All good parents share a common trait. We worry. We worry about what our kids might do and what they won’t do, about what they will be and who they will be with. We worry about the types of people they will be and the choices they will make. “Make good choices!” is a near universal parental admonition. But what are good choices and how do we make them?
This question came to mind recently as a chatted with a long term patient at the end of the visit. He was the last appointment of the morning so I had to time to chat at the end of the visit and ask how his children were doing. They were both at the edge of adulthood and he talked about his desire that they do well in life. I knew he had put effort into being a good father and had tried to give his children wise counsel. He told me that the words, “make good choices” had crossed his lips on many occasions.
I talked about parenting my own children (both who have reached adulthood) and how I had given them similar counsel over the years. One difference between us was that as a result of our faith our family shared an understanding of what good choices were. Right and wrong were not defined in the heat of the moment nor dependent on the particular circumstances in which we found ourselves. Right and wrong, for our family, have been consistently defined according to scripture.
Right and wrong were also regularly discussed in our home. My wife and I long ago took to heart the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 6 when he told the people of Israel that God’s word and the principles therein were to be discussed and applied as an ongoing part of daily life. Discussions of truth, of what was right and wrong, were common and made their way into conversations at dinner, while waiting in lines at Disneyland, on car trips and during walks in the park. The result was that when faced with moral decisions our children did not struggle to determine what the right path was. It was something that they already knew and understood.
Families like ours are increasingly rare. In American culture people have moved away from the moral clarity of scripture to the moral relativism of secular humanism. While definitions of right and wrong were once commonly understood and rarely questions they are now subjective, momentary, individual and abstract. The result is a generation of children who lack a moral compass and who define rightness not according to an enduring standard but as feeling good about something at a particular moment in time. In the absence of a defined standard "making good choices" becomes impossible.
We do best as parents when we not only encourage our children to do right but teach them what rightness is and from whence it comes. When our children understand these truths making good choices can become a reality.
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