Trophy Kids

June 21, 2011

Who would have thunk it? Parents being obedient to their kids.  It seems to be a growing phenomena.

I have been noticing it increasingly over the past several years.  Parents whose lives revolve around the unceasing activities of their kids – especially sports.  Parents desperate for the approval of  their children, and fearing rejection.  Parents who let their children decide matters like what the family will eat for dinner, and where (or if) the family will attend church. I don’t know how many times in recent years I have heard a parent confessing: “He/She does not want to come.  He/She says it’s not fun.”

In one sense I can understand the dilemma.  No conscientious parent wants to alienate their child.  Social scholars have for years pointed out the dangers of un-attuned parenting.  The Bible warns against exasperating our children. (Ephesians 6.4) Some translations use the words irritate, provoke, or embitter as things we parents are to avoid.  And we have seen the effects of some previous generations that seem to have been guilty of those very things.  Perhaps you even experienced it yourself.  So many parents have made conscious efforts to engage their children, to become involved in their lives, to sacrifice for them.  All noble intentions and ideals. Maybe even godly.

But sometimes it seems as if the pendulum has swung too far.  The parents stop parenting.  Instead, the aim for some seems to be to gain BFF status.  They become indulgent because, as we all know, the best way to win any campaign or pageant is to be “liked”.

Here I do not even have in mind those parents who seem to be trying to relive their own childhood and teens years vicariously through their children.  No, I am talking about mature adults – godly folks, who have a genuine love for their children.    Folks who coach t-ball.  Soccer moms.  Chaperones for the middle school dances.  I am talking about people I respect and admire.  I have in mind people whose desire it is to leverage their popularity with their kids to instill values, even faith. What harm could there be in that?

No doubt conscientious parenting involves interaction, effort, and time.  So I am not criticizing those things. In fact, I have made those things priorities in my own parenting.  But an article in the July 2011 edition of The Atlantic, How to Land Your Kid in Therapy, prompted me to reflect on some of the trends in parenting I have been observing.  In short, the author of the piece, Lori Gottlieb, suggests that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of compliant parenting.

I do not know much about Lori Gottlieb.  A quick perusal of her bio gives no indication of her faith, or if she even professes one.  Some of the titles of her essays suggest she is no enemy of more traditional values.  But on the other hand, the publications most of her works appear in, including The Atlantic, definitely lean Left.  Perhaps that is what made this article so stunning to me.  This is not an assertion by Tedd Tripp or Focus on the Family.  This comes from a person who is apparently a secular therapist comfortable hob-nobbing with the cultural elites.  In fact she is some one who is not merely accepted by the cultural elite,  they laud her work

Gottlieb paints a descriptive picture, the details of which most Christians would be pleased to have reflected by our kids:

I came to believe that no florid denial or distortion was going on. They truly did seem to have caring and loving parents, parents who gave them the freedom to “find themselves” and the encouragement to do anything they wanted in life.

And she offers a description I would happy to have ascribed to me:

Parents who had driven carpools, and helped with homework each night, and intervened when there was a bully at school or a birthday invitation not received, and had gotten them tutors when they struggled in math, and music lessons when they expressed an interest in guitar (but let them quit when they lost that interest), and talked through their feelings when they broke the rules, instead of punishing them (“logical consequences” always stood in for punishment).  … In short, these were parents who had always been “attuned,” …through any and all trials and tribulations of childhood.

But here is the piercing question:

Was it possible these parents had done too much?

Not everything in this article would I concur.  But the finished picture she paints is important to consider. This is especially true for those within the household of Faith, for I wonder if we may not be the chief offenders these days.  We are certainly no less than the equal of everyone else.

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