Where Did We Go Wrong?
Throughout the ages, this question has been asked by frustrated and despairing parents in regard to their faltering or wayward children. Even before their child is born, caring parents are busy about the task of "doing everything right" for their children. A child arrives with a set of spiritual, psychological, and physical needs. The lifelong work of addressing these needs is the immediate concern of a loving mom and dad. Everything necessary for their child to grow up happy and healthy will be established; all that is required for their child to make a good living and to live a good life will be provided.
Information on parenting will be drawn from family, friends, and any professional resources available. Some "dos and don'ts" from their own experience of being a child and of how they were raised will be assessed. Awaiting their child in all stages of development will be an environment of love and warmth and of all the parenting skills the child's mother and father were able to muster. Education is a very important factor: Catholic school, public school, or even home schooling must be investigated thoroughly, the parish religious education program must be satisfactory, and the child's at home activities must also have a beneficial effect. Thus, this child privileged in all the ways that should lead to the development of a devout, caring, responsible, well-educated and well-bred young adult goes out into the world and promptly messes up his life, rejecting everything his parents wished for him. A distraught mother and father ask, "Where did we go wrong? What didn't we do for our child? How come he made these terrible choices in his life?"
Parenting is a subject of countless articles, books, and professional studies. Why would a child turn away from all of the definitions of right and wrong, grace and sin, life-enhancing practices and life-degrading practices? Was it the parent's fault or not? In one recent study, the question of determining from where and to what degree a child is most influenced was examined. According to this study, the primary source of influence was not the family or the various institutions in which the child is engaged, but peers and their generational culture held the greatest sway over the mind of the child. This does not discount the influence of the home environment within which the child was reared nor the overall efforts of parents to teach their children well. The data simply granted the crown of victory for the most influence on the development of the child to the friends that the child chooses and the culture of the times within which the child was raised. Reflecting upon this result, it would bode well for parents to be attentive to the kind of people their child associates with and also to instruct them to be critical thinkers respecting the times in which they live. Someone once quipped that he noticed one particular benefit to have lived over one hundred years – no peer pressure.
Children have spent their young years watching and learning the values of their parents; one can hope that, for the most part, they observed virtue. I believe a child becomes aware of what parents regard to be of most importance and what they will steadfastly defend against any cultural tide. This core morality, I attest, has great impact on the child's conscience formation. Let parents work hard at being the kind of person they wish their children to become and let them pray that a generous portion of it rubs off. Although it might take many years for some to recognize and live this truth, let parents persevere in giving and illustrating in their lives the supreme wish of the Risen Lord for those whom he sent forth to be "other Christ's." This always is what you can do right.