Parents Under Pressure
NEW parents often seem almost beside themselves with excitement. Nearly everything about their baby seems to thrill them. Baby’s first smile, first words, and first steps are momentous occasions. They regale friends and relatives with stories and photographs. No question, they love their child.
In some families, though, a tragedy unfolds as the years pass. The parents’ playful cooing gives way to harsh and mean words; affectionate hugs give way to angry blows or an absence of touch altogether; parental pride gives way to bitterness. “I never should have had children,” many say. In other families the problem is still worse—the parents failed to show love even when the child was a baby! In either case, what happened? Where is the love?
Children, of course, are not very good at figuring out the answers to such questions. But that will not stop them from reaching their own conclusions. Deep in the heart, a child may well conclude, ‘If Mommy or Daddy doesn’t love me, it’s because there’s something wrong with me. I must be very bad.’ This may become a deeply held belief—one that can cause all manner of damage throughout life.
The truth, though, is that parents may fail to show children the love they need for a wide variety of reasons. It must be admitted that parents today face tremendous pressures, some of them on an unprecedented scale. For parents who are not prepared to deal with them appropriately, these pressures can take a real toll on the job they do as parents. One ancient wise saying declares: “Mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy.”—Ecclesiastes 7:7.
“Critical Times Hard to Deal With”
A Utopian age. That is what many people have expected to see develop in this century. Imagine—no more economic pressures, famines, droughts, wars! But such hopes have gone unfulfilled. Rather, today’s world has turned out the way a Bible writer prophesied back in the first century C.E. He wrote that in our days we would face “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Most parents would be the first to agree with those words.
Many new parents find themselves flabbergasted at the sheer cost of raising children in today’s world. Often, both parents must work outside the home just to make ends meet. Medical expenses, clothing, schooling, daycare, and even food and shelter all may contribute to a monthly wave of bills that leaves many parents feeling as if they were about to drown. The economic situation reminds Bible students of the prophecy in Revelation foretelling a time when people would spend a whole day’s wage just to buy the necessities to last them one day!—Revelation 6:6.
Children cannot be expected to understand all these pressures facing their parents. No, by their very nature, children are needy, hungry for love and attention. And the pressure they absorb from the media and from schoolmates to own the latest in toys, clothes, and electronics often translates into pressure put onto parents to supply an ever-growing list of wants.
Another pressure upon parents, which seems to be growing worse these days, is rebelliousness. Interestingly, the Bible prophesied widespread disobedience of children to parents as another indication of our troubled times. (2 Timothy 3:2) True, discipline problems with children are nothing new. And no parent can rightly blame abusive treatment of a child on the child’s misbehavior. But would you not agree that parents today must contend with raising children in an entire culture of rebelliousness? Popular music that promotes rage, revolt, and despair; TV programs that paint parents as bumbling fools and children as their smart-alecky superiors; movies that glorify acting on violent impulses—children today are bombarded by such influences. Children who absorb and imitate this culture of rebellion can put terrific strains on their parents.
“Having No Natural Affection”
There is another aspect to this same ancient prophecy, though, that bodes even more trouble for today’s family. It indicates that a great many people would have “no natural affection.” (2 Timothy 3:3) Natural affection is what holds the family together. And even those most skeptical about Bible prophecy would have to concede that our times have seen a shocking breakdown in family life. All over the world, divorce rates have soared. In many communities, single-parent families and stepfamilies are more common than traditional families. Single parents and stepparents sometimes face special challenges and pressures that can make it hard for them to show children the love they need.
There is a deeper impact, though. Many of today’s parents have themselves grown up in homes where there was little or no “natural affection”—homes sundered by adultery and divorce; homes blighted by coldness and hatred; perhaps even homes where verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse was commonplace. Growing up in such homes not only damages children but can damage the adults they become. Statistics paint a grim picture—parents who were abused as children are more likely to abuse their own children. In Bible times the Jews had a saying: “Fathers are the ones that eat unripe grapes, but it is the teeth of the sons that get set on edge.”—Ezekiel 18:2.
However, God told his people that things did not have to be that way. (Ezekiel 18:3) An important point must be made here. Do all these pressures upon parents mean that they simply cannot help but mistreat their own children? Far from it! If you are a parent and find yourself struggling with some of the aforementioned pressures and you worry as to whether you can ever be a good parent, take heart! You are not a statistic. Your past does not automatically write your future.
In line with the Scriptural assurance that improvement is possible, the book Healthy Parenting makes this comment: “Without [your] taking deliberate steps to behave differently than your own parents, the patterns of your childhood will repeat themselves regardless of whether or not you want them to. To break this cycle, you need to become aware of the unhealthy patterns you are perpetuating and learn how to change them.”
Yes, if necessary, you can break the cycle of abusive parenting! And you can deal with the pressures that make parenting so difficult today. But how? Where can you learn the best, the most reliable, standards of healthy parenting? Our next article will consider this matter.
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Under pressure, some parents fail to express love toward their children
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Parents should express the love their children need