A few years ago I remember seeing some ads for a then-upcoming reality series entitled, “Kid Nation.” The premise was that forty kids of all ages would be left to construct a functional community for themselves with no adult input, supervision or guidance. They had an appointed “Town Council,” other children who served as leaders, but they were really left on their own to figure things out. I was thinking about this show the other day because I realized, ever so sadly, that I don’t have to watch TV to see this exemplified–I see this same premise personified in daily life.
A couple of examples I’ve recently encountered:
* While walking past the park, I noticed a mother heading to her van followed by a very reluctant son (approximately 7-8 years old). She got in the van and signaled for her son to crawl in the open rear door. He crossed his arms and stood his ground. She started the engine. He maintained his position. She inched the van forward a couple of feet. He continued to defy her. She stopped the van, got out, and they both proceeded back to the playground.
* At the table next to us at a restaurant, a small child (approximately age 4) had a fit because he didn’t get to sit where he wanted. The parents, exasperated but unwilling to rock the child’s boat, made the other children at the table rearrange themselves to accommodate this son without even addressing his unacceptable behavior.
In both situations–and many others I have witnessed–the child controlled his situation. He exerted his will. The parents capitulated. End of story…or so they think.
When Amanda, my firstborn, was just an itty-bitty thing, I received a solid piece of advice from Jean, our former pastor’s wife, during one of her lessons to our Women’s Ministries group. She profoundly stated, “Never lose control with your children. If you do, guess who has it?” And I remember thinking, “Oh, heaven help us if a child has control of the home.” At that moment, I made a determination in my heart that I would learn what it meant to be a mom who was in control of her offspring…while, hopefully, making them feel loved and cared for in the process.
This came through daily small choices made consistently and lovingly, yet firmly. I had to be resolved within myself that this was a long-term commitment, and I could not give myself the easy out. Those of you who know me personally, or have read my blog, know that I experienced my original onset of ME/CFS when my children were six and almost-three. At this point in my life, my choice to maintain steadiness in this realm was challenged greatly, but it was too important an issue for me to relinquish. For this reason, I know how difficult it is to complete the course, but I also know how imperative it is: a child’s future is at stake.
Was I perfect? Hardly! But after every faltering, I got back in the box and kept swinging.
To make consistent, loving and firm decision implies that I have a basis on which to make these choices. And I do. Clearly, the highest standards for my life and home can be found distinctly outlined in The Bible. (Which means I have to be in it daily and not just rely on what a pastor tells me on Sunday!) But, beautifully inscribed on these Scriptural pages, however, I find such wisdom as, “Do not steal.”
“Hey! Give your brother back his Furby.”
Or, “Do not lie.”
“Actually, I don’t care what your friends do. We cannot lie about even small things to get what we want. Not even our age to get facebook.”
And, “Honor the Lord thy God.”
“Son, a video game with that rating cannot have anything in it that glorifies God.”
I also read that children are to “obey their parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
According to God’s Word, parents are to call the shots in their own home. (They are not to be abusive of this authority, however!) As my husband likes to say, “These are God’s standards. They are not our standards. We don’t have the right to alter God’s standards, for they aren’t ours to alter.” As Christian parents, we are appointed by God to uphold His standards in our home and teach them to our children. If we do not do this, we erroneously teach our children–whether intentionally or not–that God’s rules allow for lots of wiggle-room, or that sin is only sin sometimes.
In addition, lack of parental covering causes children to look for ways within themselves to make up for the parameters that are missing. Sadly, they try to cover themselves, which unfortunately leads to fear. Whether you see their fear or not, don’t be deceived: it greatly comes into play in the choices they make.
One of the few parenting books I’ve read, “Dare to Discipline” by Dr. James Dobson, cited an experiment done on a playground of children. (I tried to find the book to make sure I got the details absolutely correct, but I couldn’t. You’ll just have to trust me.) Anyway, on an average enclosed playground, normal children play on every square inch of that playground, even hanging out all the way by the fence–taking full advantage of their entire sphere. In the experiment, however, they removed the fence. The interesting result? The children stayed near the center of the playground, uncomfortable going near the outer edges of the playground. My interpretation? Healthy, adventurous children need understandable boundaries to enable them to fully explore all that God has given them.
I don’t know how the TV show, “Kid Nation,” ended up, but I do know those children were able to return to their homes where, hopefully, parents awaited to give them the comfort and guidance that they needed. I also know that children, who spend their entire developing years lacking guidance, discipline and parameters, don’t have that option. Having been trained in their own little version of a “Kid Nation,” they will enter their adult years skewed, self-indulgent, and dreadfully unprepared to face a grown-up world filled with cause-and-effect.
“For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:12