Linda & Richard Eyre: Who’s winning the war on families?
There is a war going on right now, and it pits anti-family forces against parents.
For more than three decades, we have been writing and speaking to parents and families around the globe (46 countries at last count). The disturbing thing is that even as parents try harder and put forth more effort, raising responsible and values-centered children is getting harder and harder.
This is partially because the larger institutions of our society no longer put forth much effort to support the smallest institution of family.
So after 30 years of trying to fight the war for families by arming parents with methods and techniques and ideas for raising kids — and yet still seeing the fight get harder and the tide turn more and more against families — we decided it was time to call out those who are intentionally or unintentionally harming the family and undermining parents. It's the reason we wrote our upcoming book "The Turning," which the Deseret News is currently publishing excerpts from.
Not long ago, as we were giving a speech at a national convention composed mostly of parents, we asked the audience what they thought was to blame for the increasing breakup of families and the steady decline in family life. They all tended to blame themselves.
“Not spending enough time with my kids.”
“Working too much.”
“Not knowing their friends well enough, or what they watch on TV or what they do online. It’s our fault.”
We probed further.
“Do you really blame yourselves? How many of you think of your family as your highest priority?”
Ninety-five percent of the audience members raised their hands.
“Then why do you let these things happen?”
With that question, the tone of the audience’s responses changed. Hands went up all over the auditorium.
“We don’t let them happen!”
“We don’t choose how long we work or what is put on the Internet or the attitudes our kids pick up from their friends or their school.”
“We’re the victims of it — it happens to us.”
“Well, then,” we rephrased the earlier question, “who do we blame — who are the culprits?”
Now the audience members were releasing themselves from parental guilt, realizing there were new, larger forces causing many of their family problems and undermining their efforts to be good parents to their children. We got answers from the personal to the sweeping.
“It’s my employer.”
“It’s greedy corporate America.”
“It’s the Internet.”
“It’s advertising and instant gratification.”
“It’s all the easy credit and debt.”
“It’s the schools — what they’re teaching and what they’re not teaching.”
“It’s the movies and the rap music and the violence and the pornography.”
We made a long list of “culprits” on a big white board and we asked the next question: “What do we do about it?”
“Write our congressman!”
But the answers rang a little hollow. We were all feeling our smallness and inadequacy as parents to fight such big and powerful “culprits.”
Then, a young mother at the back of the hall gave the key answer.
“It seems to me that we can blame a lot of these bigger forces, but I doubt we’re going to change them. Maybe if we just see and understand what all these things in our society are doing to our families, we can talk to our kids about them and work out how to use more of the good and avoid more of the bad.”
We agreed with that young mother then, and we agree with her now. The first step to making change is to understand what we are up against. It's our responsibility to make our own family cultures stronger than all of the Internet, media, corporate and peer cultures that try to suck our children away.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Their new book is "The Turning: Why the State of the Family Matters, and What the World Can Do About It."
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