I have shared that I spent 37 as a public school educator. When I got my first job in the 70’s we could demand obedience of our students. A call home, a swat on the bottom, or worse… being sent to the principal’s office accomplished two things. One, it taught the disobedient student that there were consequences for disobedience and those consequences weren’t fun. Secondly, it taught the other students in the class that obedience was probably a better choice. Then some genius decided that kind of punishment ruined self-esteem and the government stepped in and told schools they could no longer teach that lesson. Today we see bullies who mistreat their classmates without fear of consequences. We read about young people who have so little fear of discipline they bring guns to school with the intent of killing others.
When I first started teaching it was a rarity for the parents of our students to be divorced. Children almost always shared the last name of their moms and dads. And it was unheard of that a student’s parents had never married. Eventually, that became less and less true. So we were told never to address a mom as “Mrs.” for fear of offending her. “Ms” became the norm. Today, a nuclear family, married parents is the rarity.
It was rare that a student got pregnant. But when a teenager did get pregnant, she was given the opportunity to continue her education at home and she certainly did not bring her new-born to school with her. But, again, we worried about her sense of self, and eventually protruding bellies became commonplace in the classrooms. Some schools even opened day care for the babies to make it convenient for the teenage mothers. Today the number of teen pregnancies is astronomical, even down into the middle school ages.
I thought about these things when I read about the prostitute in John’s vision. She said, “I sit as a queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.” She has no conscience. But she’s not hurting in the self-esteem category, is she?
Are we raising kids to think like this? Entitled? Above the rest? In the attempt to protect self-esteem (which is not a biblical concept) have we neglected to teach our children to recognize sin and repent of it? Paul described himself as a wretched man when faced with the reality of his sin. Doesn’t sound like he was feeling too good about himself at that point. Shouldn’t our children learn to describe themselves in the same way in light of sin in their lives?
Recently a young mom expressed to me concern that by swatting her child on the bottom she was damaging her child’s self-esteem. She felt guilty for spanking her disobedient child. The thing is, she is a good mom. She’s a mom who is determined to raise children who love and serve God. And her young children already have a sense of God’s love and presence in their young lives.
God spanks, doesn’t he? And it doesn’t feel good when we are disciplined by our loving Heavenly Father. But it’s necessary for our relationship with him. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where it says we should strengthen our sense of self. Quite the opposite. Because unless we see ourselves as wretched sinners, we won’t recognize our need of a Savior.
Here’s a thought. Self-esteem is not the same as confidence. We can encourage our children’s confidence in their talents and abilities and at the same time give God the glory. It’s important for our children to have the confidence to tackle new things, refine a talent. But teaching those children that they are self-centered, worthy, better than others without consideration of consequences for doing wrong, is teaching them to think like Satan did before the fall.
Holy God, I thank you once again for prompting John to write down his vision. As I look at the prostitute he saw, I wonder if she doesn’t represent our world in 2013. Father, I pray for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and baby sitters. May we who love little ones not be afraid to lovingly discipline when needed. Help us to raise children with consciences and a sense of self that causes them to run to the Savior. Give wisdom, give courage, and may we love our little ones enough to discipline them like you discipline us.