Children are a treasure, a blessing to every family. That doesn’t mean that having them is always easy. Sometimes, it can be quite a challenge. As they get older, it is natural for parents to wonder if they are doing the right thing. Books, podcasts, articles and daytime talk shows talk frequently about the best way to raise our kids and many a bestseller was made on this interest.
Despite a common desire to succeed in raising these new humans into adults, some studies show that, on a whole, society isn’t doing that great. The last two years of living in the pandemic and the restrictions it brought haven’t helped. A study from the first 6 months of 2021 found that 44% of American HS students struggle with “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.” That is a very sad state of affairs. Having raised 3 teenagers, my wife and I experienced some of the ups and downs common to those years ourselves, but to think that many teens are living in a consistent state of hopelessness is heart-breaking. We all need hope.
What destroys a kids hope? That is a complicated question. We are not raising little robots that are programmed one way or another. Some parents tend towards more freedom, others are more restrictive. There are bad parents out there, who completely ignore their kids, but that isn’t the norm. We’ve lived in a non-US culture for the past 20 years and we’ve seen how other cultures raise their kids. Parenting isn’t easy, but there are certain things society can do if it wants to make it more difficult. Here is my tongue-in-cheek list of a few simple steps to destroy kid’s hope, if our goal is to continue to turn out more hopeless teenagers and young adults.
- Destroy their self-image. There are many options for how to do this. We can teach them that they are inherently bad, ugly or wrong for something over which they have no control. This form of destruction could be based on their heritage, sex, social class, race, skin color, physical appearance or any other classification. The important aspect is that it must be something that the child themselves cannot change. If we want to destroy hope in our children, teaching them that they are automatically bad because of who they are is a wonderful way to beat them down into despair. This step is very important, because it makes the child much more susceptible to self-destructive tendencies going forward. It reinforces the desire to do anything to be accepted, regardless of how much damage it might do in the long run.
- Destroy a sense of personal responsibility. If we want to destroy our kids, it’s important that we avoid making them personally accountable for their actions and behaviors. They should never suffer consequences for their actions. We should make sure they are catered too, pampered and spoiled. We shouldn’t teach them to work for what they receive. We shouldn’t show them practical ways that they can take personal action to make their lives better or to help the lives of those around them. Societies and cultures love to teach group responsibility, as it makes the groups easier to control. “We all are responsible for dealing with ‘problem of the day’, but they are very poor at teaching people what they can personally do to address the issue in tangible ways. If we want to destroy our kids, we should always teach them activism, not action.
- Destroy their childhood as early as possible. The Bible talks about the innocence of the child as a positive thing, but if we want to destroy our children, it is helpful to move them past that period of innocence as quickly as possible. Give them access to all of the sorted underbelly of the world, exposing them to violence and sexuality as soon as we can. Don’t allow them to have a childhood filled with their imagination, but instead plug them into the entertainment media complex of the internet from the get go. If possible, do it without any filters. Destroying childhood innocence is an excellent way to accelerate the path to hopelessness.
- Destroy their sense of personal accomplishment. Rather than rewarding hard work and performance, praise arbitrary elements or statements made by the child. Praise them for complying or identifying with societal trends and reinforce the ability to transform their popularity simply by saying a few magic words about themselves. Discourage dreams of accomplishment and success. Only reward those things that will make them less likely to work for what they want and more likely to expect the things they want to be given to them. This will ensure their eventual disappointment and despair.
Not a comprehensive list, but a depressing list. If a parent, influential adult or a society wanted to destroy a child and teen, these would be very effective paths to follow. If you are a parent, I hope you see these as things to avoid yourself and with the environments that you place your children within.
In contrast to the above categories, here are a few truths that you will find in God’s Word about your children and raising them:
- Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court. — Psalm 127:3–5
- Like all of us, children are “fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139:14 — Their self-image is centered in God’s creation of them. They are created in His image. (Genesis)
- They are not bad, but they are sinful. (Genesis 8:21) Sin is a problem with a solution. Children should understand that they have a sin problem.
- By taking personal responsibility for their sin, they can confess it and receive forgiveness (1 John 2). As parents, we can help children to understand that they are accountable for their sin, and they must take responsibility for it, but the only solution is found in Christ.
- Children, like all creation, exists for the glory of God and there is great joy in living for that glory (1. Cor. 10:31 and Jude 1:24–25)
- There is honor in working hard in order to succeed, not for our personal glory, but as a testimony to God and for His glory. (Col. 3:23 and Ps. 128:2)
Our kids are under attack today. There are influences that are actively working to destroy their lives and commit them to a lifetime of despair and hopelessness. We should be aware of these influences and we should be investing truth in their lives daily. There is a great stewardship in being a parent. Persevere in that stewardship, take it seriously and with great joy see the beauty of your children walking in Truth as adults. That’s the goal and the antidote to the hopelessness that the world offers.