Earlier this week MSNBC released the following Lean Forward promo :
Did you catch that? Here is what she said:
We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility, and not just the households’, then we start making better investments.
Say what?!! When did it become someone else’s responsibility to raise my kids?
This clip terrifies me because I see the ramifications of it everywhere I look, not just in the world at large, but in my own community, my own church, myself. I see parents–I am one of those parents–who want to drop off and tune out, who assume that as long as their child is getting shuttled to school, to youth group, to dance class and gymnastics and swimming and baseball and football and summer camp and Sunday school and preschool and daycare and after school programs, they are getting what they need. They are being instructed and that’s enough.
And then we all come home, finally, after a day of being shuttled from one certified instructor to another, and we let technology take over. Television, computers, video games, tablets, & cell phones take the place of engagement. Worse yet, the content of these devices are barely monitored. We throw up our hands. What can we do? It’s just what’s out there. That’s just the way things are these days.
Can we please stop this madness?
As parents we have a choice. We have a choice to tune in, to engage, to set limits and pay attention and to take responsibility for our children. As Christians, this is not really even a choice, it is our calling.
Last year my husband and I made the decision to homeschool. For our family, especially for my daughter’s personality, this was the right decision. In many ways that choice gave us far more clarity in regards to our duties as parents. There is no longer a pretense that someone else will take care of it. How our kids turn out, what they learn, and the people they become is all on us.
I don’t believe that homeschool is the right decision for every family and I have no issue with kids going to school. I know that there are lots and lots of wonderful, amazing, incredibly talented, and extremely caring teachers out there, and those teachers have a very tough job.
My issue is not with the teachers, but with this growing societal notion that sending our kids to school or Sunday School or any other number of structured activities somehow lets parents off the hook. Even the best teacher cannot give a child the true Biblical instruction and discipline that comes only from a God-fearing parent. And frankly, a lack of instruction and discipline at home makes those hard-working teachers become even less effective. What a vicious cycle.
Let’s break it, shall we?
Together, you and me and every other parent who loves God and fears for their child’s future. Starting today, let’s stand up and say we believe in taking personal responsibility for our children. It won’t be easy, but together we can make a difference.
Here are five concrete ways we can all make that change a reality:
Accept our role
We are the parents. It is our job to instruct, to lead, and to discipline. The attitudes our children develop about right and wrong, money, working hard, giving, and relating to others will come from US. Let’s not assume that someone else will teach OUR kids everything they need to know. Let’s also not assume that if our child is exhibiting problem behavior or struggling in some area that someone else will correct it. It is not someone else’s job to fix our kids’ problems.
Turn off the screens
Let’s limit the amount of time we allow our kids to watch TV, play video games, or be on the computer, tablet, or cell phones. While we are at it, let’s set and stick to limits for ourselves as well. Even more importantly, as parents we need to filter the messages that are coming in. Let’s refuse to allow TV shows or video games or other screen content that is not in line with our own values. Our kids will have their whole lives to be corrupted by society. Let’s do everything we can to protect them now before they become so desensitized that nothing shocks them.
Let’s make a massive effort to spend as much time as possible with our kids. Let’s really talk to them and find out what makes them tick. Let’s play games, ride bikes, take walks, read books. Listen to their ideas. Teach them how to sew, knit, cook, clean, build, or fix things. Set up a lemonade stand or volunteer together. Pray together. We need to be present.
Likewise, we need to pay attention and engage with the people who come into contact with our kids. We need to talk to their teachers, coaches, instructors, and youth group leaders. We need to pay attention to their lessons and know exactly what they are learning from anyone who isn’t us.
Limit outside influences
We need to pay close attention to your children’s friends and influences, and not be afraid to set limits for who they can spend time with, what types of shows and movies they can watch, what kind of clothes they can wear, and what kind and how many activities they can participate in. We can’t assume that because we are filling our children’s schedule we are filling their spirit.
If something makes us uneasy, we need to know that it is okay to say no. Just because something is out there, or because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean we have to go along with it too.
Lead by example
In order to instill discipline and personal responsibility in our children, we must be willing to demonstrate it in our own lives. This is probably the hardest part. For better or for worse, our kids are like little sponges, soaking up every single thing we do. If we want them to work hard, we must work hard. If we want them to be kind and compassionate and considerate of others, then we must live that way too.
I don’t consider myself a radical and this is not meant to be a soapbox. After all the fallout from the toy post I am frankly a little nervous about sharing any more thoughts on parenting. Moreover, I am equally guilty of not stepping up when I should. But ultimately this idea that we as parents need to take more responsibility for our own kids has been pressing on my heart for quite some time. It just took that clip to finally spur me to a plan of action.
Being a parent is hard, the hardest job any of us will ever have. It is also the most important.
Let’s not let the village take our job away.
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Will you join me? If so, please share this post with everyone you know. Together we can make a difference.