This is the time of year for family gatherings. While you tell old stories, laugh at good times and re-fight old fights, think about your family legacy. Parenting has a ripple effect that continues for generations beyond the “original” set of parents.
When I hear horrific stories of child abuse, I shudder not only for the child but I also wonder about the abuser. Sadly, he (or she) probably had the same horrific things done to him as a child. The pattern often continues for generations unless someone is able to make a conscious effort to break the pattern.
The world values knowledge. We spend millions of dollars on education. Large cash prizes are awarded each year by the Noble committee to people they feel have contributed the most to certain fields of knowledge. Game shows give value to having even the most trivial knowledge as a part of your repertoire.
Yet we look around us in the world and see what looks like an absolute mess. If people are so smart, why are there so many problems in the world? Why do equally well educated people have polar opposite opinions on almost any topic? Why does it appear that seemingly well educated, intelligent people make really poor choices?
A few years ago, some experts decided children with behavior problems suffered from low self-esteem. A campaign began to educate parents and teachers on how to improve the self-esteem of children to minimize bullying and other negative behaviors. It started out innocently enough. Parents were told to encourage their children instead of constantly criticizing them. Surely, there were quite a few parents who needed a reminder that constant criticism without some praise and loving words thrown in was potentially damaging.
But by the time my child reached school age, things were getting out of control. Children were allowed multiple chances to behave before a rule was enforced and consequences given. They were learning stop light colors and fractions more than they were learning to obey. There couldn’t be a dean’s list because the children who didn’t make good grades might “feel badly about themselves”. There were hardly any competitions, because it hurt a child’s feelings to lose.
Parents often take their child’s future college education very seriously. Toddlers spend beautiful afternoons touring the “right” college campus, particularly near the football stadium. Elementary students are admonished to study so they can have the grades to go to a “great” college. Children practice pitches from dusk to dawn so they can have the skills for a baseball scholarship to the “best” program.
How much time though, do we spend with our child pointing out the characteristics of the “best” husband? How often do we help our child practice his relational skills so he can have a “great” marriage? How much do we emphasize the importance of finding the “right” spouse to our child?
Lately, my teenage daughter and I have enjoyed watching re-runs of the old Waltons show from the 1970’s. I love laughing about how the supposed Virginians mispronounce Monticello. My daughter enjoys spotting the road we saw at the Warner Brothers Studio in CA. The best thing about the show is that it celebrates something many people no longer enjoy – several different generations having fun spending time together and learning from each other.
Sometime in the last twenty years we have almost totally lost the ability to spend time with anyone who is not our age or in the same exact spot in life as we are. I am sure it started with the 1960’s version of “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Over the years, it has morphed into “If someone isn’t just like you, they don’t have a clue what you are going through or how to make it better.” The problem is that this attitude has also invaded our churches.