C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man points us to the lie that cripples parenting today. Briefly comprehended, the problem is that “modern” people do not believe in the universal standard of goodness that is shared in common by all humanity.
I say “the standard,” rather than “a standard,” because there is, in fact, only one real standard, and we suffer to the extent that we lose any part of that standard.
Parenting, regardless of the kindliness of its sentimentality, is deprived of all power towards helping the child when parents believe that the child is not to be measured by the universal standard of goodness. Whenever we can not conceive of a standard outside the child himself, by which the child is to be measured, and to which the child is to be conformed, our parenting will be evil in operation. This despite any tenderness we may feel towards our offspring. The operation of our parenting in such profound spiritual darkness will have a cruel effect.
Pro 12:10 … the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
Intentions are not wedded to effects. If you feed your neighbor’s dog rat poison, the outcome will not be guided by what you hope will happen. This is why Proverbs says that whoever spares the rod hates his son. He may neglect discipline out of tenderness, but the effect is all the same as if he hated his child. The foolish father is the more to be pitied because he does not know what he is doing.
If the parent understands himself and his child to be responsible to conform to the standard, he can share what he knows of the standard with his child. This is “men introducing men to manhood.” The father is sharing what he knows of being human. He is passing on, as best he understands, that standard to which humans must conform themselves. This is loving the child as you would love yourself, giving him all the best that you have in your power.
If a parent works to conform his child’s behavior to some standard, without seeing it as the common, shared standard, without believing it is what is right and best for humanity, he will inevitably be manipulating his child. Even so, this manipulation may still produce a good effect in the child’s life, although the father will not have intended it. He may have taught the child good manners for purely selfish reasons, but the child will nevertheless have absorbed a right lesson.
Parents who have tender feelings for their children, who desire to do good, will balk at any suggestion that they manipulate their children. Because they want to be good to their children, they will refuse to selfishly manipulate them. But these parents are in even greater need, not less, to see the common standard by which humanity is to be measured. A selfish parent will reprove his children for selfish reasons, and the child may profit by it. But a loving parent, who acknowledges no standard, will let his children languish in ignorance.
Just think of it! A selfish father may train his child in respect, obedience, good manners, hard work and scrupulous honesty. All these qualities will benefit the father, by making home life more pleasant and making the child an asset to the family. Imprinting such qualities on a young life will also benefit the son long after the father is gone. And yet a parent who refuses to discipline for his own benefit, may permit all kinds of backtalk, disrespect, laziness, and lying. And he will permit them if he doesn’t see the child’s humanity as requiring conformity to the standard of goodness on these points.