Exodus 34:7 “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
In Fall of 2001 issue of Simroots a couple who worked as dorm parents for many years at Kent Academy wrote an open letter to the KA “Kids.” Here is an excerpt from that letter:
“Among the many lessons that you can learn as an adult from your childhood experiences, one of the most important is this: What I am today in large measure is the cumulative result of the experiences I had as a child-most especially the experiences I had in my own home and family.”
They went on to “grade” the parenting skills of families they knew on the mission field.
- A+ goes to wise, godly and proactive, intelligent parenting
- B goes to above average families
- C is for parents who didn’t seem to understand the impact of their parenting, and didn’t put much thoughtful effort into it
- D is for barely passable parenting
- F is for thoroughly dysfunctional failures
The letter ends by telling the KA Kids that whatever our childhood experiences were, we are to proactively seek to give our own children an A+ home. They say that “no work or ministry in which you may be involved can be compared to this responsibility.”
The point that this couple seems to be missing here is that they were in the parent role for many of us, during the good part of our formative years. Since this woman was primarily involved in taking care of us in the girls dorm, perhaps she wouldn’t mind being graded by her own system. She was probably the strictest enforcer of policies that would be considered abusive by the standards SIM uses today, because they resulted in “actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.” One example is that girls were not allowed to use the bathroom at all during rest hour or after lights out at night. We would actually be stopped in the hall and sent back to our room, and you can imagine the consequences. This woman who is handing out advice on parenting gave no quarter to children who were unable to meet the standards set for dorm and dining hall, and for my part I was terrified of her. I give her somewhere in between a D and an F.
In the boy’s dorm, each set of roommates would collect points during the week for having a clean room. Rooms had to be cleaned in the mornings, and there was also a surprise check sometime during the week. This is normal, right? What isn’t normal is that the boys in the room with the least points would be scheduled to be strapped on Saturday afternoon. Points were tallied up early in the day, so that the boys would spend all of Saturday morning anticipating their punishment. We are talking about boys as young as 6 and 7 years old. If you were a messy type, or happened to be rooming with someone messy, you might get strapped on Saturday afternoons on a regular basis. I doubt there was ever a perfect room, so it’s safe to say that every boy experienced this punishment at least once or twice during the years it was in effect. The worst part of this system, if I am understanding it correctly, is that since there would always be a room with the least number of points, someone always got strapped. Was this to teach the boys to clean their rooms, or to fill a need of the dorm parents to punish? What kind of a grade would we give parents who treated their children this way? I would give them an F.
Parenting my own children has been one of the most difficult things I have done, since I often felt like I had no standard to use as a guide. I have struggled with unexplainable anger, confusion, irrational fears of separation and guilt as a parent. And to recap the letter’s message, “what I am today in large measure is the cumulative result of the experiences I had as a child-most especially the experiences I had in my own home and family.” I will change that to read the experiences I had at Kent Academy.
Why would God punish children for the sin of their parents, as the scripture above says? This hardly seems fair. And yet it is true that people who are abused often abuse others, even their own children. Or perhaps it is an acknowledgement of the anger, fear and grief that abused children will experience throughout their lives, and then maybe pass on to their children.
How will SIM take responsibility for their role as a parent to MKs?