Raising confident children who are emotionally healthy and resilient requires support, warmth, love and appropriate discipline from parents, according to Bahamas Harvest Church (BHC) Senior Pastor Mario Moxey, whose sermons over the past month have focused on a series he titled “Parendemic: parenting God’s way”.
He reminded parents that children need structure, affirmation and guidance to take from childhood to adulthood. And that they need strong control and high compassion from parents.
“There are so many factors as it relates to raising children – parenting is only one of them, albeit it’s a very important foundational fact in raising children, but there are other factors such as education, traumatic experiences a child may have, associations and all those other things. Parenting is extremely important. But, there is one factor that is probably more important than all the others – that one single factor that could make the world of difference in your childhood [is] God, because with God in your life, He can compensate for so many other deficits.”
Moxey cited psychologist Diana Baumrind whose research on parenting identified the four parenting styles of today – authoritative, authoritarian (or disciplinarian), permissive (or indulgent) and neglectful (or uninvolved).
On Sunday, his sermon focused on absentee parenting, which he said is the weakest of the parenting styles and in which he said children are usually on their own with parents having little control and weak compassion.
But the BHC pastor stressed that it is better to build strong boys and girls, rather than repair men and women. And that it is crucial parents learn how to parent God’s way.
“The absentee parent, or the uninvolved parent, or the nonchalant parent, characterized by their lack of [response] to the child’s need, makes few or no demands on the child. There is no pressure that that parent puts on the child because the parent isn’t there to put the pressure on the child, so there’s no demands. They give their children a lot of freedom and some basic kind of limitation like a curfew. There is limited emotional involvement. In other words, the parent is somewhat disconnected emotionally.”
Moxey said the parents are oftentimes indifferent and dismissive of the child and completely neglectful.
“There’s limited communication, and few or no expectations of a child. There’s just this disconnectedness between the parent and the child.”
He likened parents to children as arrows are to a warrior.
“The arrow in and of itself lacks the ability to get to its target on its own; arrows need warriors. Children need parents to determine how far they’re going to go in life, how fast they’re going to go in life and where they’re going to go – the direction they’re going to take.”
He told his in-person and virtual congregation that children need parents to teach them and show them. Because many in society were victims of absentee parents, he said many adults today are in need of “repair”, having not been raised in a healthy environment. Moxey said it’s better for people to not have been broken in the first place.
The BHC pastor said he does not believe parents get up in the morning at any point in time and say they are going to ruin their child’s life. He said that means the things that are happening are unintentional.
“It’s not the intent of the parent to happen, but because of the circumstances and the situation that’s going on, these things happen unintentionally.”
In absentee parenting, Moxey said, parents confuse giving their children gifts and toys and buying them things with their presence – connecting with the child and being there for the child.
“They’re so busy working to provide that they have no time to nurture and show compassion to the child, because they’re absent. Because they’re not there, they tend to overcompensate for their absence by buying things. And because they’re not there to really nurture and love, and pour into the child, they’re not showing any compassion, and because they’re not showing any compassion, they’re not showing any control. They don’t feel like they should be really trying to discipline the child if they’re not there in the first place.”
But Moxey said buying stuff does not cut it.
“What’s important is you being there, being present.”
He told the congregation that the next contract or closing a business deal, should not trump time with their children.
Moxey owned up to some of the mistakes he made as well, and urged his congregants to not make the ones he did.
“We have a propensity to pursue things in life, but we do it at the detriment of our children – being present. And there are many times when I was not present,” he told them.
He reminded congregants that each day is God’s gift, and to grab it.
“As absentee parents, one of the greatest things we must learn is contentment. Let’s just be content. Content with rather than going to Europe for vacation, we go to Eleuthera. Rather than getting a Jaguar, we get a Ford, or we buy direct from Japan. There are some things that we may have to trade off because we want to choose the right thing in this moment, because it is better to build strong boys and girls, rather than repair men and women.”
Moxey said too many people confuse liberation with abdication.
“Abdication means that you failed to take your responsibilities. There is a failure in you taking responsibility for the things you ought to have and the things you ought to do as a parent, and the reason why is you confuse this whole notion of giving your children freedom to do whatever they want to do and think that because you’re giving them freedom that that is a good thing. That’s not a good thing.”
He told parents that them giving freedom and liberty to their children is an excuse, so they don’t have to raise them. He said they want someone else to do their job. And that it happens all the time, starting from their toddler years.
“We buy them an iPad or one of those other pads but then what we do is get it with all the foam around it, so they can’t really hurt themselves, they can squishy it and all that stuff and we put that in front of them. And I know why we do it. We do it so that we can watch our TV programs. [I] mean do our chores,” he said tongue-in-cheek.
He said too many parents are letting Disney, Nickelodeon and Hollywood raise their children. And that each entity is fulfilling their great commission.
“You can’t watch anything on TV right now that does not have two gay characters in it. If you’re able to desensitize people to a certain issue, then it becomes normal. Homosexuality is not normal. That is unnatural. But the more we are around it and are desensitized by it, we give space to make excuses for the behavior, and think that it’s appropriate. It’s alternative; it’s not an alternative lifestyle. The mistake we make is, we allow Hollywood’s great commission to raise our children. Fast forward 15 years later, we scratch our heads. You’ve abdicated your responsibility to raise your children. When you give little supervision, then what do you expect is going to happen? Little supervision and no expectation of behavior, you have the recipe for social disorder.”
Moxey said absentee parents unintentionally or intentionally choose self over children. And that parents have a choice to choose themselves over their children.
“It is natural, especially for mothers, to starve in order for their children to eat something. Mothers will do without to make sure their children eat. What is not natural is when a mother would eat, and not allow her children to eat, or not make sure her children are eating. She puts herself before her children, or he (the father) puts himself before his children. When a parent puts themselves before their children, that’s an issue.”
In the COVID-19 era, he told congregants that he knows things are tough and that they want to provide for their family, but said they don’t have to sell their soul to do it.
“God honors what you honor, so keep your standard high. You don’t have to compromise yourself.”
Moxey said absentee parents have the propensity to compromise themselves and have little or no actual involvement with their child. He said they’re detached from the child’s life.
He said it often manifests itself in the parent not showing up for anything the child is doing. He said the parents are often too wrapped up in their own problems, their own depression and their own relational issues, that they sidestep whatever situation their children are going through.
“They’re unable to provide the emotional support that their children need because they are an emotional wreck themselves.”
But Moxey said parents are responsible to be responsive to their child’s physical needs as well as provide affection and emotional support and love and tenderness.
“Your children should get tired of hearing you say ‘I love you’. When Madison was younger, I used to tell her all the time, ‘Madison, guess what? I love you.’”
He said it to her so often that eventually, he said, Madison’s response to him became, “Yeah, yeah. I know, I know you love me. You can stop saying it now.”
Because of her response, he said, he made the decision to stop saying it because it was obvious he was bothering her. But he also recognizes that it was the wrong decision he made and that he should have stuck with it.
“I still tell her I love her, but not the way I used to do it a long time ago.”
He told his members that as he prepared the Sunday message, he came to a number of resolutions, one of which he said was to tell his children all the time how much he loves them. He reminded parents that during the teenage years, their children’s brains are “disconnected” and that they should be aware of it, but still love them through it. Moxey also urged parents to hug their children and tell them they love them. And if they have grown children, he encouraged them to give them a call to express their love. He also told them to not just pay lip service to it, but to also show by action and deeds, and not just words.
“If you’re going to demonstrate it by deeds, then you’ve got to do some things differently. You have to show up. You have to be present. You can’t abdicate your responsibilities.”
Moxey noted that most absentee parents were raised by absentee parents, which means that if they don’t do something about the situation, and God gives them long life, they will live long enough to see their grandchildren live an absentee parenting lifestyle. And he said nothing could be more hurtful.
Referencing a biblical case study of an absentee parent, Moxey said King David was the perfect example.
“Children of absentee parents believe they can do anything they want to do and get away with it, because that’s how they lived their entire life because there was no supervision. David’s children are the best examples of this. You look at David’s children and you see some incredible examples. David was a military man – he was an incredible leader and military strategist. And he was a king. He was also an authentic worshipper – he loved God. David was a man after his own heart. Yet, David was a terrible parent.”
Moxey described David, who had a minimum of six wives, 19 sons and numerous daughters, even though the Bible only names one, Tamar, as the worst of the worst – an absentee, uninvolved parent.
“David’s permissiveness led to his refusal to rebuke or even discipline his son, Adonijah. In the face of just complete disrespect, David does nothing, even when [Adonijah] decided he was going to make himself king. His father is alive, his father is the king, but he says ‘now it’s my turn’. He did it, and David didn’t even say a word; not to him at least.”
He also referenced Tamar being raped by her half-brother Amnon, and David doing nothing. But in 2 Samuel, it speaks to King David being angry when he heard what happened.
“For Amnon to rape somebody in Israel, the law dictated that he should die and David as the king didn’t even call him in to rebuke him. And worse than that, there is absolutely no evidence that David ever spoke to Tamar, his own daughter.”
Tamar’s full brother, Absalom, took her into his house and cared for her, but he was angry with their half-brother Amnon and because King David didn’t do anything with Amnon, Absalom killed him. [Again] David did nothing.
“You talk about uninvolved – David wrote the book on it. David is a great man, but a poor parent. His children didn’t have a need or want. They never knew what it was to have a lack, but he was a poor parent. And this is the danger for so many of us as parents. We are ambitious and want so much in life and we pursue it, but at what expense?”
He also said, “You can give your children all the stuff in the world, but the most important thing they need is you. They need your involvement, your intervention, your connection, your nurturing, your control and throwing things at them ain’t gonna cut it.”
He reminded children that God will never forsake them, even if they were brought up in a home by absentee parents.
“That one single factor that could make the world of difference in your childhood is God – He can compensate for so many other deficits. And for you as a parent, do whatever it takes.”
Moxey told the membership to take action.
He challenged them to have a family meeting to evaluate where they are on the control and compassion spectrum from the child’s perspective. But at the same time, he reminded them that it’s a courageous and tricky thing to do, as there is no child that he knows that would tell their parents they love discipline and that they could turn up the controls a little more, and give a little more discipline, and put a little more structure in their life.
He also urged them to establish weekly family dates and schedule activities, something he owned up to not having done in his life, but as he did his research, came across it and thought it was great.
He also owned up to the idea scaring him, because if he was to say to his family that they were going to have family dates, they would hold him accountable. And the moment he messes up, which he said could happen, they would think he wasn’t serious.
“I could have easily been one of those parents that neglect their children, pursuing other things, and for me it wasn’t my five-year wealth-building plan; it was my five-year serving God and doing ministry plan. Again, at what expense do we do these things? It becomes expensive when the currency that you’re using to pay for it are your children. If they are priority, schedule it, because everything that’s important gets scheduled,” said Moxey.