Do Americans Value Children Today?


Most people would say “yes”, we value our children in the United States.  They would reference the number of dollars it takes to raise a child in the United States today. They would allude to the youth sports and activities. They would even respond with advantages in education, accessibility to internet, and many of electronic of devices children in America have to stay ahead.

However, we are seeing more depression, anxiety, and stress in children each year.  We are seeing the number of suicides, in young people rise at alarming rates in the United States.  We are experiencing children becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, not to mention vaping.  

There is no question that American children have many advantages.  Most, if not all, of these advantages come with a price.  The price requires parents to work longer hours and stay away from family longer.  

We are living in an age of “more is better”, where “name brand” is essential, where “being the champ” is necessary, where “I” am more important that you.

Jesus was asked what is the most important commandment.  

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12: 29-31 (NIV)

This has always been a very powerful message, to me.  Do we really love our neighbors as much as ourselves?  Do we want our neighbors to have all the advantages, and material things we have? Do we really care as much about the well-being of our neighbor? Do we care if our neighbor’s children have all the advantages our children have?

In the book, Their Name is Today Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World by Johann Christoph Arnold, he writes, “Are children considered a national treasure? In terms of future income earners with buying power, yes.  But as unique individuals who offer hope for the renewal of civilization? Not so much.”

“Unfortunately when the media and the surrounding world tells us, “A child costs this much money,” that puts a lot of stress on people.  You have to say, “How much love can I give?” not, “How much money do I have?”

I will not argue that it is good to have nice things.  We all want certain things and work hard to provide them.  My concern is when we become too obsessed with material possession for ourselves and our children.  We become too competitive and use our children to make us feel like we are winners.  Our children need our time and love more than they need other things, no matter how great those things are.  The devices will become outdated very soon, they will need to be replaced with more devices that are guaranteed to make our children brighter and smarter. What is never outdated is our love for our children, teaching our children about God’s love for them.  Children will grow into secure adults when they know they are always loved for who they are, no matter how many mistakes they make along the way.  

 The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great   delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you   with singing.    Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV) 

It is my belief that children who grow up knowing they are loved unconditionally, by their parents and are taught about the incomprehensible love God has for us, will have a greater likelihood of not being drawn into the grasp of drugs and sex, trying to find a substitute for that love and acceptance.  That is not to say, it could not happen, of course it could happen.  But it is certainly a tool, we have to help steer our children away from the pull of the evils of this world.  “We need to allow children to be children for as long as possible.  They need time to breathe in and breath out.  They need to play.  Children are not computers or robots that can be programmed according to our wishes; they have a heart and soul, not only a brain.” Arnold, Their Name is Today.  

Instead of more devices, learning programs, and competitive tournaments, our children need to be allowed to be children.  They need to be allowed to do what comes naturally to them, which is to explore, to question, and to fail.  When we think about that toddler learning to walk, we all know, if healthy, the toddler will learn, but will fall several times, will try again, and eventually succeed.  The same is true for learning to tie shoes, learning to ride a bike, failure is part of the learning. Children have a natural instinct to keep trying. They also have an instinct for questioning everything and exploring everything.  It is all part of a healthy child.  Why do we suddenly loose our confidence in ourselves and allow others to dictate to us what we should know instinctively about our children? Educator Maggie Dent from Australia puts it this way:

Unstructured, child-centered play has enormous benefits for young children, and those benefits cannot be tested by benchmark testing. Our capacity to be creative thinkers and innovative problem-solvers comes from using our own mental processing to explore the world. How much do we need to value creative thinking, given the speed of change sweeping our modern world? There are no answers in textbooks about how to manage unexpected change, and this is why we are disabling our children by stealing their capacity to use play to learn, to explore, to question, and to solve problems without an adult’s assistance. They are biologically wired to learn from their experiences, provided those experiences are engaging and interesting.

Every year children are further pressured to do “too much, too soon.”  Arnold, Their Name is Today.

Do not be concerned if your children do not have all the latest devices or have not memorized something another child has learned.  Instead, let children be children, if school requires learning more topics, then add those, but do not be concerned about keeping up with the neighbors or peers.  

True happiness comes from love and support of family and learning about the never-ending love of Jesus.  These are more valuable than the money spent on electronics. 

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.        

                                                                                                                        Proverbs 3:1-2 (NIV)

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