Tag Archives: self-esteem

Essay on the State of Evangelical Parenting

A just-published story in The Atlantic by Lori Gottlieb entitled “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” raises some helpful questions about modern parenting and how it is stimulating narcissism.  There is some strong language in the piece, so I’m not linking to it.  I will, however, quote a section to show the strength of the ideas in the article:

Another teacher I spoke with, a 58-year-old mother of grown children who has been teaching kindergarten for 17 years, told me she feels that parents are increasingly getting in the way of their children’s development. “I see the way their parents treat them,” she said, “and there’s a big adjustment when they get into my class. It’s good for them to realize that they aren’t the center of the world, that sometimes other people’s feelings matter more than theirs at a particular moment—but it only helps if they’re getting the same limit-setting at home. If not, they become impulsive, because they’re not thinking about anybody else.”

The point continues:

This same teacher—who asked not to be identified, for fear of losing her job—says she sees many parents who think they’re setting limits, when actually, they’re just being wishy-washy. “A kid will say, ‘Can we get ice cream on the way home?’ And the parent will say, ‘No, it’s not our day. Ice-cream day is Friday.’ Then the child will push and negotiate, and the parent, who probably thinks negotiating is ‘honoring her child’s opinion,’ will say, ‘Fine, we’ll get ice cream today, but don’t ask me tomorrow, because the answer is no!’” The teacher laughed. “Every year, parents come to me and say, ‘Why won’t my child listen to me? Why won’t she take no for an answer?’ And I say, ‘Your child won’t take no for an answer, because the answer is never no!’”

These provocative insights, of course, are really just good old-fashioned common sense.  Saying no to a child–what an idea!  This is the stuff of ground-breaking, cover-making wisdom at present.

I’d like to use this piece to offer a few thoughts on the current state of evangelical parenting.  Many of us do focus on developing self-esteem in our children, which has a few positive and many negative effects–good because our children know we love them and are interested in what they do, bad because they can all too easily learn self-centeredness instead of God-centeredness.  That, to say the very least, is a problem, as is the practice of rewarding children for mediocrity and even failure.

But there’s a parallel issue that concerns me about the “parenting style” of many of us today.  It is theological: we love grace.  We so exult in God’s lavish grace–and nothing is more worthy of exulting in, or exalting–that we lose sight of other important biblical-theological concepts.  Like what, you say?  Like the law.  The law does not and cannot save.  Only the gospel can.  But the law is nonetheless of great value to us in forming character, understanding God’s nature, and driving us to the mercy offered us in Christ (see Galatians 3:24).

How does this apply to modern evangelical parenting?  I’m concerned that many evangelicals who prize God’s sovereign goodness as I do are diminishing the importance of rules, morals, and appropriate behavior.  Let’s be clear–I’m not advocating moralism. I don’t want kids to grow up with hard-and-fast ethical boundaries but no grace, no love, no affection.  I guess I’m theologically greedy.  I want both.  I want a home that is driven by and centered in and soaked through with grace.  God-rooted grace should drive the life of a family such that love, not law, is the dominant trait one picks up about a Christian family when one spends time with it.  “What was it about the Harpers?  They interact with one another in such a loving way.  Why?”  That’s the kind of question people should ask after being around our godly families.

To read the rest, visit the BibleMesh blog, where this piece is posted in full.

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Skateboarding Class at High School, and Other Signs of the Demise of the West

skatingAs Carl Trueman recently said, I am about to switch my blogging flamethrower to ‘Total Righteous Destruction’.  Before I do so, allow me to list a few quotations from a VOA news piece by Sahar Sashar entitled, “Skateboarding Class at New York School Empowers Teen Girls.” My take on this educational disaster has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with education.

The “empowering bond of skater culture”:

“[A]t East Side Community High School in New York City, young women, too, are learning to experience the thrills and spills of skateboarding and the empowering bond of skater culture throught a one-of-a-kind class. “Well, since, we got skateboarding in school, before I didn’t really know how to skateboard or anything, so when I came here I learned a lot,” says student Jade Fellows.”

This next bit belongs in the “I swear I am not making this up” category:

The class teaches the fundamentals of skateboarding and also inspires the girls to continue improving their skills.

“The first time I stepped on the skateboard, I fell, and I thought, ‘I’m going to get back up and try again,’” says student Michelle Whitaker. “And now I’m skateboarding fast. And Billy was really proud of me ’cause I did that. ‘Cause I learned how to skateboard… in the matter of two weeks.”

Assistant Principal Tom Mullen is encouraged:

“Assistant Principal Tom Mullen has also noticed a change in the girls and boys of the class – and not just skateboarding skills.

“I’ve seen the kids feeling better about themselves. A lot more confidence. I think it’s because they tried something new. They practiced at it. They feel themselves getting better at it. And that builds confidence.”

Finally, everyone is “learning”:

“Having a proactive role model has helped the students to value discipline and taught them that through skateboarding, they can break many boundaries in their lives.

“We have opportunity to do things, so that’s why I’m taking it,” says Michelle Whitaker. “So I can try something new, and I’m a girl, and a lot of girls don’t do this. I really learned a lot by skateboarding.”


And that dull thud you just heard was the corpse of the Western intellectual spirit crashing to the ground.  Or, to put it differently, if a civilization falls over in the forest, does anyone hear it?

Let’s pause, though, to note a few positives here.  I’m glad that students have a good role model in the instructor who cares for them; I’m glad for an after-school program that seeks to help children; I am happy for kids to have fun and try new things; I’m glad that children are learning to challenge themselves and try new experiences.

Proceeding into TRD mode, I just want to note that this is not a mere after-school program, which I personally would not condemn in the least but would instead praise.  No, this is a “class.”  Yes, a class.  Students are taking “Skateboarding” for credit.  Is anyone aware of the irony here?  It runs so deep it might interfere with the earth’s core: a “class” in “Skateboarding?”  If you just developed a twitch, do not be alarmed.  You are not alone.

I’m all for hard sciences classes and the like–home ec, shop, etc–as they can be very helpful.  This class is in another class, though.  No, it’s in another universe.  The Western mind is crumbling, and it’s because we’re not worried about teaching students actual content anymore–”learning” in an old-fashioned sense, for those of you scoring at ome–but about “self-esteem” and “believing in yourself.” Note the slippery use of “learning” at numerous places in the article–it is a word redefined with nary a second thought.  Why exactly is a school, charged with the cultivation of the mind, helping a student to do kickflips?

This is why kids don’t read; this is why so many can’t think and write and use grammar correctly; this is why our society is getting stupider.  We have replaced knowledge with feelings and academic instruction with morally uplifted therapy.  Kids know nothing, but they feel great.  Charles Sykes’s excellent Dumbing Down Our Kids makes this point with force and a dash of fury.

I don’t think that this one little school with its skateboarding class is singlehandedly destroying the Western mind (you’re glad to know that, I’m sure).  But this stream of thought from which classes like this come is doing its fair share to inhibit the flourishing of our society.  Drinking a mixture of entitlement, self-help thought, presentism, and laziness, and chasing it with a few liters of old-fashioned stupidity, we are allowing our intellectual and moral social foundation to crumble.  We don’t teach Socrates, we teach skateboarding, and then we wonder why all teens want to do is watch tv, surf the Internet, text ad naseum, and play XBox.

I don’t see where major pushback will come from.  I do have hope that as Christians, we will educate our children with excellence, and push them to live challenging, intellectually stimulating lives.  This will involve turning off the tv, spending significant time with them, majorly curbing Internet usage, pushing them out the door to play, not buying an endless stream of gadgets, driving them to read and think and write on a regular basis, and not being selfish with our own time.  The more parents that do this, the better.

But I’m not holding out a lot of hope here.  The Western mind has fallen–I heard it tripped over a skateboard.


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