2013 - Vol. 70
by Michael O'Brien
Who said it would
be easy raising children in the modern world? Paul Dinolfo offers some
important insights, based on scriptural principles and pastoral wisdom
for parents today. Paul is the senior coordinator of the Work of Christ
community in Lansing, Michigan, USA. The following article is excerpted
from Paul's booklet entitled, Child-Centered Parenting and Family Life.
While the booklet is primarily addressed to parents in the Sword of the
Spirit communities, his insights are beneficial for all Christian parents
who want to raise their children to be strong faith-filled Christians.
Paul writes in the introduction: "The purpose of this booklet is to cast
light on some of the problems that can develop when our priorities lack
the proper balance, giving particular attention to a special challenge
of our modern age: child-centered parenting. We will discuss ways to address
these problems, both as parents and as communities."
There appears to be two growing,
contradictory attitudes towards children in contemporary western society.
On the one hand, an alarming number of parents are abandoning, neglecting,
or abusing their children. On the other hand, there are also a growing
number of parents who are becoming overly absorbed in the lives of their
children. While these parents are certainly well intentioned, it is wise
to ask: Is this approach really good for the children?
These well-meaning parents believe
that they should involve their children in an ever-expanding list of organized
activities and programs. In addition, these parents believe that it is
very important that they are also involved, albeit as spectators, in all
their children’s activities. As a result, family life increasingly revolves
around and is shaped by the activities of the children. Traditional family
patterns such as having dinner together, family devotions, family night,
and family chores take a back seat. After all, there is only so much time.
Family patterns become a low priority and, ultimately, dispensable. The
family’s involvement in other stable relational groupings (e.g. extended
family, neighborhood community, church community) also tends to suffer,
as this flurry of activity leaves little room for much beyond work and
the children’s activities.
This modern development is in contrast
to all of human history prior to the last few decades in which:
Today, many young people do not know
how to relate well to adults and how to act in adult environments.
Family structure, especially extended family structure, continues to weaken
and decline; and natural community is almost non-existent. This is
not good for adults or children, or for the family as a whole.
children organized all or most of their
own non-school activities
children were trained by their parents
and teachers to integrate into adult environments
family patterns were a priority
the family was normally integrated as
a family into larger stable relational groupings (e.g. extended family,
tribe, church community, village or neighborhood community)
shift in pastoral priorities
Finally, there has been a significant
shift in parental priorities. Traditionally, Christian parents have focused
primarily on the character formation of their children. They believed that
good character was the key to success in life. While most parents today
give lip service to the importance of character, the truth is that their
actions indicate a different set of priorities. Their actions would indicate
that they actually believe academics, sports, talent, popularity and proximate
happiness (not character) are the keys to success in life.
The Bible paints a radically different
picture: that true happiness flows from good character and serving others.
“Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life
will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)
Be aware of the problem. Simply knowing
the problems associated with child-centered parenting should help us to
avoid it in practice.
Be open and accountable. We in the Sword
of the Spirit have a wonderful resource in our men’s and women’s groups.
In these small groups we can discuss our parenting approach and get the
perspective of Christian brothers and sisters who know us and our children
Attend and review community teaching
on parenting and family life.
Keep focused on our mission as a people:
a mission that includes our children.
Look for ways children can serve in
the home and beyond. It is good for children to have regular chores. It
helps them grow in responsibility and faithfulness; it gives them a sense
of place and accomplishment. It is also good for them to serve outside
the family home, for example visiting elderly relatives and doing chores
for neighbors with special needs. Develop your children’s talents and abilities
with an eye for future service in the community.
Look for mature parents in your community,
parents who have raised children who are righteous, responsible, faithful,
and motivated. Ask them what they did and discuss your approach with them.
Live in community neighborhood clusters.
Choose schools or home-school networks that include other community families.
Evaluate family decisions, especially
those that consume significant time, money, and resources, with all family
priorities in mind.
See related articles:
[The booklet, Child-Centered
Parenting and Family Life can be ordered from Tabor
Engaged Young Adults, by Bob Tedesco
Marriage and Family Life, by Bob Tedesco
Our Children for the Lord, by Bob Tedesco
My People: Restoring Extended Families and Communities, by Bob
Transgenerational Call: Building Christian communities for generations
to come, by Bob Tedesco
Being Transgenerational, by Jerry Munk
Children for a Spirit-filled Life, by Jerry Munk
Adrift: A Book Review, by Jerry Munk
Parenting and Family Life, by Paul Dinolfo
Your Prayers Be Not Hindered: Consideration in Marriage, by Jerry Munk
Your Spouse Beautiful: from a commentary on Ephesians 5:21-33, by John