Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting

Time author, Nancy Gibbs, has written a hilarious and insightful article on the new American frenzy for driving kids to worldly success. In this one, she claims there is now a revolution rising against the extremes that have characterized recent thinking about parenting.

Research is accumulating rapidly showing how damaging the new ultra-materialism/prestige drive for kids. Gibbs cites some of this research and the top selling Nurture Shock contains more. That's next on my list.

This neurotic and evil trend in how to raise kids results in what college "deans described freshmen as 'crispies,' who arrived at college already burned out, and 'teacups,' who seemed ready to break at the tiniest stress," according to Gibbs. We encounter these kids in our student ministry constantly. They lack healthy relationships and have been trained to drop everything, including their allegiance to Jesus and their community for any opportunity for advancement in sports or academics--even trivial opportunities.

A recent case involved a high school sophomore who has struggled with drug use and sexual sin but made a second decision to get serious with Christ. He began making progress for the first time. Coming from a weak Christian family, he was urged to join a school sports team. Workouts extend throughout the weekend, after school daily, and even before school.

He's sinking dozens of hours into this sport, losing contact with the believers who were helping him to get away from his habits, and will likely drift back into his habits and lose the chance he had to break away. It's highly doubtful that wrestling will ever play a role in his life in the future. Meanwhile, if he goes back into partying and sex (like his team mates on the sports team) he may ruin his life.

All around us are examples in the millions of American young people who lose their interest in the things of God, as I've documented here before. In the face of this wholesale abandonment of the church and the Lord, the only thing many Christian parents can think of is pushing for yet another sport or learning mandarin in elementary school. Gibbs describes one insane scenario after another in her article.
One of the biggest hurdles for leaders in this area is simply convincing parents that something has changed. Even though the change is well-documented, parents look with skepticism at the data. Alissa Quart cites research from the U. of Michigan for this chart:
(Alissa Quart, Hothouse Kids; The Dilemma of the Gifted Child, 69, 70).

This chart shows a coincident increase in working hours for parents in America, according to Newsweek:

So we are confronted with a level of zeal for worldly advancement not seen in our lifetimes, and the saddest part may be the unwillingness of the church in America to call any of this into question. Eerie silence is all we hear from the Christian publishing world, while the biggest and most successful churches in our country embrace the prosperity gospel.