'I'M NOT MY CHILD'S FRIEND'
The horrendous state of teens
today comes from having parents
A recent issue of Time Magazine shocked me utterly with its statistic that 40 percent of all 13-17 year old girls wear thongs to school with their silky strap showing- not unlike the way they wear their bras. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that the market for thongs for girls ages 7-12 is already 1.6 million dollars and growing rapidly. You may think this within itself is nothing, but if you couple it with the other things that are happening with today's teens one must began to wonder what is going on.
What's going on with today's teens? The latest news does not present a pretty picture. Never has there been a generation of kids who are as badly behaved, or as sexually active as this one.
Consider that in the
A truly staggering 35 percent of young girls become pregnant in the United States at least once before they reach the age of 20 and 80 percent are unmarried, and every day 8,000 teenagers in the U.S. become infected by a sexually transmitted disease. This year alone nearly 3 million teens will become infected. Teen-agers are among the fastest growing age group for the infecting and spreading of AIDS, in many places surpassing the homosexual community.
How could our kids be this screwed up? To be sure there are many causes. We could for example blame the axis of evil- Madonna, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears- and other highly irresponsible teen idols whose aberrant and outrageous behavior is devastating our kids. We could blame the Hip-Hop crowd with it's violent gangster rap it's vulgar lyrics and its 'anything goes and nothing is sacred mentality." Preaching rebellion and that "the badder you are the better you are." We could blame the upsurge in Violent and vulgar video games and the fact that more and more teenagers spend more time committing violent crimes with video games than playing sports or doing home work. We could blame television which has brought immoral behavior right into our living rooms, perverted talk shows and reality shows, anesthetizing the masses into changing what is thought of as normal behavior.
But even these miscreants would have little or no influence over our children if they weren't first failed by their parents. The principal causes of the fall of our children are truly awful moms and dads who believe it's their job to be their kids' best friend rather than their parent, trusted buddies treating their children as equals rather than being disciplinarians, parents who refuse to police their kids' errant behavior. If our kids are animals, out of control, it's because we have opened their cages and then been forced to be increasingly desperate zookeepers trying to round them up, all the time not willing to close the cage. More and more parents have treated their teens like babies, given them adult privileges, with absolutely no responsibilities, no accountability, letting them wonder the streets and neighborhoods and then had to pay the price financially and emotionally for their delinquency.
We're all familiar with the modern "expert" gibberish by now. "Never alienate your kid by using the word "forbid." Punishment will only invite rebellion. Being harsh will ensure that your kids will only hide things from you. It is better that you become a trusted confidant than an authoritarian.”
Listen to some of the things some parents have said to me.
"I drove 5 miles to my 14 year old daughter's camp on visiting day and brought along her boyfriend so they can spend time together, so she knows that what's important to her is important to me too."
You encourage your 14 year old daughter have a boyfriend? And spend time alone with him!...Hello!...What's wrong with this picture? Isn't this the time of her life when she needs to be concentrating on school. A 14 year old girl doesn't even know who she is yet let alone trying to explore who someone else is. Is this really the time you want her to be worrying about pregnancy, diseases, and the stress of a relationship? What is wrong with parents today? How do they come up with this? She needs a parent not a boyfriend!
Banning my son from certain activities would upset our friendship. I just don't want to do that. Besides my kids "deep down" are good kids and they're only doing what typical teenagers will do. There is really nothing I can do about it anyway.
It's not about you and your feelings parents, it's about the kids and what they really need: A parent who will teach them right from wrong, will guide them, and realize they have an obligation before God to discipline them. A child knows if you, as a parent, are needy for his/her acceptance they will play off that need, and manipulate you and then blame you for their own mistakes because you have not taken the time to teach them to take responsibility for themselves and hold them accountable for their own actions, instead you have allowed them to lay the responsibility on you because (they know) you as a parent are more concerned about if your kids like YOU and about your own feelings instead of being concerned about their life and what they need, and being stern and obedient to what God says. Your parenting skills require you giving your children what they need not always what they want.
"I feel it's best to let my kids choose for themselves what is best for them." I don't want them to be forced to do something they don't like or something that might make them feel bad."
Get a dose of reality will you! As adults we always do things we don't like. We do them because they are right or necessary or important to us and others. We may not like raising kids but we do it anyway. How many of us don't like going to work everyday? Are we really training our kids how to deal with real life. I spoke to one parent who would not put her son in a certain activity when she had the opportunity because "he didn't want to do it and I'm not going to insist, she said." Instead her son did what he wanted to do and stayed out all night long, drinking, partying, getting into trouble. Do you really think kids are better off doing what "they want." What experience do they have to make those decisions? Many parents have given their kids choices and catered to what they want since they were little, now they wonder why their children don't care about anyone but themselves and refuse to even consider their parents wishes. We have let our kids do what they want, it's no wonder they now won't go to school! To them it is just another choice. A choice they feel they have the right to make because that's the way they were trained. And some parents will even go so far as to bribe their kids with money or favors in order to get them to do something, instead of teaching them responsibility or giving them responsibilities and enforcing it. Bribing is easier than training. Since No one is offering the child money to go to school, the child won't go. None of their friends are offering them money not to do drugs. So they do them. As a matter of fact that type of child soon learns that drugs and crime are a source of money which encourages them to go deeper and deeper, because they have been taught that money is the motivation of behavior.
The "Be your kid's best friend" mentality, propagated by dim-witted experts is guilty of destroying a whole generation of children. Kids have plenty of friends, but they have only one set of parents. They need someone to give them backbone and help steel themselves against the malign forces that seek to subtly corrupt or destroy them. Believe me, the kids your kids hang around with are not encouraging your child to good works. That is not the mentality of teen-agers. And whether you will accept it or not your child in that situation is not being a good influence on other peers either. They will always stoop the the lowest common denominator, and then try to out impress one another through peer pressure to lower and lower forms of misbehavior. If the parents aren't being a force for good in a child's life, be sure the friends they hang around with and the forces of Hollywood and the music they listen to and the video games they play aren't going to do it for you. The Devil has quickly stolen a generation of kids for his purposes and he has done it by tearing down the resolve of their parents.
What do parents do? Most of them make excuses for themselves and their child's misbehavior. How many times have I heard , "My child has gone through a lot." Like that's an excuse to be rude, and do drugs, and be criminal and not go to school? That's not what makes a kid bad or lands them in jail. Guess what? A lot of people have gone through a lot. We all can say we've gone through a lot, some worse than others. If you use that as an excuse to not discipline or do your job as a parent, they are going to go through a lot more. And they will have you to blame, and now you have taught them to use that as a reason to excuse their own behavior.
"They just need counseling." Counseling by itself has yet to make the first bad kid good. I'm not against good counsel. But counseling doesn't work unless it is tied to a good behavior modification program. Statistically, counseling when it comes to changing behavior is at best a social failure. Ever wonder why some behavior modification programs work without counseling? Because it becomes the child's parent. It set's the guidelines. It establishes the boundaries. It enacts punishment without changing or giving in. It rewards the child only when the child's behavior merits. It trains. It does not let the child run everywhere and do as they please. It holds them accountable every moment. Behavior Programs don't feel guilty and aren't easily manipulated. They aren't moved by a child's threats or worry if the child likes it. It doesn't baby the child when he/she has done wrong. Therefore it teaches the child that good behavior or bad behavior has nothing to do with whatever a child has experienced or whatever emotions may come to the surface. Emotions do not have to dictate behavior. A child that is trained properly needs little or no counseling.
Like God, when it comes to my children I am first and foremost a lawgiver. I set down the rules of what is and is not acceptable. And then there are consequences for transgressing the law. I offer no excuses and just like God I can't suddenly change my mind and decide I don't feel like enforcing my law just because it is inconvenient for me. But I am not unjust. In raising my kids I employ the Biblical example of " we shall obey and we shall seek to understand." My kids first have to obey. they must listen because I am their father, whether thy like it or not, whether they understand it or not. But once they have been obedient, it is time for me to pull them into a quiet room and explain the them in fatherly, rather than friendly, tones why I insist on a certain course of action. I'm not harsh with them, neither do I become emotional or baby them. Parents, it is best that you don't allow your children to talk you down, argue with you, or cause you to become emotional. Your word must be firm. The only way to establish the integrity of your word is to never to allow your word to fall. Kids know 99.9% of the time if they can beat you down and if you become emotional, they win, and they quickly learn the right "buttons" to push to get what they want, besides how can you teach your kids emotional control when you haven't mastered it or at the first sign of pressure or a little guilt, you cave.
The belief that children are better off with parents relinquishing authority and acting as their equals results from three misguided concepts:
First, the belief that teens are young adults rather than big children and therefore require understanding rather than discipline. Second, that children will rebel against parents who are firm disciplinarians. And third, that it is beneficial for children to discover life's essentials on their own with out parents superimposing their beliefs and value system on their children. But if I may borrow the title of a Jim Carrey film, I would classify these assumptions as dumb, dumber, and dumbest!
And that's being nice. The uncharitable position is that "friendship" is a posture adopted by lazy parents who find disciplining their children too much work. Much easier to give in rather than resist the demands and rationalize the capitulation with some inane philosophy about how "allowing your kids to experiment with marijuana will help prevent them from trying harder drugs" or making excuses for them like "they're only doing what teen-agers do" or "their behavior isn't that bad, lots of kids do worse" or "just leave them alone, they'll snap out of it sooner or later."
"If I'm firm with my Kids, they'll rebel against me." Don't your kids rebel against you now, my liberal friend? Or is it that you have not set any boundaries and enforcements for them to rebel against. So now they are not rebelling against you, but against all adults, any authority, and all society. Do you not realize that a child learns right from wrong by challenging the boundaries, and when the boundaries collapse they look for new ones to challenge.
I have seen so many parents refuse to set or enforce boundaries at home, and then become angry when others such as a teacher or Sunday school instructor or even a step-parent or another adult tries to set some in the child's life and then they malign and blame the instructor instead of the child.
Why is it that the closest adult/adult-child relationships are with parents who have been firm with their children while they were growing up. Not abusive, but firm, unmoving.
How Can Parents be this screwed up? Lets examine the problem even in Christian homes. How many times have we heard, " Please pray for my kids that they will be good," or "I'm just trusting and believing God to bring my kids around."
If this worked, why are so many kids of Christian homes, getting killed, or in prison, in safe houses, dying of Aids, alcoholics, on drugs. The list goes on. Many of them dying in their sins, yes going to hell! Might it be that God has absolutely nothing to work with, because as parent we haven't been obedient to God and done our job.
Jesus said, "Seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness, and all other things will be added unto you."
Seeking his righteousness means doing what is right. What does God have to say about it? What does God want me to do in obedience to what he said? So many times as Christians God is unable to answer our prayers in areas of our lives because we refuse to be obedient to God in those areas. We expect God to do something when God clearly said in order for this to work you must do something.
When it comes to raising children, God said three things: Number one, you must train them. (Not tell them, not talk to them, hands on training.) Sorry parents this requires sacrifice on your part. This includes setting clear boundaries, establishing what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior. This means more than just telling them and then letting them watch and listen to anything they choose or letting them go and hang with whom they please. If this is all you do, then your words to them mean nothing! This means accountability. Knowing where your kids are at all times. Knowing who they are with and only allowing them if you approve. Requiring addresses and phone numbers. And periodically checking to see. You must position yourself as a 24/7 presence in their life whether you are there or not. And training requires more than just a scolding from your mouth whenever they are rude or irritating to you. Number two, You must discipline them. This means punishment for crossing the boundaries. Firm and consistent. Notice no where in scripture does God tell you to "love" your children. As a matter of fact, God says to love your children means you discipline them, otherwise you really hate them. And Number 3, Don't exasperate them. This means don't let them get away with something over and over, and then decide to discipline them because you've had a bad day or you just "finally had it up to here." You should never put off the discipline of your children till it escalates to your inability to deal with it. By then it's too late. Nor should you punish your kids out of your own frustration, or take out your problems on them. Some kids, the only discipline they receive is when their mom or dad brings home problems of their own and takes it out on them. This is not discipline, and will not produce positive results instead it will embitter and confuse the kids.
There you have it. Train a child in the way that he should go and when he is older he will not depart from it.
Recently I was at the home of a friend whose 17-year old son was being rebellious and disrespectful. He yelled at the top of his lungs to his mother that she should drop dead. The mother reacted by grounding him for a week from the use of her car. So far so good. A day later he apologized to her because he wanted to go out on Saturday night with his friends. All he had to do was give her a hug, she gave him the keys. At work this friend of mine is a tough lady. When it comes to her kids though she has a jelly backbone. Why? Because like so many other parents she feels guilty about having to work. Or some single parents feel guilty about putting their kids through divorce, or feel guilty because the child's real father or mother is not in the home. Some parents feel guilty about denying their son "all the things that I didn't have when I was his age." But is she doing her son a service by revoking the punishment? What is she really teaching him? How to manipulate her to get his way by doing something that eases her guilt? What is she teaching him about the integrity and authority of her words or about respecting the law. She is really sending him the message that screaming like a lunatic and being disrespectful is really not all that bad and doesn't deserve much punishment. What is she teaching him about life. Will his boss at his first job stand for it? Will his girlfriend? What about his wife?
But if my kids repent shouldn't I forgive them? Forgive them, yes. Revoking the consequences of their actions, NO! Kids must learn that actions and consequences go together or they will never deal with real life, because in real life that's the way it is. How many times has God forgiven us yet he still allowed us to reap the consequences of our actions? Parents, if you don't discipline your kids, something else will. And that something else will not discriminate. And will not care if they get another chance at it or not!
The toughest thing our children face is peer pressure. Growing up is an awkward experience, and the easiest thing for kids to do is blend in and lose their uniqueness. Children look to parents to neutralize this phenomenal pressure they encounter to conform. We are the steel girder that prevents them from buckling under the weight. What happens when we ourselves become weak? Don't parents realize that one day there will be a day of reckoning? That when our kids get their rebellion out of their system and find themselves screwed-up, lazy adults with no manners, who can't sustain intimate relationships, they're going to blame us for their failure? Do you really think that you can be your kids' friend when they're adults if you weren't a parent when they were kids?
But there is hope. Maybe people are finally getting the message. In the US, the government's "Parents: the Anti-Drug" campaign recently launched a high-profile media initiative showing one firm-looking mom with the giant caption "The Enforcer: She doesn't love being tough, She's tough because she loves!" A similar TV commercial shows a mother severely grounding her young teen son for trying weed.
It's not that I don't believe a child needs love. A child needs to know that they are loved no matter what they do. But they also need to understand that because you love them that that love comes with responsibility and if they cross the boundaries there will be consequences. The Bible tells us that God disciplines the ones he loves. And if he does not discipline us it is because we are not his. And there is a difference, parents, between rewarding your kids for a job well done, and bribing them in order to get them to do it.
The bottom line: While I'm aware even with the best parenting skills, a child may still go awry, I am convinced that this is not the case in most troubled families today. The truth remains that one day all of us as parents will stand before God and have to give an account as to how we handled the responsibility he entrusted us with. Were we obedient to his instructions? Please be aware that even though "children are a gift of the Lord" they are only loaned to us for a short time and that gift carries an awesome responsibility.
Am I writing merely to heap guilt. Not at all. I felt instructed of the Lord to quit dallying around the issue and be straight forward and blunt, so that perhaps more parents will see the error in their own behavior and thinking and it will help turn the children of this generation.
While we can't necessarily change the whole world, we can repent and change our parenting skills and learn to be both loving and tough in shaping our children's characters. And then when they grow up they will be responsible, well-balanced, service-oriented adults, then it will be easy for all of us to be friends.