I heard of a young boy who never spoke until he was seven. One day his mother brought him a cup of soup that was so hot it burned his tongue. He let out a string of words and told her she should have known better. In a shocked and trembling voice, she asked him why he had waited seven years to talk. He told her that up until that moment everything had been okay.
As I observe family-life in America, I'm not sure everything is okay. We seem to be producing a Peter Pan generation in which no one grows up. Some call it the boomerang generation. Many children never leave home, letting mom and dad support them. Even worse, if they do move out, they don't raise their own kids. They send them back to their parents' home! Each week I encounter grandparents who are raising their children's children.
I taught my Raising Terrific Kids In Turbulent Times throughout my ministry. It was even a successful video series. To be perfectly biased, it has some great material. I have realized, though, that the title is completely wrong. God's idea was not to raise kids but to produce grown-ups.
Pop culture has paved the way. First it was Michael Jackson, "We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones to make a brighter day... We're saving our own lives." Then it was Whitney Houston, "Children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside."
A dignitary visiting America commented that he was quite impressed by how well the parents obeyed the children. I understand what they mean when they say that children are our future. But actually, God is our future! When we allow God to have His rightful place in our homes, children will feel secure in their place.
The modern family often elevates children to a level that is not good for them or for society. The behavior of a child should not control the happiness of the family. It is not healthy to relive your childhood through your children by ensuring that they don't miss out on any toys or games. It is natural for children to expect to get what they want when they want it. Part of being a parent is guiding children, leading them to learn what is good for them and what is not.
The issue is not that your child merely learns that he will not always get his way. It is that he learns how powerful consequences will be.
At home he is disciplined with love by losing playtime, TV time, or video time.
The world will discipline without love. Your daughter may lose her marriage or even her life. I heard of a teen who told his father no one was going to tell him what to do. So he joined the Marines.
Kids arrive with no self-control. That is why we have diapers. One young father asked the doctor as he was leaving the hospital with his new baby, "What time should we wake the little fellow up in the morning?"
The highway department built a highway bordering a playground children loved to use. The children were afraid of the busy street. The principal saw that they no longer played all over the playground. He talked to the PTA and they raised the funds to build a fence around the playground. After construction, the principal looked out and saw that the children played on every inch of the grounds. The fence not only kept danger away; it kept the good in.
A society that fences in the dog but lets the children run loose is heading for disaster. Boundaries hold children accountable. Subconsciously they understand that they count and that their behavior is important. Learning to say "No" is only half of the battle. It is more important to know when to say, "Yes." The boundary becomes a blessing when they realize the benefit of a better way to live. The reason the family dog is fenced is that the family loves the dog.
The family is God's way of passing down His wisdom from generation to generation. One definition of wisdom is that we know where to put the fences to keep the danger out and the good in.
A young boy began working at a garden center at age 12. His mother, anxious about his first day, stopped to check on him. A tear trickled down his cheek. He told her they had told him they would pay him fifty cents per hour. He had been there three hours and no one had come by with his " fifty centses."
Parenting is being there when the world does not make sense and reassuring him his "centses" will eventually arrive. It is teaching children the way the world works. It is having the courage to say no even when your child says she hates you. This usually means you are doing your job. Let's rescue our children from a burden they cannot bear. Let's let children be children, parents be parents, and God be God. Let's correct without crushing. And by the way, you will never be able to train a child in the way he should go if you are going a different way.
The lessons are our legacy. It is more important what you leave in them than what you leave to them.
Charles Lowery is a member of First Baptist Church, Bossier City, Louisiana, founder and president of Lowery Institute for Excellence, and speaks full‑time. You may contact Lowery Institute at 940.686.0738 or www.CharlesLowery.com.