Parenting — both a privilege and a responsibility

What is your attitude towards children?

Listening to some people, one wonders how we've managed to increase the population.

Terms like brat, rug rat, crumb snatcher, ankle biter, hellion and holy terror are all too common today.

Some parents bemoan summer vacation from school saying they don't know what to do with their children being home all day.

Have you heard: "Any man who hates dogs and babies can't be all bad."

That quote inaccurately attributed to actor W.C. Fields was actually said in 1939 by Leo Rosten, a professor, author and scriptwriter about Fields.

From whence does that attitude come?

There are ill-behaved children. (There are rude and ill-behaved adults, too!)

But, the general derisive attitude towards children and youths seems to be more than just a reaction to poor behavior.

God's Word, the Bible, Scripture states that "...children are an heritage of the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his reward." Psalm 127:3.

In Matthew 19, Jesus said to let the little children come to him and said "for of such is the kingdom of God."

Scripture repeatedly admonishes parents to teach, train, disciple their children. (Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4, Deut. 11:19, Joel 1:3, Col. 3:20)

In fact, in I Timothy chapter 3, one of the characteristics of a church leader is someone who "rules well his own house" and has "his children in subjection with all gravity."

"For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" ( Timothy 3:5 KJV)

Consider that today's parenting styles are extremely different, even diametrically opposed, to the parenting practiced for centuries and taught in godly homes.

Not that all things historical are good. But, there was a time when there was a distinction between the children and the adults, children were taught to show respect to adults and adults were to be kind, patient teachers of children.

Now, it seems that parents want to be their children's friends and resist any guidance to teach, instruct or counsel their children.

I heard a report recently of an elementary-school aged child who was taken to the doctor's office and the doctor asked the child to open her mouth and say "Ahhh." The child clamped her jaws shut and refused and as the doctor looked to the mother to instruct the child, the mother said: "Her body. Her choice."


Teachers have been told they may not correct a youth who refuses to stand in respect to the Pledge of Allegiance. And, this is in a state-supported school where that child is receiving a free education paid for by taxpayers of this nation.

Children do not come here with all the information they need to become law-abiding, responsible, functioning adults. They must be taught.

Natives in primitive societies train their infants to not soil their cloth diapers from birth. Yet, in our highly technical, well educated societies, we can't even potty train children by the time they're walking, talking and going to pre-school. (But, we can housebreak (aka potty train) six-week old puppies.)

Repeatedly, I've heard accounts from professionals who have a heart to teach and minister to the young people of today who are disheartened and burned out because of the entitled attitudes, disrespect, recalcitrant mindsets of the children of today.

Parents, the problem and the solution begins in the home.

Psychologists say most of a person's character is formed by the time they're 5 years old.

Infants can be trained to trust, to feel secure, to respond appropriately to loving authority.

It seems the problem we have in 2023, is parents who are undisciplined and therefore do not know how to discipline their children.

"But I don't want to!"

"Do you want... " fill in the blank -- wear your coat, eat your lunch, go to bed, go potty?

There seems to be a pandemic of parents not parenting.

I realize there are parents who are too demanding and autocratic. There are parents who are controlling and dictatorial. But, that is not the true definition of good parenting.

Neither is the abdication of parenting roles. A parent is not a friend, a peer, a buddy.

Parenting involves both training and teaching, loving, counseling, protecting, providing for.

As adults, we have restrictions.

There are natural laws for which we will suffer the consequences -- jump off the roof of a house and see if there are negative consequences.

There are civic laws -- try speeding in a school zone and see if there are consequences.

To function well, peacefully in a community, a society, we must often do what we don't want to do and not do what we want to do.

Do I want to burn leaves? If it's windy, i'd better not or I may put both my property and my neighbor's at risk.

Do I not want to get out of bed on a cold, rainy morning? I may loose my job if I don't show up at work on time.

I must practice self-denial and self-discipline to be the best I can be. So, too, I need to help my children learn to practice discipline and that comes little by little and step by step.

When a toddler is tired and cranky, he or she may need a nap. Each child has different sleep needs, but a schedule helps in running a household with children. Having a quiet time after lunch is a good time to recharge for children and mothers alike.

I recently heard a mother ask a 14-month-old if she wanted to eat her lunch. I said something about telling her, not asking her, and she said, she has autonomy.

There are occasions and opportunities to allow a child to learn to make decisions. Offer two different shirts and let them decide whether to wear the red or the blue shirt. But, do not ask whether they want to get dressed as you prepare to leave the house. You know they need to get dressed. Kindly tell them it's time to get dressed.

If we don't help young children learn to obey, we fail them and they may become slaves of their own impulses.

Not all impulses need to be acted upon. Parents can help their children recognize that.

And, lessons aren't learned immediately. Parents need to have patience, both with themselves and their children.

Helping a small child come when called or stop when told "stop" or "no" takes repetition and perseverance. Those simple instructions may save their life one day.

Parenting isn't just external controls, it's teaching the children internal controls so, as they mature, they adopt the disciplines needed to rule themselves.

Scripture says a person without self-control is like a city broken down and without walls. That analogy may not mean anything to today's culture as we do not live in walled cities. But, try to envision the days of the old when walls around a city, a fort, protected the inhabitants from wild animals or enemies.

Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five years. A native of Louisiana, she moved to northwest Arkansas in 1980 to work for the Benton County Daily Record. She has nine children, six sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law, nine grandsons and six granddaughters with another grandson due this summer. The opinions expressed are those of the author. She can be reached at [email protected].