Today there is great concern that the youth of Western society are caught in a relentless downward spiral-"going to hell in a hand basket" as some describe it.
In a world of drugs, crime and emotional upheaval, the schools are often blamed. Yet school administrators point out they are getting a different kind of students than was common in the 1950s. Back then, most youths then grew up in families where both parents lived in the same house and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.
Obviously, in the 1990s circumstances have changed. What can today's parents do to help their children grow up to be solid, productive, emotionally stable adults?
Wise King Solomon, who ruled Israel from 970 to 930 B.C., said God was the foundation of successful families. In Psalm 127:1 he wrote: "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it..."
Adopting God's values for families and rearing children is the best starting point for a successful job of parenting in the 1990s and beyond. Let's explore some of the basic principles of parenting revealed in the Bible.
Children are a blessing
In verse three of Psalm 127, Solomon said, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is His reward." Children are described as a heritage or inheritance from God, a reward or blessing.
Unfortunately, not everyone views children in such a positive light. A bumper sticker reads, "I'm suffering from a sexually transmitted disease-children." It's a quip that represents children as expensive, time-consuming inconveniences. The godly perspective is that children are wonderful blessings.
Because the family is the most basic building block of society, parenting children is one of the most important things a couple can do. It should inspire both husband and wife to a greater level of personal maturity as they endeavor to make their part of the world a peaceful place for their progeny.
The chances for successful parenting are aided by a deep commitment to the biblical principle that children are truly a blessing, well worth the time and energy that will be required. Most people on their death beds do not wish they had spent more time earning money. They most often regret not spending more time with their children and loved ones.
In a society of ever-increasing single parents and economic pressures, many children are placed in day-care facilities so their parents can go to work. The proliferation of single parents and the lack of time spent with children are widely known to be detrimental to sound, stable families.
Sound marriages are important
Child psychologist and newspaper columnist John Rosemond often cites how important it is for children to see their biological fathers and mothers happily married. He said, "Parents must first center the family around themselves, paying more attention to their marriage than to their children" ("Why saying no to your children and putting them second can be best for them," Urban Family, Spring 1993).
This is a vital key to having well-adjusted children. A nationwide survey conducted in 1988 by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that young people who grow up in traditional families (both father and mother present in the home) are two to three times less likely to have behavioral or emotional problems than their peers reared by a single parent or by a step family.
Broken marriages are tragedies for adults and children alike. No wonder God says that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16)! God wants what is best for all mankind, children included. His desire is for adults to produce godly offspring (Malachi 2:15).
It is also interesting to note that many marriages end in divorce shortly after the last child has matured and left the home. Families in which the father and mother successfully give their own relationship greater importance than their children, not only produce better children but also find their marriages unaffected by the departure of the last child.
The importance of parental attention during a child's early years has been thoroughly documented. "Dr. Burton White of the Harvard University Preschool Project concluded that 'what happens between 0-18 months of life does more to influence future intellectual competence than any other time.' White's data also concluded that the nuclear family is the most important educational system.
"Children who receive inadequate nurture in their early years become nonattached. According to Selma Fraiberg of the University of Michigan, non attachment, at its worst, can 'create bondless people who . . . contribute far beyond their number to social disease and disorder. They are handicapped in work relationships, friendships, marriage, and child rearing' " (Current Thoughts & Trends, August 1994, p. 13).
Of late, much emphasis has been placed on spending "quality time" with children. Exactly what constitutes "quality time" is hard to discern. Originally, it likely meant giving children undivided attention or interacting with them. These are important principles. The reality, however, is that all time spent with children is important to them. The cost of an activity or the distance traveled are not factors for determining the value of time spent. Children value all time with their parents.
Two of the greatest advantages for children are biological parents who live together in a loving relationship and parents who spend time with them. Children from these backgrounds are most likely to succeed and be well adjusted. Children, as they grow up, see how families should work and are statistically predisposed toward living out the same scenario when they become adults.
If you are happily married and meet these principles for successful parenting, you and your children have a greater likelihood of success. Count your blessings! Not everyone, however, has this setup. Fifty percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce and many single parents find themselves in economic circumstances that require they work outside the home. Are these people doomed to parenting failure? Absolutely not.
The good news is that in spite of the statistics, many single, working parents have made a commitment to raise their children by God's standards and are producing stable, well-adjusted children.
If you have made mistakes or been the victim of a failed marriage, you can bring your circumstances to God and commit yourself to God's values. Then your children can start to reflect the blessings that come from His timeless parenting values.
Mothers who must work outside the home but don't want to, can take some encouragement from research done by Roger Webb of the University of Arkansas. Webb found that "while the best adjusted kids have mothers who choose to stay home and raise them, the second best adjusted children come from homes where the mothers work outside the home but don't want to. These children seem to sense that their mothers would rather be with them if circumstances allowed" (Current Thoughts & Trends).
Make a commitment
Making a commitment to your mate, and to spending time with your children, are important foundational steps to successful parenting. These are not the only things important in parenting, but they are a good start. The Good News will continue to publish articles about family matters and how you can apply God's principles in your life.
Earlier in this article I mentioned a bumper sticker. It seems only appropriate to close with another which embodies the basic principle of loving one's children. This favorite bumper sticker of mine says, "Have You Hugged Your Kids Today?" Why not do it? And while you are at it, hug your mate. It will do you and your children a lot of good.