Do not be ashamed of constant training of children. Sirach 42:1,5
I want to express my deepest admiration for my readers who are parents. As an outsider, I cringe to think about how bad I probably would have been at parenting. Mostly, I just stand back in amazement at the patience, courage, focus and resources it takes to parent a child.
Every once in a while I see some examples of poor parenting, like the day I watched a family of three — mother, father and son — eating at Panera Bread with all three faces buried in their individual cell phones, texting with one hand and eating with the other.
Most of the time, however, I am moved with compassion and amazement, like the evening at the Chicago airport recently when I saw a young mother herding two toddlers and pushing a stroller with twins. Just when you thought she might be at wits’ end, they announced that her 11:30 p.m. flight was cancelled.
I am aware that it takes so much to deal with what’s right in front of them, but I also try to imagine all the things they have to worry about that could happen to them. Here are some of the things I imagine they worry about.
- We are living in a world in which practically everybody is plugged in at all times. No one knows yet what impact all this technology is having on developing minds and bodies. I came across a young man recently who was seeing a counselor for his gaming addiction.
- The sexualization of children, especially girls, is pretty scary. The constant bombardment of sexually charged images in the media and clothing industry has been shown to have a clear, unhealthy trickle-down effect on children as young as age 5.
- Child obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, putting young people at risk for serious physical, social and emotional problems. As obesity rates rise, so do eating disorders.
- Parents today are under increasing pressure to cater to their children. In many families, kids have more power than their parents, leaving them alternating between “caving in” and hitting, swearing at or threatening them. Throwing hissy fits in public when they don’t get their way is a favorite way for children today to manipulate their parents.
- Parents, under pressure to see their children excel, may be over-scheduling them with soccer, violin, gymnastics or baseball practice, leaving them no time to enjoy the freedom of just being a child.
- Kids are showered so often with toys and gadgets that many grow up equating having stuff with happiness. Too much, too often can lead to a sense of entitlement, an inability to express gratitude and an unwillingness to work for what one wants.
Anne Frank offers comfort to parents worrying about their effectiveness:
“Parents can only give good advice or put their children on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
Father J. Ronald Knott