I had a poster in my office several years ago that said, “Not to decide is to decide.” The simple, but profound, meaning of this statement has stayed with me over the years. You cannot truly avoid taking a stand. There is no such thing as being “value neutral.”
Unfortunately, many parents follow a no-decision and valueless approach to rearing their children. Confused themselves, the parents don’t want to pass along this indecisiveness to their offspring, feeling that some institution, namely the public schools, can make up for the lack of beliefs and values. Schools were asked to add the roles once primarily held by family and church.
The breakdown of teaching clear-cut values – taking a stand for what you believe is right and wrong – became most acute during the 1960s and ‘70s. Ironically, it was the public school, the institution designated to pass on the nation’s common values, where the confusion of beliefs became most noticeable. That which was least controversial became truth.
Textbooks were especially susceptible in this no-value, no-controversy era. There was careful avoidance, for example, of the subject of religion. The role religion played in the foundation of America was hardly even mentioned. Such movements as abolition of slavery, prohibition and civil rights were discussed without the slightest notation of accompanying values.
It’s little wonder that many families today are unsure how to teach values to their children. Today’s parents realize the world has changed, and that many tried-and-true methods of the past aren’t as effective as they once were. Isolation from stable communities and families adds to the parents’ sense of uncertainty.
Also, many of today’s young parents were nurtured in a society where morality was always relative, where right and wrong, good and evil, were simply rules made by people – not God.
Of the three institutions – church, school and family – the family is the obvious first choice to teach basic moral values to children. Research indicates that children, even teenagers, still rely more on parents’ wishes in “future-oriented situations,” such as how to spend money on major purchases, which courses to take in school, which future occupation to choose, and whether to attend college.
Children like knowing how to behave. And parents must be their primary teachers.
The main business of all parents is passing on good moral values to their children. No child should leave home without them. The way parents cooperate, share with one another, show respect, and communicate are of utmost importance. Parents cannot opt to “not decide” on this issue.
Michael C. Blackwell leads the ministry with vigor and enthusiasm. He has served as president of Baptist Children's Homes since 1983 and has a record-setting 31-year tenure.