This is the age of the child. Every parent must give his child the best of everything, so he buys him countless toys and the latest and most expensive clothes. In many homes, the child holds the most important place, sitting as ruler, while his parents bow to his every whim. Too often today the children decide what they are going to read, how late they are going to stay out at night, and what they or their parents should buy. The whole attention of our age is focused upon the child.
For further proof of the attention that children get today, notice how many parents pick up the children’s slang expressions and how often they will laugh at children’s “pranks.” Notice how many parents will buy things for their children so that they can take part in the latest fad.
In spite of all the attention that children are getting today, there is a tremendous increase in juvenile delinquency in this country. There is a serious lack of respect for authority, sometimes even among our own children. Children today act like adults with a child’s reasoning power. They seem to lack the sharp distinction between right and wrong that characterizes their parents. Often children do not feel the horror for crime that one would expect of a Christian. What causes these problems in the “age of the child”?
There are a number of reasons for this.
One of these reasons is the fact that parents no longer spend time at home with their children. Many parents are too busy with their jobs and their social engagements to spend time with their children. The time seems to be past when the family was a closely-knit group going places together, enjoying the same things, and taking part in a family altar. The family is hardly together long enough to read the Bible together at the table. Some parents hardly give themselves time to know their own children.
Parents no longer have time to teach their children the things that used to be a part of home training. There was a time when parents taught their children to sew and cook, and the boys to handle tools; now the job has fallen upon the schools. Not long ago it was unheard of for the school to teach the children manners; now it is expected of them. The parents no longer have time for these things.
We should never forget the fact that television has a tremendous effect upon children. A generation ago people were shocked at the very idea of attending a movie; now they and their children watch them every evening. Television is producing a generation of children whose knowledge of right and wrong is limited to the question of whether or not they can “get by with it.” Some children who have television in their homes are no longer repelled by the thought of crime. Why should they be? They see it every day. Not many of the children from Protestant Reformed homes would ever think of committing a crime, but how much are they losing their repulsion for such things? Ask your children about the stars on television and they will be able to tell you their names and much of their corrupt lives. Then ask them about last Sunday’s sermon or their catechism lesson. There is no repulsion for the things of the world and desire for the things of God. We are in danger of losing the distinction between the church and the world. Unless this distinction is drawn very clearly for children today, what will happen to the next generation, the Church of tomorrow?
Modern psychology has made more inroads into our thinking than we often realize. Even though few parents buy psychology books and try to bring up their children on the basis of what they find in these books, the principles of modern psychology often take hold nevertheless. The authors of these books maintain such principles as these: That the child has the right to develop in the way that his own instincts or desires lead him, that the parent (or anyone, for that matter) may not place too much emphasis upon sin or the child will develop a guilt complex, that he should not even insist too much upon his own opinions because “the child has a right to decide these things for himself,” and that the parent’s duty is to guide the development of the child, rather than to require that he live in conformity to the Law of God. What happened to the principle of total depravity? Are we in danger of losing it as one of the principles for the raising of children? Sometimes we make these principles a part of our policy without realizing their inconsistency with our doctrine.
Another thing that strongly impresses our children is the emphasis upon material gain. Sometimes people talk as though one who does not have a new house and a fine car is not bringing up his children properly. One question that is asked regularly in school is, “Why should I take this subject if it will not help me make money when I get out of school?” Too often when a child is asked to do something, his first thought seems to be, “What is there in it for me?” Many children, when asked what they would like to be when they grow up, choose the occupation which has the highest income. Is a person’s income the only standard of success? If we judge a person’s success in terms of material possessions, how much more quickly will the children adopt the same standards.
It has been said that our whole nation is a nation of children. There may be some truth in this when we think of the fact that we admire physical strength and proficiency more than intelligence and Christian character. Everybody knows the leading sports figures in the country, but who admires the learned person? Often we assume that when a person is physically mature he is an adult, never stopping to think of the emotional immaturity that may lurk underneath. Too many physically mature people still let their emotions rule their judgment.
With all the pulp literature on the market today, it is necessary to watch very closely the reading habits of children. It is better not to let children read at all than to let them read anything without restriction. It is necessary to watch their reading habits very closely to see that they read only material that Christian young people should read. There could be far more discussion on the reading of Protestant Reformed children.
I am appealing to you, Protestant Reformed parents, both present and future. Stop and consider how far these evils have crept into our Protestant Reformed homes. These evils are a constant threat; are we opposing them properly? Today we are bringing up the Church of tomorrow. What kind of Church is that going to be? If the family can be drawn closer today, if parents can arouse in their children the moral values that they themselves hold, then we need have no fear for the Church of tomorrow. If we can instill in the children, by the grace of God, the love of God more than the love of the world, these children will never depart from the truth that their parents have struggled to preserve.