Tag: parenting

Have You No Shame?

…Without a well-developed idea of shame, childhood cannot exist.

-Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood, p. 9

I bought this book used. The person who owned it before me made a comment in the margin that the sentence I have quoted above is ‘disturbing.’ I don’t think they understood the point.

Throughout the book, Postman is making the argument that the concept of childhood is a relatively young one that began to develop in the 16th Century after the invention of the printing press. With mass amounts of printed material becoming available, Westerners decided that children needed boundaries to protect them from the flood. Before that time, he argues, children essentially lived in an adult world. They did not go to specialized schools; they didn’t live lives essentially distinct from their parents. By the age of seven, they were a part of the work-force – whatever that looked like at the time.

The sense of shame he writes of is the sense that some things are shameful, or inappropriate, for certain groups of people – children in this case. Over the centuries, it became agreed that some things simply weren’t suitable for children, and parents were entrusted with being gatekeepers of such things.

Now, especially with the internet, but even with television before it, this task is all the more difficult; and even beyond the difficulty, Postman is asserting, we are losing the sense that many things are inappropriate for children to begin with. We are losing that sense of shame – the sense that there are boundaries, the sense that parents are to discern the acceptability of content introduced to their children. That is what is disturbing.

Blogging through The Disappearance of Childhood, by Neil Postman


-Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood (1982, 1994)

The publisher’s description:

From the vogue for nubile models to the explosion in the juvenile crime rate, this modern classic of social history and media traces the precipitous decline of childhood in America today ˆ’and the corresponding threat to the notion of adulthood.

Deftly marshaling a vast array of historical and demographic research, Neil Postman, author of Technopoly, suggests that childhood is a relatively recent invention, which came into being as the new medium of print imposed divisions between children and adults. But now these divisions are eroding under the barrage of television, which turns the adult secrets of sex and violence into popular entertainment and pitches both news and advertising at the intellectual level of ten-year-olds.

Informative, alarming, and aphorisitc, The Disappearance of Childhood is a triumph of history and prophecy.

I’ll be sharing quotes and thoughts for the next few weeks. Join me, won’t you?

Tension and Attention in Turning Pages

You’re reading a book – or at least you call yourself reading it. You zone out. You’ve turned two pages and come to the realization that your eyes have covered the words on those pages but hardly any of them has moved from the eyes to the mind.

I was reading a book while my kids were taking a bath. They came into my room and started talking. I was half reading the book and half listening to them. After turning a page I realized that by half reading and half listening I wasn’t actually listening or reading at all. Not a word on the pages registered and not a word my kids said registered. Perhaps this is a metaphor for life?

It goes back to an idea I’ve discussed on the blog before: ignore-ance (not ignorance). Ignore-ance is the conscious decision to ignore something. I needed to decide in that moment which object was a) more worthy of my attention and b) more worthy of ignoring. I found both to be worthy of attention and neither worthy of ignoring. The net result was the opposite of what I intended: they both got ignored.

We flip through pages without the words penetrating our souls. We flip through life without people penetrating our souls. And we are surprised to find that we are shallow in our intellects, emotion, and experience.

Whenever We Do Work Together (Living Into Focus)

Adopting technology often deeply affects our relationships and interactions. Maggie Jackson notes that even in the difficult and tedious labor of taking care of homes and families, whenever we do work together, ‘we’re creating the glue that binds us to the humans we love.’ She is concerned that the relationships may be thinning out so that we are ‘roommate families’ rather than having intimates with deep, intense interactions with each other.

-Arthur Boers, Living Into Focus, p. 16 (emphasis added)

Leah comments:

What really stuck out here for me was when Maggie Jackson said “…whenever we DO work together…” On a daily basis I struggle with involving my oldest son, who is 3, in some of the chores around the house. He likes doing it, but my desire to be “productive” fights against including him. I think “I could get this job done so much faster without him, and then get even MORE stuff done.” Yet, as Maggie points out, these experiences provide the “glue that binds us to the humans we love.” There are deeper objectives that must take priority. I hope to remember this.

I thought this was a great observation.

Today at work we had a down-time conversation about children. One of my co-workers just became a grandparent for the second time. He made the comment that two was enough. I began to ask probing questions at that point and found that his reasoning was basically that it is too expensive to have a bunch of children. I find that most people tend to reason that way nowadays.

This lead to me pontificating for a few minutes about the evils of our cultural system, which has become such that it wants us all to act like kids, but at the same time is not child-friendly. In generations gone by children were looked at as practical assets. In the Old Testament, for instance, male children were the greatest possible asset a family could have, because male children meant more hands to work in the farms and fields and to serve as protectors of the the family. Not so these days. We have built a culture in which children primarily exist to be served and and are not given the opportunity to serve.

Christians, seeking to live counter-culturally, and, more importantly, for the good of our children, must find ways to allow our children to serve. This may mean that we must allow them to make some messes with flour and eggs, and it may mean a few headaches for us, but it is vital that we allow them to serve. If we do not give them such opportunities, they will never be allowed to develop in their sanctification. Yes, kids need sanctification too. And a major part of our sanctification is learning to lovingly and joyfully serve others.

Ironically, no one ever serves others more willingly, lovingly, or joyfully, than when they are a child. My kids love to do things for me. It delights them. There’s just not a lot they can do from my perspective. But who cares about my perspective? Helping me scramble the eggs isn’t much from my perspective, but it’s huge from the perspective of a five-year-old. I need to serve my children by allowing them to serve. And these moments of service provide moments of familial intimacy, ‘the glue’ that binds families together in love and joy.

Did I mention that I can learn a lot about service from simply watching how joyfully my kids are willing to serve? Let’s remind our families that we are more than roommates with similar genetics.

20 Principles for Christian Parents (Richard Baxter)

Here I offer a condensed summary of Richard Baxter‘s The Duties of Parents for their Children:

1. Understand their need of a Savior and dedicate them to God’s covenant mercy

2. Teach them the principles of their relationship to the Covenant of Grace

3. Serve as an authority and do not let them be self-willed

4. Serve as a loving authority, both to be feared and befriended

5. Teach them to have reverence for the Scriptures and holy things

6. Always speak with reverence and seriousness about the things of God

7. Teach them by example to respect those who are worthy of respect and to loathe the life of sin and godlessness

8. Teach them and show them that the way of holiness is the way of happiness

9. Teach them of the dangers of sensuality and encourage them to care for their minds before their bodies

10. Teach them to care for their bodies and exercise physical self-control

11. Allow them to engage in sports and hobbies, but not to the point that those things become central priorities

12. Discourage pride and promote humility

13. Teach them of the dangers of materialism and seeking riches

14. Teach them to control their tongues from lying, crudeness, and taking the name of the Lord in vain

15. Guard them from company that will further corrupt them

16. Teach them to value time, improve time, and consider that their time is short

17. Use corrective discipline (a) not too often but not too little, b) according to the temperament and ability of the child, c) primarily for sins rather than pet-peeves, d) never when you are angry, e) with tenderness and love, f) with the aid of Scripture texts

18. Teach by example (not ‘do as I say; not as I do’); strive to be the person that you would desire them to emulate

19. Be proactive, not just a spectator, as they seek someone to marry

20. Especially for mothers: 1) Look for every opportunity to teach them throughout the day and 2) be especially concerned with teaching, and encouraging, them to read

A word for those who cannot have children:

But if God deny you children, and save you all this care and labour, repine not, but be thankful, believing it is best for you. Remember what a deal of duty, and pains, and heart’s grief he hath freed you from, and how few speed well, when parents have done their best: what a life of misery children must here pass through, and how sad the fear of their sin and damnation would have been to you.

Read the original work in its entirety HERE.