Recently, I’ve observed or been party to conversations wherein I reached a quick conclusion that more and more of our parents have bought into a philosophy that centers around the needs/wants/expectations/desires of their children above all else — even what is essentially good for the child in the longterm.
For example, there are several families in our church that absolutely, positively will not place their child (ranging in ages from 6 weeks to 3 years) in the nursery or childcare. I’m familiar with the over-protective “first-child” syndrome, though my wife and I never participated in it. The idea is that placing one’s otherwise healthy child in a church nursery is sure to infect the little darling with some fatal or near-terminal disease and one must wait until their little immune systems are capable of warding off an attack — you know, like when they are mid-way through puberty.
But beyond that, these are folks who have placed their child or toddler into the arms of a loving, screened and experienced nursery worker to see that child’s lip quiver or eyes fill with tears and believe that to leave them there will in someway traumatize them to the extent that it will require years of therapy to undo the damage. Thus, in spite of the fact that our nurseries are in the same wing as is the worship center, that we have message-capable vibrating beepers available, that we have a numerical calling system mounted in, not one but two places in, the auditorium and that we have a wonderful ratio of children to workers in place, they chose to sit in lobbies watching the service on video feed or simply roaming the halls carrying the little darling with them.
I don’t mean to sound mean or mocking, but honestly, I would like to know if they have the same “high standard” for separation anxiety when it comes time for them to go to work on Monday or when they have to go shopping or if it’s date night or what about when the kid needs to go to school? Or could it be that it’s just a way to cut out of church because of a spiritual issue? To me, it’s just an unhealthy symptom of a culture that places its children on pedestals and which creates an unrealistic expectation on the part of the child that the world revolves them and their immediate needs.
I am regularly stunned at examples that cross my attention of parents who are unwilling or unable to accept the fact that they are supposed to be the leaders in their own homes. I frequently hear of and observe situations of conflict and catastrophe wherein kids are seemingly managing or controlling the lives of their parents rather than the other way around.
As the father of four cookie-munchers myself, I can assure you that parenting is indeed a stressful and tiring role. I’m never tired of being a parent, but I am often tired as a parent. Earning a living, providing care, juggling schedules, coordinating transportation, training, following up, checking homework, attending ball games, wiping snotty noses, taking temperatures and a thousand other facets of parenting fill our days with an exhausting pace. And I’m experiencing this from the perspective of the husband of a stay-at-home mom! I honestly don’t know how single parents do it without collapsing.
One of the reasons we survive in our busy home is due to my firm belief that when God gave me children, He also put me in charge of them. Therefore every day, I must make decisions that aren’t always easy or popular, but which need to be made by the grown-up in charge and for better or worse, that happens to be me.
I’m glad the role of “FATHER” isn’t an elected position as I’m sure I wouldn’t make re-election on three days out of four. Most days, I’d be voted out of office faster than you can say “Gray Davis”. Whether it’s limiting the number of outside activities in which we allow our children to participate, to enforcing bedtime, to dishing out punishment, to insisting that each person make their own bed and clean up their own place at the dinner table, little of which I direct and decide in my own home is met with admiring approval and cried of “Yes, oh wise and benevolent father!” Pastor’s children argue, pout, resist and sneak just like anyone else’s kids do and I often find it easier to manage the one hundred and seventy-plus staff members at our ministry and the needs of nearly three thousand church members than I do managing my own household.
That said, I’m not trying to be discouraging or negative. I am saying that any parent who has a desire to rear their children with strong values, a moral conscience, a love for the things of God, an appreciate for their role in God’s economy, good character and personal discipline must be ready, willing and able to take the mantel of leadership in their home.
That means saying “NO” and meaning “NO.” It requires us to give up things that we’d like to do (like rest, watch TV and reading sometimes) in order to follow-through with training by “inspecting what we expect.” Leadership will sometimes mean that not everyone is going to be happy, understand or agree. Leadership sets standards, trains toward specific goals, adjusts and influences attitudes, evaluates growth and develops plans. Leaders is proactive, not reactive. Leadership must show initiative, set the pace and provide an example.
Much of what we see in the lives of our children is merely a reflection of what they have seen in us. Negative parents rear negative children. Fearful parents real fearful children. Parents who resist authority in their life rear children who are often rebellious and angry. Parents who have a hands off approach to life rear children who float, struggle and flounder.
Leadership provides security. During times of crisis, they might not have a ready answer, but they exude confidence, concern and commitment….qualities that children need from their parents. Leadership does not vacillate, nor does it merely dictate. It inspires. It functions by principle. It isn’t afraid to be in charge.
Kids need leadership in their lives and that leadership needs to come from their parents. Not their friends, not the media, not the school, not the entertainment industry, but good ol’ mom and dad. That’s the way God structured it and it is impossible to improve on it. Do your kids a favor and provide them with consistent direction, leadership and accountability. Don’t let them manipulate and coerce you with fits, tears and temper-tantrums. Don’t be afraid to be in charge. They may not like you today, but they’ll love you forever if you will.