Most parents know what they want for their children. Parental advice and influence is tuned to direct the young toward what the parents honestly believe is best for them. But the "kids" don't always agree! Why are parental values sometimes rejected and spurned by the youth of our church? A teacher at Imperial High School in Pasadena gives the answers in this most needful article.
SOMETIMES we don't give our young people enough credit or consideration for their own views, intelligence and vision! Most youngsters in God's Church know what they want out of life. And they have their own ideas and plans on how to obtain their goals. But their parents also have their own ideas about their children's life and future. Sometimes, where two-way communication and the right amount of consideration are lacking, differences of ideas develop. And so youth concludes that "No one listens! No one understands! No one cares!" Consequently, they no longer desire what their parents have to offer, and they reject much of what their parents say. Then the parents also become upset and frustrated. Thankfully, this is not the case in all families in the Church of God. Many parents and children do share the same ideas. In many families there is peace and harmony, and there is appreciation on both sides. The youth in these families say their parents listen, that they do understand, and care. They are not worried about grasping desperately for more "freedom," because they don't feel bound and fettered by their parents. They have a sense of security. These kids listen and obey. Their parents are happy and pleased with them. What causes wide differences of opinion in families of God's Church? Why do some young people listen and obey while others go their own way? What kind of parents do young people appreciate? And what kind of help will they accept? A number of teen-agers in this church were asked a set of similar questions. This article gives their answers. One of the questions asked was: "What is the best thing your parents do for you ?" They said:
"... don't let me do just anything I want to and don't give me just anything I want — they advise me when and where it is needed." "... put up with me [emphasis his!]. They teach me the right way of life and correct me when I don't live right. They don't leave me on my own and let me get into trouble." "... make me understand when I have done something wrong." "... discipline and advise and instruct me in a very loving way." "I think the best thing my parents do for us is teach us and try to bring us up the right way. They try to keep us from making mistakes like they did, and they give us things they never had when they were younger." The above answers were given anonymously to assure complete honesty. Other answers the teen-agers gave that most parents would call "less desirable" were: "Nothing besides giving me room and board." "Buy my clothes at Roebucks." "Keep me alive." "Let me do things on my own."
Two other questions on this questionnaire were, "What do you want more than anything?" and "What do you want most out of life?" Almost every answer to these questions included some form of the word "happiness." A very few exceptions were answers like "a car" or "a driver's license." When given the multiple-choice question, "How important are material goods and wealth to you ?" ten percent chose "Necessary for an enjoyable life." Eighty-three percent chose "Enjoyable, but don't determine how enjoyable life is." The choice of seven percent was, "Don't have much to do at all with how much one enjoys life." All the kids wanted to be happy! They all want to enjoy life! And most of them are smart enough to realize that material goods alone will not give them the happiness they want. But even the "hippies" saw that.
Lesson of the Hippies
The hippie cult rejected the establishment. "Look at you" — sneered the hippies a few years ago — "needing a couple of stiff drinks before you have the guts to talk to another human being. Look at you, fouling up the land, polluting the water and air for profit and calling this nowhere scene 'The Great Society'! Look at you. "And do you think you're going to tell us how to live? You've got to be kidding!" They saw the "rat race" for material wealth, the double standard, the cheating, the lying, and the killing. They saw a sick, unhappy world. No member of the unhappy establishment — neither parents nor minister nor teacher nor boss — was going to tell them how to find happiness! So they held their "love-ins." Did they find true love — or true happiness? If so, where are the hippies today? Most of them now have jobs. Now they endure the "evils" of the establishment because they found they couldn't get along without physical necessities, and because their own way of life didn't bring them happiness either! All it got them was wretchedness, disease and wrecked bodies and lives. The hippie experiment failed! It's too bad they didn't know and understand in advance the results one person obtained who tried a similar experiment ages ago. But before we look into his experiments and solutions, there is a question church parents need to ask themselves: Do our children have a "hippie attitude" toward the family establishment of God's Church?
Do any of our children have the attitude, "Are you going to try to tell me how to live when your life is an unhappy mess? You've got to be kidding'" It will be hard to admit if it's true in your case. But many children do reject the advice of their parents because they don't see the fruits of true happiness in their parents' lives! What all too many do see is their parents arguing every day — at least until the minister comes to visit or it's time for Sabbath services. Then they see hypocrisy and the double standard. They see that all dad ever seems to have time for is making more money to pay for more material things. And mom is always on the go, never doing much of anything that really seems worthwhile. Each parent selfishly "does his own thing." Do any of you parents wonder why your children never come to you for advice? And when you give it to them anyway, do you wonder why they reject it? Hopefully the answer is obvious. If you want your children to listen to your advice on how to be happy, you have to be an authority on the subject yourself. Otherwise they will have the same attitude the hippies had. You can't tell them how to live if you're not living right yourself. But the happier your lives are as parents, the more your children will listen to you and want the same way of life you have.
One Man's Experience
A long time ago a very wealthy man conducted an experiment in happiness. He saw that the world wasn't genuinely happy. So he rejected what everyone else — the "establishment" — had said and set out to discover on his own what happiness really was. He differed from most others in that he had an unusual amount of wisdom when it came to drawing proper conclusions. That man was King Solomon. Solomon studied a great deal. He worked hard at gaining wisdom and knowledge. Yet the more wisdom and knowledge he obtained, the more problems he saw (Eccl. 1:16-18). He then ran several controlled experiments. First he tried to amuse himself with entertainment, laughter and parties. But he found these to be empty. They didn't bring him true satisfying happiness (Eccl. 2:1-2). Next he tried drinking. But he kept from getting drunk, because in his wisdom he could see that a "stoned" person couldn't enjoy life (Eccl. 2:3). Solomon embarked upon great building projects. He got more servants, listened to music, oversaw large farms, gathered great wealth and married many women. None of it brought him the happiness he desired (Eccl. 2:4-11). Solomon saw that everything physical had an end. As a physical person there was no way that he could "beat the system." And he became so dejected about this that at times he exhibited the symptoms of a potential suicide (Eccl. 2:17-20). Under the system, there was only one conclusion he could reach: "So I decided that there was nothing better for a man to do than to enjoy his food and drink, and his job" (Eccl. 2:24, all quotes from The Living Bible). But Solomon also saw that there was only one way man could truly enjoy these physical pleasures. "Then I realized that even this pleasure is from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy apart from Him?" (Eccl. 2:24-25.) Solomon's overall conclusion was that man could not have happiness without living God's way. "Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty [or opportunity for real happiness] of man" (Eccl. 12:13). Solomon's wisdom didn't include the spiritual realm. It mainly involved what God calls "earthly wisdom" Games 3:13-15). And yet Solomon could see that God does want us to have a happy life by enjoying the physical. Although it isn't exactly stated in so many words, when you put his final statement with the rest of the Bible, you come to the conclusion that the only way to really enjoy the physical is to have a happy spiritual life!
Way to Happiness Must Be Learned
No one just happens to be happy by accident. Solomon searched for happiness and never really fully found it. The hippie experiment has also failed. Others have tried with the same results. But God's Church has the answer as revealed in His Word — the way to happiness both for the older and for the younger generation. Both parents and children want this way, yet often neither take full advantage of the opportunity offered them. Through the Bible and His Church God teaches the parents, who should then teach their children. But if the parents don't listen, they can't expect the children to listen either! The younger generation wants advice, and they know they need it. But it must come from a source that has proved it is an authority on the subject. In the previously mentioned questionnaire, another question, "What is your best source of guidance and help? Second best? Third?" developed some interesting trends. The teen-agers who listed their parents as first (excluding replies such as "the Bible" or "God"), also usually gave an unqualified "Yes" to the question, "Are you getting realistic satisfaction and enjoyment out of life?" This group on the whole said "No" to the question, "Does some form of a generation gap exist in your family?" Some of the answers and comments to this last question were: "No, not at all. If I have a different opinion on something than my parents do, they're willing to listen to my viewpoint." "No, because my parents listen to me, and I listen to them. We do things together and are very close." "Hardly any at all. Once in awhile we disagree about something, but it is usually leveled out." What are the teen-agers who gave such comments like? They're the ones who seem to be most at peace with themselves and others. They're content, things are O.K. with them. And they are also the leaders when it comes to activities. They are not frustrated; they will not get frustrated; they will help get things organized. And what about those who listed their parents as third or not at all as a source of guidance? A common answer to "Are you enjoying life?" ran something like this: "No — there's something missing." There were many responses like this one: "Yes in some ways, and no in others." And as to whether there was a generation gap, more often than not the answer was "Yes." The reasons given for the generation gap, or for thinking one existed, were also illustrative: "Pickiness — I like certain things and I have certain tastes which I want to show in my life. Not my parents' tastes." "Parents aren't acquainted or involved in kids' ideas, etc., in this age as well as they could be." "I think so because my dad never believes us when we tell the truth; he always thinks he's right, and that he is never wrong."
The Selfishness Gap
From this questionnaire and from another given to a different church group of all ages, the obvious conclusion for the cause of the generation gap could be summarized in one word — SELFISHNESS! Parents want to "do their thing." They're always too busy or too tired to listen to their children. They have more interest in self than what's happening to their children. Consequently, some parents never really get to know their kids. Perhaps the statement, "Delinquent children have delinquent parents," is truer than one might realize. The kids also want to "do their thing." If parents have not helped them find an interesting life, they will live it their own way. Parents will then be regarded as " old-fashioned" because they're not up on the latest. A "generation gap" will exist when neither side is willing to try to understand the other's views and feelings. No one is realistic about the situation. Each expects the other to be perfect. And since they are not, everything they stand for is suspected and rejected. How do you close that gap? Here's the advice the kids give!
Closing the Gap
"By both seeing each others' side to things, right wrongs, and each side give in a little." "I think both the adults and the teen-agers need to be more willing to listen and not to think that they have all the answers and close their minds to what the other person has to say. Also, I think people generalize so much. For example: He's a teen-ager, so you can't trust him. Or — he wouldn't understand because he's from a different generation." "By the family being together! And doing things with each other. Counseling with each other, talking over problems. Togetherness is what a family needs. Concern for one another." "By the parents showing the kids the right way, and making it fun, and showing the advantages instead of just ordering around." Most answers included the ideas of listening and being understanding, being together as a family, and doing things together. And the sooner the better. Believe it or not, your children want family activities. But not just any kind will do.
The younger generation wants an action-packed life! They want to do things and go places. Simply because they are young and filled with youthful energy, most are not content just to live a quiet, inactive life. They want to live life with "great speed" — as many older people regard it. When asked which would be better, "to have a variety of interesting things to do to be kept busy with" or "lots of free time," 8 out of 10 preferred the former. But who will provide them with the action they want? If the parents don't lead an active life, if they're too busy or too tired to do anything, if they're always saying " No," then chances are pretty good their kids will seek their kicks from a more appealing source. Whether it's right or wrong sometimes ma y make little difference to them. They want action! There are many things families can do together that aren't expensive. You will be surprised at what can be done if you'll just get together with your kids for a brainstorming session. "There is a time for everything," Solomon said, "a time to laugh, a time to dance" (Eccl. 3:1, 4). Youth is especially the time for the physically active life. Many parents will say they're too old to go around and do things like they once did. But a lot of other parents have proved them WRONG! Chances are you'll be healthier and you'll feel younger yourself if you're more active. Of course, no one expects you to have to compete with or outdo the youngsters in the sports of youth. And that really isn't the point. Remember, young people, like their parents, are intellectual beings. They also need mental exercise and stimulation as much and perhaps even more. So the point is just to DO things more with your children, as a family unit, to prevent or heal a "generation gap."
Compare the Results
"What would you like to have your parents do for you that would be most helpful and prepare you for life now and in the future ?" was the provocative question which brought forth the following interesting answers on the questionnaire. The group which was enjoying life and listening to their parents made comments like these: "Stay the way they are because they're already teaching me and preparing me for life." "Keep teaching me the right way, and be strict in things that are wrong." "Set me a good example and make sure I follow it." "Teach me how to act toward others and correct me when it is needed." "Keep up the work they are doing now. Make me build a whole lot more CHARACTER! " The group that stated there was something missing in life when it came to happiness, and had other sources of guidance listed before their parents, gave a variety of responses. Some of them were like this: "Get me a cycle" (motorcycle). "Teach me how to drive a car." "Not be so overly concerned. Let me think and act for myself." "Let us make a lot of our own decisions on where we want to go and so on. They should also trust us a lot more." "I can't answer because I can't think of anything I want my parents to do for me."
It's Up to You
Remember: Kids want to have a happy life. They want an action-packed and exciting life. They want their parents to set an example of happiness for them. This makes you a living authority on the information they want most. If you'll take the time to listen to them and talk to them, they'll talk to you, ask your advice and follow it. Parents, it is up to you!