In Old Testament times, idols were very clear. They were made of stone or wood and people worshipped them in formal, prescribed ways. That was a long time ago and as a result, it is easy for us to think in terms of “that was then, this is now.”
Sadly for us, idols are everywhere – even today. They just don’t look like we think they would. Often times, our biggest idol stares right back at us from the mirror.
And sometimes our idols are sitting right in the back of our minivan.
Take a moment to read through the following warning signs. While any one of these is not an indicator that you are fallen prey to this modern parenting problem, if a large number are true for you, it may be time to do some re-evaluation.
1) You worry about whether or not you are exposing them to enough enrichment opportunities and actively seek to make sure that they are well-rounded. Your schedule is filled to the brim with practices, games and lessons.
2) You worry about finding ways to “keep them busy” and buy toys and games frequently that will help you achieve that goal.
3) All of your vacations center solely on them. You haven’t taken a vacation that you have enjoyed in years.
4) You forfeit time with your spouse in favor of time with your kids.
5) You allow them to repeatedly interrupt your conversations.
6) You worry that one misstep on your part will cause permanent social or emotional damage.
7) You focus on their happiness, rather than their character.
8) You are overly concerned about how they behave in public and spend a great deal of time addressing outward behavior at the expense of the heart. This is often fueled by a fear/concern about what others think of you as a parent (or of them). Image becomes everything.
9) You do whatever you can to make their life easier- picking up after them because they are too busy or avoid developmentally appropriate expectations (i.e. chores) so as to not “stress them out.”
10) You decline invitations to events or activities because you fear that the kids will be bored or uninterested.
The antidote is NOT the kids-should-be-seen-but-not-heard, 1950’s parenting mentality. Strong, connected relationships are the key to healthy and happy families. But these relationships are built on mutual interests, mutual respect, and clearly defined boundaries and hierarchy. Children thrive in families where there are clear, permeable boundaries. They need to be heard and valued. But not at the expense of everyone and everything else.
The antidote is a healthy family structure and a right orientation to God and others.
When you actively engage in a number of the warning signs above, you are sending the not-so-subtle message to your kids that they are the most important thing in your life. And it can create a me-centered child, rather than an other-centered child. As Christian parents, our goal is to have children whose life is centered, first on Jesus, and then on others.
Consider Matthew 22:37-38: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
It seems clear from this verse that we are to love God first and others second. If our children are the center of our world, this will be much harder to learn.
I am glad that we live in a culture where children are valued, respected and treated well. Let’s be sure to teach ours the Greatest Commandment with words and actions.