Changing societal trends

Those who watched the BBC2 series, ‘Back in Time for the Weekend’ screened earlier this year, will have noticed the profound changes in lifestyle which have taken place over the last half century.  The programmes focussed on our leisure time – and how it has changed both in quantity and quality. 

The trend towards relying on costly ‘things’ to entertain us rather than personal interaction has kicked in as Postmodernism has become the backdrop to society in the UK, replacing outmoded Modernism, which held sway for the previous 200 years or so.  Whilst Postmodernism is not all negative, sadly we’re now reaping the consequences of postmodern egocentricity, materialism, and societal dysfunction.

It’s therefore with interest that I read a recent article by Gary Direnfeld at ,which takes a look at another impact of the shift from Modernism to Postmodernism in the middle of the last century.  It focusses on changes in child behaviour over the last fifty years, and the role of parents in child rearing.  He discusses the move away from the traditional role of parents since the 1950’s and the resulting challenges in children’s behaviour.  In brief this is what he notes:

1950’s: intact two parent families with a primary breadwinner and a primary homemaker

1960’s: Women’s Movement begins and gender equality begins to be examined publicly

1970’s: No-fault divorce appears in many jurisdictions, divorce rate begins to climb

1980’s: ‘Praise your kids’ was the new mantra in parenting

1990’s: As the economy tanks and rebounds, good paying jobs go and families require two income earners.  At issue is latch key kids

2000’s: From computers in bedrooms to video games to the introduction of the iPhone and then android operating system, technology consumes our attention and this generation

2010’s: Technology abounds and usage has increased throughout all age groups, right down to infants in strollers adapted to hold iPads and wristbands to count our every step.  We tell children the world is a dangerous place and they need to stay electronically tethered to stay safe.  We wonder why children generally are more anxious than ever before.

Direnfeld remarks that despite some good outcomes from the changes over the years, there are many unintended negative consequences.  In a nutshell, children have gone from having continuous access to a parent to marginally direct contact nowhere near the level of the ‘good old days’.  From a child’s perspective, they have less and less access to support, supervision and a parental role model for the transmission of morals and values.

We are less and less available to help them when they do fall, keep them directly safe from harm and simply enjoy each other’s company – all key to the child feeling safe, secure, loved and of value.

Direnfeld goes on to explore how child behaviour is negatively affected, and he concludes that managing child behaviour has and always will be determined by the quality of the relationship between the adult and the child.  The degree to which we are connected to our children, provide directly for their sense of safety, security and love, we have greater influence and legitimacy in their lives.

No doubt he is right!  After all, God instructed the Israelites to pass on their morals and values to the next generation by developing a good personal relationship with their children.  The precepts he imparted to the parents were to be impressed upon the children not by third parties, but rather, in this way:

Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:7)

A strong family unit with lots of personal interaction was a key ingredient in Israelite society.  In contrast, our modern society is not naturally suited to fulfilling God’s good advice.  Pressures on families today present very real challenges and they are not easily overcome.  But as God’s people we are called to live counter-culturally, and even with the restrictions of demanding and time-consuming jobs and the lure of fast technological advances, we must discover how to develop the kind of relationships with our children which are genuinely Godly and life-giving.  This is particularly pertinent as we anticipate more societal dysfunction in the days ahead, in line with scriptural warnings about lawlessness and unrest as the Last Days unfold.


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