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Childer: On Child-Rearing
Written by Douglas Wilson   
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 20:18

Kids need to be brought up in such a way that two condi­tions are met. First, parents must provide their children with guidance, correction, encouragement, teaching, and direction. Second, parents must love their children in such a way that the children grow up wanting these things.

At the same time, whether or not the children want guidance and direction needs to be measured by the video, and not by the snapshot. At the moment of correction, children are like the rest of us and don’t enjoy it very much. No discipline seems pleasant at the time. But the wise know that faithful correction is oil for our heads (Ps. 141:5), and faithful children understand this as well. It pro­tects us, and does not destroy us. Over the course of time, children should want their parents to set limits for them, and to bring them up in such a way that they continue to be eager for those limits.

Some parents excel in defining limits, setting boundar­ies, making rules, lecturing, teaching, explaining, and cor­recting. They do not do so well at getting the kids excited about conforming to the standard. Other parents have a great personal relationship with their kids, lots of good talks, but they are too indulgent and such parents often leave the kids wishing they had more direction.

The reason kids need direction and wisdom is that there are many areas of life where the right thing is not the obvious thing. Teenagers generally don’t need to be told that serial bank robbery is not the way to go. “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). The mature are those who through long practice have learned to distinguish between things that are a good idea and those things which are not a good idea. This cannot be done without practice—long experience. And the areas where it must be done are those areas where the wise course of action is not immediately apparent to many people.

Wise parenting does not begin with the task of keep­ing kids away from pornography or pot or shoplifting. If a parent is struggling with holding the line at these places, then it is likely that they did not offer direction and input on other less obvious issues much earlier. Parents have multiple opportunities to teach their children the difference between wisdom and folly when the stakes are much lower. For example, suppose an opportunity arises for your thir­teen-year-old daughter to go to a slumber party, an event where the girls are likely to stay up until two in the morning accompanied by a tangle of unedifying gossip. Going to this event doesn’t break any of the Ten Commandments in an obvious way—all the girls are classmates in a Christian school—so what should Dad say? And if he says no, then how can he do it in such a way that his daughter comes to appreciate (within a day or so) his wise protection of her? Or let’s take an Internet analog of slumber parties, which would be something like Facebook.

In any setting, when kids get together without paren­tal direction and supervision, two things will happen—and they will happen for the same reason that weeds grow in your garden. The first will be that the conversation will drift downward into the silly and inane. Once that tone is set and established, some people will introduce some real sin. They will wait a bit to introduce it because teens steeped in the silly and inane are not equipped to stand up to real sin. Laziness is not preparation for battle, and so when battles do come to the lazy, they are usually short battles. Silly and inane conversation revolves around trivi­alities, superficial feelings, flatteries, flirting, and so on.

If a Facebook account is allowed in the first place, any father worth his salt is going to insist on being a “friend” (and how uncool is that!) so that he can check in on how the scintillating conversation is going. As he moni­tors what is going on, he will probably realize that his son is a lot more intelligent as a conversationalist at the dinner table than he is here. More intelligent, less self-absorbed, more fun to listen to. But here he is on Facebook, hair in his eyes, whining about something or other, just like he was some fussybutt alternative rock white guy with problems. But so far dad just thinks this is irritating. Then some skanky girl from somewhere in New Jersey pops up on the page, blouse unbuttoned like there was no tomorrow, says something really inappropriate, all the while acting like she really knows your son well, and that she really thinks he is hot. Huh, thinks you. You think you remember meeting her at that Christian family camp you all went to last summer. Now what?

The point is not to march into your son’s bedroom and pull the plug on his computer and say, “That is all with that.” The point is to lead and guide your children so that they see what you see and act accordingly. If you have a good relationship with them, they will be hungry for that kind of direction. If you do not have that kind of relation­ship with them, then a simple imposition of standards they do not comprehend and do not love will not help you out in the long run. The question that parents face here is how they can impart authoritative and loving guidance in a way that will be accepted and appreciated.



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