Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Problematic behaviours in children and adolescents – Our family’s experience

I listened with bemused interest as my daughter described racing the Moose Jaw city bus to the end of the block.  There was a bus stop in front of the second house on our block and she would wait there on the sidewalk with her trike until the bus left the stop and then pump those pedals for all she was worth to try to beat it to the end of the block.  She was creating her own fun and I didn’t have much to offer as an alternative in this setting.

What did the future hold for this little girl?  What did it hold for our family?  My wife and I were Christians and wanted to provide a supportive setting for our daughter.  Racing the bus with her trike was fairly innocent, as long as she knew enough to stop at the end of the block, and at least for now she did.  But sometimes she would disappear into a house down the street to watch TV with the children there and listen to the conversations of the adults.  We didn’t want her going there, but she needed friends somewhere.

We had found a church where we felt at home, but it was three hours away.  And it was in a rural area where I could see no hope of finding work, considering my allergies.

After months of searching and prayer, the thought came to me to move to Ontario.  I knew where there was a congregation of the same church and surely there would be jobs available.  Was this a shot in the dark?  Or the first glimmer of a light at the end of the tunnel?  It was the only hint of light we had, so at the beginning of June in 1978 we crammed as much of our stuff as possible into our 1974 Toyota Corolla and I headed east.

After three days, I arrived near my intended destination, found a motel room and asked myself “What on earth am I doing here?”  I didn’t know anyone, or anything about what lay before me.

The next day, I forced myself to go out and meet someone from the congregation.  That broke the ice.  In another day or two I had a job in an auto parts factory and in another week I had rented a house.  By the end of June we were settled down in Ontario.  We spent 15 years in that congregation, I worked in the same place all that time and our little girl blossomed out into a fine young Christian lady.

I believe that Mme. Ambert hit the nail on the head when she listed the underlying causes of aggressive and antisocial behaviour in children and adolescents, but the solution will not come from government initiatives.

We didn’t see everything so clearly 35 years ago, but looking back now, I can see that this one decision answered most of the points raised by Mme. Ambert.  The congregation became our home community, we worshipped together at least once a week, the parents of our daughter’s friends were our friends.  The congregation operates a school for their children; the parents, the school board and the teachers were all on the same page as to the best interests of our children.  Parents were all on the same page when it came to media and entertainment as well.  Our children did not need such things, neither did we as parents.

None of our church community lived within walking distance.  Our daughter had other friends; we knew their parents, too.  Any negative influence they might have had was counterbalanced by the predominant influence of her friends from the congregation.  She has grown up to be someone who can relate to anyone, but who knows where her heart finds home and rest.

Home-schooling was not an option 35 years ago, at least not an option that we were aware of.  It would be today.  It appears that parents have a natural head start in teaching and training their own children; our daughter learned to read at home, before she started school.

I believe that home schooling is quite workable when parents are part of a community that shares their convictions.  Parents do not need special training or extensive knowledge of every subject.  There is a wealth of resources available to home schooling parents today and a group of parents can help each other by sharing in areas of expertise.  Studies have shown that home-schooled children fare much better academically and socially than children educated in the public schools.

However, in the setting where we found ourselves 35 years ago, home-schooling would not have been enough to supply our daughter’s need for a caring community.  I have observed some tragic situations in which well-meaning parents have raised their children according to their own convictions while remaining in a church fellowship that did not share those convictions.  The results have not been as the parents wished.

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