Thursday, February 3, 2011
When Parents Need to Chill...
There are many stories about how the first child is coddled and cared for so that nary a whimper is allowed to pass from the lips before mom or dad is there to comfort or console and about how this moves to almost callous indifference by the time it is the third or fourth or fifth child. Perhaps the fact folks are having fewer children means that all the over-attention usually worn out on the first born does not have a chance to diminish into reasoned but not overly cautious care.
It is not the worst thing on earth is that our child might be slightly wounded by any of his or her activities, ingest anything but organic and free range food, or have to suffer through something they did not like. In this spirit, parents have become adversaries of their children's teachers and often view the school as their enemy as well as their child's. In the same way, parents have been over sensitive to and defense about any slight or injustice their children might have to endure (and quickly amplify their children's disputes into their own battles). Now, don't get me wrong -- I am neither condoning bullying nor suggesting that bullies be ignored. I am speaking here more of the ordinary stuff that kids get into.
My own parents were not so doting. They told me up front that my teacher was always right and if I screwed up at school I would have worse to face when I got home. This was not meanness on their part but a solid understanding of authority -- for them the teacher in my classroom was an extension of their own authority to hold accountable and discipline. Granted the times were different in the 1950s but some of the difference is one of our own creation. It is common today for parents to take personally anything that happens to their children and to live their own lives, hopes, and aspirations through their children -- at least in a way that I did not see or experience when I was a child growing up (so very long ago).
We take our kids to the doctor at the drop of a hat, we fight the teacher when our kids do not get the grade we think they deserve, and we treat the friends of our children as possible competitors and potential enemies. Yet when it comes to their souls, we allow any and every excuse to justify not taking them to the worship services of God's house, not being in Sunday school, and not doing their catechism homework. We would not dare inflict our religious values on our children but want them to have the freedom to explore belief or unbelief on their own terms and yet if our children get into a tussle on the school grounds, we are ready to take somebody to court to defend our kids against their enemies. Well, St. Paul tells us the sin and death and the real enemies and that we live in a world where evil and wickedness are all around us.
Personally, I think parents need to chill. Except for the really serious infractions, I think the rule should be "what happens on the playground stays on the playground." Don't make your kid's battles your battles or try to fight every one of their enemies for them. Chill out a bit. Give up some of that over protective fervor and direct some of your energy to your children's spiritual welfare and eternal life. Be there to console and guide but do not give them the idea that you can fix every bad thing that will happen to them. You can't. You can train them up in the way they should go, but the shepherd over their lives is Jesus. He knows the rough and tumble world in which we live and His grace is sufficient even in the midst of our worst trials and suffering.
Instead of worrying about the terrible things you child's teacher may be doing to your kid, why not worry more about the influence of the TV upon their lives or supervising their time on the internet or getting to know their real friends or overseeing and limiting their exposure to the web friends of the social media networks. It amazes me how often the same parents who treat the teacher as the enemy and find every reason to skip church or Sunday school or insist upon taking on their child's battles as their own wars, allow their kids to dress in ways inappropriate to their age, act rude and crude, disrespect the people in authority over them (including in Church), have free and unobstructed access to the latest technological toys, and way too much privacy. If you don't believe me, watch an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. Is this really where we want to go with our kids?