In today’s fast-paced and self-focused society, fathers and mothers are unwittingly abandoning their children.
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On a cold February morning, little Sally fights for her life. Swaddled in a blanket, lying in a shoebox beside a dumpster, she tries to stay warm. Only three days old, she cries for help, but no one hears. Sally is alone. Her parents are nowhere to be seen.
Stories like this hit headlines periodically. You certainly have heard of these terrible horror stories of abandonment. At the peak of their desperation, some parents do the unthinkable-they leave their own children to die. Those who hear these stories are shocked-outraged-and rightfully so. Questions are asked: “How could someone possibly commit such a horrendous act? Why? What could a child have done to deserve such appalling treatment?"
Questions and emotions swim through our heads when we hear of these events, but everyone agrees it is a terrible tragedy.
Often, the only solace is that these types of sad situations rarely happen. However, when they do occur, the media almost always picks up the story and follows it until some sort of justice is served. Inevitably, though, these terrible stories fade in society’s memory-until it happens again.
There is another form of abandonment that is much more widespread yet receives considerably less media attention. Public outrage is nearly nonexistent. The outcry by society can barely be heard.
In the “fight" for one’s rights for alternative lifestyles, every type of opinion and preference is being supported-except that of the traditional family. The family is facing attacks from every side, with practically no defense.
Perhaps the fiercest attack is the growing lack of concerned and proper parenting. For varying reasons, parents are “lying down on the job"-actually, they are not even showing up for the job. Children are growing up without the proper guidance they need to become productive members of society.
This all-encompassing trend is affecting almost every family in western society. As you read this article, prepare to be saddened and sobered at how parents do their job today. They are truly “missing in action" and here is how.
There was a time, not too long ago, when parents would endure a less-than-perfect marriage for the sake of their children. The well-being of their offspring was one of their top priorities. Realizing that a split household would directly and adversely affect their children’s development, parents made a conscious decision to stay together-sometimes despite their personal feelings toward one another.
However, times have changed. The already high divorce rate is increasing and many children are feeling the effects. Consider the following statistics:
• Divorced status is the fastest growing marital category. The number of divorcees more than quadrupled from 4.3 million in 1970 to 18.3 million in 1996.
• Divorces per 1,000 marriages: 1969-140; 1990-380 (up 171%); 2001-485 (up 246% since 1969).
• Sixty-one percent of couples who are divorcing for the first time have children under the age of 18.
In other words, nearly half of marriages end in divorce and more than half of those marriages have children! These children do not have any say in these divorces, although their lives are directly affected.
As one author on the family, Maggie Gallagher, stated, “We now live in a society where it is legally easier and less risky to dump a wife than to fire an employee." And this is often done due to no more than “irreconcilable differences."
All of these parents who divorced have one very important thing in common: At their marriage ceremony, they shared some sort of vow, promising each other that they would stay together until death parted them. In time, they had children. Sadly, couples often have children in an attempt to solve a marital problem. However, children do not solve problems. Only the husband and wife can do this, by addressing the CAUSE. In time, however, if the problems are not addressed, the marriage falters permanently and children are torn between two parents whom they deeply love.
The above statistics show that all too often, marriages with children end in divorce-therefore suffering the greatest loss. Divorce is a tragic result that no one wants or expects. When it happens, the couple and all who are close to them are hurt to one degree or another. But often, people do not stop and consider the short- and long-term effects that their actions have on the children involved.
Due to selfish actions, when parents are not willing to work out their differences (often because of the need to “discover one’s self"), the children are neglected-split between two homes. No longer will they grow up in a traditional household, with two loving parents working hard to rear their children together.
Numerous studies show that children of divorce suffer because of it. On average, children who go through divorce experience “more conduct problems, more symptoms of psychological maladjustment, lower academic achievement, more social difficulties, poorer self-concepts [and] more problematic relationships with both mothers and fathers" (Institute for Children, Youth, and Families).
The end result? Due to the parents’ wrong choices before and during their marriage, they deal their own children a “bad hand" for the rest of their lives. Through no fault of their own, these children now face a fractured family relationship, without the benefit of both mother and father working together in a happy, two-parent home.
Then there are those who do not get married, but still have children. Consider: In 2000, 33% of babies were born to unmarried women, compared to only 3.8% in 1940. A full one-third of children born are to unmarried women! From the beginning, these children enter a world in which they will not experience a healthy two-parent home and all the benefits that come from this.
Consider one example: The vast majority of children who are reared entirely in a two-parent home will never be poor during childhood. By contrast, the vast majority of children who grow up in a single-parent home will experience poverty. Almost 75% of American children living in single-parent families experience poverty before they are 11 years old!
One would certainly say that Sally, the newborn baby described earlier, did not deserve to be brought into this world and immediately abandoned. But also, which child affected by divorce or an illegitimate birth deserves a life without both parents, a life with more economic hardships and more social problems? The reality is that many receive this life sentence.
But there are additional factors that cause absentee parenting.
The concept of one parent working and the other staying at home to look after the children is termed “old-fashioned" and seems foreign to many today. The idea of a stay-at-home mom or a housewife is figuratively spat upon by the intelligentsia of society. “We have moved beyond and evolved!" they claim.
But have we? Is there anything at stake with both parents working all the time?
These days, to stay home as a housewife is to live in a “prehistoric world," so to speak. Society has forgotten that rearing happy, healthy children is in many ways the most rewarding job on the planet. However, this way of life is belittled and mocked. Consider a statement from Glamour magazine warning mothers about the “dangers" of not returning to work quickly after having a child: “Babies are hard to resist once they’re at this stage, and mothers can sometimes find it difficult to ‘break away’ if they delay too long" (Andrea Boroff Eagan, “Long vs. Short Maternity Leaves").
Shocking! This speaks volumes about a mother’s natural inclination to stay with her child.
Soon after having babies, many mothers leave their homes and their children’s upbringing to pursue their careers. But the mother’s search is not the only one affecting children. Many fathers, in pursuing personal advancement on the job-climbing the corporate ladder-work too many hours. They allow their jobs to swallow their lives--to become their lives. Arriving home after a long day at work, nearly exhausted, they do not have the energy or the ability to spend quality time with their children. The job-the pursuit of a successful career-absorbs the parent’s ability to function properly!
Of course, as children grow up, there may arise a need for both parents to work, and, if done in a balanced way, with children still viewed as a top priority, it may be the only way to make ends meet. However, again, it is a matter of priority. Many parents focus on the fulfillment of their career dreams, rather than creating the best environment possible to support their children.
And, as both parents find success (at least financially), their children are left in daycare and, as they become older, at home-as “latchkey kids."
In 2001, 61% of children from birth through age six (and not in kindergarten) spent time in non-parental child care. At such a young age, children are handed over to institutions to be reared, rather than being reared at home.
In the book The Broken Hearth, William J. Bennett writes, “The writer Karl Zinsmeister puts it this way, and I agree, ‘A child and a parent are bound eternally...A day-care worker is doing a job.’"
How true. The differences between the care and guidance a parent can give and what a childcare worker can give are vast!
Of course, the quality of childcare varies, but even the very best daycare center cannot compare to the love, care and concern that nurturing parents have for their children. Even at very young ages-one, two, three months old!-parents often decide to send their children to daycare. All the time and effort that these parents could put into rearing their children is forfeited so that they can achieve “success" in their career. Often, parents who seek a successful career ultimately lose their ability to properly parent, because all the money in the world-"success"-cannot “buy" good parenting.
While at work, co-workers may look at a father or a mother and say, “Wow, he (or she) is such a hard worker." But how many of those same fathers and mothers go home and work hard at rearing their children? Or, instead, do they just ask the standard question of “How was school?" and then turn to read the newspaper or watch their favorite television program?
The other side of the coin is that some parents seemingly cannot afford not to have two jobs. But the question is: Are they living a life of over-extending themselves, buying large houses, multiple cars, etc., and then turning around and saying that they cannot afford not to work?
Society largely does not understand the difference between wants and needs. Those in Western society, in particular, have been given so much and now expect to “have it all." They do not understand that many around the world do not have even a fraction of what is taken for granted here. And, in the end, parents claim they have no choice but to work, which can be translated as they have no choice but to allow others to rear their children.
As children get older and pass the daycare stage, parents seem to work even more. Often, children are left alone for a few hours each day after school. This is where the term “latchkey kids" originated-as children would wear the house key around their neck.
In time, these latchkey kids begin to get into things they should not. Without correct parental supervision, they fall into trouble-they watch inappropriate television shows; they get involved in premarital sex, as well as drug and alcohol use, and other dangerous and damaging misconduct.
Yet, the abandonment of children does not end here. Even with a two-parent home and with both parents having a proper focus on their jobs, there are other dangers that pull fathers and mothers away from their primary job of parenting.
The Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, in an article titled, “Keep out: TV, DVD and computers rule," plainly states the effect of technology on parenting today:
"Technology is destroying traditional family life as young adolescents increasingly spend more time in their bedrooms playing computer games, surfing the Internet or watching television, videos and DVDs, a study released today claims.
"Whereas the living room used to be the hub of the home, now more and more 11- to 14-year-olds prefer to be alone in their technology-filled bedrooms, communicating with friends via mobile phone texting or e-mail.
"And, as Britons become more obsessed with technology, the strong sense of family is likely to diminish further, says the consumer report from Mintel."
This article goes on to state that 75% of children ages 11 to 14 have a television in their room, 64% have a DVD or VCR player, and one-fourth have a computer in their room.
Continuing: “This wealth of technology means that a significant number of children are not experiencing family life. Three out of five 11- to 14-year-olds say that everyone at home is free to get on with their lives and interests, and 53% say that as long as they do well at school, they can do what they like. A similar proportion-51%-say they prefer spending time on their own."
How tragic! Modern-day parenting has been turned over to television, movies and computers! This could very possibly have an even greater effect on children than the other problems we have discussed. In effect, with both parents in the home, together under one roof, children are still growing up without proper parenting.
Due to all the stresses of today’s fast-paced life, parents turn to television to help keep their children occupied. In an effort to have some quiet time, and to not have to work hard at training their children, parents essentially hand their children over to Hollywood screenwriters, computer programmers, etc.-people who become the children’s most dedicated mentors!
On the surface, this simply seems to give parents “a break." But they do not stop to consider all the long-term effects of watching too much television or playing too many video games. Studies show that there are many adverse affects of overusing these mediums.
There are toddlers who can operate a computer better than many adults. Of course, there are certain computer games that may help in a child’s education. But the majority of the time spent in front of the television or playing video games is not educational. Any parent would freely admit this.
As children grow up, programs or games have to be more tantalizing to keep their attention. Ask a child to play Tetris, an early-stage, simple computer game, and he will most likely blurt out in disgust, “That’s boring!" These reactions cause the video game and television industries to always provide “more action." The end result is that children and teenagers are constantly exposed to sex, violence, corruption, lies, hate, etc.
This all begins when the TV or computer is used as a babysitter. Why do parents ultimately resort to this? Why do so many children find themselves growing up in front of television and computer screens?
The answer: It takes hard work to be a parent! It is a full-time job that requires substantial, ongoing effort. Parents today seemingly have no time for their children! Without correct priorities, they do not make the time to teach!
Gone are the days when families would spend time together discussing things. Gone are the times when children would read book after book, learning about the world around them. Now, their minds are drained by technology, and parents willingly give up their responsibility to teach their children how to live, how to think and how to become productive, successful adults.
The bigger question needs to be asked: Why is all of this happening? What is the CAUSE behind all of these effects?
The answer is very simple. All of the actions in the world can be described as either GIVE or GET. God’s way of life is the way of give. The world, deceived by Satan (Rev. 12:9) for the last 6,000 years, has been living the get way of life. This spirit permeates every facet of society. Every action is governed by this desire.
Parents, probably unwittingly, are making most choices based on GET. Marriages are dissolved because “I" am not happy. Out-of-wedlock children are born because “I" want that pleasure for an instant. Children are sent off to daycare at an early age because “I" need to fulfill “my" career aspirations. Latchkey kids make unwise decisions while raising themselves because “I" have to work long hours. Children are given over to television and computers because “I" need some quiet time.
Again, the basic cause is an attitude of personal advancement and focusing on personal priorities-the way of getting, accumulating for self.
The family institution is failing. One of the fundamental reasons is that parents are either unable or unwilling to properly parent-in other words, to put their own personal priorities beneath those of their marriages, their families and, ultimately, their children.
If you are a parent, make sure that you have the right priorities. When you get married and decide to have children, you have made the decision-whether you have consciously realized and admitted it or not-to rear them as best as you can. You have brought them into the world, and properly rearing them is your responsibility. All the physical possessions you gain in your life, the riches and the material things, are not permanent. But your children will live on, and they, in turn, will also have children, who will have children, and so on. The parenting decisions you make will affect generations to come.
Some of the above-mentioned problems plaguing parenting may describe circumstances in your life. Some, of course, may not be able to be changed at this point. However, determine to start where you are and do all that is within your capabilities to teach your children everything they need to know. Understand that your children have an AWESOME POTENTIAL just as you do, and that you are directly responsible in helping them build and achieve it within themselves.
Be resolute in living a life of giving-of outgoing concern for others-and for your children. Make it a goal to never abandon your child in any way!
To learn more about childrearing, read our book Train Your Children God’s Way.