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Parenting is, I’m afraid, a dying art. At least it seems that way whenever I walk among the masses, watch, listen, and wonder.

I don’t know everything there is to know about rearing children well, and I certainly was not a perfect father; in fact, far from it. But thanks in large measure to a good mother our four children, now up and out, are good, well balanced, thinking young adults who, if I died today, would do well in the world without me. I am grateful to the Lord and my wife and my kids for this. And along the way I learned a little about parenting.

What makes me think parenting is a dying art is what I see and hear just about every time I take a trip. Here are a few wonders just this week:

--Ambling through a store I see a 10-11 year-old boy with his mother. As I walk by I hear the boy use language with and at his mother that blows my hat back. Mother ignores him. Where did this kid learn to talk like that? And why on earth does his mother put up with it? Does she think he’ll simply grow out of the attitudes underlying the vocabulary? Does she think his choice of words is appropriate, good, and good for him? I don’t get it.

--Sitting in a restaurant we see a family approach the counter to order pizza. One teenage son is dressed in jeans so tight you can see every outline of his anatomy. Another perhaps 12 year-old son is wearing a t-shirt proclaiming in large letters “I Love Boobies.” Mom and Dad seem oblivious, which I guess is the problem. Do they really believe how their sons dress is admirable? Do they think how their sons dress is good for them or funny? I don’t get it.

--Walking down the street we’re approached by a family of five, parents probably in their early 40s, three daughters. Each daughter is dressed in a manner prominently exposing, let us say, frontage. Little is left to the imagination. Is this bold immodesty the mother and father’s vision for their girls? Or do the parents believe cutting edge fashion outweighs all other considerations? If the parents don’t like how their daughters are dressing, are they so powerless as to lack any influence upon them at all? I don’t get it.

--Sitting on a ferryboat awaiting departure we watch a family board and sit two rows behind us: mother-now-grandmother, two adult sisters, and four young children belonging to one or both sisters. The younger sister is irate, proclaiming loudly to her sister how she wasn’t awakened soon enough, had not been given any help, was somehow peeved because they were rushed getting on the boat, etc. Mother-Grandmother says, “I’m staying out of this.” Older sister verbally hits back, though not quite so loudly. Younger won’t let it go. This goes on for perhaps five minutes not only in the hearing of everyone near the stern but, more grievously, in the hearing of all the children, who watched with eyes big and mouths, and more importantly, ears open. How could the sister-mothers miss the fact that their kids were getting a lesson in how not to manage anger? Couldn’t their issue have been handled privately? How will the kids act the next time they’re upset? Bigger question: why did Mother-Grandmother let her “kids” do that? I don’t get it.

Not all parents, thankfully, are like this. But in my estimation far too many are abdicating their parental responsibilities, or at least are approaching parenting with a form of presumed powerlessness our grandparents’ generation wouldn’t recognize. I don’t get it.

Children are sponges. They soak up what’s around them. Children are world-class mimics. They imitate whatever is put in front of them. In other words, they'll do what they see and they'll do what parents let them do. Children find security in being given wise and loving instruction, even when they say and act otherwise. In the end, children are best-loved by parents who set good and high standards, model those standards in their own lives, and expect the children to do the same. It works. It’s good for the kids. I get that.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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