Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Is sheltering children a bad thing? What are children for anyway?

Marriage and family

Marriage and family

Lindsay and Doug Harold are Christian super-parents who do recommend sheltering kids. But the way they do it is interesting. Lindsey writes about it on her Lindsay’s Logic blog.

She writes:

People often criticize parents who are careful about what their children watch, listen to, or read or who monitor their friends and influences very carefully. This criticism is very commonly made of homeschooling parents, though it has certainly been applied to others as well. The claim is that these parents are sheltering their children too much and that they won’t know how to deal with the real world when they enter it upon reaching adulthood. Some even claim that sheltered children will be more likely to go crazy with the sudden freedom than children who have grown up exposed to evil things of the world and are used to them.

There seems to be a misunderstanding about what sheltering is and what its purpose is.

There’s a big difference between knowing about evil things that can happen and knowing evil by being steeped in it. It is certainly possible to shelter one’s children too much so that they are ignorant of reality and have no idea how to function in society or how to address the wrong ideas of the world. But that’s very rare. The greater danger is in putting children in the midst of evil before they are prepared (developmentally and spiritually) to handle it. That is by far the more common scenario and the one more likely to result in problems.

You don’t send a soldier into battle until he’s trained, and you don’t send a child into the world until he’s trained either. Children are very vulnerable and need protection until they are prepared to fight evil on their own.

Dina sent me this Gospel Coalition interview with Francis and Lisa Chan, that talked about the importance of training kids to have a specific purpose, too.

It says:

How has parenting seven kids affected your marriage? What’s your biggest piece of advice for fellow parents with respect to their marriages?

Children change everything. I am convinced God uses our children to cleanse us from self-centeredness. Babies demand that you move your focus off yourself and onto them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s only bad when they’re 13 and still believe everyone should drop whatever they’re doing to tend to their needs. It’s hard enough to fight self-centeredness in ourselves, but parents are given the task of training their children to live God-centered lives as well (Deut. 6:4–9).

Our biggest piece of advice would be to view your kids as assets rather than burdens. It used to be that people envied couples with many kids. It meant they had more help on the farm, with the business, around the home, and so on. When people hear we have seven kids now, though, they feel sorry for us! Why is it that for thousands of years children were a blessing, yet in the past few decades we’ve come to view them as burdens? Poor parenting. We raise them to either be burdens or assets. Good parenting involves teaching them to love and serve others rather than expecting to be constantly served. While we will always serve our kids to some degree, we also expect them to serve each other and those around us. Our children have been our biggest assets in ministry. Rather than distracting from kingdom work, they multiply it. Nine servants are better than two.

One of the things that’s scary to me is that if I did get married, my wife might be too soft on the children, and always let them have their way. Women sometimes want to be the child’s friend and not his parent. Men have a different view of children. We want them to be independent and to not starve, and to make a difference for God. So on the one hand, I want to be protective of them and shelter them from things they are not old enough to see, and on the other hand I want them to grow their skills in order to serve God. What a difficult balancing act – I am not sure I understand children well enough to manage it. But, that’s what a wife is for, right? She’s the Director of Child Development.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , ,

Jennifer Roback Morse lectures on sex and sexuality at Harvard University

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Morse delivers a talk based on her book “Smart Sex” at Harvard University.

The MP3 file is here. (21 Mb)

Topics:

  • the hook-up culture and its effects on men and women
  • cohabitation and its effect on marriage stability
  • balancing marriage, family and career
  • single motherhood by choice and IVF
  • donor-conceived children
  • modern sex: a sterile, recreation activity
  • the real purposes of sex: procreation and spousal unity
  • the hormone oxytocin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the hormone vassopressin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the sexual revolution and the commoditization of sex
  • the consumer view of sex vs the organic view of sex
  • fatherlessness and multi-partner fertility
  • how the “sex-without-relationship” view harms children

52 minutes of lecture, 33 minutes of Q&A from the Harvard students. The Q&A is worth listening to – the first question is from a gay student, and Dr. Morse pulls a William Lane Craig to defeat her objection. It was awesome! I never get tired of listening to her talk, and especially on the topics of marriage and family.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should you not teach your kids apologetics because “God is in control”?

I spotted this comment on Natasha Crain’s blog from someone who disagreed with her on training your kids to learn how to defend their faith.

The commenter “Hope” wrote this:

Because this is a blog you are no doubt restricted by trying to be concise and focused on one thought and, for the most part, in the midst of a dialogue with the people (like me) following your blogs…but in reading this out loud to others who are not following your blog, some things were pointed out that I might have noticed otherwise and thought I would mention.

First, thank you for the few tools in trying to help us with our children/grandchildren.

Here are some things we all must remember:

Everything hinges on God, who is the one ultimately in control. It does not hinge on our eloquence, finesse, or intellectual prowess. We can do everything right (or wrong) and still two identically raised children may go into extremely diverse directions.

Our children and grandchildren make their own personal choices.

The greatest tool we do have…even once the kids leave the nest, is PRAYER. Prayers is something sadly neglected by so many Christians. Being ill and many times unable to “do” much of anything, I have sadly in the past said “sorry, all I can do is pray”. I have learned to leave the word “all” out in that statement as I find it a privilege and honor to be able to pray. It is our right, our duty and an awesome responsibility.

I do enjoy your blogs and so look forward to your upcoming book, thank you so much and I will continue to pray for God’s guidance in all that you do and write!

I think her name is kind of ironic, since when it comes to her kids keeping their faith in college, “hope”, is all she has. I think this comment represents pretty well a very common attitude that Christian parents AND pastors AND church leaders have to the problem of children losing their faith. So let’s take a look at this.

What is the practical impact?

First thing to notice is that anyone who says this is basically clearing the way for themselves to not have to do any work. Apologetics is work.

To learn apologetics, I did things like this:

  • read books in subject areas I knew nothing about
  • order and listen to HUNDREDS of audio tapes from Veritas Forum, Access Research Network, Stand to Reason, Biola University, etc.
  • order and watch (many times) dozens of debates on VHS tapes and DVDs
  • order and watch (many times) dozens of lectures on VHS tapes and DVDs
  • attend conferences, debates and lectures locally, in other cities, and in other countries
  • reach out to non-crazy atheists in order to listen to their questions
  • form discussion groups with other apologists to find answers and discuss problems

This is what I had to do in order to answer the questions that people actually ask when deciding on theism and Christian theism, in particular.

Questions like these:

  • how do you know that God exists?
  • how do you know the Bible is reliable?
  • how do you know Jesus rose from the dead?
  • why does a good God allow suffering and evil?
  • why are there so many different religions?

Those are real questions, and they require real answers.

But Hope has a different way of answering those questions. She says:

  • I have no role in helping my children see why Christianity is true
  • Christianity is affirmed or denied by sheer act of will
  • Rational argument and evidence are irrelevant to knowing truths about God
  • Nothing I do can affect whether my children accept Christianity or not
  • All I can do is pray (which requires no spending of money, and no time commitment)

Practically speaking, I understand that this is what a person says when they want to rationalize not having to think, not having to read, not having to spend money, not having to acknowledge that some Christians know more than they do, not having to lift a finger to be a parent unless it feels good to them. They can be as self-centered and irresponsible as they want to be – which they would not be in any area that mattered to them – and then they can throw up their hands and say, “it’s not my fault”. You can easily imagine a case where a teacher told her students similar things – “I have no role in showing you what is true, you will have true beliefs about the material by sheer act of will, rational argument and evidence have nothing to do with this area of knowledge, I cannot control your beliefs about this subject, all I can do is pray for you to pass the tests”. Unless that teacher was unionized or tenured, she would be fired on the spot.

In fact, in NO OTHER AREA of life – not school, not work, not home-buying, not investing, not wedding-planning, not having the family over for the holidays, not planning a vacation, etc. – would this woman apply the method above, which is basically do nothing and pray. It’s very important to understand that. Hope will give her best effort in areas that matter to her, but when it comes to Christianity, she wants to DO NOTHING.

There is only one problem with this: it makes her feel bad when her children run off to follow Richard Dawkins. So when that happens, she has to explain why DOING NOTHING was actually the right thing to do. She has to justify herself to her religious peers when her children repudiate Christianity in the strongest possible way. And this is her justification – she is spiritually superior, and not to blame. She wants to put a pious whitewash on her laziness, ignorance and cowardice. And to make other people who are not lazy, not ignorant and not cowardly feel unspiritual, to boot. That’s the real reason why so many Christian parents and leaders say things like Hope.

The worst part of this is dealing with these parents and pastors is actually after the damage has already been done. Even when they are staring defeat in the face, they still resist any attempts to try to get them to engage by learning apologetics. They will continue to resist reading anything, watching anything, listening to anything – it’s very rare that you get one to “turn on” to apologetics and become passionate about it. It’s amazing to me. They are able to marshal all kinds of arguments about the things they care about. But not when their kids are at stake.

I think I am particularly bothered by men in church who follow sports more than apologetics. For them, Christianity is just about reading the Bible and showing up in church. But all the real effort goes into memorizing rosters, draft picks, fantasy leagues and other trivia.  It’s just depressing. Especially since men have the primary responsibility, either as parents or pastors. I really am not sure what to do about it, but it boils my blood to see the way these selfish grown-ups justify themselves with pious platitudes.

You can read Natasha’s much more civil blog post on Hope’s comment. She has a much more tolerant view, and more broad life experiences to draw on than I do. I am sure her feelings and approach would be much more tactful and effective than my angry response.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , ,

New study: children’s brains function better when they can see their mothers

The new study published in Psychological Science was reported in Pacific Standard.

Excerpt:

For little kids, seeing mom or dad nearby is a calming influence, maybe the difference between between perfect calm and a full-bore freakout. It’s as if having a trusted caregiver nearby transforms children from scared toddlers into confident adolescents. And in a way, a new report suggests, that’s what having mom around does to a kid’s brain.

When they’re first born and for years after, infants and young children can’t do a whole lot by themselves. They can’t eat on their own, they aren’t very good at managing their emotions, and it takes a while for them to learn how to dress themselves. Most children figure it out eventually, but in the meantime they need their parents to do a lot of that stuff for them. All the while, their brains are changing, too. Well into adolescence, kids’ brains undergoanatomical and physiological changes that affect the way we think and act.

[…]Young children’s brains responded differently based on whether they were looking at their mothers or strangers. In particular, their brains showed signs of positive amygdala-PFC connections when viewing pictures of strangers, but negative connections when viewing pictures of their mothers, suggesting more mature and stable brain function—and likely more mature and stable behavior, at least when moms were around. In contrast, tweens and teens had negative connections whether they were looking at their mothers or strangers. In other words, looking at pictures of their mothers made young children’s brains look a little more like those of adolescents.

The companion behavioral experiment backed up that thinking—young children made around 20 percent fewer errors when their mothers were present than when they weren’t, while there was no difference for adolescents. That combined with the fMRI results to suggest that mothers—and likely other caregivers—can provide an external source of mental regulation that young children won’t develop until later in life, the authors write in Psychological Science.

In view of the recent triumphs for gay marriage advocates, I think it’s worth remembering that gay marriage, like single motherhood, is not the best we can do for children. I think it’s a bad enough situation when the husband dies and leaves his children to be raised by the mother. That’s hard, but it’s not immoral. On the other hand, I think that deliberately choosing to deprive a child of his or her mother or father IS immoral. It’s child abuse, in my opinion. And that goes for gay marriage as well as “single motherhood by choice”. I also oppose frivolous divorce (“frivorce”), which is very popular in a nation that views structured courtship as “boring” and no-fault divorce as a woman’s right.

Previously, I blogged about another study that showed the importance of moms for young children.

Excerpt:

Both of these images are brain scans of a two three-year-old children, but the brain on the left is considerably larger, has fewer spots and less dark areas, compared to the one on the right.

According to neurologists this sizeable difference has one primary cause – the way each child was treated by their mothers.

The child with the larger and more fully developed brain was looked after by its mother – she was constantly responsive to her baby, reported The Sunday Telegraph.

But the child with the shrunken brain was the victim of severe neglect and abuse.

According to research reported by the newspaper, the brain on the right worryingly lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left.

The consequences of these deficits are pronounced – the child on the left with the larger brain will be more intelligent and more likely to develop the social ability to empathise with others.

But in contrast, the child with the shrunken brain will be more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crimes, much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on state benefits.

The child is also more likely to develop mental and other serious health problems.

Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, told The Sunday Telegraph that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, it can have a fundamental impact on development.

He pointed out that the genes for several aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot function.

[…]The study correlates with research released earlier this year that found that children who are given love and affection from their mothers early in life are smarter with a better ability to learn.

The study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found school-aged children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.

The research was the first to show that changes in this critical region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing, Neurosciencenews.com reports.

The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry, said the study reinforces how important nurturing parents are to a child’s development.

I have a very good feminist non-Christian friend who sometimes comments here. I once asked her about marriage and she said that her skills would be wasting on raising children. I explained to her my view that a mother needs to stay at home with the children, and that is more important work. I expect my future wife to read all kinds of books on child care and to give the child attention, nutrition, exercise and play so that the child will grow up to be an effective Christian. Maybe I need to be clear. I am not going to spend hundreds of thousands per child with just any woman. I need a woman who can produce influential and effective Christians who will engage in the public square. And we do not entrust that job to just anyone. We want educated, professional women who are willing to be stay-at-home moms when it’s necessary to do that – for the sake of the children.

I expect the woman I marry (if I marry) to have a college degree, and preferably a graduate degree, and at least a couple of years of employment. Then she has to stay home and invest in those children through the first five years, at least. After that she can stay home or work as much as she thinks is beneficial to the family goals of impacting the university, the church and the public square – as well as continuing to raise those children. It’s not a waste of her talent to make the next William Lane Craig, or the next Marsha Blackburn, or the next Doug Axe, or the next Edith Hollan Jones.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

Growing up with two lesbian mothers: a child’s perspective

A man raised by two lesbians tells his story in the latest Public Discourse. (H/T Brian)

Introduction:

The children of same-sex couples have a tough road ahead of them—I know, because I have been there. The last thing we should do is make them feel guilty if the strain gets to them and they feel strange.

Between 1973 and 1990, when my beloved mother passed away, she and her female romantic partner raised me. They had separate houses but spent nearly all their weekends together, with me, in a trailer tucked discreetly in an RV park 50 minutes away from the town where we lived. As the youngest of my mother’s biological children, I was the only child who experienced childhood without my father being around.

After my mother’s partner’s children had left for college, she moved into our house in town. I lived with both of them for the brief time before my mother died at the age of 53. I was 19. In other words, I was the only child who experienced life under “gay parenting” as that term is understood today.

Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors. People in our community didn’t really know what was going on in the house. To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A’s.

Inside, however, I was confused. When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, in a fundamental way striking at basic physical relations, you grow up weird. I have no mental health disorders or biological conditions. I just grew up in a house so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.

A striking snippet:

In terms of sexuality, gays who grew up in traditional households benefited from at least seeing some kind of functional courtship rituals around them. I had no clue how to make myself attractive to girls. When I stepped outside of my mothers’ trailer, I was immediately tagged as an outcast because of my girlish mannerisms, funny clothes, lisp, and outlandishness. Not surprisingly, I left high school as a virgin, never having had a girlfriend, instead having gone to four proms as a wisecracking sidekick to girls who just wanted someone to chip in for a limousine.

When I got to college, I set off everyone’s “gaydar” and the campus LGBT group quickly descended upon me to tell me it was 100-percent certain I must be a homosexual. When I came out as bisexual, they told everyone I was lying and just wasn’t ready to come out of the closet as gay yet. Frightened and traumatized by my mother’s death, I dropped out of college in 1990 and fell in with what can only be called the gay underworld. Terrible things happened to me there.

It was not until I was twenty-eight that I suddenly found myself in a relationship with a woman, through coincidences that shocked everyone who knew me and surprised even myself. I call myself bisexual because it would take several novels to explain how I ended up “straight” after almost thirty years as a gay man.

Click here for the rest. I blogged before about a study that found that gay parents are more likely to raise children who become gay.

Another good book that gives a first-person account is “Out From Under” by Dawn Stefanowicz.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , ,

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