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Parenting Is – Has Always Been – Tough

Keith McCurdy

Has our job as parents gotten tougher than it used to be?  Did our parents have an easier job or did they do a better job?  Two statements come to mind when I think of this.  “There is nothing new under the sun” and “Times are changing.”  I hear both regularly depending on which group I am talking to and there seems to be strong support for each.

Could it be that both are correct?

I remember in High School when we heard a classmate was pregnant. This was never truly confirmed because after the rumor started, she was gone.  The assumption was that she moved away to live with family in another state to have and raise the baby.  There was no celebration, no baby showers with friends, and no rumor of a teenage marriage.

Now, I am not suggesting at all that this is the best method of managing a teenage pregnancy.  Clearly being in a loving home with involved and loving parents for support and guidance is a better model.  The point is that the message was clear; teenagers are not to get pregnant.  It was serious business.  In contrast, I was appalled over the weekend when I saw a television commercial for a new “morning after” pill.  The commercial showed young and loving looking couples, with no clear evidence of being married, and mentioned how wonderful and easy it was to avoid these mistakes.  There slogan is “For when the unexpected happens – just one pill.”

Another example from my teenage years is when a friend began using drugs.  It was tough maintaining the friendship.  Due to his behavior, not many wanted to hang around him.  The pressure at that time was that using drugs was not the thing to do.  Yes, there were kids that used and got drunk with regularity, but it wasn’t the social pastime it seems to be today.  It was seen as delinquent.

Now, on a regular basis, teens struggle with fitting in for the exact opposite reason.  I hear regularly how difficult it is to go out and have fun when “I am the only one at the party that doesn’t want to drink or get high.”  We have actors, actresses, musicians, etc. who regularly discuss the virtues of pot use and encourage the legalization of such whenever they have an audience.  We have magazines and websites solely dedicated to teaching our youth how to grow and cultivate their own crops.

With these two anecdotal examples, consider that both statements are true.  “There is nothing new under the sun” is very accurate when considering that drugs, teen pregnancy, binge drinking, etc. have all gone on for years and will most likely continue.  There is nothing new about temptation, poor choices and bad behavior.  At the same time, “Times are changing.”  One of the biggest changes is that the access and availability of these choices and decisions is much more simplified.  We have always had these temptations and yes they are more easily pursued in our lives today.

So parenting has always been tough but is now tougher.  The main reason for this is that the cultural message our children hear is very different.  We face a culture today that squares off against us as parents.  For the most part, unhealthy choices were discouraged when we were younger.  Today, these unhealthy or immoral choices and decisions are culturally encouraged.  In fact, in most cases they are pushed as the cultural mainstream and portrayed as expected.  We have to vigorously fight this battle for our kids yet we are surrounded by examples of giving in.

Here are a few that I have dealt with recently: The parent who smokes pot with his kids; The mom who gives her daughter condoms and tells her to be careful but provides no support for good decisions or virginity; The parents who catch their teenager using drugs and drinking with friends and send the other kids home without notifying their parents.  If you think this is the exception to the rule today, it is not.  We have to decide that we are going to fight these battles for our kids or the cultural message will overrun them. Parenting is tougher today but the stakes are the same, the welfare of our children.

Everybody needs to join the fight.  To prepare, ask yourself: Do I have boundaries that reflect my morals and values?  Am I either limiting exposure to or equipping my child to handle situations that challenge this boundary system?  Am I actively giving my child a separate message than culture that matches these morals and values through what I say, how I live, the decisions I make?  Am I seeking out other surroundings, environments, activities, etc. that also support and send a healthy message for my kids?  Am I active in what my child does, watches, views on the internet, listens to on their Ipod?  Am I supporting and encouraging healthy relationships and setting limits on and discouraging unhealthy ones?  Our children are worth the fight!

By Keith McCurdy
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