How Christian Parenting Can Backfire:
Consider Katy Perry...
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalms 103:13-14)
Last week I saw an article about the singer Katy Perry. She had interviewed with Vanity Fair magazine and shared her opinion on Christianity. It was not a favourable opinion. Perry recounts that her parents were extremely strict and that it robbed her of her childhood. Secular music and secular books were rejected; the Bible was the only book allowed. It seems that instead of keeping Katy unspotted from the world, her parents effectively inoculated her against their faith.
This is most troubling. Honestly, based on what she shared I cannot blame her for being put off by the faith of her mother and father. The truly sad thing is that, since she is an influential person in the pop culture for young people, the chances are that many will accept her assessment uncritically. Certainly we are responsible for our decisions, but we are social beings and easily succumb to peer pressure. Her parents wanted to protect her from worldly influences to keep Katy close to their religion, but it totally backfired.
What can we learn from all of this? Parenting is difficult, because (a) children are not birthed with a manual, and (b) each child is different. Put another way, what works with one child may not work with another. If your child is an extravert, sending him or her to the corner is true punishment; for the introverted, shy child this may not have the same impact as the outgoing sibling. Children are not robots and instinctively resent any attempts to make them such. They need a certain amount of freedom to learn and discover their interests and gifts. I have seen parents grip their child with a hand of iron; most often the children slip through their fingers because the grip strangles them and fosters resentment. People instinctively run from those whose grip is strong and imprisoning. Even if the child is outwardly compliant, the mind and heart are their own. Lord help us not to be the root cause of rebellion against God in our children. Truly, in such a case the rebellion is against us, not God.
Now, please don’t talk to me about the need for discipline. Raising children with discipline is both scriptural and good sense (the two do not exclude each other). Anyone who has ever been around a child who is not disciplined understands this. There is a marked difference, however, between discipline and tyranny. Parents must and can be in control of the household and still treat their children with kindness and dignity. When I was coming up I had the great mercy to have a mother who, although she was one of four girls, understood boys. We had a free, fun childhood. Mother disciplined us (she could swing a switch) but she loved us deeply and gave the blessed gift of self-discovery.
Please don’t ask me if I am advocating children seeing anything and everything on TV, in theatres, and on the net, because I am not. You as a parent should attempt to control (you have less of it than you think) what your children are exposed to. Parents are alarmed and agitated over their children being exposed to any sexuality (and all prime time TV contains this--not that I am advocating it) but will allow them to watch entertainment that shows unbridled violence and the dehumanization of women and children. Or they allow a reality show where people get ahead in the game by deceit and manipulation. Rampant uncontrolled sexual activity is a problem for this nation but so is the increasing level of violence in our society and the cheapening of human life. My point is not to be legalistic but to show different sides to the issue. The point is that the values of our media culture are often at variance with Christianity, but you cannot lock your children in social and cultural solitary confinement.
Teach your children the faith by church attendance. Model Jesus in your life. Love them with kindness and gentleness. Set your standards humanely and intelligently. You cannot protect them against every bad influence, but they do need protection. Never fear to admit your mistakes with them, and apologize when you are wrong. You are not perfect; don’t expect them to be. Did I get it right with my own children? No, often I failed, but I kept trying to do my best and have seen blessings result. Let your children have fun; let them be children. Let them see you have fun; love your spouse and love God.
Brian S. Bailey