In September 2016, The Atlantic ran an article titled, “How Helicopter Parenting Causes Binge Drinking” by Caitlan Flanagan. The article contrasts “good” parents with “get real” parents. Flanagan wrote:
Good Parents think that alcohol is dangerous for young people and that riotous drunkenness and its various consequences have nothing to recommend them. These parents enforce the law and create a family culture that supports their beliefs. Get-Real Parents think that high-school kids have been drinking…, and that it’s folly to pretend the new generation won’t as well. The horror stories (awful accidents, alcohol poisoning, lawsuits) tend to involve parents who didn’t do it right—who neglected to provide some level of adult supervision, or who forgot to forbid anyone to get in a car after drinking.
The author then goes on to blame the so called “good parents” with their children’s bad behavior saying, “The parenting style of some white professionals is propelling the alcohol problem on college campuses.”
Those are two very different world views in deed. Notice that one accepts dangerous and sinful behavior in the lives of children and others. These “get real parents” hope to avoid tragedy by guiding their children in how to safely enjoy their promiscuities. The “good parents” teach their children, on the other hand, that there are standards which should not be broken. Albert Mohler noted the following:
This really is, of course, a distinction in parenting, but more fundamentally it’s a distinction in worldview. It has to do with what parents understand their responsibility to be, and it also tells us that at least some parents believe that getting real means that they have to abandon virtually any kind of moral absolutes and become the facilitators for their children learning how to be more rather than less responsible, even with something as volatile as alcohol.
Which direction shall we go? Should we show individuals how to flirt with danger while enjoying sin or teach them to keep away from danger. What did God say?
God is Merciful
I believe in God and I believe that God is a good parent in the very best use of the description. God knows what is like for his children to rebel against him. The book of Isaiah begins with God saying, “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its masters crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:1-3).
He is also eager to forgive transgressions and overlook iniquity. Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.”
Good parents likewise learn to be merciful. Fathers are reminded not to “provoke their children to anger” (Ephesians 6:4). Loving, kind, and caring individuals are made by loving, kind, and caring parents. These tender attitudes must be modeled if they are to be followed. We see them in God repeatedly as he forgives and works with sinful humanity. But we also see that God has standards for living and especially for his people who represent him to the world (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20).
God has Standards
But God also has standards for us. Moses is praised because he chose not to “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). Instead of enjoying “safe sex”, God said to “flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Ephesians 5:3 says, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.” God is the perfect standard of a good parent who is holding up good standards.
In fact we are challenged to be like God and thus to raise our children to be like God. Leviticus 19:2 says, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” We are not to be nor are we to raise individuals who explore the pleasures of sin. Rather we are to be and to raise obedient children. Peter wrote
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:14–19).
Parenting is certainly a great challenge. Parenting is also one of the grand ways we can be like God in raising children. We support them. We provide for them. We protect them. We love them. Our primary goal is to teach and convince them to live holy lives in the world before the Holy God.
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). How can we create holy children? Again we can look to God’s word to find out how to teach and train our children to be holy in their behavior.
First, be unified. “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Fathers and mothers must also be one. If mothers and father love one another and present that love of one another to the children the home will be happier, the children will be happier, and all will be far more likely to be holy. Fathers and mothers must also be united in their discipline in the children. One can’t be played against another. Parents must work together.
Be consistent. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow” (Hebrews 13:8). We must try to be as consistent as possible in our discipline. If a behavior is wrong, it is wrong and must be dealt with. If a behavior is good, it is good and must be praised.
Be generous. Jesus said our Heavenly Father knows to give good to those who ask him (Matthew 7:11). Children need, deserve, and want our time. Be generous with time spent with children. Children and adults spell love t.i.m.e. Time is also the best tool to influence others. Be generous with your time and your children. It will make an eternal difference.
Where do we want our children to be? Holding hands with the world? Or hand in hand with Jesus? Let us be diligent, disciplined, determined, and loving as we train our children for holiness.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate