Families Aren’t Like That Anymore

“Families aren’t like that anymore.” I’ve heard this comment repeatedly from my critique groups and beta readers of Sparkles from Silence as Debbie and her family pull together as a team. I understand what they mean, and their comment saddens me. What has changed? People have never been perfect since the Garden of Eden, so why are families so fractured today? Why do events  seem more hateful than any other time I’ve experienced in over sixty years?

I’ve come up with a few possibilities. Which might step on some readers’ toes. If that happens, I’m sorry. I haven’t based this short list on any individual. These are trends in our culture that I’ve observed.

credit to North Dakota State University
Family praying in church — Image by © Ocean/Corbis

Families aren’t like what anymore? When I was a child, my family sat together at dinner every night. Sure there were evenings when someone had a late game or a rehearsal. The military dictated that my dad didn’t show up for dinner for a year!  But whoever was home? They ate at the kitchen table and shared highlights of the day.

I grew up, got married, and followed the same tradition. We couldn’t do it all perfectly either. Lots of dinners at ball parks and swim meets, but my oldest child was shocked the first time he stayed at a friend’s house for dinner and was handed a slice of pizza from the frozen foods aisle to eat in front of their TV.

Families aren’t like what anymore? When I was a child, my parents took us to church. Every Sunday. Sunday school too. No matter where this Air Force family lived, we found a church and participated in its activities. We put up with hypocrites in the congregations and occasional, shallow sermons. We also learned scripture and knew Jesus was God, who could do anything, so be in awe of Him!

I grew up, got married, and we took our family to church. We weren’t perfect about attendance either. Plenty of out-of-town sports events on the weekends. And believe me, I could feel the lack of spiritual food if too many of those weekends occurred!

Families aren’t like what anymore? When I was a child, my mom was active in the PTA. (Parent Teachers Association, in case the school in your neighborhood doesn’t have one.) If any of us misbehaved, my parents and the teacher huddled up and executed a game plan to get the kid back in line. Every once in a while, the teacher was the one out of line. And my parents communicated–in a civil manner–their concerns over the situation.

I grew up, got married, and ended up on the teacher side of the PTA. But I could put on my “Mom” hat whenever it was needed. We backed up the teacher (or bus driver in one case) when our sons messed up, and we went to bat for our boys when warranted.

credit to Garry Wilmore flickr.com
credit to Don Goodwin flickr.com

After a career in education for forty years, I can tell you what parents are NOT teaching their children which may explain why families “aren’t like that anymore.” The following list contains generalities, but only a minority of families work hard to avoid all of the pitfalls below.

  1. Parents are stretched in so many directions, with work and extracurricular activities for both themselves and their children, they don’t take time to sit and eat and just enjoy one another at the end of the day. They might want to, but they’re stuck on a hamster wheel at top spin speed and can’t figure out how to get off. The values they end up teaching are, “Work, prosper, and accomplish.” Sounds good, right? But it’s skewed if we don’t balance those values with eternity in view.
  2. Parents don’t go to church. My career involved teaching in Christian schools. As time passed the percentage of students who went to church every Sunday shrank to about half, and many never went to church at all, even though the parents had signed a paper in the admissions process that they would attend regularly. Those parents end up teaching the values of “Say what people want to hear, and then do what you want,” as well as “Work and play are far more important than church.”
  3. Parents go to bat for their children–right OR wrong. Teachers hesitate to communicate a justified complaint over a child’s behavior because they expect the parents will berate them, not unruly sons or daughters. What values do these parents pass on? “No one has the right to make my children unhappy by denying them something they desire.”

The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 6:7 to have running conversations with our children about faith and our philosophy of life as we walk through our day and sit at the table together. Too many parents don’t do this anymore.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:25 not to forsake  assembling together, i.e. church services or Bible studies or small group meetings to build each other up in faith. Too many parents don’t do this anymore.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6 to teach our children in the way they should go, implying that the precepts taught in scripture are the “way.” Too many parents don’t do this anymore.

And what has been the result? A divisive culture. Those who see no value in past family traditions versus those who desire to preserve Biblical values for their families.

More and more parents marginalize faith, are hostile toward the Church, and seek self-actualization for themselves and their children. A generation has come of age feeling hopeless in a cruel world, feeling entitled to what others have traditionally worked for over a lifetime, and believing no god can provide for them–survival depends on their own human abilities and the whims of their government.

How can we turn these negative attitudes around? The only answer I can come up with is to work outward in the same way Jesus told the Church to begin its work. Start at home. Examine yourself and your family. If you have compromised biblical values, determine to start new, start according to what you are sure is right in God’s eyes.

From there, influence extended family, church family, and community as God calls you. Each little ripple can grow into a wave of teaching our children in the way they should go.

Pray for a spiritual awakening in America. The Holy Spirit has showed Himself miraculous several times in the last couple of centuries, 1970 being the last major revival that I can recall. With His help, we can become a nation of families who love to spend time together and have time to help out our neighbors, all because God is once again at the center of our lives.




Add yours →

  1. Family starts with parents. Whatever values we inculcate in our kids it reflect in them soon or later. Like you are passing your parents high values to your kids and same way kids will pass this to their..Parenting now a days is a challenging job but not a tough job if elders of the family are mature enough. keep up the good work. liked your article a lot


  2. I went to church at least weekly during my growing up years. It wasn’t a guarantee against family dysfunction, either in my family growing up,the family dad grew up in or for my cousins(whose dad was my dad’s brother). Having an intact family is great but I think again is no guarantee.

    I grew up in an environment where parents did not go to bat for their kids regarding school because it was socially discouraged. For me, if I reported something was wrong at school I was mostly gaslighted by my parents that what I said happened really didn’t happen in the way I described. I suspect I was not the only kid this happened to.

    Sometimes the educational system is in the wrong. I don’t feel parents should address teachers in a berating way. However I have been a nurse for a very long time and family members have no problems advocating for their loved ones in a way that could be considered berating. My daughter’s first few years in public schools were a series of failures…perhaps by the system perhaps by individuals…or perhaps my standards were just too high based on what I remember of my own early years of education…..that teachers really wanted their students to be able to function at the best of their ability.

    Some things about the old days were great, some others not so much. There are Christians out there who still believe we should not “spare the rod”. I’m glad most people don’t translate into this beating your child with a belt which was considered more acceptable when my dad was a child…and he had the scars to prove it.

    Your oldest child was shocked that his friend’s parents showed him hospitality, and all he got was some lousy frozen pizza? Perhaps he wasn’t taught the lesson of please and thank you and gratitude. My dad grew up in the aftermath of the depression and we were explicitly taught that we were to show gratitude and thanks for what another person might choose to feed us, no matter whether it was your favorite food or not, even if it was from the frozen food aisle.


    • Kate, You’re absolutely right that not every family had a happy home where parents were wise, but overall, the idea of family togetherness in a relaxed atmosphere at home was more prevalent years ago than it is today.
      As for the frozen pizza? I apologize for the imperfect writing. The pizza wasn’t a problem for my son. He was surprised that the family didn’t sit together at the table while they ate it. The mom handed him the pizza and ignored the children once they were settled in front of the television. No conversation, no joking around. Kind of a lonely existence.


  3. There are no perfect families. Your piece is a good reminder that every family must constantly course correct in order to do their best to raise children who can flourish and function in society. Some of the hardship that occurs in families is outside our control. Some we do control and can, therefore, make a change in our methods and actions. All of parenting requires humility – toward our kids, for they witness our mistakes, and toward those from outside who offer input into ways we can grow and change. I think that this piece can serve that place as a means for self reflection by parents.


  4. Thank you Sister for this powerful post, we all including Me need to reevaluate and look at how we are doing life. God Bless


  5. This article reminds me a lot of “Grandpa, Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ol’ Days” by The Judds. There’s a line that says, ‘they call it progress;’ I agree with you that “progressive” thinking is not progress at all. I grew up in a modern family with no father figure and few, if any, rules or value judgments. I used to talk about how “cool” it was to be able to do whatever I wanted, but always secretly longed for boundaries.
    To this day, as a 43 year old woman, I still struggle with self-discipline, but the Lord and I are working on it. Excellentt read.


    • Thank you, Candice. I believe every child feels safer with boundaries. I used to teach at a school where one side of the playground was next to a busy road and had no fence. No adult needed to instruct the children to be careful. They all chose to play in the center of the playground or toward the side with a fence!
      Don’t feel too badly about the struggle with self-discipline. No matter how we were raised, human nature struggles with that one! You have the best counselor when you say, “The Lord and I are working on it.”


  6. Your observations seem sad but true. There are so many factors that go into all of this but at the heart of things is that too many in our nation have taken God and His Word and moved them way to low on their list of priorities. I fear how He will get our attention to call us back.


  7. Linda, families have changed. We have to choose to make time to build and deepen family relationships, to teach biblical values. It’s hard raising kids in this culture with all the distractions and lures of screens and social media. Thank you for the reminder that families can be strong and grounded, if we parents make intentional choices to do the things you’ve mentioned.

    Great post!


  8. As a current teacher, I can attest to many of the comments you made about schools and the interaction between teachers, children and parents. There are still parents that can be counted on to back up the teacher, but there are many others who will come to school and scream and yell at the teacher for daring to tell their child to complete homework or leave another student in peace. I agree that a general apathy toward God and the idea that there are definite right and wrong ways to do things is one of the chief culprits with this hands out, “you owe me” generation. Thankfully, there are still many kids who view service, kindness and responsibility as values worth practicing. Let’s not give up hope, though prayers (and lots of them) are certainly in order.


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