For a short while I was a youth pastor. I used to play a game with the group called, â€œSpot the Lie.â€ The idea was that advertising, music and TV often contain subtle lies. It’s why Budweiser uses finely sculpted women to sell beer, Barbies are never fat, and even old guys look cool with an iPod. I’d play a song or commercial for the kids and see who could spot the lie. Usually, there was more than one lie, but they were not always easy to recognize.
On a much bigger scale, parenting is teaching our kids how to spot the lie.
Of course, sometimes it’s much easier to tell our kids something is a lie than give them the tools to discern it themselves. I have a pastor friend who forbid his kids from watching The Wizard of Oz. Why? Because there was a Good Witch, and everyone knows witches are not good. Instead of walking his children through the issues or focusing on more healthy elements of the story, he posted a KEEP OUT sign. And the strictures only got tighter. Once his kids were teens, he banned them from listening to rap music and censured other activities.
Is it any wonder that his daughter ran away from home at 16?
There’s a big difference between forbidding little Jimmy from playing in the street and forbidding teenage Jimmy from listening to rap music. Nevertheless, many parents are tempted to do both. But if parenting is like a funnel, we should be empowering our children as they grow; giving them the tools of discernment and trusting them to use them, granting them more autonomy, and relinquishing control. And this is where many parents struggle — we have a hard time letting go.
Just as with religion, parenting is a balancing act between
Legalism and License
Some churches forbid their women from wearing makeup, ban drinking and smoking, and believe TV, drums, electric guitars and tattoos are of the devil. Their list of rules is as long and as the road to membership is narrow. On the other hand, there’s churches who endorse gay weddings, wink at numerous vices, deny the existence of Hell, and hold Bible studies in the local pub. On one side is a religion of law, on the other, lawlessness; on one hand, rules and restrictions, on the other, permissiveness. One denies grace, the other abuses it.
Most parents teeter between these two extremes: Some over-emphasize LAW, others over-emphasize GRACE. Either we create an environment of rules and rigidity, where approval is earned and formula enforced, or we employ unconditional approval and simply let little Jimmy do his own thing.
In my experience, I’ve encountered far more parents who are legalistic than those who are not. Why? I have a theory. Really two.
- Rules are easier to manage, monitor and enforce than grace is to control.
- Grace requires letting go, and we fear letting go.
More. . .