A Question About Children

question_mark.JPGI’ve got a question.

I am very sympathetic with anyone who would dare attempt to raise a child.  After all, Charlotte and I have raised two children.  It is difficult!  Raising children has taught me humility.  I sure don’t have all the answers.  I continue to learn.  But, it is an honor and can be so rewarding.  After all, a parent is a steward of a young human being who belongs to God. 

Yet, I am concerned:


  • …when a teenager tells his Dad to "shut up" on a church parking lot.  Dad’s shoulders slump as he walks away embarrassed and humiliated.
  • …when a young girl berates her mother over not buying her nice clothing, which the family cannot afford.  The mother feels guilty and wonders if she is shortchanging her daughter in some way.
  • …when a young child talks back to his father and makes a demand.  Not only are there no consequences for the way the boy has spoken to his dad, the boy is given what he had just demanded.
  • …when a misbehaving child is rewarded.  Two brothers, both adults, look forward to getting together for lunch. They live in different parts of the country.  One gentleman has his young son with him.  The young son, sitting in the back seat, behaves obnoxiously on the way to the restaurant.  Dad’s response is to keep turning around and threatening the boy.  Finally, just as they get near the restaurant, the dad says to his brother, "If you don’t mind, let’s stop and get him something."  Once in the store, the dad purchases his son a $16 toy.
  • …when a car load of adults and one child are en route to a restaurant.  On the way, the parent of the child says, "Hey would you mind if we ate at _____  (a certain fast food restaurant)?  She (this little girl) wants to go there."  If this was a special occasion for the child, that would be one thing; but this has happened far too often.

Now I don’t want to paint a completely bleak picture of children and their parents.  There are plenty of wonderful parents who love their children and who allow their children to experience consequences when they misbehave.  I see many great parents who let their children be children and yet who establish limits.   There are plenty of parents who are raising their children in warm, safe, loving environments and at the same time teaching them how to live respectfully of others.

Yet, I have to be very honest and tell you I am concerned.  I don’t know how to exactly express what I am sensing.  It seems that some parents are afraid to disappoint or to make their children unhappy in some way.  I sense they are letting fear be their guide instead of trusting God.  Consequently, they allow a 5-year-old or adolescent to take over.  Any parent who allows one of their children to basically rule their home is putting that child at a severe disadvantage.   

The concern?  Ultimately, my concern is for these children.  I believe that God has created these homes (two parents, single parent, child living with grandparents, etc.) to prepare these children for the future.  To help move them toward maturity.  I believe that God is concerned about how we live as stewards of his children.  If a child does not grow up honoring mom and dad, how does he or she then begin to honor God?  I think about these children who need to learn respect for parents even as they learn to respect God.

My question: Do you see this in your world?  Do we seem to be responding to our children out of fear and our own insecurity?  Or, do you see something else at work?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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20 thoughts on “A Question About Children

  1. Jim,
    I see many of our friends distracted with other things – work, church work, volunteer work, hobbies, etc.  They have so little time for their kids, it seems they overcompensate by allowing boorish behavior and giving in to the materialism, elaborate toys, gifts, etc.  One friend who works 60 or 70 hours a week told us that he doesn’t have the heart to discipline his 4-year old son because they spend so little time together and he’s afraid that all his son will remember him for is discipline. 
    While we are not perfect parents by any means and will make plenty of mistakes, it is so disheartening when our 3-year spends time with the children you have described (usually at church) and comes home with an "attitude", is defiant or overly aggressive.  Kids will be kids, but…

  2. This is a great post. I have two children, and am not going to claim to be the ideal parent. Yet one thing that has never bothered me is that I am not my children’s best friend. There are times, sure, but I am first and always a parent, guide, and caretaker. If I can occasionally be a friend too, that is icing.While I am here, let me mention a closely-related pet peeve. Your friends are not your children’s friends either. They are adults. I have a problem with the practice that started in the 80’s where kids call nearly all unrelated adults by their first name. And then we wonder where respect has gone? When I introduce my daughter to an adult, often they say "Oh no, she can call be Steve." To this I politely repeat to my daughter that this is Mr Smith. Sometimes Steve needs an offline explanation too.Thanks for listening!

  3. Certainly, both as a clinician and as an observer of life (the writer’s detachment), I have seen what you are describing.  It goes back, I think, to some parents not really believing the Bible, i.e., they don’t really believe that spiritual matters are more important than temporal, physical things.  So they try to keep their children "happy," an impossible task if ever there was one.  We might try teaching contentment and boundaries instead.    At the same time, though, I offer the following from Gary Collins: when he was teaching at TEDS, he explained a bit of wisdom that all parents should keep in mind:  "Somtimes good parents have bad kids; sometimes bad parents have good kids."  I think this puts things in perspective and fosters a bit of humility.  Our control and influence are not nearly as powerful as we would like to believe.

  4. I’ll throw in my two cents worth.  I think some, not all, of the problem is a lack of vision.  A parent ought to pray often that the Lord will prepare his/her children for Kingdom work.  This is a scary prayer that helps me focus on training my children for the future.

  5. Jim,I think the bigger problem here is that most parents have absolutely no plan or strategy for dealing with their children. They have no clear idea of what it is they hope to accomplish, and, as a result, they spend most of their time being reactive rather than being proactive. 

  6. I do see this in my world.  I work in a clinic and see many adolescent young women in the course of a day’s work.  In many of these girls there seems to be a sense of entitlement and lack of restraint.  This attitude shows itself in many ways.  One evidence is sexual promiscuity with shock and surprise when there are consequences for their behavior in the form of an STD or an unplanned pregnancy.  Another thing I’ve noticed is a general rudeness and inconsiderate behavior.  We have posted signs asking patients not to use cell phones in the clinic areas, as it really slows down clinic flow when you have to wait on someone to finish a conversation before you can proceed with an exam.  Yet, still they will get on the phone while I’m trying to do an exam or explain their birth control method or talk with them about their STD.  Apparently no one has taught basic good manners to many of these young women!
    I’m not sure why this has happened.  Some of it is probably related to their parents’ insecurity, as you suggested.  I think some of it reflects a general laziness and lack of foresight on the part of parents, too.  (Kind of like the thing you were discussing in your "Pay Now or Pay  Later" post.  It’s just easier to give in to their children than to exert proper discipline over them.  The results are tragic in many cases.

  7. There was a time when I had very little “quality-time” with my kids. That’s just the way it had to be. I noticed that I was more likely to buy them unnecessary things and “give in” during that season. I think this is kind of natural. Now, my kids are homeschooled. We have to LIVE with each other each day. We have opportunity to GIVE to each other quite a lot. I think this has changed things. Not that everyone would choose our path… but I think that being with our kids more and giving them just regular love can be an antidote.

  8. One more comment.  Why do parents allow their children to wear T-shirts with all sorts of rude remarks plastered on them?  I just did an exam on a 16-year-old girl who was sporting a T-shirt which read: "If I want your opinion I’ll beat it out of you!"  Honestly!!!

  9. Lisa,Your comment is helpful.It never occurred to me that some parents by allow such behavior to compensate for time pressures, being away from home etc.  How sad…Thanks for your comment, Lisa. 

  10. Far too many parents are afraid to really parent their children. They are too afraid the children will not like them.
    Your children do not need pals and buddies, they can find those at school and church. What they need are parents who love them by setting reasonable limits, exercising loving discipline, and teaching them to be unselfesh.
    If our children are taught "instant obedience" now, you will not likely have to bail them out of jail later because they have no respect for authority.
    It is God’s command that children obey their parents. It is your job as a parent to make sure they keep that command, and you must do so without provoking them to anger.
    You can raise rebels or righteous little people, it is up to you.
    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  11. Dave,Good point.  I think if I will focus on being the kind of dad or mom that my kids need the friendship will naturally occur years later.However, while they are growing up in my home, they primarily need for me to be a dad. Warm, approachable, consistent, etc.–a father.  Sometimes I wonder if we don’t get antsy to "make it happen" instead of just loving our children, providing direction and guidance, and trusting that the outcome will be good.

  12. Hi Mike,I like what you said about teaching contentment and boundaries instead of focusing on happiness.  I think this is particularly important in the kind of affluent culture in which so many of us live.  I really like the line by G. Collins.  I’ve not heard it before.

  13. Dusty,Good observation.  I think you are right.  Far too often, we have no sense of the kind of child we are trying to raise.  (Or it is so vague that it really doesn’t mean very much).

  14. John Alan,You make a great point.  Because many of us parents have no idea what we are trying to accomplish, we have no plan or strategy for getting there.  Maybe that accounts for some of our inconsistencies.It would probably do us well to spend some time reflecting on what exactly do we hope to produce in this home.Thanks John Alan– 

  15. L.L.Thanks for your words.  Thanks also for affirming the power of being present with our children and giving them "regular love."  So many of us underestimate the value of that presence and that love.   I’ve noticed L.L. as our daughters friends came into our home, some of them often seemed starved for regular love.  In our driveway was the new car they were driving (that my daughters may have wished they were driving) but what brought them joy was being in our home, smell cookies in the oven and getting some attention and encouragement.

  16. Connie,It is interesting how "un-civil" we have become as a culture.  I noticed this in particular as I watched several television commercials the other evening.  One guy burped, while other gross noises came from another actor.  Families were portrayed in the commercials as insulting one another.Amazing.

  17. Jim,
    As the parent of 5 adopted children, this is what I see. My first 2 kids were adopted at birth and brought up by Godly principles. The other 3 were adopted through foster care @ ages 5, 5, and 7. They are now 20, 15, 13, 13, and 12.
    What I have observed and lived through is that the freedom that God gives is also an opportunity for satan to pour on the worldly choices for our kids to confuse and overwhelm them. They are at a stage of their life when their world is full of confusion and anxiety about life, future, and love. That’s where the parent MUST be a guardian of their choices. We must be in touch with every aspect of their life if we desire to see them continue in Godly lifestyle. Otherwise, their natural seeking for independence will lead them into rebellion against all of the teaching they have obtained from their parents. The communication has to always be open and honest on both sides, but the parent must be alert and attentive to any opening for wisdom teaching.
    My oldest kids, even though adopted at birth still went through a period of rebellion, as did the ones adopted through foster care. That’s where we had to be parents 99% of the time and friends 1%. There has to be a consistent stability in their lives, especially during the teens, but not only then. The kids have to know what’s expected and that the parents love them regardless of whatever comes. Parents are the example of Christ for their children. That’s where parents have blown it with their kids. They have to see Christ in parents, and what they see is the enemy most of the time with divorce, arguments, abuse,etc.
    That’s my 2 cents, Jim.

  18. Jim,In case any of your readers are looking for help developing a plan for raising their children, I did write a book about it. It’s called Hearts and Minds: Raising Your Child with a Christian View of the World. I also do seminars at churches and Christian schools based on the material in the book.

  19. John,A great comment!  Thanks for telling us the story of your children/family.  You remind me of the battle that takes place.  (The spiritual battle between good and evil).By the way, I like the expression "Wisdom teaching"