There was an interesting article in the New York Post this weekend. The thrust of the article was that parents aren’t doing anything positive by occasionally having lunch with their kids at school. Read closely though, and you will notice the main “source” is someone who seems to resent her child constantly bugging her to come have lunch at school with him or her.
The modern parenting narrative has become one in which the parent’s wants and needs always come before the wants and needs of the child. We pretend there are parents who are overly involved in the lives of their children, but the sad truth is the vast majority of kids don’t get any of the things they really need from their parents. Instead parents provide lots of “stuff” and swoop in to “save the day” if Johnny or Susie becomes unhappy for some reason.
The quality and quantity time parents spend with their kids have all but disappeared. Not surprisingly, the teen suicide rate has soared and young child are committing suicide with enough frequency, elementary school teachers are now trained in suicide prevention.
The trend started originally with the idea that it was okay if you didn’t spend very much time with your kids – as long as the time you did spend was “quality”. Even before smart phones and computers, there were many parents who were in the same house or even the same room with their children for many hours a day without meaningful interaction with them. In some ways, the call for spending more quality time with your children was important.
One of my favorite parenting verses is Deuteronomy 11:19 “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (NIV) It sounds like God has set up a parenting expectation of quality and quantity time. God is calling parents to raise children equipped not just to obey God, but to glorify Him, serve others and share their faith. In today’s world, that is not as easy to do as one would hope.
Biblical parenting involves not just teaching children God’s commands, but how to behave in godly ways when they may be the only ones around even thinking about what God wants. It’s about not just shaping behaviors to some acceptable societal or religious norm, but molding hearts towards God. Biblical parenting means showing children not just to take pity on others and “help”, but to show true empathy, serve in meaningful ways and point others to God while they are serving them.
It requires parenting children to live outside of the norm. Way outside. You know that little piece of the bell curve that flattens out at the far right side. The studies are right. You can’t phone in that kind of parenting. It takes a lot of planning, praying and high quality interactions.
Like the verse in Deuteronomy points out though, it can’t be done quickly either. A few minutes a day means over the course of a year, you may have spent a handful of hours with your child. Think about how long it has taken you to really understand God’s word and figure out how to put it into practice in your daily life. It takes a lot of teaching, modeling, correcting and fine-tuning. Especially with children, who are having so much to learn in every facet of their lives. All of that takes time, no matter how high the quality of your interactions are.
I realize time is a valuable commodity and some are in situations so complex it is difficult, if not impossible, to increase the amount of time, quality or otherwise you spend with your children. Often though, it is our priorities that must be re-examined. Your children will only live in your home for a few years. After they leave, your interactions and influence will never again be as intense as it is when they are living in your home. Are you taking full advantage of those precious years? Are you giving your children the quality and quantity of time they really need to be not “just fine”, but the sort of fine God wants for all of His children?
I encourage you to really pay attention over the next few days and weeks. What types of interactions are you having with your children? Is there a pattern that needs to be shifted? Be brutally honest with yourself, because this is one area that’s so important, you and your children can’t afford for it to be ignored.