Throughout my career as a freelance author, there have been certain themes I keep returning to. One of these themes is the necessity for parents to demonstrate to their children that Christianity is beautiful, that following Jesus is not simply the right thing to do but also lovely and attractive.
Christians have often failed to take seriously Friedrich Nietzsche’s critique that religion has a tendency to stifle joy and to bring death rather than life, and that consequently Christianity is life’s nausea. Sadly, what often passes for “Christianity” has often been nauseating and succeeds only in driving children away from the faith. Continue reading
Having benefited so much from Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, I was eager to read his latest book The Glass Cage: Automation and Us.
The book is about the consequences for humanity when so many of our tasks – from driving airplanes to keeping medical records – are increasingly being handed over to machines. You can be sure I’ll have plenty to share from this book in the days ahead since it relates to my ongoing interest in how hyper-pragmatism is forcing us to renegotiate what it means to be human.
For now I wanted to share a point Carr made along the way that is subsidiary to his overall theme but which relates to something I shared in my earlier post ‘Nine Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Parenting Teenagers‘ (It also relates to the Christian insights in the excellent book The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind.)
In my 2011 series ‘The Canterbury Letters‘ (of which I have only recently revealed myself to be the author), I made some observations about Christian parenting that may be helpful as a follow-up to my post ‘9 Things I Wish Someone Has Told Me About Parenting Teenagers.’ Below is what I wrote:
In my earlier post on parenting teens, I quoted Saint Porphyrios in words that are worth sharing on their own:
What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home. The parents need to devote themselves to the love of God. They need to become saints in their relation to their children through their mildness, patience and love. They need to make a new start every day, with a fresh outlook, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children. And the joy that will come to them, the holiness that will visit them, will shower grace on their children.
Generally the parents are to blame for the bad behavior of the children. Their behvaior is not improved by reprimands, disciplining or strictness. If the parents do not pursue a life of holiness and if they don’t engage in spiritual struggle, they make great mistakes and transmit the faults they have within them. If the parents do not live a holy life and do not display love towards each other, the devil torments the parents with the reactions of the children. Love, harmony and understanding between the parents are what are required for the children. This provides a great sense of security and certainty.
The behavior of the children is directly related to the state of the parents. When the children are hurt by the bad behavior of the parents towards each other, they lose the strength and desire to progress in their lives. Their lives and constructed shoddily and the edifice of their soul is in constant danger of collapsing.
Having been involved in raising three teenagers, I have sometimes been approached by other parents for advice with their teens. Perhaps it is providential that this doesn’t happen very often! When people do seek my advice, although the various situations differ widely, the problems usually revolve around the same sorts of general issues and so I usually end up saying the same things again and again. For what it’s worth, I’m going to share below what I normally say. This advice is what I wish someone had shared with me before I ever had teenagers. With regard to the personal anecdotes I will share, some of the circumstantial details have been altered to preserve the anonymity of the subjects. But first a disclaimer is necessary for those who may happen to know me: I am still learning to apply these principles myself. It is one of the ironies of life that by the time we finally learn all the lessons we need to know about being good parents, our last child is already grown.
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