Parenting Parenting Parenting

I received a great email from LuLu. Parents should pay particular attention to some of the points George Barna (researcher and best selling author) makes in this article. I am only posting the parts I wanted to emphasize but if you would like to read the entire article you can view it here: Virginia Tech’s Tragedy Is a Wake-up Call to Parents.

The article seems right-on in regards to the problems our generation faces raising children, But I’m not 100% sure that the wonderful points he made in it have any bearing on why the VT shooter did what he did. In my opinion, the shooter had many problems and was mentally disturbed on a severe level. When someone is that disturbed, they are difficult to use as a case study in the general population of “normal” people. HOWEVER, the points he makes (that I will highlight) are quite applicable in today’s society toward the general public.

I don’t claim to be a child-rearing expert. After all, I have toddlers. But in my limited experience, tons of reading, having sought much advise, and from my own experience growing up… I do feel he makes some very valid points.

First I want to highlight his research, statistics?:

1. By the time an American child is 23 years old, as was the killer in Virginia, he will have seen countless murders among the more than 30,000 acts of violence to which he is exposed through television, movies and video games.

2. By the age of 23, the average American will have viewed thousands of hours of pornographic images, which diminish the dignity and value of human life.

3. After nearly a quarter century on earth, the typical American will have listened to hundreds of hours of music that fosters anger, hatred, disrespect for authority, selfishness, and radical independence.

4. The typical worldview of a person in their early twenties promotes self-centeredness, the right to happiness and fulfillment, the importance of personal expression in all forms, the necessity of tolerating aberrant or immoral points of views, allows for disrespect of other people and use of profanity, and advances forms of generic spirituality that dismiss the validity of the Judeo-Christian faith. Largely propelled by postmodern thought, the typical worldview of young people does not facilitate respect for life, acceptance of the rule of law, or the necessity of hard work, personal sacrifice, paying the dues or contributing to the common good. Barna noted that only about 2% of today’s teenagers possess a biblical worldview that acknowledges the existence of God, Satan and sin, the availability of forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ, and the existence of absolute moral principles provided in the Bible.

5. The average adolescent spends more than 40 hours each week digesting media, and the typical teenager in America absorbs almost 60 hours of media content each week. For better or worse, the messages received from the media represent a series of unfiltered, unchaperoned worldview lessons.

6. It appears that as many as one out of every five young people is or has been under the influence of mood-altering medications, some of whose long-term side effects are not fully understood by the medical community. Drugging children has become one of the ways in which we have coped with other issues.

7. Stress levels have been steadily rising among young children over the past couple of decades. A variety of factors have contributed to such stress, including parental acrimony and divorce, household financial troubles, media-fed expectations regarding materialism, overscheduling of children, bullying, physical abuse within the home, and excessive peer pressure.

8. One-third of the nation’s teenagers report having been in a physical fight at least once in the last year. Nearly one out of every five 9th through 12th grade students has carried a gun, knife or club in the past month.

9. Education, both in the home and outside of it, provides diminishing emphasis upon the development of character, and increasing emphasis upon meeting academic performance standards, especially through standardized testing.

10. Growing numbers of children seek to make their way through an increasingly complex life without the traditional safety net comprised of a loving and supportive family, a stable circle of supportive peers, teachers who know and help nurture the child, and a community of faith that assists in giving meaning to life and a sense of belonging.

11. Most young people admit that they feel as if they do not receive sufficient attention from their parents; do not have enough good friends whom they can count on; are unsettled about their own future; have personal spiritual perspectives but not much of a sense of spiritual community; lack role models; and do not feel that they have intrinsic value. “Parents have a huge influence on who their children grow up to become,” stated the researcher. “Although parents cannot guarantee that their kids will behave in specific ways, but their parenting style and practices can hugely influence the likelihood of certain behaviors and perspectives.”

He goes on to state statistics that apply to what road-blocks/ stressors parents today are stressing. And then this next part that to me is most important… what to do?

Barna explained that his studies of parents over the past several years highlight the importance of parental guidance and involvement in shaping a child’s values and behavior. He noted that the moral and spiritual development of people is largely determined by the time someone reaches age 13, and that fundamental changes are minimal after that point. The author of 39 books on cultural and spiritual conditions offered some guidance for parents.

“In our most recent work, we have focused on the parenting practices of those who raised children who are now grown and living an exemplary life. By studying these parents and their children we learned that there are some critical child-rearing habits they all shared.

“One such habit,” Barna noted, “was that the parents believed that raising children was the most important job they were doing – even more important than their occupation that pays the bills. They relied upon schools, their church and other entities to support them in that endeavor, but they accepted the primary responsibility for the task and the outcomes.

“A second common outlook,” he continued, “was approaching the job of parenting with a plan. These were parents who had thought through what they were trying to accomplish and how they intended to pursue those outcomes. While they were constantly revising that plan and tinkering with different strategies, they were very strategic and intentional in their efforts. They left as little to chance as possible, and tried to stay a step ahead of their children’s needs and the challenges thrown at them by society.”

The California-based researcher pointed out that a crucial factor was consistency. “The grown children as well as the parents themselves agreed that perhaps the single, most important element in their success was remaining consistent in the principles and overall standards and values they implemented. These parents set their expectations high and did not relax those expectations. Children rarely exceed their parents’ expectations, so the level at which those standards are set determines the heights to which a child will rise.”

The issue of media management was also evident in the families Barna studied. “An overwhelming majority of these successful parents believed that the media have a significant influence on the lives of children. Consequently, they limited, monitored and mediated the media content to which their children were exposed. They often refused to give permission to the kids to watch particular programs or to listen to certain music, and regularly had discussions with their children about the content of the media they consumed. Those discussions were not always comfortable or pleasant, but were deemed to be very important in making standards real for their children.”

The spiritual side of life is another of the central factors addressed by successful parents. “These were parents who took the development of their child’s worldview seriously, and invested enormous amounts of time and energy laying a spiritual foundation that has proven to serve the children well throughout their life. Besides teaching spiritual beliefs and moral principles, these parents shared religious experiences with their children and prayed for them daily. The view of such parents is that their children are a gift from God and they therefore had an intense responsibility to raise a child that pleased God.”

I put in bold some things I found of particular importance. It has been my belief (hypothesis) that some of the most important things in raising a child are…

1. Involvement– I have seen many a parent put their kid in a Christian school and think their job was done. Not so. Though school can aid in teaching valuable lessons, the biggest lessons they will learn will be from you, the parent.

2. Purpose/ Plan– I’m working on being better at this myself… really being a team with your husband, (should you have one,) and deciding what is and isn’t allowed, and what appropriate actions should be taken if those things aren’t adhered to.

3. Consistency– Implementing the plan with consistency, (even when you are exhausted and just want to tune out on the Internet :))

4. Discussion– One of the biggest things my parents did for me was TALK TO ME! Not just about “how was your day, what are your grades like”, but other thought-provoking things. My mom had her areas, and my dad had his. I am not sure this was something they thought about in a advance, but it is something that they did do, a lot. My father talked to me on a consistent basis as he had the news on about what was going on. He helped me learn the importance of paying attention to the world around you. He discussed openly his opinions and why he held them. He helped shaped how much passion I would have for this world we live in. My mom was the one who was with me day-in and day-out so she would talk to me about the shows we were watching or the music I would listen to. I remember there was a song on the radio that went something like

I want money, lots and lots of money, I want the pie in the sky- I wanna be rich!”

This catchy song drove her crazy. We grew up very comfortable, but she didn’t want these kind messages creeping into my mind. She didn’t want me to care that much about money. She would question it and ask me what I thought and if I thought it was appropriate. Being that I was not far from being an adult I think her approach to engaging discussions about my belief system was such a great way to teach me to think through my world-view. With younger children it is probably best to just turn the crap off.

Anyway, I know this was a long post. But I found it pretty important. If not for you, then maybe for me to come back and read again as I’m attempting to rear my boys the way God would want me to. I sure don’t want this world, this village, raising them!


7 Responses to “Parenting Parenting Parenting”

  1. 1 bd April 25, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    nice post Elizabeth.

    I might add I usually carried one or two pocket knives with me every day 9th – 12th grades. They came in handy every once and a while for fixing stuff.

  2. 2 misi April 25, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Great post, valid points, and lot’s to think about!

  3. 3 avoiceofreason April 26, 2007 at 2:38 am

    Here’s somethint to consider, and I am “not” defending this man.

    As experts analyzed the disturbing materials, it became increasingly clear that Cho was almost a classic case of a school shooter: a painfully awkward, picked-on young man who lashed out with methodical fury at a world he believed was out to get him.
    When criminologists and psychologists look at mass murders, Cho fits the themes they see repeatedly: a friendless figure, someone who has been bullied, someone who blames others and is bent on revenge, a careful planner, a male. And someone who sent up warning signs with his strange behavior long in advance.
    Classmates in Virginia, where Cho grew up, said he was teased and picked on, apparently because of shyness and his strange, mumbly way of speaking.
    Once, in English class at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., when the teacher had the students read aloud, Cho looked down when it was his turn, said Chris Davids, a Virginia Tech senior and high school classmate. After the teacher threatened him with an F for participation, Cho began reading in a strange, deep voice that sounded “like he had something in his mouth,” Davids said.
    “The whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, `Go back to China,” Davids said.

    School shooters “typically” have this very similar and profoundly disturbing history. They are it seems created by society.

  4. 4 mommyzabs April 26, 2007 at 10:23 am

    BD, If I was ever in a building being held up or anything i would want you to be in the near vacinity.

    Misi- thanks, keep thinking 🙂 always.

    AVOR- Yes, he does fit the profile. I’m sure it is a combo of being predispositioned and kids being awful. Nature nurture. There is no doubt that kids like this require some sort of intervention. I think there can not be a doubt he was mentally ill to some capacity, and probably a large one. At the same time, it is heart breaking that kids can be so mean. I hope that teachers discipline children that treat “the least amoung them” like that. Pretty sad.

  5. 5 shannon April 26, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    It is absolutely overwhelming to be face to face with the facts like Barna points out. You can shield your child, but not his peers. Scary.

  6. 6 shannon April 26, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    And shielding our kids is almost impossible, too!

  7. 7 holly April 26, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    I agree that so much begins at home.It is a parents resposibilty to have your ear to the ground, so to speak. A parent needs to talk to their childs teachers, know their friends,and most importanly know your own child.A parent has the ability to change and shape so much of a childs life.
    I was picked on during jr. but I felt safe at home. Having a safe,loving,place go can help a person have confidence in themselves even when others are picking on them. I also had a strong belief in Jesus and God. Did I sometimes wonder why people were being mean? Sure I did. But even when I was hurting I tried to reach out to other people and that helped to make me feel better.If I hadn’t had that experience of being pick on I don’t know if I would be as compassionate and understanding as I am now.
    I wonder what Cho’s family life was like? I wonder what his life would have been like if he has know the Lord.

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