November 28, 2007
The results are in: Christian parents are scared to death of their own children. Does that sound alarmist? You decide.
A recent study from the Barna Research Group provides for us an incredible window into the homes of American, “born-again” Christians. The view is frightening and should have the attention of all thoughtful Christians.
The latest research looks at the attitudes of parents with respect to the gifts they’re buying their children. The scope of the report was limited to “media” gifts. It’s somewhat shocking to see that those who consider themselves “born-again” Christians will spend more than $1 billion on things like CDs, DVDs, video games and magazines for children under the age of 18.
But this alone is not what should arrest our attention. It’s the fact that parents—Christian parents—are buying their children gifts that they personally do not believe are good for their children. Would any parent intentionally buy their child something they know is harmful? Evidently, yes.
The most widely purchased media gifts by Christian parents were DVDs. According to the study, 26 percent of Christian parents admitted that they were not comfortable with what they were giving to their own child.
The next most popular gift was music CDs. A full 1/3 of Christian parents said they had “concerns” about the content on those CDs.
Next in line were video games. A shocking 46 percent of the Christian parents handing a video game to their child expressed chagrin over the content of the game.
The list of gifts continues with equally shocking results concluding with downloads for mobile phones. Overall, 70 percent of Christian parents who purchased downloads for their children’s phones were not pleased with the content of the particular downloads.
It would seem that the inmates are running the asylum. Well, maybe that’s a poor analogy. Then again, maybe not. This does seem to border on the insane. Why would parents knowingly give their children things they believe are not good for them?
Is it possible that parents are terrified that their children may not like them? Is it possible that parents are far more concerned about appearing “cool” to their children than they are about providing direction, guidance and limits? Sadly, this seems to be the case.
The causes for this unfortunate reality are probably legion. One explanation may be that some parents are so insecure in themselves that they feel they just have to be “cool” to their kids. Another reason might be that far too many churches have fed a narcissistic hunger in America by giving their congregations far more of what they want rather than what they need. The “experts” that give instruction on how to be “relevant” may, in fact, be confusing parents—parents who are just as vulnerable to peer pressure as their children.
In the study, George Barna offered his own thoughtful analysis:
The process of selecting appropriate Christmas presents for children is a microcosm of the spiritual tension millions of Christian adults wrestle with. Many Christian parents are striving to serve two conflicting masters: society and God. They refuse to believe that they cannot satisfy both. Sadly, this Christmas season will produce enormous stress for numerous Christian parents who don’t want to disappoint either God or their children, but whose ultimate choices will disappoint both God and themselves, while providing gifts that are not be in the best interests of their children. For Christians, the Christmas season should be a time of celebration and appreciation of the life of Jesus Christ. Instead, that joy is being minimized by the pressure and confusion introduced by our focus on material consumption and fulfillment.
Indeed. So what should we do?
If Christians have any chance of impacting our culture we must begin by doing what’s right rather than what’s merely expedient. Parents must start parenting with eyes fixed on only one master: the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here’s a simple starting point for us parents: reintroduce a word into our conversations with our kids that far too many parents have abandoned. Yes, that great and powerful two-letter word: “No.” It may not be the coolest word, but oftentimes it’s the right word.
Bob Burney is Salem Communications’ award-winning host of Bob Burney Live, heard weekday afternoons on WRFD-AM 880 in Columbus, Ohio. Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.