Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Children and the Arrow

I recently finished reading "The Tipping Point" and it got me thinking. There were several thought-worthy ideas in the book, but I'm only going to touch on one of the last impressions: The idea of parenting.

Gladwell, and others whom I have read, all point to research that indicates the complete lack of "parental influence" on children. Studies have shown that it doesn't matter who you are as a parent, or what you try to do, or how much time you spend with your kids, they will turn out differently from you. In other words, what I learning in High School Psychology was wrong, at least partially. The Nature via Nurture idea does not apply to parents. Rather, it is one's peers that define who you become*.

This has been bothersome to me. Parenting is extremely important, right? "Well, sure," these researchers say, "just not in any of the ways we typically think." Whatever that means.

Then I took a shower this morning. This is hardly abnormal behavior for me, and perhaps I learned it from my parents, whom, I'm quite confident shower every morning as well. My wife does not. I have not spent enough nights at her family's house to gage whether she got that from her family or not either. But, I digress, slightly.

In the shower I remembered a sermon I heard, oh, years ago. In it my pastor described parenting like being a good archer, taken from the passage that says that children are like arrows. The goal of the archer is not to make the arrows, that's the work of a fletcher; rather, a good archer positions the arrow so it flies in the direction it should go. Thus, parenting is not molding your children into something, but rather recognizing who they are, what they are designed for, and then pointing them in the direction they should go and letting go. Good parenting is recognizing who your kids are and encouraging them in that.

This opens up a whole new response to the current research. Of course you can't make your kids turn out a certain way. That's already set in motion by who they are. The purpose of parenting is to gently, carefully, point the children in the right direction for who they are. Sure, instill values in your kids, teach them, encourage them to do good, but ultimately the job of a parent is to see where the child is designed to go, point them in that direction, and let them fly.

I've got more thoughts on kids bumping around in the back of my head, but I have to go to my nephew's first birthday party. I guess I'll have kids on my mind all day.

*These studies do not mention Homeschooling, so I'm curious to see how a kid whose peers are his family turns out.

~Luke Holzmann

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