When Parents Don’t Parent

It was inevitable. And the sad thing is, we can expect more of the same.

Saturday I read a column written by Shirlee Smith about a mom who’s 13-month-old baby drowned. Not in a backyard pool, but in the family bathtub. The mom, you see, was in the living room on Facebook.

No, she didn’t claim addiction to social media as the reason she neglected her child. Rather, she explained that the baby “was very independent and wanted to be alone.” So of course, the mother complied and left the infant alone.

Isn’t that what parents are supposed to do — discern the wishes of their children and do whatever it takes to comply? You’d think so by listening to the way some parents talk to their children or by listening to some of the debate Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has spawned.

This book, currently number 2 on the NYT Best Seller list for non-fiction, discusses parenting the Chinese way, making contrasts to a Western parenting style. According to Ms. Chua, the Chinese method means the parents hold children to a high standard. Clearly this means the parents are in charge. The children don’t call the shots. No 13-month-old Chinese baby ordering his parent out of the bathroom because he wants to be alone.

Sadly, though, this Chinese method is full of equally unacceptable treatment:

Lots of verbal abuse, such as calling your kid garbage if he or she screws up … In Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the Yale law school professor sets out to explain why she thought the Chinese approach to raising kids was superior to the Western way. And why her rebellious daughter is making her regret some of those choices.
“Chinese Parent Amy Chua Talks Extreme Discipline and Parenting Regrets”

Sadly, in researching for this post, I came across another site that was reporting the purported negative affects of physical discipline on children. Then this interesting item:

Mothers in Thailand were least likely to physically discipline their children, followed by mothers in China, the Philippines, Italy, India, and Kenya, with mothers in Kenya most likely to physically discipline their children.

So according to this list, it would seem that mothers in China are ahead of the game because they don’t spank their children — they tell them, instead, that they are garbage.

Where, oh where, is the Biblical model? Why are we listening to people who abuse their children verbally or those who lead to utter neglect? Why do we think a child can possibly know what is best for him, more so than his parent does?

First, we’ve cut ourselves off from nature. Anyone who watches Animal Kingdom ought to know that mothers of a species teach their young how to be. Apparently humans think we’ve evolved past that. Or something.

Second, we are cut off from God. We don’t take His word for the fact that our tiny little bundles of joy are desperately wicked and if allowed to go their own way without correction will do desperately wicked things. Selfish things. Hurtful things. To themselves and to others.

I bet that poor mother whose baby drowned now realizes this.

Published in: on February 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. Another great post.


  2. I am trying to figure out how a 13 month-old baby communicated to his mother that he “wanted to be alone.”

    Frankly, my kids weren’t capable of having that thought–let alone expressing it as “Leave me alone, Mommy,” until they were at least 4 or 5, and even then–they were more likely to require my presence than my absence! (not that I was about to let them call the shots, either!)


  3. […] This book, currently number 2 on the NYT Best Seller list for non-fiction, discusses parenting the Chinese way, making contrasts to a Western parenting style. According to Ms. Chua, the Chinese method means the parents hold children to … christian parenting – Google Blog Search […]


  4. Parenting is hard. And there is so much out there telling you how to do it. But I can say that when I became a mom, I prayed more and came to understand God more. He shows us by his own example how to parent. To love, to discipline, to make the tough choices. But God’s hand is always there for us and so mine needs to be in God’s hand and extended towards my children’s.


  5. Sally, thanks for the feedback.

    Krysti, I wondered about that same thing! I suppose he could have been yelling and screaming “no” but I still wonder how she deduced this was meant for her to leave him alone.

    Regardless, the idea that a 13-month-old gets to decide these things is insane. This view of children has got to stop or we’ll be handing guns and knives to two-year-olds because they want them, feed children only sweets which they’ll wash down with cola, and never send a one of them to school (or teach them at home). Seriously, we have to wake up and decide that parenting is a good thing, a noble thing, and above all, a necessary thing.

    And yes, Morgan, undoubtedly it is hard. It dawned on me as I reread your opening line that if children weren’t sinful, parenting would be pretty easy because then they would want what was good, right, honorable, and true.

    Also, if parenting were easy, I don’t think the Bible would give such clear instructions about the job — raising kids in the admonition of the Lord, instructing them in the way they should go, teaching them the fear of the Lord, and the use of the rod to drive away foolishness. “Good” children wouldn’t be so inclined to go their own way instead of God’s, and that seems like it would make parenting … well, a lot more fun! 😉



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