In 1998 Newsweek ran a cover story titled “DO PARENTS MATTER?” prompted by the release of a controversial book by Judith Harris called The Nurture Assumption. Harris attempted to show that parents’ behavior toward children – for better or worse – has very little influence in the development of a child’s wellbeing. In the age old debate of nature vs. nurture, she landed solidly on the side of nature: people become whatever their genetic code determines. Smiles or slaps from parents matter little – so said Harris.
Her book sold well. Baby Boomers, so quick to blame our parents for our dysfunction, feared that we too would be blamed by our kids, and so eagerly devouring theories like the one espoused by Harris. If a kid’s character is all predetermined, we’re off the hook.
Wishful thinking… That was eleven years ago. Today the debate still rages, with new evidence coming to light countering Harris’ contentions. The most recent research now reveals just how “plastic” our brains are, and how much love, words of affirmation, and smiles from loving adults serve to form the minds and bodies of young children. Evidently, parents and parents’ behavior really DO MATTER!
This, it seems to me is both good news and bad news for those of us with children. We are needed and we are necessary. But then again, we are never good enough to live up to this responsibility! If our love matters, then our mistakes matter as well. This reminds me of the kid, about to be disciplined by his father. His father asked, “Son, what got into you? How could you do such a thing?” The boy replied: “I don’t know dad, is it heredity or environment?” And that’s the problem, isn’t it. It’s both, and as parents, we’re responsible for both!
Prayer is the only hope for us and for our children. As parents we’re doomed to failure at some time on some level. Our reach is limited. Our influence falls short. But where we are imperfect, there God can and will compensate with a miracle. He’s actually stacked the deck to make our job impossible, so impossible that if we don’t rely on him, we’re bound to fail. Praying for our children isn’t just an option, it’s life and death. Without God covering our mistakes, our children are destined, by heredity and environment to repeat the same cycles of failure that have doomed us!
This month we’re focusing on prayers for our children, particularly our school-aged children. It’s not an elective course! We have to pass this test! We have to learn to pray.
I invite you to visit here daily and join our prayer journey. Pass the word to others you know who have children and dive in with the conversation, offer your wisdom, your experience, as well as your requests for help and perspective. We’re all rookies at the business of raising children. My wife Jill and I have four kids ranging for 22 down to 12, and we still feel like amateurs. We need God’s strength, wisdom and power to cover our mishaps. That’s why prayer really is the first and last parental skill required for our children’s healthy development. Without God they are left with only earthly parents. And we all know too well just how inadequate that formula really is!