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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Train Up a Child

I was behind her in line at the checkout stand. Her little 2 or 3-year-old sat in the cart seat holding a toy truck easily as big as he was. As the customer in front of her finished up their transaction, she told her little angel, "It's time to put the toy down. Mommy doesn't have the money to pay for it." He looked her in the eye and, without blinking, said, "No!" "Now, look," Mommy reasoned, "I only let you hold it so you wouldn't cry. I can't afford it. You have to give it up." He didn't succumb to her superb reasoning. "No!" "If you don't put that down I won't buy you an ice cream!" "No!" "I told you I'd take you horseback riding after this. If you don't put that down you won't get to go horseback riding!" "No!" Reason, carrot, stick, nothing was working. As she finished paying for everything, including the toy truck, I heard her say, "Okay, now, let's go get an ice cream and then we can go horseback riding."

What did he learn? First, mom is meaningless. Her primary function is to give him what he wants. Second, when she reasons, she lies. Refer to Lesson One. Third, I rule. Everyone else is secondary. In fact, it's likely that they all fall in the category of Lesson One. Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old ...

A good friend works at a large chain convenience store. He told me that they report loss from theft at an average of $6,000 per week. He said that the job was making him jaded. "I would estimate," he told me, "that half of the people that come into my store on my shift are there to steal." He had story after story. The guy who walked in and left with a handful of goods that wasn't disturbed by any employees because he wore a visible sidearm. The mother who, with child in cart, filled up said cart with Christmas decorations and proceeded to walk out. "But the worst," he told me, "was the 8-year-old." An 8-year-old? "Yes. One of my cashiers told me, 'I think that family is stealing.' I followed them around. The mother and the father were both pocketing stuff. And then I saw their little girl picking up candy and socks and things 8-year-olds don't care about, doing her part for the family 'shopping trip'."

How does that work? How will they differentiate between "It's okay to steal from them" (whoever "them" is) "but it's not okay to steal from us"? How will they explain the difference between "stealing stuff" and, say, stealing life from someone? At what point will they cease to be her primary influence and someone else ... say, the police and the justice system ... take over? Train up a child in the way she should go and when she is old ...

These are true events. They are not, unfortunately, rare cases. And while our world wonders about how to deal with thieves on Wall Street or bullying in the schools or government corruption or the decline of the economy on an international level, I wonder about why anyone would wonder about it when we're training up our children to do all those things and so much more. What parents condone in moderation children indulge in excess. And we are indeed training up our children in some way or another. So what exactly are we aiming at? The way they should go or whatever way they want?

5 comments:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

My wife and I see this stuff with kids very often. There appears to be no understanding among parents today that their children need to be disciplined. Christians are just as guilty as non-believers. We see this even with dear friends and it is heart-breaking to see what is happening with the kids due to them being in charge rather than the parents.

What is just as bad is the children we see in malls which have leashes on them so the parents don't have to take active control by holding hands and teaching them, rather they treat them as pets.

Marshall Art said...

And I think back to those blog opponents that tell me I'm out of my mind for believing there is moral decline in our nation. Normally, it's in the context of human sexuality. But it is clear that it is evident in other areas of human existence, such as your post indicates. Stories about cheating on tests in schools of all levels, including coaching by some teachers, is another example. And I think back still further to a question I've raised (as has others) that when God is removed from schools and the public square, what has replaced Him?

Stan said...

@Glenn:

Couple that with what Hebrews says about discipline: "For the Lord disciplines the one He loves" (Heb 12:6) and "If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Heb 12:8), and it's not good for parents not to discipline children and a failure to love.

Anonymous said...

Some years back at a Fry’s grocery store I saw a woman about 60 examining some fruit that was in a bin. She caused a couple of the fruits to roll downhill and drop onto the floor, where they rolled about ten feet before coming to a stop. I am quite sure she realized what had happened. At that point there were three things that she could have done:

1. Pick up the dropped (and presumably somewhat bruised) fruits and put them in her basket and pay for them. Parts of them may still have been edible, but if not, too bad.

2. Pick up the dropped fruits and put them back in the bin, where some other customer may wind up with them, or the store may eventually have to discard them.

3. Leave them on the floor, and let them be somebody else’s problem.

She went route (3). If she had a bad back, I could understand to a degree, but she gave no evidence of that.

I tried to figure out what I would have done in her situation. I decided that (3) was not the way I would have gone, but I am not certain I would have gone route (1), perhaps rationalizing doing (2) by saying that the store piled the fruits too steeply and were just asking for this sort of thing to happen. I don’t know.

Any thoughts on how a Christian shopper should handle this situation?

Stan said...

I don't have any specifics from my sole source on matters of faith and practice. Well, there is that passage in Hezekiah that says, "Thou shalt pay for whatever fruit thou drop", but that doesn't mention Fry's specifically. (Sorry, poor inside joke.) And I'm not entirely sure your 3 options are the only three.

That being said, there are some guidelines available. Christians are to be honest. They are not supposed to consider only themselves. A minimum would have been to tell someone at the store what happened rather than option 3. Option 2 is no better than 3. I doubt that the store would require Option 1. But honesty and integrity, not self-centeredness would be required.

I have talked to some about an example of Christian behavior. We are commanded to "love your neighbor". Okay. So Christian A drives by a homeless guy with a "Please give me money for food" sign. Christian A thinks, "If I give him money, he won't learn the need to work. The loving thing to do would be not to help." Christian B sees the same guy and thinks, "He needs to eat. I'll buy him something to eat because that would be the loving thing to do." Christian C says, "I own a business. I'll give him a job so he can have money for food. That would be the loving thing to do." Which Christian obeyed the mandate, "Love your neighbor"? I'd say all three. The point? Christian obedience doesn't always look the same.