Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Child-Centered Parenting

One of the things I'm noticing most lately is the tendency of Christians to live according to the world without realizing it. Part of this is natural. We are in the world, after all; and most of us do not wish to adopt an Amish-like lifestyle in which we become so "not of" this world that we look and live outside of it. So to some extent, it's entirely understandable that we live to some degree like the rest of the world, in terms of our dress, our living environment, and our personal interaction with others. Like Christ, we adapt to our context.

Yet we must also strive to swim against the tide in many respects. While the clothing we wear may acceptably be culturally conditioned (to a degree), our thought patterns must be conformed to Christ and not to this world. Most of us, I think, are far more adept at realizing where our clothing is out of line than we are at realizing where our thinking is out of line. What do I mean by this? Well, I'm confident that most Christians understand that they need to be pro-life. This is an extremely important matter. Yet most of us aren't as quick to see where we might have unwittingly adopted worldly attitudes in such areas as work or parenting. In areas that do not involve as stark a separation between right and wrong, I think we often fail to spot conformity to the world's thought patterns. Thus we live on a daily basis in (unwitting) rebellion to God's wisdom.

One of the ways we do this in our age, I think, is to parent with the mindset that our homes and our social lives are child-centered. This is a very recent development in terms of American culture. The culture at large subscribed to a very different model of child-rearing in years past than we do today. Now, children dominate their parent's lives, and parents cater to every whim of their children. Before, parents raised children to be seen and not heard. Now, it often seems that parents raise children in order that they will be seen and heard, so maximal is their cuteness and charm. Now, there is probably some level of appropriateness in this tendency. Past generations likely did not enjoy their children enough, and likely stifled some of the fun and joy that comes with raising children. But in correcting that tendency, it is my opinion that many parents, even Christian parents, have gone too far the other way.

I have been in numerous social settings in the last two years in which children were allowed and almost encouraged to dominate social settings. I don't agree with such a parenting style. It teaches children to be narcissistic and to think of themselves too highly. Children should not dominate adult-settings. They should primarily listen and learn when they are around adults. They should be taught to respect the social settings in which they find themselves and to not perform or call attention to themselves. Surely, there is a place for delighting in children. We must do so. But there is clearly a category of behavior that is over-indulgent, and I wonder whether many Christian households have accepted such a style, and so conformed to the world's patterns without even knowing it.


Anonymous BC said...

Interestingly, Owen, on a conservative RC blog, I recently saw just the opposite argument, specifically regarding the phenomenon of the cry room in churches, namely that not wanting children to be seen or heard is not for the good. The general idea is, I think, that having children - and letting them be seen - is a way of bearing witness to the culture of life. This comment, of course, deals with very young children and thus does not raise the matter of discipline, as you do. Thoughts?


4:02 PM  

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