In 2012, a woman attending one of my Teaching Self-Government parenting trainings began to cry in the middle of my presentation about different styles of parenting. She timidly raised her hand and I called upon her to speak.

Through sobs and tears she said, “My mom was that modern progressive, permissive type of parent you just talked about. She let me do whatever I wanted to do and never corrected me. She probably thought it was giving me freedom, but it ruined my life. I did so many bad things just to see if my mom loved me enough to stop me. She wouldn’t stop me…I still haven’t recovered from all the license she gave me. It’s taken years to try to build a decent life for myself.”

No matter what difficulties families are facing or how different the children of each generation seem to be from previous generations, it’s a principle that parents have a right and a responsibility to “structure the attitudes and conduct of their children.” [Loren C. Dunn, Our Precious Families, 1974] In Genesis 18:19 of the Holy Bible, God declares that Abraham will become a “mighty nation” because Abraham “will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord…”

Attitudes and Conduct

The hippy youth of the 1970s who were rebelling against family values, true principles, responsibility, sober living, and ironically fighting for peace, have similarities with the generation of young people today. Parents then and now worried that their children were taking paths that would lead to unhappiness and unproductive living. Parents felt distant from their children as the children isolated themselves from family by turning against the values that held relationships and civilizations together and turning toward increased selfishness and sensory and emotional pampering in the name of freedom.

Due to my parenting courses, many parents ask me for advice. A common request parents are making nowadays is, “how do I get my child to listen to me?” Parents confide that their children simply don’t seem to care to listen or learn from them. These parents often explain a feeling of disconnection from their children and want to feel bonded as a family again.

Why does this distance happen? And, what can parents do about it?

Reclaiming the Right to Parent

Permissive, non-principled parenting of the 1960s and 1970s started a parent/child relationship trend of disconnection that we still haven’t recovered from today.

Reader’s Digest author William V. Shannon made the following points: “American children…are suffering from widespread parent failure. By their words and actions [he says] many fathers and mothers make it clear that they are almost paralyzed by uncertainty. …Many parents are in conflict as to what their own values are. Others think they know, but lack the confidence to impose discipline in behalf of their values. …”

In short, parents need conviction as well as parenting skills to help them take action with a loving tone and consistent structure. Parents care so much about their children that they take them on extravagant trips and sign them up for lessons and clubs. But, do “parents care enough about their children to assert and defend necessary values?” It takes more work to consistently correct and defend values than it does to drive someone to a lesson.

However, this loving parenting toil gives the parent and child a lifetime of peace and direction, even if people aren’t perfect and make mistakes along the way. Parents can find peace in knowing they calmly and firmly gave their children instruction to form their attitudes and conduct in alignment with truth and freedom from the bondage that comes to children whose parents don’t stop them from making mistakes. And, children can find peace in always knowing the direction to head in and the boundaries to watch out for.

“Rearing our children is by far the most important task that most of us will undertake. …”parents who do not persevere in rearing their children according to their own convictions are not leaving them ‘free’ to develop on their own. Instead, they are letting other children and the media, principally television and the movies, do the job.” [William V. Shannon, “What Code of Values Can We Teach our Children?” Reader’s Digest, May 1972, pp. 187-88]

Parents have a right, given to them by God, to form their children’s conduct and attitudes. And, if the parents won’t accept that right and act upon it, then other children and the media will form the conduct and attitudes of the next generation instead.

As a homeschool parent, people have regularly asked me if I am concerned about the social training my children get. I’ve always said, “I’m very concerned about the social training my children get! In fact, I spend my whole life working on proper social and moral training. But, what I’ve noticed is that people have different ideas of what proper social development looks like. I don’t think bullying, lying, and showing off are proper social skills, and I don’t think children should teach my children what proper social skills are, either. The way I see it, we have three choices for how our children learn to behave socially and morally. They either learn from parents and family, from other children, or from the media. I choose to teach my children how to succeed socially and morally instead of turning that responsibility over to my other choices.”

The first step in reclaiming the God-given right to parent our own children is to be converted to who we are to the children. We, the parents, are meant to be the leaders, the teachers, the correctors, and the exemplars.

One day, after the parenting trials we face, we will see that even if we weren’t perfect, our children will call us blessed because we chose to lovingly stop them from making mistakes, even if it wasn’t popular. Teach your children to govern themselves and live according to true principles and then they will have true freedom.

Self-government parenting courses and skills are taught here.