Parents Are Teaching the Wrong Values And Our Children are Suffering From It
As parents, we have gotten it all wrong, and thought we were doing the right thing. The emphasis on raising children’s self-esteem, telling them they could do anything they wanted and could be anybody they wanted to be, was not only wrong, but it was harmful. I have been as guilty as anyone in this confused and misplaced value system. I remember making graduation posters for my children with captions like: “Follow Your Dreams”, or “Reach for the Stars”. Without realizing it I was saying “all you need to do is dream it and you will have it”. Now, my children knew there was a little more to it than that, but it still sent the wrong message.
Children today are suffering more from depression, and suicidal tendencies than ever before. Unfortunately, we do not know what causes someone to fall into this deep, deep, dark despair. But we should begin to look at every possible reason and divert and redirect our children when their path could lead them toward this road. No parent should suffer the grief of losing a child by suicide. No friend, or loved one should carry the pain of feeling, they should have done something differently.
But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. James 3:14-16 (CSB)
Routes to Satisfaction and Happiness
We have robbed our children of much happiness because we have taken away their purpose. We do so much for them, because we can afford to, we have taken away the opportunity for them to work for a goal.
- Give Children a Purpose – everyone, not just children, need a reason to exist. We all need a reason to get up in the morning. We need a reason to get moving, we need a job. It doesn’t have to be employment, although that is good, when children are old enough.
Give children responsibilities as young as possible. Even toddlers need to look forward to tomorrow. Think about the toddler that doesn’t want to go to bed, because they still need to finish their picture, or take care of the pet, or they need to call grandma. They are eager to get to tomorrow, so they can begin a new day and finish their work. These are important for children at all ages.
As children get older, it becomes harder for parents. As children age, they are gaining their independence from parents, and they become more oppositional and defiant. They want to do things for themselves, which parents generally react to by giving in, or taking charge of a situation instead of allowing children to work through it. Elementary to Middle School children need a bigger purpose. Allow the responsibilities to grow. Chores, without pay are wonderful. It isn’t good to teach children to expect payment for things they should already be doing. Children should learn, being part of a family comes with responsibility. Everyone in the family has responsibilities, including the very youngest. Allowance and payment are for the extras.
Do not pay for: grades, picking up their room, taking care of the family pet, helping with dinner, being prepared for school. This is part of life. No one will pay them or reward them for doing what they should be doing in the future.
I know many will disagree with me about not paying for grades, but school is the major job of children. They should do well because it is their responsibility to perform as well as possible. Responsibility is important for children to learn, and the younger they learn this the better for them and their welfare. They need to have control of their schoolwork and other chores, they need to be held accountable. Life is full of responsibilities. But the reward comes from the satisfaction that they did well because they worked at it, not because they were bribed. I believe there also should be consequences if they did not do their best. But A’s and B’s are not the issue, the issue is doing their best, which may be C’s. Life is not a contest, or a comparison of children, it is the hard work we instill in our children to do their best in everything they attempt.
Allowance and Payment for: extra yard work, raking leaves, cleaning gutters, washing the car, mowing the lawn, are fine, but not necessary.
Purpose: This leads back to my original discussion. Children need to be involved in church and community projects as early as possible. Work together in a food pantry, a homeless shelter, take children to deliver meals on wheels. Encourage children to start a project with their friends to cheer up elderly in nursing homes, or the terminally sick. Let them take charge. They will soon develop a purpose, a need, an importance. Let children become immersed in caring and helping those less fortunate. But most of all they will understand the gratification from doing for others without expecting anything in return. This will take work on the part of parents, but the benefits will last a lifetime.
For High School children the purpose should be the biggest. This is time, they are making decisions about their future and how they will become truly independent of their parents. They listen to their friends more than their parents, which is why it is important to instill these values early in life.
Purpose: Encourage them to go on mission trips with church groups. Some of these will be in the United States, but many will be in third world countries. We all need to experience the poverty and needs of children and others who struggle to live each day. Seeing how the things we take for granted, such as, clean water, doctors, and food are scarce in many places. Children who look into the eyes of those hurting, will see a need they have never seen before. This will impact them for a very long time, if not for the rest of their lives. If possible, go with them on these trips. Be available to share their experiences.
If mission trips are not possible. As a family adopt a needy family, or an elderly person to help with yard work, or cleaning. Children could tutor younger children. Help this age child to organize a food drive, organize a neighborhood ball team to help children get outside and play in the summer, or use their creative skills to entertain and bring smiles to others. Put them in charge, do not take over, lend advice as needed, but this is just as much for them as it is for those they are serving. Help them develop the heart of a servant.
Kindness to the poor is a loan to the Lord, and he will give a reward to the lender. Proverbs 19:17 (CSB)
They will soon grow hearts full of love for others, and minds full of ways to do for others. Instead of our children feeling let down when the world isn’t going as they had hoped, they will remember how much harder life is for others.
- Teach humility
Parents today, rarely encourage children to be humble, even though the Bible repeatedly teaches us to be humble.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (CSB)
This verse says it all. We should put the needs of others ahead of ourselves. That is the definition of humble.
Parents today want their children to get a good education, a good job, and be happy, and fulfilled. But it’s not that easy, and it rarely works the way we think it will. When we allow and encourage children to grow up thinking they will be successful if they follow the same route as everyone else, it will not work.
The first obstacle: How do we define success? How does our children define success? If it is based on the amount of money in a bank account, they will never be happy, because the money will never be enough, greed will easily take over. Money will not buy happiness, it will not buy love, and it will not buy a close relationship with God.
If success is defined by being famous, this will also lead to disappointment. Being famous is about always pretending. Famous people are always being watched, they always have to be pretending to be happy, pretending to be doing something important.
The second obstacle: Most Americans see being humble as being weak. In America most people are trying to get the most for themselves. We are greedy and selfish. We want it all, we want fancy homes, fancy cars, and lots of money. We aren’t very concerned about our neighbors or what they need.
Leonard Sax, MD, PhD, in his book, The Collapse of Parenting, puts it this way:
Humility simply means being as interested in other people as you are in yourself. It means that when you meet new people, you try to learn something about them before going off on a spiel about how incredible your current project is. Humility means really listening when someone else is talking, instead of just preparing your own speechlet in your head before you’ve really heard what the other person is saying. Humility means making a sustained effort to get other people to share their views before trying to inundate them with yours.
The opposite of humility is inflated self-esteem.
If we encourage our children to have an inflated self-esteem, they will suffer great let downs when life doesn’t turn out the way they had dreamed. As Sax puts it, “The culture of humility leads to gratitude, appreciation, and contentment. The key to lasting happiness is contentment.”
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. I Timothy 6:6-10 (CSB)