“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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.