There is something hurting our children. It’s not in the water. It’s not the vaccines. And it’s not something on television.
The thing that’s hurting our children is parents.
That isn’t to say that we need to rethink the family institution and hand our kids over to the government, as some pundits propose. Rather, parents who really care about their children need to come to grips with the shortcomings of their children. Too many parents are excusing their children to death.
When my son was younger he was throwing a fit in public. This fit had all of the ingredients of a toddler tantrum: arched back, crying with no tears and throwing things. But I had a fall back. The fit had nothing to do with my son’s character or my parenting. He was teething. I joked with a friend that I’d be using the teething excuse until my son’s 18th birthday.
For some parents, that joke isn’t too far from reality.
We like to say that our uncontrollable toddlers are strong-willed. And when those toddlers turn into ten year olds, we blame it on a medical condition. And by the late teen years, when the prescription drugs have quit working, we just say that he, “fell in with the wrong crowd.” Never once do we blame the problem on sin or our own parenting.
When our child has a rampage at the McDonald’s playground and takes out three teeth from a girl half his size, it just sounds better when we blame it all on a psychotropic imbalance in his medial frontal artery or some such gibberish. If you just call it a sin problem, people think that you’re an idiot.
Let’s be clear. Your child has a sin problem. So does mine. So do you. And so do I. It is a problem of the heart. But somewhere along the way we began believing that a child’s heart problem could be treated by taking two pills and calling the doctor the next morning so that he can tell us to up the dosage to three pills.
Yes, there are strong willed kids. But in too many cases and for too many parents, strong-willed child is code for, week-willed parents. A strong willed child does not need a label. What he really needs is loving parents who have a will stronger than his.
Yes, some kids do have medical conditions that cause crazy symptoms and require medical attention. The key phrase there is some kids. Not all kids. The fact that the kid four houses down has a legitimate medical issue that requires a doctor’s attention does not mean that every parent on that street gets to throw away their responsibility to discipline and instruct their children and let a prescription do their job for them.
And yes, we do need to make sure that our kids do not fall in with the wrong crowd. But at the same time, we need to come to grips with the very real potential that our kids either are or are becoming the wrong crowd. When we fall back on the strong-willed child crutch or rely on pills over actual parenting, we should not be surprised when our kid becomes the leader of the Wrong Crowd Gang.
We are excusing our kids to death. Instead of justifying foolish behavior, we would serve our kids much better if we lovingly corrected that foolish behavior.
Parenting is hard. We all mess up. There are days when we feel like all we have done is correct our children and there are days when we go to bed at night afraid that we didn’t correct them enough. No matter how good of a job we do, when our kids grow up they’ll sit around a table with their friends and talk about something stupid we did while raising them. But we can’t give up.
We need wisdom.
We need prayer.
And our kids need us.
Our kids need us to guide them.
What they do not need is our excuses to cover for them.