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A child’s greatest influence

By Nathan Rice

A boy shared with me some trouble that he was having in school. He was having a problem with one of the other students. I listened as he recounted his problem.

He ended his part of the story by sharing his resolution.

He declared emphatically, “I’m just going to hit him!” I asked him some questions about the situation and then asked if he could work with the teacher or if a meeting with the principal could help, and I offered to work with him, his family, and his school directly. We discussed other options, such as avoiding the student with whom he did not get along. Then, I talked about the virtue of being able to walk away when others say mean things to you and encouraged him to avoid violence. I could tell he was listening, and I hoped that my words were making him think. “I know all that,” he said, “But my dad said to punch him, so I’m just going to hit him!”

I presented him with several options and offered to help in the situation. I could tell he understood those options, but I was unable to overcome the poor advice from his father.

Another time, a young man sat across from me while we discussed life and family. “It’s funny,” he said, “My cousin and I both hate our fathers, but we are both so much like them.”

These two examples display what we should already know. Parents have a tremendous influence on the lives of their children. It seems that this shouldn’t need to be said, but it does.

Many parents don’t seem to understand that they play an enormous role in the development of their children. Some parents think they can leave the development of their children to others. They place the responsibility for their child’s education on the schools, and spiritual guidance is left entirely to pastors and teachers. Coaches, guidance counselors, and others fill the remaining roles.

If children are lucky, there will be many people who love them and desire to help them grow, but none of these people will ever carry the same influence as their parents.

Parents must understand that they are the ones who are primarily responsible for their child’s upbringing. The schools are there to assist in children’s education, but the primary responsibility falls on the parents. Likewise, a child’s spiritual development is a parent’s responsibility. Pastors and teachers are called to help and come alongside in the journey, but it is not meant to be solely of them. It is the same with coaches, counselors and the rest of those who work with children.

The saying that it takes a village to raise a child is correct, but it doesn’t mean the parents are supposed to hand off the responsibility of raising their children to the village. The village is intended to come alongside the parents to lend much-needed support to the parents while providing a vast network of caring, loving adults to the child.

Parents, take charge of your children’s upbringing. Whether you admit it or not and whether you like it or not, you are your children’s most significant influence.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.