If I had the means to do it, I would buy a copy of a book entitled Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a Really Big Problem by Kevin Deyoung for all of our students, parents, and staff. It is a book about a problem we all feel and will feel intensely.
As I read this book, the most surprising chapter was one called, “A Cruel Kinderarchy.” In it, he discussed busyness that comes when God adds kids to a family. Deyoung writes:
We live in a strange new world. Kids are safer than ever before, but personal anxiety is skyrocketing. Children have more options and more opportunities, but parents have more worry and hassle. We have put unheard-of amounts of energy, time, and focus into our children. And yet, we assume their failures will almost certainly be our fault for not doing enough. We live in an age where the future happiness and success of our children trumps all other concerns. No labor is too demanding, no expense is too high, and no sacrifice is too great for our children. A little life hangs in the balance, and everything depends on us (65).
While the motivation behind this is often commendable, the author argues the result may not be what we had hoped.
He argues few factors which contribute to the anxiety. One is what he calls the myth of the perfect parent. The pressure to be the perfect parent makes parenthood one of the greatest bastions of legalism in our world. Hence, “we live in a permissive society that won’t count any sin against you as an adult, but will count the calories in your kid’s hot lunches” (67). With a legion of new rules coming out every day—warning against this and encouraging that—it is a small miracle I have grown to adulthood, considering that my mom fed me cereal every morning with—have mercy on us all—2% milk!
The net result is that “we think of our children as amazingly fragile and entirely moldable.” Consequently, “We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children” (68).
This creates a great pressure to overestimate our ability to shape our children’s future identity. While we are, no doubt, the greatest influencers in their lives, there is so much about the future that is out of our control. We will not determine the economic climate in which they grow up. We will not be the decisive factor in bringing about world peace. We will not control what sicknesses they experience.
Understanding this gives us the ability to focus on what we can do today, which may be one of the best things we can do for our kids, helping us to become less frantic.
That is what researcher Ellen Galinsky found. She interviewed more than a thousand children in grades 3 through 12 and asked parents to guess how they would respond. One key question was, “What is one thing they would change about the way their parent’s work was affecting them?” The results were shocking. For example, most parents scored pretty well when it came to making the child feel important. “The biggest weakness, according to the kids, was anger management. More than 40 percent of kids gave their moms and dads a C, D, or F on controlling their tempers” (70).
In light of this, some have concluded that our kids are suffering from “secondhand stress,” which means, “By trying to do so much for them, we are actually making our kids less happy” (71).
What does that mean? DeYoung argues, we as parents should do more for our kids by doing less for them. Instead of pushing them so hard, we must learn to pull them in close to us. Instead of trying to determine their future through our decisions for them, we should relax, enjoy them, and train them to make godly decisions in God’s appointed time. Thus, we pray, asking God to grant us wisdom to lead them well.