Contemporary Issues in Parenting

CHILDREN born after the Y2K see things and experience things quite differently. It is not uncommon to see toddlers playing with cellphones, iPods, and iPads nowadays. Facebook, YouTube, and Google Search are no surprises. One usually hears parents telling that their kid knows better computer than them. Media and internet has exposed the young child to the ends of the world. They have also exposed the young child to uncensored evil. Three decades ago, preachers clamored about the evils of what they termed the “Idiot Box” and the “Devil Vision” (referring to TV). They might have never imagined that the onslaught of TV would be outdated soon, and what they regarded as obscene in their era would be considered as normal in an age to come. There is all reason why the internet could be such an influential force in this age: its ubiquity and seeming omniscience; you can find it almost anywhere and you can find on it information about almost anything.

The amount of information too has intensely multiplied. The schools have to update their syllabi every now and then. New information keeps pouring in from everywhere every second. Thousands of new books arrive in the market every day. Contradictory views and practices seamlessly flourish. Flux and uncertainty govern the domain of information, and truth is no longer considered to be an eternally absolute category. Novelty, fad, and fashion are the gods of this generation. Apart from all this, the assault on family is ubiquitous. The carnage of carnality has cut down the foundation of values from under the feet of the secular world. Marriage has become a contract and homosexuality governmentally legalized. Knowledge has become chaotic; momentary profit, the only remnant ethic.

In this article, I would like to point out eight areas of a child that a parent must pay key attention to. They are: salubrity, security, submission, secularity, sexuality, sociability, service, and spirituality.

SALUBRITY

Karen [little girl]: What do they mean when a woman’s size is zero? Cos zero is nothing; then, they will be invisible.
Woman: It just means she is very skinny. But, a woman can be any shape or size she wants.
Karen: What about a hexagon?
Woman: Well, no, I meant it can be…
Karen: Or triangle because triangles are…
Woman: No, I meant it doesn’t matter if a woman is thin or fat.
Karen: What if it were like this? [Spreads hands wide and blows cheeks to describe a fat person] Would that be okay? There’s a man in Mexico and he has to get a crane to get him out of bed, cos he’s so fat. Is that alright?
Woman: Oh, well no! I think…
Karen: What is too fat? Is it…
Woman [irritated]: Would you like to watch some Television?
Karen: No.[1]

Modern lifestyles and habits have created multiple health issues for children. While malnutrition is a problem that prevails among the unprivileged, obesity is taking its toll among many modern families. Commenting on the issue, author Ann Douglas writes:

“The latest figures from the Surgeon General paint an anything-but-rosy picture of the health of American kids: an estimated 15 percent of children and teens are overweight, nearly three times as many as a generation ago.

“The question, of course, is what to do about the problem. Although we all know that teaching kids to make healthier food choices and to fit more physical activity into their increasingly sedentary lives is what’s required to do battle with the growing problem of childhood obesity, it can be challenging to motivate kids to turn off the video game console, to hop on their bikes, and to “just say no” to those oh-so-seductive advertising messages pitching everything from super-sized snacks to fast food.[2]

The issue of children’s health is a whole area in itself with numerous problems connected to it. The whole concern of holistic child development also includes the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the child. The saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is quite pertinent. Video games are not the solution. Sedentary lifestyles only prove damaging.

Responsive parenting involves observing a child’s health-needs, interpreting and identifying the need, and acting out to meet the need.

The parents’ attention is paramount in attending to the child’s salubriousness from proper vaccination to proper nourishment, care, and exercise.  Responsive parenting involves observing a child’s health-needs, interpreting and identifying the need, and acting out to meet the need.[3]

SECURITY

Let’s get one thing straight! My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I was kidnapped by a stranger at age eleven. For eighteen years I was kept in a backyard and not allowed to say my own name….
…I know I am not the only child to be hurt by a crazy adult. I am sure there are still the families that look great on the outside, but if someone were to delve deeper they would discover horrors beyond belief.[4]

According to data from the National Crime Bureau, a child goes missing every eight minutes in India. Almost 40 percent of those children haven’t been found.[5] The statistics are alarming:

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), almost 60,000 children were reported missing in 2011. Of these, 22,000 are yet to be located… The statistics are scary – in 2011, 15,284 cases of kidnapping were reported. This was up 43 percent from the previous year.[6]

The Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) considers the report of NHRC of 1,17,480 missing children (in 392 districts) to only be the tip of the iceberg.[7] The real numbers could be too big. Evidently, the graph of missing children continues to rise. Both parents and society must pay attention to the problem by ensuring rational security measures for children, not committing them into careless hands, and keeping an eye on any suspicious things around.

But, kidnappings and trafficking are not the huge problems. As Jaycee Dugard has pointed out, hurt and abuse can occur inside families. The parents must make sure that none of those things happen to their children at home.

Kidnappings and trafficking are not the huge problems…. hurt and abuse can occur inside families. The parents must make sure that none of those things happen to their children at home.

While there are some who might not consider this a security issue, but I think that proper parenting plays an important role also in protecting the child from the wickedness (drugs, violence, perversion, etc) that is wildly rampant in the world outside bent on destroying anyone that falls into its clutches.

SUBMISSION

Developing respect for parents is the critical factor in child management. It is imperative that a child learns to respect his parents–not to satisfy their egos, but because his relationship with them provides the basis for his later attitude toward all other people. His early view of parental authority becomes the cornerstone of his future outlook on school authority, law enforcement officers, employers, and others with whom he will eventually live and work.[8]

The Bible lays down several guidelines for respect of authority at home, in the state, and in the Church. However, the modern penchant for rebellion has greatly damaged the sense of authority in family and society. In fact, it has been able to cut down the ground of all certainty from under one’s feet, as G.K. Chesterton astutely pointed out in his Orthodoxy: “By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.” The Bible talks about foolishness being bound up in the heart of a child, and that it can only be driven out by the rod of discipline (Proverbs 22:15). The word “foolishness” can also be interpreted as “rebellion”. However, correction should not turn into abuse and provocation. James Dobson’s book The New Dare to Discipline (1992) has some ideas to help ensure the right kind of loving disciplinary needed in the foundational years of the child.

Our best example of foundational submission in family is our Lord Jesus Himself.  He always acted in obedience to the will of His Father… He was also obedient to His earthly parents

A rebel at home will also be a rebel at Church, a rebel in society, and a rebel everywhere. Our best example of foundational submission in family is our Lord Jesus Himself.  He always acted in obedience to the will of His Father (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:8). He was also obedient to His earthly parents (Luke 2:51).

SECULARITY

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).

While the Bible does teach that we are to live as pilgrims and strangers in this world, it also teaches that we need to also be wise and skillful in our relation with the world – “those who use this world as not misusing [it.] For the form of this world is passing away” (1Corinthians 7:31).

No education is helpful nor is retained unless it has a practical value in a child’s world – it helps him to “use this world”.

Secular skills are important for a child to use the world and not misuse it. Education plays a significant role in this. Education begins at home and finding its base therein it assimilates information learnt at school, college, via media, friends, etc. No education is helpful nor is retained unless it has a practical value in a child’s world – it helps him to “use this world”. Therefore, theoretical and practical aspects of education must be properly combined. In addition to academic education, a child will also have to learn number skills that are culturally and contextually necessary for him to have. In order to “use”, he must be helped to creatively deal with situations.

SEXUALITY

Parents, and people in general, are very peculiar when it comes to sex. Instead of telling their sons and daughters everything at the age of twelve, they send the children out of the room the moment the subject arises and leave them to find out everything on their own. Later on, when parents notice that their children have, somehow, come by their information, they assume they know more (or less) than they actually do. So why don’t they try to make amends by asking them what’s what? – Anne Frank, March 18, 1944.[9]

In recent times, one of the greatest problems confronting society is the uncontrolled and uncensored presence of the internet. The porn industry thrives by what has been called as the “Triple-A Engine” effect of the internet-porn being Accessible, Affordable, and Anonymous.[10] Some have gone on to suggest further that it is also Aggressive and Addictive.  In their books, Every Man’s Battle (2000) and Every Young Man’s Battle (2009), Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker present the reality of sexual temptation in every man and young man’s life and suggest techniques such as bouncing one’s eyes from instead of fixing one’s gaze with sexual intention on someone. They also suggest the practice of starving one’s eyes from stimulating images in order to keep lust from growing stronger, and emphasize on the need of guarding oneself from sexual sin by drawing up personal hedges around their weak spots.

Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker present the reality of sexual temptation in every man and young man’s life and suggest techniques such as bouncing one’s eyes from instead of fixing one’s gaze with sexual intention on someone. They also suggest the practice of starving one’s eyes from stimulating images in order to keep lust from growing stronger, and emphasize on the need of guarding oneself from sexual sin by drawing up personal hedges around their weak spots.

Parents need to make sure that they don’t allow any obscene material to stay in their home and be a stimulant for temptation to growing kids. Another good book by Stephen Arterburn and Roger Marsh that might be helpful in this area is Internet Protect Your Kids (2007). It is very much important that the kids learn the things about sexuality and relationship with the other gender at home, instead of being left to find it out on by themselves from sources that are not healthy. They must be built upon the emphasis on sexual purity against the shifting value systems of the world.

SOCIABILITY

But what was it that delighted me save to love and to be loved? – St. Augustine, Confessions

“Man is a social animal” said Aristotle. While secular skills concentrate on “usability”, social skills emphasize inter-personal relations. The Scripture is rich in this area. The book of Proverbs lists social skills like good etiquette, friendliness, generosity, kindness, goodness, justice, honesty, succinctness among several others. The child should be able to learn what actions draw good people favorably and what actions drive people away. For instance, Proverbs mentions that anger is a repellant, not the hero-quality that angry man movies used to depict earlier (14:17; 21:19; 22:24).

The book of Proverbs lists social skills like good etiquette, friendliness, generosity, kindness, goodness, justice, honesty, succinctness among several others.

Research seems to indicate that parents’ social skills have a positive effect on the sociability of their children.[11] Both example and encouragement play an important role in getting the little one out of his timid and shy closet into the open inter-personal world of social beings.

SERVICE

So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” (1Samuel 3:6)

Service can also be defined as responsibility. To serve is to respond responsibly to a duty. Certain studies have revealed that lack of household chores is making children less responsible. According to a report by The Observer,

A study of the articles, advice and letters published in more than 300 parenting magazines between 1920 and 2006 has found that most modern-day children are only asked to take on trivial responsibilities, such as feeding a pet, clearing the table after dinner or tidying up after themselves.

“In earlier generations, children and adolescents were given meaningful opportunities to be responsible by contributing not only to their households but also to their larger communities,” said Markella Rutherford, assistant professor of sociology at Wellesley College in….

Until the 1980s, staff at parenting magazines and parents who wrote in agreed that chores helped children develop empathy and a desire to contribute to the well-being of others, she said. Between the 1930s and 1970s, adolescent and pre-adolescent children were expected to plan menus, shop and prepare meals for the family. They were given responsibility for tasks including nursing sick family members, keeping household accounts, decorating or even helping to maintain the family car.

In contrast, schoolwork is the only real responsibility given to the modern child, said Rutherford….[12].

Until the 1980s, staff at parenting magazines and parents who wrote in agreed that chores helped children develop empathy and a desire to contribute to the well-being of others.. – M. Rutherford

Rebbezin Chana Heller, Director of Womens Outreach, suggests some of the following practical tips:[13]

  1. Give children age-appropriate tasks to be responsible for.
  2. Don’t overwhelm a child with too many tasks.
  3. “Expect” your child to be responsible.
  4. Never call a child “irresponsible”.
  5. Help a child organize her schoolwork.
  6. Don’t do it for her.
  7. Let a child take responsibility for her own mistakes.
  8. Teach a child to manage money.
  9. Encourage your child to take on volunteer work, or an after-school or summer job.

SPIRITUALITY

“…from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2Timothy 3:15)

Spiritual instruction is the prerogative of the family. Neither the Sunday school nor the Youth Ministry can take that role. Recent research has shown that the development of Sunday school and parental shirking of their responsibility to spiritually instruct their kids has had an adverse effect on an entire generation.[14] While anything that the Church does to spiritually instruct the youth is welcome, the primary role of the family to be the place and environment of practical and genuine spiritual instruction cannot be neglected. The saying “A family that prays together stays together” is true. We have great examples of such families in the Bible and also in Church history. Isaac, Joseph, John the Baptist, and Timothy had a great heritage of spirituality. John Wesley’s family line had on both the paternal and maternal side an heritage marked by the influences of several outstanding ministers. John himself referred to this heritage as “a son, father, grandfather, atavus, tritavus, preaching the Gospel, nay, the genuine Gospel, in a line.”[15] But John’s greatest influences came from his mother, Susannah, from whom, says biographer Basil Miller, “he inherited those traits of character which were to set him apart from ordinary men.”[16] Susannah’s own explanation of spiritual education is very pointed and pertinent for our times as well:

I insist on conquering the will of children betimes, because this is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education, without which both precept and example will be ineffectual, but when this is thoroughly done then is a child capable of being governed by the reason and piety of its parents, till its own understanding comes to maturity, and the principles of religion have taken root in the mind.[17]

Spiritual instruction is the prerogative of the family. Neither the Sunday school nor the Youth Ministry can take that role.

The children in Susannah’s home (John was the 15th and Charles Wesley the 17th) were taught to say the Lord’s Prayer as soon as they were able to talk. To this were added by degrees short prayers for the parents, “some collects, a short catechism, and such portions of the Scripture” as their memory could contain. It was a large family, but Susannah knew to manage things very well: “the oldest took the youngest that could speak, and the second oldest the next youngest, to whom were read the psalms for the day and a chapter in the New Testament. John along with his brothers and sisters were taught to be quiet at family prayers.”[18] If the adage what we sow is what we reap is true, Susannah did reap the best harvest of what she had invested in her children. Paul was also able to testify about Timothy in the same manner: “I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” (2Timothy 1:5).

Spiritual instruction, however, must not become legalistic; for the Law is only a schoolmaster that brings us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Paul talks about a heritage of “faith”, not “law”, in Timothy’s family. Legalism creates bondage and frustration inside the walls, even as libertinism creates lack of restraint and confusion. Grace and mercy strike the balance. Spiritual instruction that is not communicated from a heart of love and exemplified in a life of integrity will be spurned as hypocritical and false. The “genuine faith” must be seen in order to be carried over into legacy.

CONCLUSION

I have tried to briefly outline in this essay the various issues of parenting that are contemporarily non-negligible. As a young minister among the youth and children, and of course not being a parent myself, I have only spoken from what I have seen within my own experience and the experiences of the youth around. I have also tried to refer to some books and resources by experienced and professional authors that parents can refer to. By placing spiritual instruction at the end, it is not meant to say that it is the least, but to imply that it is at the base of all things: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and “What a pleasure to have children who are wise.”[19]

References

Arterburn, Stephen & Marsh, Roger. Internet Protect Your Kids, 2007
Arterburn, Stephen & Stoeker, Fred. Every Young Man’s Battle, 2009
Dobson, James. The New Dare to Discipline, Tyndale House Publishers, 1992.
Douglas, Ann. The Mother of All Parenting Books, NJ: Wiley, Hoboken, 2004.
Miller, Basil.  John Wesley, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1943.


Notes

[1] Outnumbered, S3, Ep2, BBC One.
[2] Ann Douglas, The Mother of All Parenting Books (NJ: Wiley, Hoboken, 2004), p. 493
[3] Neir Eshel, Bernadette Daelmans, et al, “Responsive Parenting: Interventions and Outcomes”, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, December 2006, 84 (12), p.991
[4] Jaycee Dugard, A Stolen Life: A Memoir (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011), p. ix
[5] Kiran Manral, “Where Are Our Missing Children?” http://tehelka.com/where-are-our-missing-children/. February 5, 2013
[6] Kiran Manral, “Where Are Our Missing Children
[7] BBA, Missing Children of India: A Synopsis (New Delhi: BBA, ND), p.2
[8] James Dobson, The New Dare to Discipline (Tyndale House Publishers, 1992)
[9] The Diary of A Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, Ed. Otto H. Frank, Trans. Susan Massotty. Anne’s Diary written between 12 June 1942 and 1 August 1944, chronicles her experiences at her Jewish home and in hiding during the Holocaust years before her family was captured and sent to the concentration camps of Hitler. The Diary was given to her on her 13th birthday.
[10] Phil Webb, “Pornography Help”, Archdiocese of Denver. http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/6147/. Accessed March 30, 2013
[11] Tsunao Okumura and Emiko Usui, “Do Parents’ Social Skills Influence Their Children’s Sociability?” http://www.ier.hit-u.ac.jp/pie/stage2/Japanese/d_p/dp2009/dp466/text.pdf.  Accessed on March 30, 2013. Their research, however, concludes that the effect seem to be for those of the same gender; e.g., father-son, mother-daughter.
[12] Amelia Hill, “Lack of household chores making children less responsible, claims survey,” The Observer, Sunday 15 November 2009.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/nov/15/child-development-chores-responsibility. Accessed on March 31, 2013
[13] Rebbetzin Chana Heller, “Teaching Children Responsibility,” Aish.com.
[14] Leclerc Brothers Motion Pictures, Divided, The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches.  http://dividedthemovie.com/
[15] Basil Miller, John Wesley (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1943), p.10.
[16] Basil Miller, John Wesley, p.12
[17] Basil Miller, John Wesley, p.13
[18] Basil Miller, John Wesley, pp. 13,14
[19] Proverbs 9:10 (KJV); Proverbs 23:24 (NLT)
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