say it is that the kids are the most important thing in the household. All eyes are upon them. Everything that happens in the household depends upon them.

And to answer question #4...where do they learn to focus? Why on themselves and their own personal happiness, of course!

And then we wonder why they are so self-centered as teens, why they don't look outside themselves and their peer group. Could it be that all those years of focusing of them has taught them well, taught them to focus on themselves? (OK...leaped a little here into Question #6.)

I know this sounds harsh. Shouldn't a parent focus on his child? Absolutely. The question though becomes one of methodology.

If you focus on the child the way we tend to do in today's society, then the result discussed above will be the most common result. On the other hand, if the focus is on discipling the child in the ways of God and learning well the Second Greatest Commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves, then the child learns that he is there to serve others in the name of Christ. He learns the joy of service, of putting others before himself. He learns that his Creator is pleased when he looks outside himself in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So rather than giving our children as many "experiences" as possible, let's disciple them instead. So they don't make the high school varsity baseball team. Does it really matter? Does it really matter if instead, they are fine, mature, godly young men and women who are impacting their own teen culture with their witness of service? Which is God more concerned about? How many teams they were on and how well they played...or what their character has become and how well they are imitating His Son?

I think the answer is obvious. The hard part is bucking the culture in order to accomplish it....

1 comment:

Margaret said...

I am encouraged by seeing more and more families going against the tide of the culture, "swimmin' upstream" as I've been told. I am hopeful that our numbers will grow and start to change the culture around us...