Before we dig in, I’d first like to say that this blog post comes with a critical caveat: I am not one bit qualified to write a post on parenting. Really, I’m not. I’m not even a “mommy blogger”; I usually like to write about theology, ministry, and all things related to the church. When it comes to parenting, most days I am pretty sure my husband and I are making things up as we go along. We are trying our best, and sometimes I go to bed thinking about all of my parenting doozies of the day. Not too long ago, I was so bone tired from school, ministry, and all the demands that life brings, I let my children eat popcorn for dinner. True story. Ok, now that we have gotten the whole I’m-not-qualified-to-write-this-post-but-I’m-going-to-anyway-thing, let’s get started.
Yesterday I came across a fascinating study published in the New York Times. This study reveals that the college admissions process has created a competitive and stressed-out behavior among today’s young people. It shows that “colleges spend a huge sum each year sending signals that influence the behavior of students…”. The writer says maybe colleges need to “turn the tide” and send signals that create more of a compassionate behavior. Furthermore, the admissions process favors privileged and affluent families. But here is what stood out to me the most in this study:
…a survey of more than 10,000 middle- and high-school students that asked them what mattered most: high individual achievement, happiness or caring for others. Only 22 percent said caring for others.
This study, of course, is nothing new under the sun. Many have been publishing reports and opinions that today’s younger generation has noticeable attributes such as entitlement and selfishness. While there may be some exaggeration to the reports, and not all reports represent all of the generation, I think it’s time we start taking a good, long, hard look in the mirror. Something has to change.
Most of all, this is incredibly alarming to me as a parent. But my reaction to this study isn’t to point the finger at the admissions process in colleges and universities – although I am glad that there is going to be a change of tide – instead, my reaction is to point the finger at myself, the parent.
After reading this study I couldn’t help but think about the most important commandment that emerged from the lips of Jesus, found in the Gospel of Mark.
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[e] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[f] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[g] There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mk. 12: 29-31)
Ever since I became a student of Scot McKnight, author of the Jesus Creed, our family has hade a commitment to daily saying this as a family.
Again, I’m not claiming to have this whole parenting thing all figured out, but I do wonder what our world would look like if (Christian) parents decided that the highest priority is to not only love God, but also love our neighbors, no matter the cost.
I think a cultural revolution would unfold before our very eyes.
Don’t get me wrong; when the rubber meets the road, this is harder than it sounds. If my child comes home from school and tells me about another kid who has been mean to him, my instinct might be to him to show the other child what’s up (eye for an eye). When I’m on a play-date at a friend’s house, and my friend’s child pushes my child off of the chair he had been sitting on because the other child wanted to sit there, my instinct is to intervene and make sure the other child knows that my child had the chair first. But instead, these can become teachable moments for our children in some of their most formative years. When another child is mean to our child, we can teach them to love them, serve them, and be kind to them anyway. Does another child want the chair that your child had first? We can teach our children to give up their chairs, and maybe even the clothes off of their own backs if necessary.
If the following is a list of priorities for your child…
- Be a top athlete
- Be at the top of the class
- High Test Scores
- Straight A’s
- Financial Success
- Front of the line
And if the following is not a list of priorities for your child…
- An eye for the downtrodden
- Last in line
…then maybe something needs to change.
When I read the report from the New York Times, I couldn’t help but think that things are upside down in our culture. I’d like to say that Christian children are different than others, but I don’t think this is the case. Instead, things like individualization, consumerism, and achievement have gripped our culture. We are missing the mark, we’re getting it wrong, and we are somehow communicating to our children that the first list takes precedence over the second list. Something needs to change – a cultural revolution of sorts.
The church was and has always meant to be a drastic alternative to the world around us. When the world screams, “me first!” we scream, “me last!” When the world screams, “my money, my gain!” we scream, “God’s money, their gain!” When the world screams, “mine!” we scream, “yours!”
Friends, let’s begin a cultural revolution, and let’s start in our own homes. Let’s create a society of compassionate, caring, generous, loving, and grateful children…children who look a lot like Jesus.
Lord, help us all.