Rolling The Dice With Our Kids?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
By Lowell Scott
When I was a kid my parents bought me toys and games that were meant to either engage my imagination or totally exhaust me. For example, I received a junior chemistry set one year and I learned to make things bubble, change colors, all sorts of fascinating kid things. Maybe my folks hoped that some day I would be a famous chemist but I doubt it. I think they saw that gift as a positive, learning tool which certainly couldn't hurt my academic chances. That is what parents used to do; they encouraged, protected, and they were not afraid to say No. When they did say no, they never seemed to feel bad about saying it either. Most adults in my neighborhood understood that high self-esteem was of no value if we were dumb as a box of rocks. Parents today seem to have lost their direction. They have confused "parent" with "pal." Parents were never supposed to be cool, hip or trendy. Kids don't need another buddy; they need a Dad and Mom who wants what is best for them, even if the kids don't know what that is yet. Sadly, too many parents have lost all sense of what being a parent is all about.
Don't believe me, go to any shopping mall and consider the wide selection of gambling related paraphernalia being offered for sale. Playing cards are the last thing a concerned parent worries about anymore. Check out the toy slot machines, plastic roulette wheels, wooden boxed sets of poker chips, solid oak poker tables, everything a totally cool Dad and Mom needs to set up the kids with their own casino in the family room.
Have we lost all moral judgment that we can no longer discern a vice from a virtue? What's next, a playtime meth lab for junior, or how about a kiddy bartender kit with its own mini bar, glasses and tiny bottles of liquor flavored beverages complete with pour spouts and plastic fruit condiments. I would like to think these are out of the question, just a ridiculous exaggeration, yet I never I thought I would see mothers and daughters out to get matching tattoos together either, but I have.
Why is gambling fever plaguing our society? Simply because parents are rolling the dice with their children's future. They have bought into the deception that gambling is harmless entertainment. Well intentioned parents that would never dream of teaching their kids how to roll a joint, would never ever educate their kids on how to pound down a few cold ones and drive home buzzed, are buying everything required to teach their kids how to be a prolific gambler. Gambling is no longer a vice, it has joined the ranks of shacking up, oh, I mean premarital cohabitation, knocked up, oh, I mean, illegitimate pregnancy, uh, I mean, single parenting; you know what I mean, those behaviors that were once considered, shall I dare to say it "sins" that no longer have a negative connotation in our increasingly amoral society.
Gambling has become "glamorous gaming", where the big winners become celebrities and America's kids are bombarded by pro gambling billboards, TV commercials, print ads, and up to a dozen weekly gambling TV shows. Gambling is now legal and actively promoted in 48 states; only Utah and Hawaii have resisted the lure of easy money.
Tragically, America's parents have largely rejected the long held understanding that gambling is wrong, that it is an attempt to get something for nothing and at the expense of those who must ultimately lose. Some Christians try to argue that gambling is only wrong if you cannot afford the losses, or if done to excess. But, this argument fails to account for Jesus' command that we are to love our neighbors as we love God. If we would never try to gain at the expense of God, then we certainly should not try to gain at our neighbor's expense either.
National Council on Problem Gambling research shows that more than 70% of kids between 10 and 17 have gambled in the past year. That is up from 45% in 1988, and experts say kids are playing younger and losing more money than ever before. Research finds that 4-5% of adults who gamble will become compulsive gamblers. Kids are at three times the risk of adults for developing a gambling problem. But in an era of drugs, AIDS and STD's, too many parents see gambling as a fun option and have no desire to concern themselves with its dangers to their children.
America is a perilous place to be a kid today, and that fact is compounded by the failure of many parents to step up and be committed to their responsibilities. Biology and behavior can make you a father or mother, but it takes a whole lot more to be a Mom or a Dad. Just as going to church every week and owning a Bible does not make one a Christian or owning a piano does not make you a pianist, having a baby does not make you a great Mom and Dad. God intended parents to be a living daily example of His love, grace, and righteous judgment. The government only requires parents to feed and shelter their kids, but God expects more. Many parents have fallen into the same trap as our churches and think the happiness of their children is the goal. Holiness, not happiness, is God's expectation. Training involves work, teaching them to be prepared with the knowledge and skills needed to experience the joy of living in God's will. Fun is great, but it is not a biblical word. Don't take my word for it, check your concordance. It is not easy being a good Mom or Dad, as Peter D Vries commented, "There are times when parenthood seems nothing more than feeding the hand that bites you." But it is the role we chose when we had children. As my mother said to me, after the birth of my oldest, "Lowell, time to grow up." My Mom was right, and it is time for America's parents to grow up and be the Moms and Dads the kids deserve.
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