I had a lighter than usual load of grading to do this week, so when my son asked me if I could take him to the skate park on a beautiful, balmy Thursday evening, I was thrilled to be able to say yes (because I so often have to say no on weeknights).
We decided on one hour.
I can’t skateboard so I spent the time making some phone calls, thinking about my life, and people watching. Just as the hour was coming to an end, a group of teenage boys pulled into a parking spot nearby. As they exited the car, the f-bomb started flying through the air, spoken liberally as part of everyday language.
My first thought was, “Uh-oh. The crowd is changing shifts. Time to go home.”
Then I heard one of the boys say this, in what I perceived as an “I am a really cool dude” tone. My mom called and said, You have a foul mouth. I said, Yeah, and hung up on her. The teen then skated off on his board, wheels whirring on the smooth concrete as if nothing seismic had just come out of his mouth.
And I was sad.
There are so many layers to unpack within that single sentence. I cannot tackle them all in a blog, nor am I qualified to do so. I can, however, share some of the places my head went while my heart broke.
How hard it is to see a problem in our children, try to address it, and then get back, “so what?” as a response. Have we not all been there on some level? And have we not all questioned our parenting in such moments? And have we not all experienced the angst that comes from facing the decision about how to parent the newest thing we are seeing?
He doesn’t know the gravity of his attitude and he is robbing himself of the blessings of God.
Honor your father and mother. This is the first command with a promise, and the promise is this. If you honor your father and mother, you will live a long life of blessing. (Ephesians 6:2-3)
There is a promise of God connected to whether or not we honor our father and mother.
The Greek word for honor there is timao, which means to value at a price, honor. This applies to us adults too! Honoring parents is a really big deal to God. Just last week I was reading in Mark 7:10 about a reference to an Old Testament passage: For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father and mother must surely die.’ The Greek word for reviles means “to speak evil of.” I had a discussion about this with my friends. The Old Testament teaches us what holy looks like. We can be lulled into thinking our sin is not such a big deal but it is an offensive stench to a holy God. I am so thankful our holy God also loves us and sent His Son to die for the offensive sin in all of us. And when I hear that boy’s sentence through a “holy” lens, I can start to smell the stench.
So back to this one teen who said one sentence.
He is living in a generation of many teens saying many sentences.
How has this happened? I am not going to unpack this question in one blog post either, but I can accurately report that parents are somewhat to blame. Research shows that today’s parenting style allows more latitude for kids to say and do what they wish, now more than in past generations. In addition, our respect for authority culture-wide is diminishing.
I had the pleasure of hearing Leonard Sax speak several weeks ago. From him, I learned about how in the past 20 years mainstream America has developed a culture of disrespect. Dr. Sax introduced some material from the opening chapter of his latest book, The Collapse of Parenting. At one point in his presentation he showed pictures of t-shirts worn by kids in America and supplied this list in a supplement handout he made available to audience members:
- “Do I look like I care?”
- “I’m not shy. I just don’t like you.”
- “You looked better on Facebook.”
- “I need another drink. You’re still ugly.”
His point? You will rarely find such T-shirts outside of North America.
This week I am affirmed in my role as a parent to teach my son to honor me. I am affirmed by a boy on a skateboard, my Bible and the research of Leonard Sax. And I am reminded that if I love my son…which I do…then to teach him to honor me will bring him more of God’s blessings, and I want him to have every single one.
Parents, let’s not shrink back.
Picture Explanation: Skate park one night, county fair the next.
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