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How can I raise a "normal" child
in a world that is out of control?
School shootings, sexual
experimentation, drugs, gangs, cable television, poor academic standards
. . . times have changed. What's a parent to do? How can we raise a "normal"
child in a world that is spinning out of control?
This is a subject that doesn't
have any easy answers. No one in this room has experience raising children
in the 21st Century. Though times are changing, I'm certainly
glad that some things never change-like the truths of the scripture. Solomon
wrote, "Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he
will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6 NASB)
That promise remains intact
But I suppose the question
is, how can we best "train a child?"
the best selling book "She said Yes!" Missy Bernall tells the story of
her daughter Cassie, one of the students killed at Columbine High School.
Cassie grew up in church, she came from a nice family, had friends and
a nice life.
Then it all changed.
When Cassie entered high school
(not Columbine) she changed peer groups. She became friends with some teens
who were into Satanic Rituals and other destructive behaviors. Soon Cassie
and her friends we praying to Satan for a teacher's and their parents'
death. Life at home with Cassie became unbearable. Everything that could
go wrong did go wrong, until it couldn't get any worse. And then it got
Missy, Cassie's mom, found
some letters between Cassie and her friends describing their plans for
murdering their parents. When they confronted Cassie all 'hell' broke loose.
Grounding her didn't help. Cutting her off from the phone didn't solve
it. In fact, telling the police and getting the families together only
made it worse--Cassie's parents became the target of blame.
Where had they gone wrong?
The Bernall's were providing a nice home for Cassie, they loved her, they
took her to church, and yet she was becoming their worst nightmare. Like
many Christians, the Bernall's squeezed in time for their children, but
something had to change-what they were doing wasn't working! (From FreshIllustrations
You know the feeling don't
you? We run out of daylight long before we run of things to do.
Today, many parents are taking
on extra hours and second jobs to provide for their families. Overtime
and second jobs means more money but also means less time for family.
A recent Gallup Poll revealed
that a nationwide survey of parents of children ages 7-12 that family time
has decreased since 1976. The percentage of respondents who engaged frequently
in attending religious services together decreased from 38 percent in 1976
to 29 percent in 1997. The percentage who engaged frequently in watching
television together decreased from 54 percent to 42 percent. The percentage
who engaged frequently in sitting and talking together decreased from 53
percent to 42 percent. The percentage of respondents who frequently have
the main meal together on weekdays decreased from 72 percent to 58 percent
-- and the percentage who take a vacation together decreased from 53 percent
The only family activity
that increased in frequency was shopping. In 1997, 31 percent of the families
polled said they shop frequently together. This was up 7 percent from 1976.
Of course, work is not the
only thing competing for family members' time. It is not just the parents
that are busy. School activities, sporting events, dance/music/art/athletic
classes, volunteer efforts, etc., are all pulling parents and children
in many directions.
I certainly don't have all
the answers on this one, but I believe a starting point for "training up
a child in the way they should go" is to spend some time with them. Which
means, parents have got to simplify their lives and so do the kids.
Begin by asking, do I really
have to work this many hours?
Then, ask the kids, do you
really have to play every sport, be a member of every club, and try out
for every play?
Weed down the hours you're
spending out of the home and make some time to be together. You will not
train a child if you're never with them.
And don't even start talking
to me about quality time! I don't buy it. Do you think your boss would
settle for quality time?
A few years ago, I wrote
a devotional on the subject, let me read it to you before you answer that
Wearing a fresh shine on
his shoes, a suit his wife gave him on graduation day and a determined
look on his face, Brian stood outside his new office. It wasn't the corner
office, but it looked pretty good to him. The smell of new leather from
his chair and the warm glow of sunshine streaming through the window greeted
him as he positioned his alligator briefcase on the corner of his mahogany
Click, click. Brian opened
his briefcase and took out three items--a hammer, a nail and his college
degree. "Hello, Brian." Mr. Pensky, Brian's new boss said as he extended
his right hand, "Welcome to Acme Widget, Inc." Still holding the hammer,
Brian reached out to shake his employer's hand. "Excuse me, sir," Brian
said, noticing his mistake. He sat the hammer on his desk, shook Mr. Pensky's
hand and said, "It's good to be here sir."
Mr. Pensky smiled, and turned
to leave. As he was walking out of the room he said, "We'll be having a
staff meeting at 10:00 this morning in the conference room, I'll introduce
you to everybody then."
"I'm sorry, sir, but that
won't work for me." Mr. Pensky spun, reentered the room and stood motionless
in his grey flannel suit. "What do you mean that won't work for you?"
"We'll," Brian explained,
"I'm planning on leaving the office around 9:30 this morning to go fishing
with some friends. You know what they say, 'it isn't the quantity, but
the quality of time that matters.' I won't be spending much time in the
office while I'm working for you, but I assure you the time I spend will
be high quality."
It takes more than "Quality
time" to keep a job, and it takes more than "Quality time" to raise a family.
It takes real time--the combination of quality and quantity.
How can we raise a "normal"
child in a world that is spinning out of control? The first step is to
make a commitment to spend time with your children.
Recently, a Harris Poll revealed
some things about Americans' priorities through data concerning how they
spend their spare time. Reading topped the list at 30%, watching T.V. came
in second at 21% and gardening at 14%. "Spending time with the family"
came in fourth with 13%.
Why not read with the family,
watch TV with the family or garden with the family? Why not cook dinner
together, clean the house together? The key word here is together.
What did the Bernall's do?
Life with Cassie and her friends
got so bad the family decided to break off all relationships with her friends
and moved across town. The home they bought shared a fence with Columbine
High School. Scared and dazed, Cassie's parent's decided that Missy should
quit her job so she could be home when Cassie came home.
In the midst of the trial,
their church supported them, encouraged them, prayed for them and counseled
them. Finally while attending a youth retreat with her youth group, Cassie
gave her life to Christ. For the next year Cassie's life changed slowly,
but soon, she would have the strength to stand up for her self, for her
Then one of the gunman at
Columbine pointed a gun at her and asked her if she knew Jesus. And she