With the recent school shooting in Florida, I have seen numerous posts attributing this young man’s horrible actions to bad parenting. This reflects the saying that most of us have heard many times: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” The only problem with this is that I have seen the apple fall off the tree, roll down the hill, plop into the stream and be carried out into the ocean. I have seen great parents whose children have made horrible decisions. I have witnessed some pretty rotten parenting and yet seen their children grow up into some of the most amazing people I have known.
One of the reasons that we love to blame bad parenting for children who behave badly is that we love the illusion of control. I would love to believe that if I am a good parent that I am assured good children who will make good decisions in life, love Christ, and be productive members of society. I could then control the outcome for my children. However, even God didn’t exercise this kind of control over his children. His children had/have a choice, and my children have a choice as well.
I am not downplaying the impact of parents. Parents have a tremendous influence on their children, and Christian parents are called to understand our role in training up our children in the way they should go. What I am speaking against is the idea of a “one to one” correlation between parenting and behavior in children. The simple idea that bad behavior equals bad parents is to assume a degree of control over our children that is an illusion. To immediate blame bad parenting as the source of bad behavior also pierces the heart of many great parents who are already deeply broken over children who have chosen to reject the teaching, values, and love of their parents.