I was probably somewhere between 10 and 12 years old when some friends and I went to a waterpark in Sapporo, Japan (where I lived as a kid). We were making our way from the outdoor pool to the indoor pool when someone grabbed me, lifted me up, and threw me across the water. I heard the man say, in broken English, “We don’t want your kind around here!” (BTW, incidents like this, while memorable, were relatively few and I am incredibly grateful for a chance to grow up overseas.)
If we were horsing around or causing problems in general I don’t remember, but it’s possible. Nevertheless, had my dad been there, I’m certain he would have said something like “Get your hands off my kid!” I know because that’s what I would say if someone did that to my kid. A dad can spank, yell, bop, ground, and within reason do pretty much whatever he wants to with his kids because his kids belong to him. But if something doesn’t belong to you, as I say to my 3 year old frequently, get your hands off of it.
I suppose in our upside down world that some explanation is necessary when stating that children belong to their parents. Axiomatic principles are the hardest to explain because they need no explanation, like the wings of an airplane need no feathers. But when a society loses its grip on the axiomatic, those who state the obvious are gawked at like a man dressed up like a lady used to be gawked at. You know, back when something as axiomatic as male and female was still understood.
So parents have authority over their children the way that an author has authority over his writing. Copyright laws are the legal reflection of something that is already there. Nature decrees and wise men weave those decrees into statutes. Because parents bring children into the world, those children belong to them, and parents have a right to tell others to get their hands off their kids. And not just physically – their hearts belong to us as well as their bodies. This is the God-ordained government of the family.
(There does come a point where a parent loses their authority over their children. The first is when they abuse their authority via violence or refuse to accept their authority via neglect. Both instances should be obvious before a child is removed from their home. The second is when the child matures to the point of being responsible for their own well being, which is the goal of good parenting.)
I have ministered to children and youth in my community for the last twenty years, so I have been around the block and speak with some experience. I have also fostered children, which is an incredibly hard job and I, who did not excel at it, have a huge appreciation for those who do it well. I have seen cases of abuse and neglect first hand, so I know those things really do happen. But what happens far more frequently is that parents, particularly Christian parents, are unaware of how many people have their hands on their kids. Here’s a short list:
The most obvious one is the influence of media/technology. I would guess that every youth pastor in America has heard these words from a parent, “I had no idea they were looking at that!” So if your kids have a phone, a tablet, a TV, or a friend with any of those, they’ve probably seen things that they should not. It wasn’t too long ago that Youtube Kids, which advertises itself as family friendly and safe, had a video of a lady being interviewed by a kid about her abortion. It’s not just pornography, although there is an abundant supply of every deviant behavior known to mankind, it’s also the ideology of a screwed up culture that they are imbibing.
Or what about the public education system? How many hours do your kids spend away from you every day being exposed to all sorts of nonsense by other kids, teachers, curriculum, etc…? Think about the sheer number of hours your children are NOT surrounded by godliness, truth, and virtue in a given week. Do you really think school is a “safe place”? This one is worthy of a complete post, so maybe I’ll get around to it soon.
Another bizarre abdication of authority I have witnessed over and over again is the parent who thinks they have no right to interfere in their kid’s friendships or romances. Many kids don’t handle peer pressure well, and while they want to do right their vertebrae has not quite solidified yet. They may actually be relieved when their parents don’t allow them to hang out with the crowd to whom they cannot say no. Along those lines, I frankly have to exercise self-restraint at the moms I have met who know their daughter (young teenage daughters, mind you) is having sex (often with a much older boy) and keeps this from the father. I have also met dads who thought he had no right to tell his daughter that that boy isn’t coming over anymore. Again, I am not advocating some kind of isolationist mentality, but if your kids are going to form terrible relationships at least put up some resistance instead of enabling them. Teach your kids what a true friend is and whatever you do, don’t let your kids get their idea of a healthy romantic relationship from TV or (what used to be called) sex-ed.
I could keep going, but what I really want to communicate to parents is that it really is ok to get those hands off your kids. It’s ok to take away their phones. It’s ok to contradict what they are taught at school. It’s ok to to impart your beliefs to your kids, because God knows that this is not a neutral world we are living in. When it comes to germs and physical safety, our world is filled with helicopter parents. But when it comes to their hearts, parents are MIA. Don’t be that parent. If you do not exercise your responsibility to govern your household, somebody else will.