Guest Blogger: Zachary Garris
Whatever Happened to Parenting?
It’s amazing that people can bring children into the world and then not raise them. Yet that is exactly what is happening in 21st century America. You’ve heard the statistics before. Over 50% of marriages end in divorce, and more than 40% of children are born outside of marriage. These situations make good parenting almost impossible. Kids need a father and a mother, and yet the majority of fathers in America have little to do with their children.
But the problem is not limited to absent fathers. Just look at the two-parent homes around you. Many parents are not involved in their children’s lives. They may take care of their financial needs, but they don’t have regular family meals or spend quality time with their children. In other words, we live in an age where parents don’t parent.
The Substitution of Parents
Unfortunately, when parents don’t parent, something always takes their place. Someone or something always raises kids. For as children mature physically, they also learn how to live in the world. They learn daily tasks, how to speak, how to reason, and how to make moral decisions. They learn these things somewhere. And where they learn them will determine what they learn.
So what takes the place of parents today? There are three common substitutes: (1) the media; (2) government schools; and (3) friends. We live in an age where the culture raises kids. Children spend countless hours in front of the TV, on the internet, and listening to music. Nothing is inherently wrong with these forms of media, but unfortunately much of what children receive from the media today is complete junk. Much pop music today celebrates immorality, and many television shows normalize it. For example, if TV shows portray promiscuous characters, it starts to make sleeping around seem a lot less scandalous than it actually is (this is how the gay agenda has worked as well). And I don’t need to mention the availability of pornography on the internet that children are becoming increasingly exposed to.
The dangers of media are quite obvious. What is not as apparent is the influence of the government school system. What appears to be a ‘neutral’ education is anything but. Public schools not only teach children to view the world through a non-theistic worldview; they often promote a completely anti-biblical worldview. Creation ex nihilo is traded in for naturalistic evolution. Religion (including Christianity) is taught to have brought much violence into the world. And sexual purity is shown to be unnecessary because of the availability of birth control. Forget the decreasing quality of public education in America—the main problem is that the public school system is bankrupt. The system is the main way for the government to influence its future generations. And instead of teaching children a biblical worldview, public schools teach an atheistic worldview with the state at the center (another word for this is ‘statism’).
As for friends, they can actually be a good influence on kids if these friends come from good families and the children are well behaved. But this is simply not the case for most children in the government school system. Instead friends just reinforce what is being taught in the media and in the public schools. As the Scripture says, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:33).
And so when parents fail at their God-given responsibility of raising their kids, something else takes their place. Instead of parents, godly teachers, and church being the main influences upon children, these kids are molded by the unbelieving worldview of the media, school, and friends. When we consider these influences upon the average American family, are we really surprised that our country continues on a downward spiral of moral depravity? Many kids end up in prison or on the streets. The rest face problems such as promiscuity, abortion, divorce, prolonged singleness, immaturity, depression, suicide, and spiritual lostness. Sadly, much of this could be prevented by better parenting (or any parenting at all).
Raising Children in the Instruction of the Lord
There is obviously no substitution for good parenting. Kids need a mom and a dad to raise them and to raise them well. A good upbringing puts a person in an advantageous situation for the rest of his or her life. So what does good parenting look like? Well certainly parents need to provide for the physical needs of their kids. They need to feed them, clothe them, and take care of them. And as children mature, parents need to teach their children how to live in the world.
But the goal of parenting ought not be to simply raise a child who is self-sustaining and stays out of jail. Rather, God wants parents to raise children to be godly men and women. This is the command that the Apostle Paul gives to fathers in Ephesians 6:4—“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
In other words, parents are to raise their children in the Christian faith. It is not enough to just take kids to church and expect that they will turn out to be good Christians. No, God expects parents to instruct their children in the faith. This means parents are to teach their kids the Bible. Family devotions should be a regular practice, as parents teach their kids how to pray, read Scripture, and worship the Triune God. Of course regular church attendance should also be a part of family worship. But it must be understood that the Christian family begins in the home. Sadly, we live in a day where many Christian parents think the youth pastor can make up for their neglect of the discipleship of their children. But this is not how things work. Youth group can be beneficial, but it must never take the place of the parents’ obligation to teach their kids the faith.
This also means that parents must make wise decisions regarding the education of their children. Ephesians 6:4 does not require that children be home schooled by their parents, but it does require that children receive a Christian education. This means the local public school may not be a legitimate option. Sure it’s free (in that the government makes you pay for it), but you have to ask yourself whether that school will raise your child in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.” If not, you will have to look for somewhere that will. And if a good Christian school is not available or is not affordable, home schooling may be a good option. The material out there is growing, and there are many co-ops available to supplement the material at home.