I’m writing this blog entry while my son and daughter-in-law are in town. That means I’ve got both of my children at home at the same time. That’s something that just doesn’t happen very often. In addition, my younger sister is here with her three children that I’m very close to. The whole experience has got me thinking about the great joy and the great responsibility that comes with being a parent.
I’ve never known any parent who didn’t want the best for their children. I’ve heard and read stories about neglectful parents and absentee parents but I’ve never known any personally. The parents I know love and nurture their children. And that’s where parenting can sometimes get difficult. I write that because in our efforts to give our children the life they (we) always wanted it’s sometimes hard to recognize the things that are best for them.
That point was driven home to me in an on-line article I read in Leadership journal. It was written by John Ortberg, one of my favorite authors. He wrote: Psychologist Jonathon Haidt had a hypothetical exercise: Imagine that you have a child, and for five minutes you're given a script of what will be that child's life. You get an eraser. You can edit it. You can take out whatever you want.
You read that your child will have a learning disability in grade school. Reading, which comes easily for some kids, will be laborious for yours.
In high school, your kid will make a great circle of friends; then one of them will die of cancer.
After high school this child will actually get into the college they wanted to attend. While there, there will be a car crash, and your child will lose a leg and go through a difficult depression.
A few years later, your child will get a great job—then lose that job in an economic downturn.
Your child will get married, but then go through the grief of separation.
You get this script for your child's life and have five minutes to edit it.
What would you erase?
Wouldn't you want to take out all the stuff that would cause them pain?
I am part of a generation of adults called "helicopter parents," because we're constantly trying to swoop into our kid's educational life, relational life, sports life, etc., to make sure no one is mistreating them, no one is disappointing them. We want them to experience one unobstructed success after another.
What should be the goal of our parenting…to give our children happy lives free from anything difficult or unpleasant; or to do our best to see that our children grow up to be the men and women that God wants them to be knowing that God uses difficulty and adversity to shape and mold? Is it better for our children to never learn the meaning of sacrifice or the benefit of doing something that they, at least initially, don’t want to do? Or is it in their best interest to experience what life is really like by learning that life is not perfect, no one gets their way all the time, and children don’t always know what’s best for them?
Sometimes I fear that in our efforts to give our children everything they/we want we fail to give them what they need. One of the most troubling statistics that I have read in recent years is the high percentage of young people who drop out of the church between the ages of 18-22. Thom Rainer writes a lot about this in his book Essential Church. He writes that more than two-thirds of church going young adults between the ages of 18-22 drop out of church. He then gives a “Top Ten Reasons” list for the dropout.
1. Simply wanted a break from church.
2. Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical.
3. Moved to college and stopped attending church.
4. Work responsibilities prevented me from attending.
5. Moved too far away from the church to continue attending.
6. Became too busy though still wanted to attend.
7. Didn’t feel connected to the people in my church.
8. Disagreed with the church’s stance on political or social issues.
9. Chose to spend more time with friends outside the church.
10. Was only going to please others.
I’m a big fan of Thom Rainer and I’m sure that he did a lot of research in compiling his “top ten” list. I wonder though, if there’s not something missing. If it were me, I would add one more thing. We’ll just call it number 11.
11. Never really taught the importance.
Proverbs 3:1-6 says, My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. (NIV)