Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Truth About Parenting (and What Kids Want More Than Their MTV)

I was 19 and had already lived on my own for two years. I had worked as a cocktail waitress the year before.  My routine was set: come home late (or early as the case may be), and wind down on the couch watching a brand new cable channel: MTV. In those days MTV was all about the music and the videos were just plain fun. 

Circumstances forced me to move back home temporarily.  Yet my routine stayed the same.  Late at night I’d curl up on the couch with my onscreen friends, VJs (video jockeys) Nina Blackwood and Martha Quinn. 

They’d tell me about the music and the four-minute movies took me away from my problems for a little while.  I’d listen to The Pretenders lament about being back on the chain gang.  Rod Stewart inspired young hearts to be free.  I’d have taken Rod Stewart’s version of life over Chrissie Hynde’s if I could.  

Shortly after moving back, my mother came and sat next to me on the couch for a chat.  And then she just came out with it.

What she said was, “I don’t care what you watch, but I don’t want your younger sister watching MTV.”

What I heard was…she didn’t love me. 

What I heard was…my worthless ways were a threat to my sister.

What I heard was…she loved my sister enough to believe she was still worth saving. 

On the outside I was 19 and a legal adult.  But on the inside I was still a child waiting for her mother to give her the discipline she never had…the love she never had. 

I moved out shortly after.  And for the next six years I behaved as someone who believed she was hopeless. 

The truth is kids want to be disciplined.

God created us in His image with an inward need for order, for discipline.  We desire structure and boundaries.  A well-lived life depends on it. Our flesh may rail against it, but our soul feeds on it.

No matter how much our kids complain about it, they want boundaries. 

They crave boundaries.

With them they find security and peace.

When we discipline our kids, we send the message that they are loved, cared for and nurtured.  That they are worthy of our time and attention.  Without discipline, they are left feeling unloved, inadequate, unprotected. 


Without those boundaries they can begin to act out with erratic or violent behaviors, drugs or alcohol and/or sex. 

Acting out is a flashing neon sign saying:


I see a lot of kids who are craving boundaries making headlines.  Children are brazenly and brutally bullying other children and even adults.  Victims, some as young as 6, are taking their own lives.

Cyberbaiting is the coined term for a new and brazen spin on old-school type of bullying.  It’s become a form of entertainment for bullies equipped with a smartphone. Students will continually harass and provoke a teacher until he or she breaks down.  Students then easily and ruthlessly take pictures and videos of the teacher and post them online.

Sometimes even the justice system backs up the child who has bullied. That was the case in Florida when a student started a Facebook group for people who hated a particular teacher.  She encouraged other students to post comments about how much they hated the teacher, too.  The group was eventually deleted and the child was suspended.  But the student sued, saying her right to free speech had been violated.  She won $15,000. 

These are students.  Children.  How do they go from being innocent babies to such ruthless and destructive young people in such a short amount of time? 

As parents we think we have 18 years to shape them. 

But here’s the kicker: we don’t. 

The truth is we have a good 7 to 10 years to instill discipline.

Maybe less.

God tells us we need to begin early. 

Train up a child in the way he should go, 
and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

The word child in this verse refers to the time between infancy and adolescence.  A child’s character is largely molded by the time they’re 7 or 8. 

So what is discipline? 


Jesus gave us the perfect example. He discipled twelve men for three years.  Through eleven of them and Paul, God radically changed the world.

(Let me just say this as an aside, not because it's less important but because it's off the main topic: the fact that Jesus was the perfect mentor and still one of his disciples, Judas, went astray, is a perfect example that we can be the very best parent possible and yet one of our kids can choose the wrong path.  Sometimes they get in with the wrong crowd.  Sometimes there's been abuse from outside the family.  

If you see a sudden behavioral change in your child, I urge you to not simply chalk it up to adolescence or a phase.  Pray God will show you the truth.  Then sit down with your child and and talk.  They may be reluctant to talk at first, or even for a while.  Keep trying. Hopefully you've had the lines of communication open all along and they'll come around, knowing how much you love them.  Keep reminding them they can trust you with anything they have to say.  If you need to, reach out for counseling.)

Parents, Grandparents, Foster Parents, Aunts, Uncles, Guardians:

We need your children.  A lost and dying world needs your children.  We need them to grow up to be loving, responsible, respectful, hard-working men and women of integrity.

We need children who will grow into adults who care more about contributing to the well-being of the world and those in it than their own comfort and entertainment. 

The truth is we have get back to parenting.

Real parenting.  The kind where we take a real interest in our kids and what they’re doing.  Even if they’re watching MTV.  Parents and kids have gone their separate ways in America for too long.  We can’t be too busy, too lazy or too afraid to discipline our kids…to disciple our kids.

They won’t tell you, but what kids really want, more than their MTV or anything else, is a parent who cares about them...who cares for them.  A parent who loves them enough to be involved in their life.  A parent they can look up to.  A parent they can go to for advice when they don’t know what to do.  A parent they know will have their back.  A parent who’s on their side, for better or worse. 

So what if your child is older?  Say, 19 and beginning a life of rebellion by watching MTV?

Remember: on the outside kids can appear hardened, but it's all a ruse, a protective mechanism.  They don't want you to see they’re vulnerable...and hurt. And a lot of parents don't get that. They don't look past the anger and rebellion to the hurting child they are on the inside. But we have to.  That's what love does.

So what can you do?

Read God’s Word. Daily.  
Pray some more.
Keep praying.
Love through the attitude.
Don’t give up.  Ever.

There is hope.  I am living proof of God’s grace and mercy and redemptive power.  

You can do it.
Let me know how it's going!


1 comment:

  1. Good parenting has always been something that most people should be reading about. But one must always include God in anything that we do.


Thanks for sharing!