September 2005 - Volume 10, Issue 2
Recently, a caller to a popular sports radio talk show in New York City was questioning the trend of signing so many foreign players to professional baseball contracts and how owners are lavishing these players with lucrative perquisites and other enticements. The caller queried, "Where are our players?" The host responded that American youth are not playing baseball; they are in their homes playing video games instead. Involvement in team sports and other outdoor activities has waned, resulting in a smaller pool of experienced and talented players.
Societal changes over the past few decades have affected greatly the behavior patterns of children. Remember when kids would come home from school and then play outside? Remember when neighborhood children would ride their bikes and play sports together? Remember when Girl Scouts would come to your door to sell their cookies? No more! Blame it on the ubiquitous news reports concerning the abduction of children, sexual permissiveness, or the general moral malaise, but a cloud of anxiety hangs over our culture. For years parents have been fearful of allowing their children to participate in any unsupervised activity. Group functions are conducted only under the scrutiny of sharp-eyed adults. Ironically, unruly parents have cast a pall even over organized sports for children. Like the cavalry charging over the crest of the hill to rescue the beleaguered wagon train, the corporate world unveiled new forms of electronic entertainment that promise to keep children in the house and away from the dangers lurking in the outside world. Curiously, the manufacturers of a great many of these games offer contests of graphic violence. It appears that parents are willing to compromise content for security. One can hope that the young practitioners of these virtual blood sports maintain that distinction in their own understanding.
The nation's children are becoming increasingly engaged in childhoods of solitary activity with computerized playmates. While no one can doubt the benefit of developing computer savvy, one might wonder about the effect of these singular pursuits on socialization. Parental concerns regarding the safety of their children are real. Events in the news tragically illustrate the perils present to children in today's society. Regrettably, predators now are able to reach children even in the apparent security of their own homes through internet chat rooms. There seems to be no unassailable place.
Parents need not resolve simply to wring their hands in despair. The best fortification for a child's well being rests on the foundation of a strong family. A child's first world, its first community is the family. No matter the tenor of the times, the influence of a loving mother and father on a child must not be underestimated. The Rite of Baptism affirms that parents are the primary teachers of their children in the ways of faith. Indeed, parents are the primary teachers of their children in the ways of everything. As in nature, the child will learn from all that they experience in watching their parents - what is important and beneficial and what is harmful and worthless. A child's mind will see and soak-in the lives of his or her parents.
"The family is both the fundamental unit of society as well as the root of culture. It represents a child's initial source of unconditional love and acceptance and provides lifelong connectedness with others. The family is the first setting in which socialization takes place and children learn to live with mutual respect for one another. A family is where a child learns to display affection, control his temper, and pick up his toys. Finally, a family is a perpetual source of encouragement, advocacy, assurance, and emotional refueling that empowers a child to venture with confidence into the greater world and to become all that it can be."
- Marrianne E. Neifert, M.D.
While a child's character or future behaviors cannot be insured by their upbringing alone, the best of counsel, wisdom, truth, and values provided by the parents has been implanted in that child's soul. Any style of parenting is of worth that has prepared a child well to go out and play the game.
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