Thursday, January 8, 2009

Psychobabble Parenting #2

Wanted to share another "Christian parenting tip" of the modern sort that really chaps my hide. (Here's the first installment, if you missed it.) I have heard this particular comment at least a handful of times in the last few months, and honestly, I am astounded at the poor logic. The advice goes something like this:

"The Bible tells children to obey their parents. It doesn't tell parents to make their children obey them."

I wish I was joking. Words like "hogwash", "rotten advice", "nonsense", and "obtuse" come to mind, although I know that because I've admitted it, I'll get e-mails and nasty comments. Still, I feel the need to call a spade a spade.

Honestly, don't we all know what happens to a child who is not disciplined? I could point to a few places online that give very clear evidence of what I'm talking about, but I'll restrain myself. I believe this commentary can stand without pointing fingers, for those parents who have open ears and eyes.

Children who are not well-disciplined hit, bite, kick, yell at, and/or defy their parents. Not once, but many times, consistently. Screaming, whining, and meltdowns are normative. They don't want to take a nap, so they don't. They don't want to eat this, that, or the other, so they won't. They hit, bite, kick, and yell at other children without correction. Nothing satisfies them. Their anger knows no bounds. Their "gimmes" know no bounds. Their mothers are often bewildered and full of bitterness, both towards their children and towards anyone who dares to imply that there is a problem, which often includes their husbands. And these are just in the first few years; there are more long-term effects as well.

There are sweet children, I'm sure, that will generally go along and get along and do OK just out of a desire to please or some other motivation... but the majority of children will end up as demanding and self-interested as a character from the Lord of the Flies if left undisciplined.

And if that child-- one who defies, whines, hits, and argues with his parents-- is left to himself, why in the world would he suddenly one day wake up and think, "Oh goodness, what have I been thinking these last six years? The Bible tells me to obey my parents. I'd better shape up and start obeying God!"? The truth is, more often than not, he won't. He will continue to spiral more deeply downwards into degenerate behavior and egocentric attitudes.

If we-- as Christian adults-- struggle with self-discipline and respect for the God-given authorities over us, why would anyone think that an unregenerate child would naturally come to this obedience and respect that God intends for children to have?

And even if, by sheer grace, God draws that child to himself and works such a miracle in his young heart that he fervently wants to obey God's Word, his flesh has already had such long season of full reign over his sinful heart that it will be a difficult, uphill climb for him to learn to choose obedience and respect towards his parents.

The Bible makes it clear:
"A child left to himself brings shame to his mother."
God gives children parents in order that they might be trained, taught, and disciplined. Yes, children are to obey. But not because they suddenly arrive at some miraculous level of self-control and maturity. Rather, it is because their parents consistently, continually, over the course of their formative years, expect it and teach them to obey.

Have you come across this same supposedly Christian advice? How do you handle it when these sort of tips are dispensed? Do you confront it? Ignore it? What say you?


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