The Barna Group continually tracks cultural changes, especially in relation to matters of faith, entertainment, lifestyles and values. A special analysis of thousands of interviews the company conducted during 2007 identifies several patterns that are significantly affecting the development of American culture. Those transformations were described as Americans’ unconditional self-love; nouveau Christianity; the five Ps of parenting; and designer faith with rootless values.
The article is interesting, but I'd like to look briefly at one section, which I've copied for you here:
The 5 Ps of Parenting
Most parents want to do a great job of raising their children. However, Barna studies conducted throughout the year among parents of children under 18 revealed that few parents have a strategy or plan for how they will accomplish that goal. There are, however, five primary outcomes that most parents have focused upon and serve as a de facto strategy. George Barna, author of the book Revolutionary Parenting, about parenting strategies, called them the "five P’s of parental hope."
1. Preparation. Millions of parents enroll their youngsters in numerous and varied activities in order to prepare their children for success. Most parents do not see themselves as the key to grooming a well-rounded child; they believe their role is to place their child in developmental environments and under the tutelage of those who can take their prodigies to the next level of proficiency.
2. Performing well. Parents look for measures of productivity that indicate how their child is doing on the path to success. Good grades in school, scoring in sports, and performing well in artistic endeavors are among the measures parents rely upon, as well as feedback from other parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and other experts.
3. Pressure management. Amidst significant parental expectations, stiff academic standards and peer pressure, many kids struggle to stay healthy and balanced. Parents who are cognizant of these mounting pressures attempt to help their offspring learn how to manage stress, competition and disappointments.
4. Protection. The age-old problem of bullies - still considered by kids, parents and teachers to be a significant issue - can be added to such parental fears as kidnapping, drugs, and sexualization, making the security of children one of the top priorities of parents.
5. Public perception. In a society where image is reality, and parents are as anxious about their image as a parent as they are about their child’s image in their peer group, influencing public perceptions is a major concern among parents. Like politicians, many parents hone their skills in spin control and positioning in order to place them and their children in the best possible light.
Barna’s surveys point out that most parents underestimate the influence they can exert on their children. Consequently, they often focus on the 5 Ps but neglect emphasis upon activities that would strengthen their relational bond with the children. Many parents, even those who are born again Christians, also overlook the need to foster deeper a connection between their children and God, or to enhance the child’s worldview as a critical component of their decision-making skills.
The article also mentioned that Americans, especially adults under 30, strive to be connected to lots of people, but have a nagging sense of isolation and loneliness. You'll see them congregating (the use of a quasi-religious word is intentional here, folks) at Starbucks, or feverishly text messaging or talking on cell phones, but the depth of relationship is not satisfying. It's hard to bear your soul using txt msgs 2 try 2 xprss ur hart - lol : )
We're setting our children up for more of the same if we're content to farm their formation out to "experts" like teachers, coaches, piano and jujitsu instructors, computer spelling games and whatever TV show has taken the place of Sesame Street. Parental interaction on a consistent basis is important and irreplaceable. Talking over thoughts, feelings, sharing activities together, and, most importantly, sharing one's relationship with Jesus and the saints teaches our children how to be in relationships that have depth, meaning and mutuality.
And that mutuality is important. Americans have a very high opinion of themselves. At least that's one of the mega-trends the Barna research uncovered. We are able to love unconditionally quite well - as long as the object of that love is ourselves! I remember one of the things one of my former student masters would say when he realized that he'd been talking about himself for awhile. He'd look a bit sheepish for a moment and then joke, "But enough about me - what do you think about me?"
Success in nurturing satisfying relationships require us to move beyond ourselves, and to allow another person to be the focus of our attention, allowing their concerns to move us, their thoughts to challenge our own, their heartache to break our own heart. This is part of what "dying to ourselves" entails. And from what I've observed, raising children well requires a lot of death on the part of the parents!