Dig the Canal
The responsibility to provide that guidance rests with parents. What type of interaction should parents use in passing down appropriate values to their children? Many studies done in the field of child psychology indicate that children are happiest when parents communicate clear boundaries.
As noted researcher Diana Baumrind writes, “They [the parents] monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative” (The Journal of Early Adolescence, February 1991, vol. 11 no. 1, p. 62).
For many years, up through about the time of World War II, the “authoritative” approach to child rearing was prevalent. Modern critics often minimize the value of that approach, deriding it as an “old-fashioned” philosophy not suitable in today’s social context. However, experience shows that such critics are foolishly wrong, as the results of many modern child rearing practices are now “coming home to roost.”
Many children today show little respect for older people—whether relatives, authority figures or complete strangers. They are less secure and settled than in generations past. They desire freedom of choice, yet are less independent than prior generations. Frustrations and antisocial behavior are quick to rise to the surface. Modern child rearing methods have all too often failed to prepare young people in recent generations to become mature.
So, what should be done? There should be a return to effective child rearing practices, as were common in times past, when the family was the adhesive that glued society together. Right values were passed from generation to generation, along with a sense of personal identity. God crafted the family unit and designed it to function in a prescribed manner. And the God who did this does not change.
The Fifth Commandment, recorded in Exodus 20:12, states: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” The first four of the Ten Commandments deal with humanity’s relationship to God; the Fifth Commandment is the first that addresses human beings’ relationships with one another. The Fifth Commandment, put into practice, naturally predisposes younger people toward a mindset in which they are ready and willing to receive instruction from their wiser and more experienced elders. It thus lays a solid foundation for good citizenship, as it teaches children to think beyond their own needs and wants, and to consider how their behavior affects those around them.
As the Father and Creator of us all, God defines what is and is not acceptable behavior. In other words, He promotes expectations and consequences—that is, He promises blessings for obedience and right behavior, and He warns of the dangerous consequences of disobedience and unwise actions. As human parents, we need to follow the example of the ultimate Parent.
Like water, children need to be directed. It is the responsibility of each parent to provide that direction. Parents do this by carving out the personal and social pathways though which their children are to travel. If we as parents want the best for our children, then we should at an early age begin “digging the canal” through which our children will pass. And we should remain committed to that task, knowing that child rearing, like marriage, is a life-long commitment.
To learn more about effective parenting, read our informative booklet, Successful Parenting: God’s Way. You can read it online, download it, or request your own printed copy, absolutely free of charge.