Citing two separate studies, Christianity Today magazine reported recently that 60-70% of young adults who were active in church as teenagers are spiritually “disengaged” by age 23 (Ja ‘10, p24).
I attribute these alarming statistics, in part, to extremes in Christian parenting, both strict and permissive (see my post of last week on strict parenting).
Some of you have protested that I oversimplify the picture, that there are spiritual and cultural forces, not to mention genetic dispositions, at work in our children that even excellent parenting will not overcome. And that the reverse is true: failed parenting surely does not guarantee failed kids.
I would agree. But I hope this will not drive us to fatalism or prevent us from learning all we can, and doing all we can, to raise godly children—whether our own or the children of friends for whom we act as unofficial, occasional, moms and dads.
With these qualifiers, then, I believe the best of more permissive parenting looks something like this:
• Maximizing kids’ decision-making, as is age-appropriate.
• Emphasizing values more than rules.
• Providing incremental exposure to nonChristian viewpoints.
This overall direction of parenting has a good chance of producing kids who feel empowered and respected, who think for themselves and make wise decisions, and take responsibility for their own actions. They will tend to view God as loving and gracious.
But permissive parenting gone overboard gives too much freedom too early, fails to teach and guide properly, and especially, is lax on discipline. Parental responsibility is abdicated. Thus, “tail wags dog,” kids run wild, and their faith is given up either through apathy or the pursuit of gratifications that were rarely curbed by parents.
So whether you are an actual parent, “surrogate” parent of sorts in your neighborhood or church, or simply imagining yourself a parent, do you lean left or right? Permissive or strict? Tell us your story. Next week I’ll tell mine.