Blaming Parents For Their Children’s Actions

Whenever someone apostatizes and leaves the old paths, fundamentalists will inevitably assign someone the blame. There will be an informal postmortem, inquest, and a whispered placing of the blame on someone’s shoulders for having led this soul astray. More often than not the culpability is rested on the shoulders of the fundamentalist parents.

It is a strange contradiction that fundamentalists can at the same time believe that every man has free will but also that no child raised “properly” will ever stray from the fundy faith. It can’t have been that the fundamentalist movement was flawed or illogical or provoked this young person to wrath. No indeed, it’s much more likely that this rebellion was inspired by the way their parents spared the rod or allowed them to have Disney characters on their third grade lunch box.

For this reason, parents in the fundamentalist realm will often preach to their children not only the doctrines of separation and standards but also heap upon them the warning that if the child’s foot should stray that he will bring a reproach on his family’s honor that will never be removed. His father may lose his deaconship. His mother may lose her place on the women’s missionary committee. The family dog may even lose the right to frolic with more upright and holier dogs.

Train up  a child in the way that he should go and when he is old if he has departed from it we’ll definitely be blaming your parenting. (Unless, of course, you’re a pastor who is among the congregation of the blessed. Then we’ll be far too polite to mention it.)

71 thoughts on “Blaming Parents For Their Children’s Actions”

  1. @Angie, you’ve put your finger right on it.

    If we boil love down to a set of behaviors that go beyond the guides given to us in the Bible, then we don’t know what love is. People try to buy God’s love by obeying rules. They don’t love him, so they substitute by following rules. They use a set of rules to relate to their children and expect their children to follow rules to make their parents look good. The husband-wife relationship is a set of rules. They have rules for how to interact within the church and how to relate to those outside the church while they’re handing them a gospel tract.

    They bury the Holy Spirit under a pile of rules because they don’t trust that he’ll help them navigate challenging relationships. So when the rules break down or get breached, they’re left with nothing. No love, no spirit, no genuine relationships, no “natural affection.”

    Yes, if we love him we’ll keep his commandments, but the keeping of the commandments is motivated by the love, not a replacement for it. And, funny thing, the greatest commandments are to love: love God and love your neighbor. Sure, there are things we ought to do and things that we shouldn’t, but those things are the fruit of something with a much deeper root. In Matthew 25, when he’s sorting out the sheep from the goats, who are the goats? It’s not people who didn’t follow man-made rules. It’s people who didn’t give to the poor, welcome the stranger, or visit those who were sick or in prison.

    The new testament has tons to say about love. When I read through all that, I realize we’ve screwed up big time. All of us (me). Not just the fundies. But he forgives and accepts us because of his own sacrifice in Christ. That’s love.

  2. LOL – I kind of think out loud when I comment, and then I look back and realize I sound like I’m preachin’

  3. “@diachenko very sorry to hear that. All the stories of parents that would choose IFB over their kids are enraging, but it happens every day somewhere. Down w/ fundamentalism. smh.”

    Yeah, I’m very thankful for my parents now. At first, it was going downhill fast, and they did the “gnashing of teeth” wondering where they went wrong and assigning blame. It got so bad I had to leave home and strike out on my own before I was really ready. Still, I think I’m better for it, actually. Since then, my parents have made a huge turnaround and my dad especially says that he’s really proud of his children, and is happy that we are happy. They are slightly fundy in their beliefs still, but they decided to focus on the heart rather than social acceptance. It’s unfortunate that some parents just can’t see through that. I have a friend who’s parents went so far as to change all of the locks on the house after throwing him out on the street. They then had the nerve to tell him to apologize to the entire congregation. Yeah, that didn’t happen…I mean once you’re kicked out, why bother?

  4. I wonder if there has ever been a comprehensive scientific study comparing the emotional and spiritual state of those who have grown up in strict, religious homes with those who have been brought up with few rules, minimal ‘church’ emphasis but nurturing relationships where faith is demonstrated instead of enforced.

    I have a feeling that if we could actually count the ones who have left the faith altogether, marred with deviant sexual behaviors, mental disorders and family dysfunction, the numbers would be profound.

    From my smaller but concentrated IFB- dominated family and resulting refugee experience, it is staggering the effects that the Fundy life has had on the now adult lives of the young who have left. You can’t dismiss the connection.

    I also wonder if there is any Science supporting the evidence that hyper-controlled homes and dictatorial religious environments don’t actually provoke more deviant sexual sins instead of protecting against them (as so proclaimed from the pulpits).

    I have looked some, but haven’t found anything with special attention to that area. Can anybody here enlighten me?

    The pastor of a large church I know brought his associate, who had seven children under 13 yrs. and brought up by Gothard’s teachings, to the platform and declared to his church that his family was the epitome of a ‘Godly’ family and that we should judge the quality of the man by his children. It doesn’t take much to imagine the effect that one act had on the parents and children of that church.

  5. @ Cindy … a perfect example of Fundy, man centered standards… comparative Christianity, relative religion.

  6. The other thing to remember here is that we are all on a journey. The oft quoted “Train up a child….” verse doesn’t say what “when he is old” really means. What is old? 18? 25? 40? 90? There’s so little emphasis on where we END UP in our spiritual journey. Every person’s journey is unique, and takes a different length of time. I’m willing to let my four boys take the time they need–trusting them and God to find each other. 🙂 Plus, God loves them even more than I do and knows what is best for them. It’s such a relief not to feel responsible for another person’s ac
    tions–you can teach a child (and should!); but ultimately, you cannot force anyone to do anything!
    Another thing I’ve noticed about fundy parenting is how they’re all about getting rid of undesirable behaviors, but they never try to figure out what’s CAUSING them. If your child is having a tantrum at the store, for example, you should take them somewhere private and beat the crap out of them……OR, maybe you should get them lunch, or put them down for a nap!

  7. Tp31babe

    “Another thing I’ve noticed about fundy parenting is how they’re all about getting rid of undesirable behaviors, but they never try to figure out what’s CAUSING them. If your child is having a tantrum at the store, for example, you should take them somewhere private and beat the crap out of them……OR, maybe you should get them lunch, or put them down for a nap!”

    this is SO true. Its such an obvious parenting 101 thing: hungry, tired….its usually one of the two. Fundy parents seem to resent…well….parenting.

  8. Tp31babe

    “The other thing to remember here is that we are all on a journey. The oft quoted “Train up a child….” verse doesn’t say what “when he is old” really means. What is old? 18? 25? 40? 90?”

    As a former teacher in Christian schools Proverbs 22:6 was one of the most oft quoted verses. Kinda always figured it meant “later years” or”old age”. Tp31babe posed a question here that I had never considered. Checked NETBible. I’m new to NETBible but if I read it right in the notes on the Hebrew it indicates “old: 19”. Interesting.

  9. Another thought on Prov 22:6 — The principal of the very cool, untypical Christian school I finished my teaching career in had an interesting take on this verse. He said “train up a child according to his bent”, that being his strengths, personality, talents, and learning style which are given to him by his Creator. Each person is unique. One who carves a piece of wood lets the grain and other natural features of the piece guide him as he “trains” the wood gently with tools that shape, smooth and polish it into a finished work of art. Fundy churches prefer the concept of pounding clay into a mold with a mallet as the desired parental training method. That way all kids turn out looking just alike and fitting the church’s profile. If, when the clay is popped out of the mold and it cracks or crumbles, it’s because the parents didn’t pound hard enough to force clay into all parts of the mold and dispel those worldly air pockets.

  10. @ Kate, When I was away at college, the pastor of our IFB church explained Prov. 22:6 in the way you describe. It wasn’t long after that my parents decided to leave the church. Sigh.

  11. @Mark R.

    that’s exactly how it is with my mother. If I’m not doing what SHE thinks is right, I’m in the wrong and “rebellious”. Then would come the guilt trips, the crying, the endless emotional maniuplation.


    I didn’t leave till I was 22 either. Though, I was actually kicked out. She called me up around 10pm when I was leaving a friends house, yelling, asking me where I was then told me I was lying. She told me I wasn’t allowed to come home. I did NOTHING crazy. I had told her where I was, and I always did cause I thought it was respectful. She was so controlling that it drove her crazy that she didn’t know EXACTLY what I was doing every second of the day. I remember all the nights before that when she would accuse me of going out partying when I was really at a friend’s house then next town over. Unfortunately, I don’t really talk to her much now. I can’t really tell her anything about my life cause she finds some way to tell me I’m wrong. I have a wonderful WONDERFUL boyfriend that she would absolutely LOVE and she refuses to meet him because it’s not who SHE wanted me to be with. I pray every day that my mother and I will become close one day, and I will do the same for you. 🙂

  12. @Darrell:(you don’t have to answer if you do not want to) have people mistreated your parents because you have left fundamentalism?

  13. Not just Fundy parents do this. Plenty of “worldly” people blame the parents for the things they see wrong in children. And actually, if a Fundy child becomes rebellious and ends up not turning out quite as expected, perhaps it’s because the child grew up so isolated or under such strict and oppressive authority that finally he or she snaps and rebels. Then, yes, it’s partially the parents’ doing. But ultimately, people make their own choices in life, and we are only responsible for ourselves, though other people influence us.

  14. @Kate: hmmmmm. That IS interesting! Of course, long ago, by the time a person was 19, he had been on his own for some time….

  15. Another form of “blame the parents”: my son has autism. When he was three or four, the Baptist church we were members of at the time told us, “If he can’t act like the other Sunday School kids, he shouldn’t come.”

    I don’t remember Jesus saying, “Let the little children come to Me, unless they’re autistic!”

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