In North Dakota we have over 1,700 inmates in custody in our correctional institutions. Another 6,100 former prisoners are on parole or probation. We also have 7,300 unruly and delinquent kids as juvenile court referrals.
These are only the wrongdoers that have been caught. There are uncounted thousands more who have not been caught or identified by the criminal justice system. Then there are thousands more who have not arrived but are well on the way to crime and delinquency.
County sheriffs and city police know of thousands more who have the rank of troublemakers.
Behind all of this crime and delinquency are parents walking the floor at night, wringing their hands over their wayward descendants and asking themselves in a tsunami of guilt and shame, “what have we done wrong?”
“We have been a godly family going to church regularly, serving the community and playing the role of Good Samaritan in town. What happened that Junior turned out bad while his two brothers have been paragons of virtue?”
By the numbers, we have more than enough parental guilt in North Dakota to eat the hearts out of thousands of innocent parents.
A common source of the guilt comes from Proverbs 22:6, in which the Wisdom of Solomon states that we should:
”Train a child in the way he/she should go, and when he/she is old he/she will not turn from it.”
Because of this myth, the parents of all of those who have run afoul of the law are thinking that waywardness was caused by their failure to bring children up the way they should go.
Dad and Mom, it’s all your fault. The Bible says so. And most of us believe it.
When we see parents trying to subdue an unruly kid our first thought is that home life was the cause of such a brat.
“It’s a lie,” says contrarian Larry Osborne in his book 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe.
According to Osborne, we have bought into the idea that a godly home guarantees godly kids.
“It’s a lie and every lie …ends up being a house of cards, destined to collapse under the pressing weight of time, truth and reality.”
Osborne says that “the culprit is as likely to be genetics as home life.”
Most families suffer from behavioral variations in their own children, some with a bent for rebellion and some for respecting the norms and the law. The same parents followed the same parenting practices and ended up with different children.
This ought to assuage the guilt of parents who have three good kids and one black sheep.
Among 10 siblings, we had one black sheep in our family who tore up the world absolutely unconcerned about the damage and hurt he was causing. He cheated his sister, deserted his families and fathered children we still don’t know. The world would have been safer with him incarcerated.
The other nine siblings? No trouble. Explain that if all were raised in similar circumstances.
Osborne concludes by noting that “the accomplishments or sins of our children don’t necessarily reflect our parenting skills. There are way too many variables that come into play. All we can do is our best. The final outcome is ultimately out of our hands.”
Now Pastor Osborne certainly believes that parents should make a best effort, but they should accept the facts and not take all of the blame for the wayward child or adult who ended up in the criminal justice system.
Disclaimer: I am not a certified family counselor but I am older than Solomon and that ought to count for something.
Lloyd Omdahl is a regular columnist for the Herald.