". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Giving Our Children Their Due

A week or two ago a Facebook friend of mine shared the experience of her daughter's wanting to download a certain song that is very popular these days. My friend, extraordinary parent that she is, researched the song and discovered its unsuitability for a sixth grader. (For the curious, the song is "Moves Like Jagger"--if your preteens are listening to it, they really ought not to be.) Accordingly, she vetoed her daughter's request. On the Facebook thread in question, another parent posted a warning to my friend, something to the effect of "It's only going to get worse."

I see and hear this sentiment from parents a lot. It is the idea that children are hard-wired to challenge what they have been taught--that it is only natural for them to rebel as they get older. Many parents seem so convinced of this that they anticipate it long before it shows any signs of happening, and as a result I think they actually start pushing their children towards questionable choices in behavior, clothing, music, and more. It happens with young children as well as older ones. The 6-year-old girl sasses her mother and instead of being chastised and immediately put in her place she is celebrated and giggled at for being such a spunky little wisecracker. The 13-year-old selects low-ride short shorts on a shopping trip and instead of putting her foot down Mom shrugs and pays for them because "I guess that's what all the kids are wearing now."

The thing is, that's not what all the kids are wearing. Mine isn't. (Nor does she want to.) My kid also isn't talking back. Well, maybe the 8-year-old is sometimes. We're working on it. ;-) But having seen two children almost through adolescence with one yet to go, I refuse to accept the notion that adolescence is a time of life when, no matter what I do, my child is going to suddenly turn into someone unknown to me. I understand that sometimes things happen that we could not have predicted. Sometimes despite all our best efforts our children choose a foreign path. We are, after all, sinners in a fallen world. But far from its being the natural course, I believe it is unnatural for humans to reject their upbringing. Children who have been brought up to travel a certain path and who are repeatedly pulled back on to that path by determined, caring parents are much more likely, even if they briefly wander, to return to what they know to be safe and right and true than they are to head off into the woods.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but for what it's worth, here's my plea: Parents, please give your children credit for being the thoughtful, discerning, smart people you are rearing them to be. Respect their good taste, intelligence, moral compass and maturity. Don't write them off as hapless victims of the culture monster. Give them the best and expect the best in return. In my experience, not only will they continue to hold firm to the storehouse of intellectual and spiritual riches with which you have provided them, but they will go far beyond it, contributing their own discoveries and observations, which will in turn come back to enrich and edify you. And why should it be otherwise? They're your kids, after all.


Phillip said...


And it is so odd that so many Americans think this way - particularly Christians and conservatives.

Seriously, do Muslims think that at age 17 their kids are just supposed to organically embrace Judaism? Or do secular progressives think that their teens are supposed to go through an "Alex P Keaton Phase" and become Young Republicans? And yet conservatives and Christians just shrug and accept that rejection of our values is what is natural for our kids.

Silliness. It happens sometimes, to be sure. But usually because parents like the ones you describe hand their kids over to the culture to be catechized.

Thanks for reminding everyone that our kids are....our kids. No matter what Hollywood or the government may tell us!

Sarah Osbun said...

Yes! Thank you for this. Others keep warning me about how my sweet little toddler is going to turn into a monster once she reaches 13. What really gets me is that they say it in front of her.

Cheryl said...

Sarah, I know exactly what you are talking about! Drives me crazy, too! It's not bad enough to simply expect the worst--some people find it necessary to broadcast those expectations. And to the kids, no less. I can't figure it out!

Leah said...

Years ago our pastor discouraged us from even using the word "teenager" when referring to our own children, as if children whose ages end with the word "teen" now constitute a new separate group, under suddenly new separate expectations.

John (1 John 2:13) refers to children, young men, and fathers. (Hmm, no "teenagers?")

My oldest son and daughter are now (or very soon will be) entering into the young man and young woman category. We will train and treat them as such, and they will, by God's grace, grow into what we proclaim them to be.

Cheryl said...

Excellent point, Leah. The idea of teenagers/adolescents is a modern creation that our culture has bought into. And now we are seeing it extended beyond the teen years into young adulthood as our culture finds more and more ways to enable people to not grow up.

Anonymous said...

Your post made me think of a visit with my doctor about a year ago. I'm at that age where I'm caring for aging parents, launching some children from the nest, marrying some off, and still have a high schooler. The doctor, upon inquiring about my overall well being said something very empathic such as "It's really difficult raising teenagers, is this giving you as much stress as it does most of my patients?" ( I appreciated this because I knew that I was very much at risk for depression. ) I very pleasantly answered him that no, we really didn't have the stress often associated with teenagers, that we expected the same behaviors and characteristics of them at age 13 that we did at age 12. I think I murmured how thankful we were for our children. The doctor immediately smiled so broadly and said, "You know we haven't had any problems with our kids either (they have 5)"...he said he just rarely meets anyone who isn't complaining about their teens so he rarely mentions to anyone that he and his wife have been blessed with God-fearing children who have remained respectful. Then we high-fived. We both agreed that maybe we shouldn't be so mum about our children and instead, encourage others that the terrible teens is a man-made phenomenon.

Cheryl said...

Great story, Anon! Frankly, I think the "terrible two's" are as much a creation as the "terrible teens." I don't see any period of growing up as being harder than any other. They all have their challenges, but more important, they all offer their own blessings. I try to remind myself of this as I look at my children growing up and realize our baby days are over. Knowing I will have no more babies is sad, but I so look forward to all the wonder that is still to come as my children head out to create their own lives.

And by the way, you and I have a lot in common. Take away the marrying and add in an 8yo to go with the high schooler and we are leading the same crazy life!