The following quote is from “Pathway for Families,” a CUT sponsored site. Under the section “Spiritualize your Family,” the site acknowledges that:
…research points out a shocking fact. In terms of involvement in risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking, premarital sex and drug use, there is virtually no difference between kids who have been raised in churches and those who have not been raised in churches.
Whoa! Then they talk about activities parents can do in the home, to supposedly change this fact, and miraculously ‘save’ their teens from the clutches of the ‘world.’ These are things like: pray together, volunteer for charity together, etc.
Now common sense would tell you that many parents of the children in the study already were doing these things. So apparently, it isn’t working.
I challenge CUT on their record of raising teens: CUT is no better, and in many ways worse than providers of a secular upbringing. The church strategy not only failed to prevent their own kids in their own schools from drinking and doing drugs. They failed to care for teens who were emotionally hurting and needed help. Instead, they demonized and expelled those who partook of drugs, sex, alcohol, or rock music.
This was no solution at all. All CUT did is make their own children resent the church and their parents.
I can tell you from having grown up in that church, that the CUT approach will NEVER work. Having raising three children myself, I’ve learned that the only way out of the teen years is through. It’s really part of a broader social problem.
This is for two reasons:
- Teens have a need to identify with their peers, and temporarily reject the values of their parents.
- Teens need to place themselves in actual danger, as a rite of passage. Fake danger won’t do.
Today the danger might be risky sex, drunk driving, extreme drug use, gang involvement, etc.. In our distant past, it would have been going on a first solo hunt, or participating in tribal warfare with the adult warriors. Many tribes also had rites-of-sexual-passage, whereby adults initiated the teens.
In the Mbuti Elima, “the girls in the hut have the right to rush out from time to time and chase after the young men. Should a boy or man be caught, he has to enter the hut, whereupon he is teased and is under some pressure to give sexual satisfaction to the girls inside.”(1) This is a very simple form of ritual sexual initiation where young people are introduced to not only the obligations but also the rewards of adult sexual life.
Although this is not a common part of most girl’s rites, even in more chaste cultures, the young people sometimes take advantage of the privacy of the prescribed isolation of the initiate, and there are quite a few stories about how she might receive nightly visits in her moon hut. Most North American peoples also used to see the appearance of the first blood as a sign that the girl was ready to be sexually active, or even marry. The lessons of her “godmother” would then also include the proper sexual education.
When we try to take away danger and sexuality from our teens, we rob them of a vital step in their development. How much better would it be, for example, if parents could come to terms with the fact that their teens would engage in risky activities, and provide some supervision? Is that really so far out of the realm of the possible?
But the law would slap down any parent who provided such a safe haven. Parents are routinely arrested when they do this. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor. So what we get are keggers in the woods, or kids driving around with alcohol in cars, or unsupervised parties at houses where the parents are out of town. Kids DIE this way all the time. But at least their bereaved parents can be consoled they were obeying the law!?!
What a mess religious and social repression of teens has made. What a travesty this ignorance creates. Praying with your children at home accomplishes less than nothing, and also makes parents complacent to the inevitable storm of hormones and conflict that characterize the teen years. No one is more ill-prepared than repressive religious parents who keep thinking that somehow THEIR children will simply not do what everyone else, including themselves, did.
The biggest factor in raising healthy children to adulthood is to make sure your kids know they can trust you. That no matter what they do, or what trouble they get in, you love them and you will be there for them. That you understand that they will eventually take these risks, and you will be there to teach them how to do it intelligently so they make it through ALIVE.
So this means sharing detailed knowledge about drugs and their effects, frank talks about sex, help with contraception, and attempting to establish safe havens to the greatest extent possible. That’s the real “pathway for healthy families.” Remember, you want a relationship with your kids that will last a lifetime. There is no more sure-fire way to alienate your child for life than to be a bastard or bitch of a repressive parent during the very years when they are trying to figure out who they are.
Great post, Sean. This is a serious topic that needs lots of exposure!
yes teenhood… the most projected upon age of our society! those scary undisciplined, wild destructive sexual drug/alcohol abusers! yesâ€¦ US! or many of us, who then grew up and then never wanted OUR kids to do the terribly dark disgusting deeds we had fun at and discovered ourselves through!
I was just speaking to my teens yesterday, telling them that the problem with most parents and their control issues is that they don’t recognize that kids are awakening to adulthood as early as 13. From that point on you donâ€™t get to just lord over. The thinking individual is present and if not respected will become angry and destructive.
As a teen myself with a mormon mother, I became a pathological liar in order to hide what was happening in my bodyâ€¦ sexual urges, desire for altered states, encounters with dangerâ€¦ which was completely antithetical to my motherâ€™s religion. There was no option for dialogue. I wandered down a many-yeared dark labyrinth having to find my own way
We as parents and a society create our pathologies and our criminals becasue of our refusal to be in relationship with and give space to the deep down dark and dirty urges of the human animal. Repressed and denied these urges have no option but to come out in destructive and deadly ways.
Parents, create a haven for your teens and the dark wild that you still are.
Well said darkeros, I completely agree more!
@darkeros, thanks for your story.
sntc, thank you as well.
@Dennis Fisher, thanks for the supportive comments about my parenting. I do OK, and I hope I’ve managed to keep my kids from resenting me later. I just try to let them do their thing and help them when I can. But there’s always conflict on some level. It would signal trouble if there wasn’t! I’d rather keep the conflict conscious than seething under the surface.
You know we’re never going to agree on the prayer issue–because I don’t think you’re reaching anyone when you pray. If it makes people feel better, I guess it can’t hurt. But if it gets in the way of true communication, it will definitely hurt. To me, leaving something in “God’s hands” is the same as doing nothing about it at all.
So I’d rather see people spend the limited time they have with their kids sharing their own wisdom rather than praying.
As far as home keg parties are concerned, you’re right it’s a tough call. I wouldn’t feel right hosting a party for 13 or 14 year-olds with alcohol, even if it were legal. But 16? 17 or 18? Where do you draw the line? In Europe, they have very different standards.
People in the U.S. can sign up to put their lives on the line in the military at 18, and others of their age can’t even take a legal drink.
So you have this tremendous subculture of illegal drinking going on in the teen years. Parents have no idea how to handle it, so they look the other way, and the alcohol ends up in cars and in large groups away from supervision.
A similar thing happens with teen sex.
I’m saying we need to take a look at this, and see how parents could supervise these dangerous activities without running afoul of the law. I’m open to suggestions!
Sean, I too have seen how the religious fanatics of the world beat their kids with the words in the bible and even the “teachings”. These poor kids are learning intolerance and growing up with a deep anger towards their parents and the world.
I can usually pick out these FANATICS in a crowd very easily. And yes, CUT had a large amount and other religions too and even “non religious” groups have their FANATICS too. Don’t forget to include them.
I agree what you said about being the “PARENT” yet having a family relationship with your kids where there is Trust. Love, Acceptance and Tolerance, Forgiveness, Patience, Openness, Respect, all that is equally there too of course. You must be a wonderful father.
I would like to ad, if the family has a solid base of these basic principles , which is the Heart of all the spiritual teachings, then children have a safe place to learn to interact and solve their disagreements with each other. Grow to understand other points of view form there own philosophy of life.
Grow up happy and loved.
Sean,I disagree about your take on family Prayer. Your generalizations of religious people but i understand where you are coming from and you have lots of amno on this i bet.
And i would have to say “no” the Kegger Party’s so my teenagers can drink at home. lol But you knew that was coming.
My point here is this, Parents don’t be fanatical one way or the other find the middle way. Find your own heart center and don’t force your ideas on your children.
I can’t say I am the best parent in the world, but I can tell you my kids arent lying to me and sneaking around. They have some friends that are like that with their parents, but when they are at my house theyre pretty open as well. I am a firm believer in NOT lying to kids about drugs sex, religion, the easter bunny, santa, and the tooth fairy. I have always felt that way. My husband and I had couple runs in when it came to Santa, cuz I didnt like the idea of lying to the kids. I won that battle, so when my kids were really little they knew DAD was Santa, the Easter bunny and the Tooth fairy. They played the game to keep their dad happy and a couple times tried to hand their dad a tooth so they could get the money then and there. lol I also think because I refused to lie to my kids about Santa and the gang, that it made it a lot harder for my kids to believe in a god. When we did go to church, the very few times that we did, it never took. My kids would come home and ask a few questions with utter disbelief and walk away with a look of…no fucking way.lol SO, naturally when it comes to sex and drugs my kids trust and believe everything I tell them.
I NEVER EVER tell them NOT TO, I tell them there is a lot to learn about sex and drugs before you make that choice and it is their responsibility to make sure they know everthing about it before they do it. I think my biggest hang up about drugs is they way schools, media and even parents lie about certain drugs that are much easier to get and we know arent really dangerous. Weed is the easiest “drug” to get and we all know it has NEVER killed anyone, it is not addictive and there is no evidence that it causes wreckless driving either. Our society has lied so much to our kids that they are naturally going to do what their parents and others tell them not to do. The sad part is that when kids try weed for the first time and realize their parents and others were full of shit, they may move on to other drugs that are dangerous and addictive. I do warn my kids about those dangerous drugs and alchohol, but I try not to make them sound so sinnful that they cant tell someone if they do decide to try them and something goes wrong. So far it has worked and my teenagers don’t drink or do drugs even though their friends do and a couple of times my kids have come to me with a drunk friend who was puking their guts up, wanting to know what to do and worried about them. So a couple of times I have helped my kids friend sober up enough not to die of alchohol poisoning or chocking on their own vomit. And no I do not tell thier parents. That would break the trust. I would however get them help and try to get them to go to their parents themself if it were a real problem. It really all boils down to being completely honest about the drugs, their effects and how addictive they are and if your kids trust you, they listen to you and make smart choices when it comes to drugs. Same goes for sex. I never tell them not to, I tell them there are things that they need to know, especially about their own bodies, before making that choice. Knowing their own bodies is important or they may not even get to enjoy it and sex should be enjoyable! I give them books on sex and their bodies and it is their responsibility to learn and ask me if they have any questions. In my opinion if they can accept all the responsibilities, then they are ready to have sex. It is an instinct that I have no right to deny them of at whatever age they decide to take on that responsibility. So far my kids, even my 17 year old, are not having sex. Which is kinda shocking to me, but I also believe that our society is obsessed with sex only because it is a taboo subject. At 14 when my son was getting curious, my husband got him a subscription of Playboy. I thought my son would never leave his room again, but it didnt happen that way. And it turns out that Playboy is a GREAT source for sexual education and drug education. My son would tell me all the stuff he learned from the articles and I think it also desensitized him about sex, cuz he swears he just doesnt think about it as much as some of his friends and what the statistics say men do.
There is no perfect parent, but being an honest parent keeps your kids trust in you.
Amy, I think you’re right on! I do think religious belief can take hold more easily if kids have been pre-conditioned to think there is an actual “tooth-fairy” “easter bunny” or “santa claus”.
Below about age 6, kids also have imaginary friends. So the idea of invisible beings that are as real as visible ones seems to have a innate basis in the brain. If parents then encourage this by claiming the fantasy beings are real (like the tooth fairy), it seems to leave a fertile ground for the churches to ride in with their host of angels, demons, etc. This vulnerable time of childhood should be guarded by parents with their life.
The “imaginary friend” phase needs to be allowed to pass in much the same way as kids quickly figure out that TV and movies aren’t real.
With regard to teens, it seems you have figured out a good strategy. But I want to point out that you, me, and many other parents who provide understanding, care, and information may be breaking the law. Especially with regard to alcohol and drugs.
I don’t know exactly how the laws are written, and I know for sure they are selectively enforced. But parents are technically supposed to report any teen alcohol or drug use to police.
This almost never happens in practice. But the requirement provides a club to be used against parents in case an incident occurs. Once the government comes into a family, the burden of proof shifts to the family to prove why their kids shouldn’t be taken by social services.
When my son was severely burned at a party, (with flaming alcohol poured on him by other kids) we got a visit from social services. It is a scary thing to have someone show up at your door who has the power to take your kid away.
I say all this just to let you know that although most parents do just fine in the legal grey area when they support their teens, there ultimately needs to be a refinement of the law.
Sean, as far as suggestions go, i don’t have any, sorry. I think my situation is so different then yours. I had only a small part in help raising 2 girls, both grown up now, one 23 now and the other 21, Girls are so different than raising boys. Plus the fact that kid’s needs are so different anyway.
What works for one would not work for the other.
Girls in many respects are so much easier especially for fathers or step fathers. I really had it so easy. Never really had any trouble at all. Both girls are over-achievers one is working on her masters and the other is graduating in December from Long Beach State. It was so nice to have 2 kids who were self starters and self motivated.
My parenting experience was driving them to
practices like basketball, soccer, water polo, debate, dance, girl scouts, and to friend’s sleep overs. I can count on one hand the times i even had to raise my voice,
Now with boys i bet you have had a different experience if it was any thing like my partying teen years.
I agree Sean. I know there are a lot of laws out there that can be used to destroy families. I know it is illeagal in a lot of states to give teens Playboy. At least I know it was in VA and NC. I am willing to take that risk for my kids. Our morals and values will never be accepted if we dont use them and show how they really are better for kids. Unfortunately it will take a lot of parents getting in trouble till people wake up and realize that we can not lord over our children and crush their spirit to live. And really once all the taboos are stripped away the bad behavior seems to disapear or minimalize.
There are tons of studies done on indigenous peoples that dont have sexual and drug taboos and yet they don’t have the problems that we do. Trobriand Islanders have no sex and drug taboos and yet they dont have teen pregnancy and out of control angry teens. They also dont have incest and sexual abuse of children nor do they have all the other perverses that we have in our taboo ridden society.
Thank you so much for posting this.
I’m nearly eighteen, and it’s that sort of controlling parenting that has me dying for a chance to move out and get away from my dad. Both my parents were part of CUT, and I was raised in the church until I was about twelve and my parents got divorced, when my life started turning into the type of soap opera that I think many people’s lives actually are when you look closely enough to see it.
Although my mom trusts me to make good decisions and to know what I want, my dad continues to be irrationally persistant in controlling everything I do, and yet still somehow avoiding any actually conflicts. It’s as though he wants to build a wall between me and the rest of the world, and force me to remain five years old, while all the time trying to get me to grow up and take on responsabilies of my own, and, as you can imagine, the two clash terribly when they try to coexist. Some of the most functional families I know have kids who can make sexs jokes around their parents, or talk about drugs with them– I don’t think my sisters or I could ever do that.
I know other parents like this, and if they could just open their minds and let down their need for control enough to see what you’re talking about, the world of teenagers would be a much better place. We’re the future, right? We need to trust our parents to trust US to take care of ourselves.