Stop Worshiping Your Kids

Kids these days.

A lot can be said of them — lazy, selfish, entitled, addicted to screens, disrespectful, narcissistic, and the list goes on and on.  I don’t agree with all these generalizations, but that’s the subject of another blog. For now, let’s accept the stereotypes. Lets pretend for a moment that all those characterizations are true. This leads to even more important questions to ponder:

  • If they are lazy, who allows them to be lazy?
  • If they are selfish, who allows their life to be that which is orbited by all else?
  • The sense of entitlement they maintain is gained through who’s example?
  • Who purchased for them the screens to which they are glued?
  • What consequence do they suffer for their disrespect?
  • Where did they first witness a model of narcissism?

You may think this is an indictment on parents. Partially, it is. I do think parents (and as a dad of two, I’m right there with you) need to honestly examine what role their children play in their household. The problem is larger than a single family unit, however. The epidemic is a societal one. Nearly every thing we do as a society worships youth and all that often comes with it — immaturity, selfish ambition, and self centeredness.

“Ours is a culture not of ancestor worship but of descendant worship. Children sense that nothing an adult does is more important than their own desires. All political questions seem to come down to the interests of ‘the next generation’.” Rory Stewart

I agree with Mr. Stewart, a so-called Conservative “backbencher” (if you’re not British, you can find out what that is here, as I did). Though he opines from across the pond, it is safe to say that the idolization of children is not a problem unique to the Monarchy.

I would only vary from Mr. Stewart on only one point. That is, I don’t think the questions of a concern for the next generation are merely political. I think many institutions–academic, ecclesial, political, and even social–are overly concerned with what kids want. In this over-concern for the next generation, we are not only doing so to the neglect of other members of society (the elderly, for instance). We are also teaching kids to be the very thing we will later criticize them for being.

It is easy — too easy, really — to whine about our kids’ inadequacies with our fellow parents at the coffee shop or the gym. But honestly, at one point do we as parents have to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our daughters and sons will (usually) turn out to be the person we raised them to be?

Child-throwing-tantrum

(Photo Credit)

Does there come a time when kids can rebel against our input and do things their own way? Certainly. It happens all the time. But that is not reason enough to concede the fight early. I’ve heard the infamous reasoning from many a well-meaning, frustrated parent:

“Well, they’re 17 years old now. There’s not much I can do,” they claim.

Problem is, in my fifteen years running in youth ministry circles, that number is getting lower and lower:

  • “My daughter is 16…there’s not much I can do.”
  • “My son is 14…he’s gotta learn to make his own decisions now.”
  • “My kid is almost a teenager now…they don’t listen to me anyway.

Listen, I’m all for teaching kids to make good decisions on their own and training them toward greater independence and all. But if your son or daughter is only eleven, there is most certainly some things you can do.

At the root of it all is a troubling reality that I don’t think many parents are willing to say aloud, yet it informs much of the parenting in our country.

I think many parents are afraid of their kids, or at least afraid they won’t be liked by their kids. Because of this, they spend a good deal of time accommodating their children. Sensing the willingness for the parents to bend to their will and whim, the kids take advantage. When our kids wear us down to get their way, in a way we are worshiping them–doing whatever we can to please them. By bowing to their will and acquiescing to their perceived “needs” we do ourselves no favors as a loving influence in their lives.

Additionally, we do them no favors. While we may allow our lives to revolve around theirs, when they are finally out on their own they will soon discover the rest of the world is far less accommodating.