What Are Our Children Worth?

You are here

What Are Our Children Worth?

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

I'm spending my children's inheritance!" The bumper sticker on the huge recreational vehicle ahead of me may have been meant only in jest. But it reminds me of the best-selling title my wife saw recently in a bookstore: Die Broke. The book proclaims a radical plan to "afford the lifestyle of your dreams." These are catchy, lighthearted phrases. But they mask a darker truth for societies with exploding populations of alienated youths, many struggling with personal crises. It's ironic that, while baby boomers and other older adults live better and have more wealth than any other adult population in the history of the planet, they place such a comparatively small value on children. In the United States one third of all children are born out of wedlock. In Britain two out of five children are illegitimate. One third of children in America live in single-parent homes (usually a single mother), with a third of those living below the poverty line. Tens of millions of American youths hunger for spiritual and emotional care. Many cry in the dark, alone. While some of these literally hunger for food, all hunger for parental love. They long to be valued and appreciated. The problems are especially acute in households with teenagers. In the United States 60 percent of mothers in two-parent families work outside the home. In families headed by single mothers, 70 percent of them work outside the home. Overall, only 25 percent of teens say their mothers are always home when they return from school. Only 58 percent say their fathers care about them. The effects of this out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach have left permanent scars on millions of children. They in turn will influence the future of the nations for generations. Newsweek magazine reported that since 1991 the percentage of American 12th-graders who have illegally obtained and used alcohol, cigarettes and illegal drugs in the last 30 days is up dramatically to 50 percent, 35 percent and 25 percent, respectively (May 10, 1999). Several months ago a Public Broadcasting System special telecast shocked its viewers with a documentary revealing that large-group teen orgies were rapidly becoming a way of life in some upper-middle-class suburbs. In some cases teens simply carried out the sexual acts they had watched on the pornography channels brought into their homes courtesy of their cable-television providers. Many of these youths, seriously scarred, simply didn't care about any eventual psychological, emotional or physical health consequences. They were merely acting out the sexual perversion endemic in many parts of modern culture. Their parents didn't know what was going on in their own homes. The ongoing orgies were discovered only when health workers tried to find the source of sudden outbreaks of venereal diseases in the teens' schools. Causes and effects of neglect These problems—many among affluent households and communities—are symptoms of underlying ills. We have created a system of devaluing children and neglecting the needs of our youth. Let's understand how popular media culture is a form of abuse that inflicts serious and lasting harm. I am a father of four children ages 6 to 17. I am one of scores of millions of parents challenged daily to go against the grain of a society that pays lip service to the love of children. The society in reality delivers them up to a venomous culture from which they must be protected, repaired and rejuvenated. Woe to the children who don't get enough parental support. Alas, their numbers are legion. In the United States more than half of children 18 and younger do not live with their natural fathers. The fatherless-home phenomenon shortchanges children on one of their greatest needs: the daily involvement of both a father and mother. Children need both parents to help, support and guide them. Sadly, the emotional abandonment that usually follows divorce, or the unwillingness to support a child born after casual sex, is all too prevalent. Neglect from fathers, coupled with lack of child-rearing skills when fathers are present, contributes to children's risks. When fathers are present, they typically spend an average of only five minutes a day talking face to face with each child. Since fathers don't talk with their children, what happens instead? The vast majority of dads and moms place their kids in front of electronic baby-sitters to free up time for things they'd rather be doing. The Kaiser Foundation recently reported that American children spend an average of 35 nonschool hours weekly with electronic entertainment media. Many sources put TV viewing alone at 25-28 hours weekly. What do children see on television? Multitudes of scientific studies conclude that unregulated TV makes a destructive and abusive impact on the developing minds and personalities of children. With their often schizophrenic, violent, sexually promiscuous and sometimes perverted formats and themes, far too many TV programs become the primary educator of our children, the chief source of their view of the world and the foremost influence in forming their values. The result? Said a Texas 17-year-old: "Our generation is far more desensitized to violence than any other generation. TVs raise children now more than parents do, and television caters to children's violent fantasies. Parents are working more and spending less time with their kids." Best parenting practices The surest way to see your children succeed is to practice an approach that reorients parents' values to support youth development. Some call it forming a child-centered universe. Jesus put it this way when some of His disciples tried to deny children access to Him: "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:16). Jesus warned people not to treat children offensively or expose them to circumstances that would defile them (Matthew 18:6). Parental neglect, coupled with the profaning of children by a culture pushed on them by unscrupulous adults, indeed creates a world in which children can be swallowed up by evil. Bible readers aren't surprised to learn that programs built around scriptural principles are among the most effective for helping at-risk youths. Researchers have found that excellence in parental support of children leads to successful young men and women who develop resilience, strength of character and a healthy identity. Hill Walker is codirector of the University of Oregon's Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior, which has programs in schools throughout the United States. Dr. Walker offers these keys for effective child rearing: Parent involvement. Parents should be involved with their children at all times, whether in structured or unstructured activities. Involvement needs to be continuous from birth until the child leaves home as a young adult. Parental contact with children is the crucial factor, because children gain security by knowing parents are always there. This is as important for teens as it is for younger children. A critical part of parental involvement is a daily discussion time in which parents review the child's day with him and discuss what happened. It tells the child the parents care for him and are concerned about what happens in his life. It is also an excellent method to detect problems in the child's life that parents might not discover otherwise. Once the child begins school, it is extremely important to conduct a daily discussion of this type. The dinner table is often a good place for this to happen. A relaxed family conversation after a meal may be much more effective than what the child may perceive to be a formal interrogation period. Monitoring. Careful parental monitoring of the child's activities, behavior, schedules, whereabouts, friendships and associations with other children is one of the single most important things parents can do to ensure their children grow up healthy, safe and fully engaged in building success for themselves and others. Careful monitoring can be a powerful protective factor in a child's life. But use wisdom. Remember the apostle Paul's wise words: "And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4, emphasis added). Positive techniques for parents. Parents with positive outlooks are supportive and encouraging toward each of their children. It is important to establish a loving relationship between parents and children that involves mutual respect and affection. Parents then will be better able to influence their children in the right directions using praise and approval, persuasion and the teaching of logical thinking. In the absence of positive techniques, many parents grow harsh and punitive, forcing the child into desired behaviors. A child, however, can take such harshness as discouraging attacks on his worth as a person. In the child's mind, the parent is then placed in an adversarial position instead of the child's protector and advocate. Discipline. Parental discipline needs to be fair, consistent and predictable. It should never be harsh or overly punitive. There should be a logical relationship between child behavior and the consequences that are applied to it. Problem-solving, conflict resolution and crisis intervention. During their upbringing, children experience many crises that are minor but loom large in their perceptions. When they bring problems to their parents for assistance, it is important that parents respond to their concerns immediately and completely. Parents should develop alternatives for the child to consider in solving the problem and encourage him to choose one that is acceptable and that works for him. Children should always have the confidence that such problems will receive a fair hearing and that they will have access to parental assistance when needed. A blessing and a responsibility The Bible tells us that children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3-5). Being a good parent is one of the most important responsibilities that we incur in life, with the distinct possibility of truly satisfying rewards. By our godly example and positive teaching, we can influence the lives of our sons and daughters for the good. You can find much more information in our free booklet Making Life Work. It contains a wealth of helpful knowledge about child rearing, family life and success in general. GN

You might also be interested in...