Saturday, August 31, 2013

How parents set their children up for moral failure

From the Sounding Orthodox Blog, a post entitled "10 Ways Orthodox Parents set Children up for Moral Failure" written by Christina Pessemier. It's very good. I'd love to see an expanded version made into one of those Ancient Faith Publishing brochures I like so much.

Life gets busy and we don’t step back enough to see what we might be doing as parents to hurt our children’s spiritual growth. Being an intentional Orthodox Christian parent is hard work…but it’s worth it. We have a legacy of faith, wisdom and experience we can pass on to our kids if we pay attention. But if we don’t—we could cause more harm than good.

1. Buying them smartphones. People look at us like we’re freaks, but my husband and I refuse to buy smartphones for our kids. Not only are they expensive, but they allow unsupervised access to the internet, among many other faults. Some parents trick themselves into believing their kids will use internet on their smartphones for “educational” purposes. Yeah right. Don’t fool yourself. The internet, like the TV, is the devil’s playground when it’s not properly supervised. Your job as a parent is to protect your child’s innocence as long as possible. There’s a whole lot of nasty garbage out there that puts thoughts and ideas into their heads that they don’t need. Right now, their souls are like flowers just barely beginning to bloom. Don’t kill that spiritual growth with the world’s evils. And texting? Really, why do kids need texting? Have you looked around lately at all the kids glued to their phones because they’re so hooked on them they can’t put them down. Geez, don’t assist them in losing their childhood. Let kids be kids. Unplug them now because they don’t know how and they need your help.

2. Unsupervised computer use without parental controls. As with smartphones, the internet is full of temptations kids don’t have the ability to deal with. Statistics show the average nine year old has already been exposed to porn on the net.

Do not put a computer in their room. And if there already is one in there, take it out and put it in a prominent area of your home. Seriously, this is their innocence and their soul we’re talking about here. Our kids work on the computer in our family room where the screen is in our view. They can’t log in without our passwords, and we also have them keep to a two-hour computer time limit (which the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends) with breaks in between. Then, we send them outside to get fresh air and to do what kids are supposed to do—play.

3. Encouraging dating in early teen years. We’re pushing off dating as long as possible. Why? I don’t believe putting kids in tempting situations is good for them. Just because you may have dated at an early age and survived doesn’t mean they will. STDs are at an all-time high. Early intimate relationships also increase risk of depression and suicide. They are still growing and learning about life. Doing things adults do in relationships is not only dangerous, but it’s a heck of an emotional load to put on a kid. They’ve got enough to worry about with homework, sports and college. You might think it’s cute, but when your child ends up telling you they’re pregnant or they have Herpes—it’s not so cute.

4. Being lax about prayer and going to church. In a world where the word religion is looked at as a bad word, and kids are being told rules don’t matter anymore—church is desperately needed. We do not pray enough. Our kids need to see us pray, and they need to see us make church a priority. And what if they tell you they don’t want to go? Go anyway. You’re the parent. Kids need structure, and they need to see you as an example of someone who strives to put God first, before everything else.

5. Not talking about the issues they face. Just because they act like everything is okay doesn’t mean it is. It’s crucial to connect with your kids every day. Show you care by asking about their day and actually listening to them. Take them out for dessert or to a coffee shop for one-on-one time. Ask their opinion on things with school, their teachers, friends, church—whatever. Help them by offering a non-judgmental, loving example of the Church’s viewpoint on current issues. Kids are confused today because the world is telling them so many things are okay that the church is saying are not. You can be the voice of reason and sanity for them, and by showing them respect and listening—they’re more likely to hear you.

6. Paganizing Christianity. Some things just aren’t Christian, no matter how you try to make them that way. While it’s great to have healthier alternatives, we can’t Christianize everything. Sadly, public school dances in many schools have now become a showcase of blatant immorality. My jaw almost dropped to the floor when my teenage daughter told me her junior high school’s dance last year included lap dancing and pole dancing. Then she mentioned later that “grinding” was rampant, and the punch got spiked. Huh? Yes, that’s right. Because the parent chaperones were afraid to say something, the kids got away with it. Throw in oversexualized lyrics, peer pressure, hormones and brains that haven’t grown completely—and you get a recipe for disaster. Come up with your own ways to celebrate that don’t include being immoral. This year, to substitute for a school dance, we’re looking at renting a boat and having our kids invite a friend to come along. We don’t mind spending a little money to give our kids a fun time with friends. Why waste a miserable night chaperoning a dance when our kids could have a better, cleaner time doing something fun with friends?
7. Too much freedom. It blows me away how many parents don’t know where their kids are these days. First of all, friends are important, but it’s the family that sticks around for the long haul. Parents should not feel embarrassed to require their kids to be home for dinner and to know their whereabouts. And no, I don’t drop my kids off at the mall. What good things happen at the mall anyway? Involve them in church youth groups and volunteer organizations and sports, but be careful how much time they spend wandering aimlessly with friends who might not always be the best influence. Don’t let them back you in a corner. It’s okay to put your foot down and say no on some of their activities. As long as they know you love and respect them, they will eventually understand ( it might be when they’re 30, but they will thank you later).

8. Ignoring the value of hard work. Do your kids do regular chores? If not, why not? You are robbing them of valuable opportunities that will raise their self-esteem and help them learn skills they will use all their life. Aside from that, they live in your house, and you are not a maid. Enough said.

9. Not teaching them manners. The other day, two teenage boys walked into a door in front of me and let the door swing back in my face. They just kept talking and didn’t even look back. I can hold a door open myself just fine, but I think it’s a good thing to teach teen boys and girls to look out for the person behind them. Teach them to say excuse me when they bump into someone or walk in front of them. Kids today could really use a lesson in manners. You will do the world a lot of good to teach them to respect and honor others like our faith teaches.

10. Money doesn’t grow on trees. One day, they will be on their own and will need to know how to pay bills. Teach them at an early age that doing work is how they get money. Have them do jobs to earn their spending money. Teach them to tithe 10% to charity, like the Bible teaches, and show them how to invest. Proverbs has a lot of great verses to show kids the importance of being wise with finances and planning ahead. There is a time to give money to kids, but be careful. Many kids are getting money way too easily, without understanding its value.

There isn’t a blueprint out there for how to raise morally aware kids, in an increasingly immoral world. But there is hope. We have more power than we realize.

Remembering that we have the church to guide us, and Orthodox Christian friends and family who are going through the same thing, helps.

It’s so important that we do the hard things sometimes, and step up to the plate. Our kids need us to be strong and guide them to the right thing.


  1. Sorry, this doesn't represent my ideal for Orthodox parenting. The tone is anxious, shrill, clichèd, and authoritarian rather than grounded, serene, thoughtful, and conciliar. I disagree with the notion that being a viewer or even a victim of evil destroys the soul; innocence involves intention and action. There is a difference between inexperience and virtue, and I should hope we are aiming at encouraging the latter, not simply conserving the former. Neither am I convinced that children have a different type of soul or an undeveloped soul compared to adults, nor that adulthood represents the loss of childhood.

    And what is the tithe to charity taught by the Bible? Are we talking about the third-year tithe to the Levites? The practice of modern Jews now that Levite status is hard to prove? The government-sponsored church taxes of Europe? Or the American Protestant interpretation, which is not to "charity" but one's local congregation.

  2. ". . . anxious, shrill, cliched, and authoritarian. . ." There is not even a hint of such in the post.

    ". . . grounded, serene, thoughtful, and conciliar." Those words bear no relation to the world in which we live. I'm not successfully going to guard my children from pornography, violence, sexually-related excesses and immorality (LGBT, etc.), false religions and philosophies, illegal drugs, underage drinking, and all the rest of the serious issues which assault us by means of "serene" and "conciliar" conversations with my children. "Grounded" and "thoughtful" will join other characteristics, yes.

    What I read from the Holy Fathers and the contemporary pious writers substantiates that yes, what we hear, view, read, and think definitely either damages, or builds up with strength, the soul from even a young age.

    The post is a good one. We raised four children along guidelines very similar to those listed. All are happy, well-adjusted, and active in the Orthodox faith. -- committed to the Orthodox faith by means of their free will choices made as they grew older.

  3. It will turn out to be the same thing that got us Roman Catholics screwed up- compromise with the secular world, particularly with regard to higher education versus family formation at the appropriate age, especially for the women.
    We've taken a model that exists because of the sexual revolution/contraception and then we try to sanctify it. Humans can't really live that way, and then we get out of college and find ourselves in debt with none of that bright future we were promised.
    So, it begins to look like we can't live the Christian lives we were taught to live. You lose your children when they lose heart, and begin to think that it is all just a nice little fairy tale.

  4. Substituting morality for Christ *is* a false religion. Confusing the mind and heart with the soul is false philosophy. This post is nothing like the way the Holy Fathers, ancient and modern, talk about these things.

    Consequences of the confusion

    "Moral failure" gives the impression of permanence, when it's not, and preservation of virtue is not at all the essence of our Orthodox life. All people sin, over and over; the key is repentence.

    Why is teaching forgiveness not listed here? It doesn't fit with the popular notion of the perfect childhood which is then ruined by the world, requiring parents to become armed guards in a home prison. Perhaps this post is rehearsing a powerful new fairy tale about the perfect childhood combined with the magical power of being Orthodox? Then the mother is the hero who must protect her child, lest she lose her soul.

    Agriculture is the proper metaphor

    Parenting is nurture, cultivation. The spirit of grace takes root in the soul and produces fruit unto salvation. It is a cooperative effort, God working in us. We water our children's souls as we water our own, but we are ultimately not responsible for their harvest, only our own.

    In the Old Testament, the promise was that the land would yield abundantly if the people allowed it to rest for a Sabbath year. We are so hung up on requiring the children to produce acceptable behavior that we do not allow them spiritual rest.

    Our lives go in cycles, not a straight line, up to the end. This is the error of those despairing about the "bright future they were promised." The sun rises again; Spring returns. One of the great treasures of our Church is that even being cut off from farming, as most of us are, we can still understand "again and again", small and large cycles. Teach your children it is not over until it's over. (There, I used a cliche!)

    Is it really damaged?

    If the land (soul) suffers pollution, thorns, birds, locusts, thieves, whatever modern "issues" you like, vaccines, one-world government, anti-Christ, ecumenism, smartphones ... it is all the same result. The land will produce nothing or tenfold instead of a hundredfold. Then what? Thanks be to God, if we are still living, we can start again. Even superfund sites can be made clean. They are not damaged, just dirty.

    And even clouds of pollution overhead needn't affect the land at all. Else the nightmares and visions the devil sends to the saints would in every case "damage their souls". What of our pure Lady? Was her soul "damaged" by evil around her? In a way, the idea that evil secular modern people can "damage" your children's souls is worse than the Pharisees who were made unclean by Gentiles!

    Think that adult souls are less sensitive than children's? That's not what the Fathers believed. A well-tilled garden is more "sensitive" than a piece of wilderness. It matters much more what the parents read, think, habitually look at, and choose to hear than what their children glance at without understanding.

    Please! Don't turn yourself or your children into some passive victims of the world when Christ has given us the victory. Do we fear the world, or do we fear God? Listen to what Christ says, "unless ye be converted and become little children" and "become wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Innocence can be developed! Childhood is not lost! Our bright future is today!

    Or if you won't listen to me, listen to Sr. Magdalene of Essex, author of many books on Orthodox child-raising, who says, 'Parents, especially mothers, need to calm down.'

  5. "Substituting morality for Christ *is* a false religion."

    Wonderful and true. This should be a post itself and not just die here in the comment section. I figure the thread was dead, but I am glad I came back to check.