Children Cannot Raise Themselves
Modeling the right way to live for our children is critical to their health, welfare, and success. This should be self-evident, yet I am continually amazed at how many parents today essentially leave their children to fend for themselves. And then they wonder why their kids rebel, suffer from depression, become suicidal, have problems in school, and get into trouble with the law.
Economic realities in many households make it necessary for both parents to work, and job demands take their toll on the amount of time parents are able to spend with their children. Many other factors come into play as well that distract parents from giving proper attention to their parental responsibilities. Quite often, older siblings, while still children themselves, are left in charge of their younger brothers and sisters. This is both tragic and wrong because children are unable to raise themselves and should never be expected to.
Once again, the Book of Proverbs provides wise counsel: “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Prov. 29:15 NIV).
God never intended children to raise themselves. Humans are not designed for self-raising. That’s what parents are for: to love, nurture, care for, and train children to become mature, happy, successful, productive, and well-adjusted adults.
Yet, how often do we see this scenario: parents go off to work on the second shift (or to party) and leave a list for their kids, perhaps as young as six: “Supper’s in the ‘fridge’; heat it up; wash the dishes, wash the clothes, do your homework, close the windows, leave the porch light on, and go to bed?” This is too much to put on a child.
Someone might ask, “Well, what about teaching children responsibility?” Teaching children age-appropriate responsibility is one thing; placing on them burdens they were never meant to carry is another.
Teaching a six-year-old to put his toys away and place his dirty clothes in the laundry hamper is appropriate responsibility; putting him in charge of preparing supper for his four-year-old sister is not. Age-appropriate responsibility means training children and assigning tasks to them according to their ability to respond (which is what the word “responsibility” means).
Placing a six-year-old in charge of his younger siblings is not responsible—it’s abuse. Giving children responsibilities that are inappropriate for their age and development delegates to them something they are not built to carry. The effects may not be visible immediately but over the long term, psychological damage will occur. They will grow up being resentful of their brothers and sisters and bitter toward their parents for robbing them of their childhood.
God designed children for play.
That’s how they learn, how they become creative, how they grow. Children learn to socialize and relate to other people properly through play, not through work.
Children are not merely pint-sized adults, and it is wrong to treat them as such. They need patient guidance, careful instruction, consistent discipline, and clearly defined boundaries. All of these things are vital for a child’s sense of safety and security. Children must feel safe and secure if they are to grow up free of fear, anxiety, and psychological problems. However, many children today feel like little more than slaves or indentured servants in their own homes. Their parents expect too much of them and make too many demands on them.
Children should not be expected to serve their parents, but parents for their children.
Our responsibility as parents is not to train up good workers to take care of us but to raise righteous offspring.
Children should be given increased responsibilities as they grow older, according to their ability to understand and their demonstrated capability to bear those responsibilities. They must be both physically and emotionally mature enough to handle the tasks required of them.
In Proverb, it says that “a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” This is another way of saying that the behavior of children reflects on their parents.
If a child is headed in the wrong direction, most of the time it is due to the parents’ failure to train the child in the way he or she should go. I say, “most of the time,” because children, like adults, possess free wills, and sometimes children who have been raised right and trained right by their parents still choose to go in the wrong direction.
For the most part, however, the behavior of children is a very revealing indicator of the kind and quality of parenting they have received. Parents who place no boundaries on their children raise children who run wild. Parents who cheat and are dishonest raise children who have no respect for authority. Parents who constantly belittle and demean their children program their children for failure.
On the other hand, parents who create an environment of affirming love, fair and consistent discipline, and challenging but realistic expectations produce children who are confident, secure, high achievers, and mentally, socially, and emotionally well-adjusted individuals. Parents who love the Lord supremely and model that love continually raise children who have the same affections.
Children cannot raise themselves, and God never meant for them to. They look to us, their parents, to train them and raise them for spiritual strength in God and for success in life.
-Kingdom Parenting (Foundations)