I Am The Parent

Recently I was asked to speak to a local homeschooling group and as I was pondering what I wanted to say to them, the following thoughts took shape as the foundation, or starting point, of where I want my talk to go.

I will tell you right up front that the following post may well offend you.  I hope not, but it’s a possibility.  I decided long ago that life isn’t about winning popularity contests.  The purpose of my website is not to make me “popular” but, rather, to educate.  When I started home-schooling over 20 years ago, when home-schooling was in its toddlerhood, if not its infancy, it surely didn’t win me any popularity contests!  But I am the parent and that means, not only do I get to decide what’s best for my children, I’m supposed to decide what’s best for my children.

I’m willing to take the risk of saying things that need to be said – like, for instance, that musical artists who claim to be Christians shouldn’t put out sex videos.  Or that, as the parent, you’re supposed to be making the decisions for your children and, if you’re a Christian, and you abdicate your responsibility to make the decisions for your children, you are failing to live up to what God has called you to do.

There are various facets to this topic of “I Am The Parent” so I’ll hope you’ll stay with me all the way through, because you may just find I hit on something that you have wondered about.  Or you might get convicted about some of your parenting decisions.  Remember, I’m not purposely setting out to offend anyone, but if it happens, I take the risk because I feel it’s worth it.

One more thing: this post is a tad long but I felt it would be counter-productive to divide it into two posts.   I hope you’ll take the time to read it regardless, and share your own thoughts in the comments.  So to begin:

Point A:  Your children should not be the ones deciding whether they are going to be homeschooled or not.

I really don’t care if my children want to be homeschooled.  I am the parent.  I not only get to decide, it’s my job.

My husband and I decided before we had kids that they would not attend the public schools.  Why?  Well, for one thing, the public schools are entirely built on humanistic theology that contradicts the Bible (yes, I said “theology” – you really think humanism isn’t as much a faith as Christianity is?)  From the time our oldest child, and only daughter, was two years old and I heard about homeschooling through the Focus on the Family radio show, I had been planning to homeschool my children.  I had even started attending a local homeschool group’s park days, despite the fact that our daughter was not yet old enough for kindergarten!  Unfortunately, when the time came for her to “enter” kindergarten, my oldest son was 18 months old and, I felt, too much of a handful for me to even consider homeschooling my daughter.  Looking back, of course, I realize how ludicrous it was that I thought I couldn’t handle teaching kindergarten because I had a one-year old.  But I was still steeped in the concept that education was some kind of mystery that could only be approached when everything was going well in your life (my post “Why Homeschooling911?” explains how I learned what a foolish notion that was!)

So we enrolled my daughter in a little Baptist Christian school where she excelled.  She made straight “A’s” and was the “class valedictorian.”  She even gave a valedictorian speech!  I wish I had it on tape because it was cute and hysterical at the same time.

But despite my daughter’s success I found out that even a little private Christian school had its drawbacks.  For instance, one day when we were leaving the mall my precious 5-year old daughter pipes up from the back seat, “Mommy, when I grow up I’m not going to take sex.”  Naturally I was, well, “alarmed.”  We didn’t even own a TV at the time so where she had heard about sex I had no idea.  Fortunately, I was able to stay calm.  I simply asked her where she had heard about it.  Her response, “Susie told me about it on the playground.”  Apparently little Susie (whose parents were not Christians) had given my daughter the idea that sex was like drugs and was something you should never “take.”  I let the whole issue slide because I knew my daughter was too young to understand any kind of real explanation and that she’d probably forget about it in a week.

But that was the first hint that enrolling my child in a private, Christian school would not protect her from exposure to subjects that were not appropriate for her, as I had assumed.  The “straw that broke the camel’s back” came a little while later when, at a school-wide parents’ meeting, the principal announced plans to expose the children to a book series that focused on “difficult topics.”  Not liking the sound of what I was hearing, I made an appointment to meet with the principal to preview these books.  What I found not only alarmed me, it made me furious.   One of the books in this series was about a father who was molesting his young daughter!

Now, I’m pretty sure you will not find anyone that’s more concerned about sexual abuse than I am – as demonstrated, for example, by my constant and consistent condemnation of the fact that our judicial system sentenced Bernie Madoff to serve a 157-year sentence for a Ponzi scheme while child predators can serve less than a decade in prison only to be released to molest more children.

HOWEVER, my innocent 5-year old daughter did NOT need to be exposed to deviancy, incest and pedophilia in her school classroom!  It is my job to teach my children about what is appropriate and inappropriate touching.  Moreover, it is my job to protect my children from predators.  Which, for example, is why I had a policy of not permitting my children to stay overnight at friends’ homes.  What?  Isn’t that being over-protective?  Let me ask you something, have you ever read a story about someone who was caught with child porn or was caught molesting a child and everyone said, “Oh, I just knew something like that was going to happen!”  No, everyone is always shocked to find out that so-and-so was actually a child molester.  I don’t automatically trust anyone with my children and I don’t think you should assume you know what is going on in someone else’s home!  Over 99% of women and children that are sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone they know, and should have been able to trust.  I’ll stick with being “over-protective.”

In any case, why the long history about my daughter’s experience in kindergarten?  It’s to point out that I realized from this experience that, as her parent, I am the one that knows what’s best for my child.  Not a school principal.  Not a teacher at a seemingly-ideal private Christian school.  No, I am the one who knows what is best for my child.

So…if I don’t think other adults know what’s best for my child, why for heaven’s sake would I think that my child knows what is best for them?  Why would I allow my child to decide if they are going to be homeschooled or not?  For that matter, why would I even take into consideration what their opinion or desire is?  I am the parent for a reason.  I am the one with the wisdom and experience to make the best decisions for my child’s present and future.

Point B:  Most Christian parents have bought into the notion that when their children are say 15 or 16, they need to let them make the important decisions about their lives.  Like whether they should go to college.  Or who their friends should be.  Or what activities they should be involved in.

This is a lie.

That philosophy is, in fact, a humanistic philosophy that began to be popularized in the late 1800’s.  It was right about the same time that compulsory education came into being in this country.  Coincidence?  I think not.

You see, even Christian parents have bought into the notion that decisions about our children are best left to the “experts” – whether those experts are public school teachers or youth group pastors.

So when these “experts” tell parents that they shouldn’t be choosing their children’s friends or making decisions about where their children should go to school or- egads! – actually having input into who their children marry – well, even Christian parents have bought into that malarkey.

To give you some biblical background to what I am talking about I will ask you a question – do you have any idea how old Isaac was when he married Rebekah?  Genesis 25:20 tells us that he was 40 years old.  And you know what else?  Isaac didn’t even choose his wife – his father did!

Why did Isaac trust his father with this momentous decision?  Well, first of all, he knew his father walked with God.  He had been there when his father was going to sacrifice him in obedience to God.  He had watched his father follow after God, not perfectly, but faithfully.  He also trusted his father with this decision because he knew why his father did not want him choosing a woman from the land in which they were “strangers.”  He knew that God was doing a “new thing” by choosing Abraham to become the patriarch of a people that would worship the one true God.  And he trusted that God could lead his father (and ultimately his father’s servant) to find the woman who would be part of that plan.

If your children do not trust you to make the important decisions of their lives it’s because you have failed to let them know: a) that you walk faithfully after God and/or b) that you are the parent.  It is your job as you raise your children to demonstrate your faith to them and to let them know that God made you the parent for a reason!  And it was not just to change their diapers and teach them their ABC’s!

The Bible is very clear that it is God’s will for parents to raise their children, to teach their children, and yes, to make decisions for their children!  And that doesn’t end just because the worldly system has said that you are supposed to let your teenagers choose their own friends or decide where they will go to school.  That is simply unbiblical.

Point C:  There are those that will say that your children need to make mistakes while they are teenagers living in your home because that is somehow better than them learning from, say, your godly example, or their successes, or the Bible, or the godly example of people who made a difference in history…

I have heard this idea spouted by Christian parents and what (I would assume) they didn’t realize they were actually saying is, “God wants my child to sin.”  Seriously.  I remember having a conversation (sort of) with a woman I knew from a church we attended some years ago.  For the record, while this woman was very respected in our church community, I simply could not have that same respect for her, because I had watched her parenting (or lack thereof).  And that is another very sad truth that, usually, moms who are devoted to their families are ignored in churches, while mothers who are happy to abandon their families so they can work with the youth or lead women’s groups are lauded as heroes.  In any case, this woman was saying that if her daughter “got into trouble” well, maybe it was God’s will.  She justified her statement by pointing out that there was a man in our church who had struggled with drug addiction for many years who now had a ministry to addicts.

I didn’t bother trying to argue the point with this woman because she was the type who “had all the answers” and nothing I said would have swayed her, but she clearly mistook the grace of God for the will of God.  In other words, just because God uses a person’s past mistakes doesn’t mean it’s his will for that person to have made those mistakes!  That would be like saying that if a woman has an abortion, and then later God uses her to minister to women who are seeking abortions, that it was God’s will for her to have an abortion!  Somehow when it’s stated like that it becomes a little plainer, doesn’t it?

For those parents who think that it’s “better” for their kids to learn from their mistakes I would ask: just what mistakes are you willing to accept?

  • What if your daughter goes out partying, gets drunk, and is raped.  Is that an acceptable risk to you?
  • What if you allow your daughter to participate in what I call “recreational dating” and she comes home pregnant?  Or, conversely, you allow your son to date and he gets his girlfriend pregnant? Is that an acceptable risk to you?
  • Or what if you allow your children to choose their own friends and they get involved in partying.  Then one night your son gets behind the wheel of a car and ends up in the morgue.  Is that an acceptable risk to you?

As for me, none of those are acceptable risks.  And they are entirely unnecessary risks if I act in a way that demonstrates that I am the parent.

My older kids were involved in many activities in their younger years.  Frankly, I can’t even remember all of the activities they participated in!  But whatever activity they were involved in, I was directly in contact with their coaches, instructors, Royal Ranger leaders, etc.  We pulled my oldest son off one baseball team when he was 6 or 7, and we pulled my middle son off a baseball team when he was about 11 because their coaches were idiots.  We found other baseball programs where the coaches were decent, reasonably intelligent people and it was a positive outcome for our kids.  If your children are involved in an activity and the leader, coach, teacher (or whatever) is immoral or just plain stupid, please pull your kid out!  It is just not worth it to jeopardize your child’s safety or, for that matter, their soul just because you might look like an “overprotective” parent.

In addition, until my kids were college age they were not allowed to hang out with whoever they chose.  And for that matter, we limited their time socializing outside the home.  One of the most obnoxious things I see with kids today (and especially teens) is that they think they are entitled to spend their whole weekend socializing with their friends!  I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever see my friends.  My life is far too taken up with caring for my family.  So I certainly wasn’t going to allow my kids to spend a lot of time socializing.  It’s just another example of how kids who go to school are actually not being prepared for real life.  As an adult, you will spend most of your life taking care of responsibilities, not running around with your friends – so why give our children the artificial impression that they have the right to spend every weekend hanging out with friends?

My daughter’s friends growing up were other homeschooled kids.  Their moms and I would arrange for them to get together at a park or home and we were always there.  These activities were never unsupervised and, until my daughter was well into her teens, these activities were not coed.  And when she did start attending coed events, those activities were also well-supervised.

The bottom line about friendship is that you are abdicating your responsibilities if you allow your children to choose their friends and spend inordinate amounts of time socializing.  They need to learn that life is mostly work, and that play is a privilege, not a right.

Point D:  If you allow your teenagers to date you are playing with fire, not to mention their future and maybe their lives.

I spoke earlier about something I call “recreational dating” which often involves “having a boyfriend/girlfriend.”  This is another area in which most Christian parents have utterly abdicated their responsibility (and then wonder why most Christian kids no longer identify themselves as Christians by the time they’re in their 20’s).

Our family doesn’t have a strict “courting” rule like some homeschool families, but I also don’t allow my children to date until they’re out of college.  Seriously.

There are numerous problems with what I call “recreational dating.”  Christian parents who think they can “trust” their kids and who allow them to date are obviously unaware of a little (or not so little) thing called “hormones.”   It’s not that your children are necessarily “untrustworthy” it’s just that they have these chemicals flooding their bodies that are telling them that sex is the ultimate goal of life.  God gave us those hormones to incentivize marriage, not so that we can fulfill our lusts.  To ignore the effects of these chemicals and to ignore the fact that even the most mature teenager is still no match for those chemicals is, well, I’ll just go ahead and say it – it’s stupid.

My children have had many friends of the opposite sex during high school and college, but all coed activities have always taken place in a group setting.  I actually think that it is a wonderful experience for our sons and daughters to have friends of the opposite sex during this time because it gives them the opportunity to evaluate what their expectations and wishes are in terms of a future spouse.  BUT – my kids were well-supervised until they were in college and even while they were in college I always knew where they were and who they were with.  How did I know that?

Well, for one thing, I raised my kids to understand that I am the parent so when I questioned them about their friends or activities, they didn’t get an attitude like how dare I ask them about where they were and what they were doing!  Moreover, they lived at home while they were in college.  More about that later.

I also raised my children to understand, and subscribe to, biblical standards for morality.  In our home the Bible is our standard for life, and when it comes to sex the biblical standard is very clear: purity until marriage and monogamy within marriage.  (I want to point out here another lie of the world – that Bible-believing Christians are “hung up” about sex and that’s why kids need sex education in the schools…that lie is too involved to go into detail about it here, but I will say that in our home we are very frank about sex but we are also very clear about what the Bible teaches and what we expect from our kids).

So…what does “purity until marriage” mean?  Well, to put it simply, I define it as no touching below the neck until the wedding night.  That’s pretty clear, don’t you think?

We have taught our kids the biblical standards for sex and they all are committed to adhering to them.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t exercise “due diligence.”  By that I mean, I don’t give my kids “the talk” and then move on.  I’ve had many conversations with our kids about sex and purity.  I’ve taught my sons very clearly that pornography is NOT harmless, but that it objectifies, abuses, and exploits women and children and that it has the potential to distort their relationships with the opposite sex permanently.

I also make it clear that the exclusive type of boyfriend/girlfriend relationships they see all around them are purely a concoction of the world and that they are not biblical.  This may sound like a strange and new, if not absurd, concept to you, but it is the truth.  Why should my daughter limit her time, conversations, or relationships to a particular guy if he hasn’t put a ring on her finger?  Your son or daughter has no right to have an exclusive relationship with a member of the opposite sex until there has been the exchange of an engagement ring, plain and simple.  Once your child has taken the life-changing step of committing to a person in marriage, they’d better have an exclusive relationship!  But until then, they are free to have friendships with members of the opposite sex without worrying that so-and-so will get jealous and/or be mad at them for talking to another girl/guy.  That is the way it is supposed to work.

On the other hand, the way the world conducts relationships with hooking up, friends-with-benefits, 12-year olds having boyfriends and girlfriends and so on, is not just unbiblical, it’s harmful to our kids and does them an injustice.

But it’s not enough to say, “Well, of course, I’m teaching my children it’s wrong to hook up.”  If they have a boyfriend or girlfriend before they are ready for commitment, you are setting them up for sexual sin.  God designed for us to be strongly attracted to the opposite sex.  As a parent, it is your role to step in and not allow your child to put themselves in, or be put in, situations where their hormones will get the better of them.  Again, I choose to be called “over-protective” rather than to have my daughter come home pregnant or for one of my kids to get an STD they will suffer with for the rest of their life.  There is another way, a much better way, for your child to go about finding their future spouse.  Recreational dating and boyfriend/girlfriend relationships set your child up for failure.  Of that I am convinced, because I’ve seen it all too often.  And if you’re honest, you’ll admit that you have too.

I’ve also had discussions with my children concerning what the Bible calls “the appearance of evil.”  Once your children are adults and are embarking on finding a spouse, they still need to be careful because the world is watching.  And we have a responsibility to be a witness for the Lord.  In practical terms, that means that even though my daughter (who is 27) is dating, she and her date do not go to her house or his apartment alone.  I’ve also made it very clear to my sons that they are responsible for protecting the reputation of any girl they might take out.  What an archaic notion!  It is sad and reprehensible that our society, which was originally built on Christian principles, is so far from the notion of a guy protecting a girl’s reputation that most would consider it laughable.  But that is how I have raised my sons and that is what they are committed to.

The last thing I will mention, briefly, is that since I am the parent, I should have more than a little to say about my kids going to college.  In that regard, I have raised my kids to understand that not going to college is not an option.  My kids are required to get a college degree.  And with the availability to homeschoolers of dual-enrollment, online AP classes, CLEP tests, etc. there’s no reason your child can’t have a Bachelor’s degree by the age of 20 or 21 (if not earlier).  And if they live at home, like my kids do, it cuts the cost in half, at least.  I discuss this at length in my post “College and the Homeschooler” so I won’t go into detail here.  I will say that I’ve done it with two kids already.  My daughter has a Master’s degree in Forensic Drug Chemistry and lived at home until she was 25 (and if she wants to move back home she can – any time!)  My oldest son graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management at the age of 20, with a perfect 4.0 GPA.  My 18-year old son will have 42 college credit hours when he finishes his senior year in high school in a few months, and will be living at home while he gets a degree in Computer Engineering from Florida State University.

By the way, did I mention that I am also opposed to the modern notion that we should want our kids out of the house the minute they turn 18?  Oy vey.  Maybe I shouldn’t even get started on that one!  But historically, the various generations – grandparents, parents, kids, unmarried relatives – have lived together in close proximity, if not the same household, and frankly, if you raise your kids right – after going through all those difficult, exhausting years while they’re young – why wouldn’t you want them home when they are grown and fun.  Yes, my kids are fun.  I’m not saying we never get on each other’s nerves…that’s just life.  But my daughter and I can talk about make-up and shoes, and my sons and I share our addiction for the TV show “Burn Notice.”  I love having my adult children living at home!

Well, if you’ve read this far…congratulations!  And thank you.  I hope you’ll consider leaving your thoughts and experiences in the comments.  I truly appreciate when my readers take the time to share their thoughts, and share these posts with their friends.  And if you’re new to my site you can use the RSS feed or e-mail sign-up on the top right so that you don’t miss out on future posts!  I hope to “see” you here again!

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  • momoftwo

    I am glad you posted this.  I wonder often where all of the dedicated parents have gone.  I am an oddball in my child’s school, our neighborhood, our church even, and do not understand what in the world is going on with “parents” anymore.  I take the responsibility to raise my daughters up very seriously.  So many people in the church are letting their kids play with fire, and these folks are the ones who cast me skeptical looks for being a sheltering parent, for not letting my kids just run with the pack and do random sleepovers, go wherever, whenever.  It is surprising to feel alienated not just by the secular world, but also by Christians because they have one foot in both worlds.  The school of hard knocks, laissez-faire parenting and turning a blind eye instead of raising your kids up is such a cop-out when we could be really enjoying the privilege that children are instead of looking at it as a “job” to hand out to someone else.  We only get one chance… 

    • annegalivan

      Thank you for your comment!  You are right – children are a gift from a Lord.  Yet too many parents regard them as simply an afterthought.  And for Christian parents it is even more serious because a majority, it seems, have apparently forgotten that they have been given the responsibility to raise ETERNAL beings.  Their children have eternal souls and YES parents you ARE responsible for those souls.

      It is sad to look at the state of affairs in most churches today and I can understand your feeling of being alone.  Western culture has become too used to their creature comforts to bother taking the time to raise their children.  These days to suggest that moms should stay home to raise their children is considered to be “intolerant” and “judgemental” even though the Bible clearly admonishes that parenting IS supposed to be a full-time job.  People always like to pull out the “what about the single parent” argument.  But the truth is that most single-parent households are that way because of sin (either divorce or promiscuity before marriage) and the church today bears a striking resemblance to the world in regards to those issues!

      And in any case, that doesn’t explain the many two-parent households where both parents work.  Again, people will say that these families “need” both parents to work yet I see many homeschooling families (including my own) simply choosing to do without the so-called “necessities” of modern life in order to have one parent (usually the mom) stay home to raise the children.

      All I can do, in addition to raising my own children according to Biblical principles, is to try to raise awareness and equip other parents to choose their children over convenience.  I am glad you stopped by and commented and I hope you will continue to read and share your thoughts!

  • Tootspowers

    I love your blog!!!  What you spoke above is all TRUTH!  Thank you for standing up for what is right, and loving your kids enough to follow through!  So awesome!!!!  I will share your blog with my friends!!!

    • annegalivan

      Thank you SO much for your encouraging comment!  I told my daughter not too long ago that sometimes I wonder if I’m just talking into a “black hole” when I write my blog posts.  Hearing from readers like you helps me to know that people are listening and that, hopefully, it’s making a difference.  I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and for your kind thoughts!

  • Martha Moore

    I agree 100%.I wish I had homeschooled my boys.Both of them forsaken the Lord(one’s a Buddhist,the others a Muslim.

    • annegalivan

      I am so sorry to hear this.  I can’t imagine the pain this must cause to your heart.  Fortunately, we have a God who hears and answers prayer, and I am sure you are praying for your sons.  

      I thank you for taking the time to read this post and comment on it.  As I continue on this road of parenting myself, I become more and more convinced of what I have shared here.  Thank you for your affirmation and confirmation, and may God bring your sons back to the faith.