About ten years ago I suddenly developed a strong interest in family history.  Since then, many hours in courthouses and libraries have uncovered lots of names, places and dates, and, in a few cases, homely details that reveal images of flesh-and-blood characters.  While neither notoriety nor nobility has shown up among my forbears, there is a clear pattern of belief in the god of the Bible and of diligent effort to improve one's lot in life -- characteristics that are shared by most of those who made their way from Europe to America.  Those are among the many virtues that have been passed on from generation to generation.  But today, sociologists are questioning whether the natural process through which this transfer of values has always occurred may now be threatened by new, powerful influences in our culture; children may no longer adopt the standards of their parents as a matter of course.  As responsible parents, your job is to see to it that the values you believe in are transferred to your children.  Achieving that goal may require special effort.

1.  What are the characteristics of our culture that you feel are badly in need of change?
    America has become a world leader in divorce, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, materialism, lack of civility in behavior, speech, music, entertainment and dress.  Lack of integrity and racial intolerance at all levels of our society are serious and growing problems.  We seem to be living in a world that a New Testament writer described nearly two thousand years ago:

. . . There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power. . .
                                                                                       (2 Tim. 3:1-5. New International Version)
2.  What do you see as the principal causes of these cultural deficiencies?
    There are many causes that can be cited, but three seem to stand out.  First is that what we know as "the media" is unregulated, profit-driven and extremely influential; they feel no responsibility for the social consequences of their activities.  Second, technological progress has opened the way for a two-worker economy, reducing the influence of parents on the family.  And third, in an increasingly urban and sophisticated society, accountability to the community or to a higher authority is no longer a significant influence on behavior.

3.  How are you going to combat these forces in your family?
    The only weapons available to parents for countering the destructive forces that are at work to destroy families are discipline, instruction and example.  By establishing respect for your authority, teaching the principles you believe in, and demonstrating that you actually live by those principles, you will have done all you can to prepare your child for life.  Of course, this is a rather simplistic statement that addresses an enormously important and complex set of issues.  But the fact is that in the early years of your child's life, you passively (by example) and actively (by instruction) establish in him an attitude toward such things as religion, drugs, divorce, etc., which determines how he will respond to them many years later.

    You should instill an awareness of “being different” (not better) and not like the rest of world.  Teach him that you march to a different drummer, the God of the Bible.  Be an active, regular member of your local congregation.  Make devotion to God a vital and visible part of your family life.  Many families establish regular times to be together for Bible reading and prayer as a means of building a consciousness of their proper relationship with God.

   One of the most important policy decisions parents are faced with relates to television; should we simply pull the plug, or should we develop a plan that will protect our child from the bad and yet let him enjoy and learn from the good?  Many parents are taking the first approach and completely eliminating TV from their home environments.  I think you should give serious consideration to doing just that.  Try it out for a few months to test the results.  The positive effects, such as developing closer family relationships and stimulating creativity in the child, are obvious.  You may find that it opens a brand new world.

    Without solid data to back me up, I suspect that limited exposure to morally corrupting television messages will have little impact on a child under six.  This means that when you establish a family policy that puts restrictions in place during those early years, the real benefit will come later, when the child is more apt to be susceptible to believing that TV represents the real world.

    But there is another, more subtle effect of prolonged TV watching that is starting to concern professional educators.  We've all observed a steady decrease in the length of time an image remains on the television screen, especially in movies, cartoons and commercials.  Constant exposure to these fleeting pictures may be producing a generation of children whose attention span is severely limited, with serious consequences for classroom learning ability.

    Whatever you decide to do about the TV issue, you can be certain that your own watching habits will have more impact on your child's attitude than any policy you may establish.  If Mom lives on a steady diet of "soap," she shouldn't expect to be successful trying to teach her children that TV is harmful to moral health.

4.  What must you teach now to avoid the factors listed above (No. 1) being exhibited by your children?
   Divorce - Try to model the “ideal” family relationships in your family (Eph. 5:22-6:4) so that your children see marriage in a positive light.  Teach them the nature and permanence of the marriage commitment by your example and your instruction.

   Crime - Show that you respect the authority of the law.  Instill in your child a sensitivity for the feelings and rights of others.  Point out to them the human consequences of criminal acts -- the pain, the loss and the suffering that they cause.

   Drugs/alcohol/tobacco - As early as possible, instill ardent fear of these agents; teach your children how they can destroy life.  Explain the meaning of “addiction” and show how easily these substances can take control of a person.

    Materialism - Avoid the excessive use of “things” as rewards, goals and objectives.  Teach your children that happiness is derived from relationships, worth and service, not from possessions.  Encourage and display concern for those less fortunate and let them see that you are willing to share.

    Carefully consider your family’s approach to Christmas gift giving.  We live in an affluent society where most parents find themselves financially able and willing to inundate their children with toys and games in an annual orgy of indulgence.  It seems that they do this knowing all the while that it's wrong and that it doesn't produce the joy and gratitude that they intend.  Grandparents recognize the problem, too, but usually fall right in step with the parents.  If you want to break the cycle - - and you should - - start now with a plan to make Christmas mean something besides materialistic madness!

    Civility - Display and require respect, politeness and courtesy in all dealings within the family. This means that Mom and Dad are careful to say please, thank you and may I? to each other and that they require the same from their children.  Place proper emphasis on manners, speech and dress; they offer opportunities to bring honor or dishonor to God, to the family and to the child.  Don't feel that your child has a right to dress or style their hair any way they please; teach them that there are standards that apply to your family that may not be those of their peers.  What is "cool" for a girl may not be modest and may send dangerous messages about her character that she neither intends nor appreciates.

   Integrity - You are the example of integrity for your child; never deceive him and never let him see you twisting the truth in your dealings with others.  Practice what you teach.  Keep your word.

    Intolerance - Display respect for all people, regardless of race or station in life.  Instill a sensitivity for the feelings and rights of others.

    The values you hold to be important will not be transferred to your children without conscious effort on your part.  To be successful, you must not only display those values in yourselves, but you must also work diligently to make your training more effective than the media and the cultural influences which are in direct competition with yours.  An active, visible resolve to live according to the standards provided by God is essential.

Next: Putting it all together.
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Parenting 1.01 Bible-based Basics for New Parents by Gordon Rampy