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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Parental Determinism: a Very Faulty Theory

MANY parents are tempted to believe that everything they do has a more-or-less direct impact on how their children turn out. Ironically, those most subscribing to this view in practical terms find their kids often grow to confound their belief. This frequently leaves parents feeling desperate, confused and spiritually vanquished. It’s time we faced the truth.

We are not in as much control as we think we are.

It is a behaviourist theorem that describes this phenomenon of direct cause and effect, and it’s also a determinant whereby Christian parents are led to believe that if they train their child up early and consistently in the way they should go they’ll not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Do one thing to produce another? Danger ahead!

How many do their level-best and yet still “fail?” And worst of all, this thinking only sets us up to compare ourselves with parents of kids who’ve ‘landed on their feet.’

Deterministic thinking, certainly in the context of parenting, is very dangerous. It sets us up for a rather large fall and places the growing or adult child under enormous external pressure to conform, otherwise there’s a huge blight placed all over the family. Shame reigns!

We ought to take the chances while we have them to reject post-haste deterministic thinking and all that reinforces this faulty theory, for we don’t have anywhere near the control over our children as we’d like to think we have. This is not a head-in-the-sand approach. It’s just being realistic.

The deterministic parent, particularly one in a position of leadership and influence, can only utter dogmatic heresy when we consider that most of the population already consider themselves as failures on the parenting front when placed against the lofty ideals that some purport. More than ever today we’re faced with many, many variables that don’t bear comprehension. We live in a ‘world of Babel’ more than ever.

Parenting has got to be more about “process” and faithfulness than comparisons with others that are sure to ruin. This shaped parenting believes in doing the best now while we have that chance. And that’s all. It keeps things simple and never assumes anything from what we see in our own children, and particularly what we see in other children (and their parents).

It’s high time we got over the rhetoric and cause-and-effect judgmental thinking and just got on with the task ahead of us. It’s hard enough without making it forlorn.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

This article was inspired by a brilliant piece from Leslie Leyland, The Myth of the Perfect Parent. Retrieved 13 January 2010. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/january/12.22.html?start=1

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