The right way for Christian parents to raise their children
People Matter was a regular column by Phillip Jensen in Southern Cross, the monthly magazine of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.
Jensen, P 'The right way for Christian parents to raise their children'. Southern Cross, July 2002.
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Suzie's family and Emma's family had very different ideas about child raising and education. The outcomes for the girls proved very telling.
Suzie and Emma* were very different girls from two different Christian families.
Both families were committed to their daughter's welfare, education, and protection. But they bad different principles about child raising and education.
Suzie's family saw her schooling as an opportunity to experience the world as a Christian. They sent her to the local school where she would meet all sorts of fellow students—and could make a real attempt to share her faith in Jesus with others.
Emma's family had no choice except to send her to the local school. But they were concerned to protect her from the atheistic and immoral influences of the school. She was not encouraged to be involved in extracurricular activities and was not allowed to participate in the social life of the other students.
Suzie's family was committed to teaching their daughter to be a missionary in the world. Emma's family was equally committed to the principle of protecting their daughter from worldliness.
Sad to say, both girls suffered from their parents' principles.
Suzie was no missionary. A timid girl who sought approval from others, she found the conflict between her parents' desires for the school and her desire to be accepted by her peers overwhelming. She hated school and was frequently absent with the kind of illnesses that are difficult to diagnose. She fell behind in her schoolwork, which only compounded her distress and dislike of school. Instead of influencing her friends for Christ, they influenced her into an increasing dislike of all things Christian. Her behaviour became a major concern for her parents.
Eventually Suzie could take the pressure no longer and, much to her parents' dismay, had to be removed from the school. They placed her in private education where she was better ‘protected’ from the world.
Emma externally conformed to her parents behavioural requirements. But her internal rebelliousness against her parents' strict regime led to open warfare at home. She too hated the conflict between school and home. It was not the alluring worldliness of the school that seduced her, but the constant restrictiveness of her home, her inability to join in the simple pleasures of her school friends, the claustrophobic feeling of not being allowed to grow up or take any responsibility, and the total lack of trust in her decisions or in the reality of her faith. Emma developed a constant rebellious and antagonistic spirit, which only increased her parents' concern about the bad influence of the school.
Emma finished school but left home as soon as she could. She discontinued her education and almost perversely chose whatever her parents were against.
The trouble with some principles of child raising is that they do not take sufficient account of the individual differences between children. Suzie needed the protective environment, not Emma. Emma was the born missionary, not Suzie. Reverse the roles and the parents' principles may have worked—after all they worked well for the girls' siblings.
Each family's commitment to their daughter has won out in the long run, but wise parenting is hard. Ideologies about ‘the best’ system are rarely a helpful guide for raising individual children.
Names have been changed.