Parenting Really Is Tougher These Days

Over the last couple of decades, I have heard more and more parents express frustration that their children treat them with disrespect. “I would never have spoken to my parents the way my children speak to me,” they complain. Frustrated parents have gone to their own parents and asked what they did to command basic respect. These grandparents consider for a moment and then usually respond, “We don’t know.” Even more frustrating. The fact is, when the grandparents—or perhaps great-grandparents—were parenting, our post-World War II middle-class American society was more terrestrial. Of course, things weren’t anywhere close to perfect, but that majority segment of society promoted terrestrial values of self-control and deferred gratification. People accepted and sought the benefits of hard work, saving money, being faithful in marriage, and so on. Because these beliefs were widely accepted, they were reflected in literature, media, music, day-to-day experience, and almost in the very air we breathed. We did chores before watching TV. Our mothers used lay-away, not credit, to buy things. We watched shows like Leave it to BeaverFather Knows BestOzzie and HarriettMy Three Sons, and The Andy Griffeth Show.1 Women were protected, children respected adults, hard work and honesty were valued and expected.

Disrespect from a child to an adult was not much modeled or tolerated. Naturally, there were some kids who showed disrespect, but when that happened, you could literally hear the gasps. The shock and disapproval of practically everybody acted as a powerful incentive to improve behavior. Not so today. As the values in society have changed and terrestrial patterns of belief and behavior are replaced by telestial beliefs and behaviors, “normal” is now very different. Even mild family fare on television regularly portrays parents and adults as rather stupid. Frequently, it’s the kids who come to the rescue, so the shows seem to justify all jokes at the parents’ expense. A laugh track lets us know how acceptable, and even clever, it is to lace every conversation with zingers and put-downs. And it won’t stop here. Tomorrow’s children will face the next level of deteriorating respect and decency.

Parents in a telestial world have to parent more pro-actively than parents in a terrestrial world. In decades past, parents may not have needed to think very much about teaching their children to respect adults; society did much of that for them. But society won’t teach today’s children to be respectful; their parents will need to do it. Society won’t teach today’s children the difference between true, modest beauty as defined by God and trendy, immodest, but increasingly popular behavior and attire; their parents will need to do it. Society won’t teach our young men to respect and protect women; their parents will need to do it. Society won’t teach today’s children the importance of sexual abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity in marriage; their parents will need to do it. Today’s and tomorrow’s parents need to be more educated and skilled at parenting. Repeating the parenting practices of even excellent parents will often be inadequate. The world is deteriorating too fast and too dramatically.

(You may be interested in reading more about parenting in a more telestial world. This subject is discussed at length in my new book, Choosing Glory, available on this website.)

Younger readers may not be familiar with these television shows unless they watched them on Nick at Nite, as my children did. These shows generally depicted families where parents were good people, not perfect but doing their best to rear children with good values and often showing consistent wisdom and maturity in their behavior and in the examples they set. Children were also not perfect but were typically respectful and responsive to parental teachings and influence.