NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Most American parents feel their parenting skills and family life are pretty good, but they are reluctant to describe their homes as peaceful, relaxed or joyful and their daily family time consists mostly of eating dinner and watching television, according to a new study from Lifeway Research. While most parents are trying to improve their skills, far fewer look to the church or the Bible for help.
The national survey of 1,200 parents with children under 18 at home was conducted by Lifeway Research, the research arm of Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The study found that 96 percent of parents agree they consistently try to be better parents. Fifty-eight percent agree strongly and 38 percent agree somewhat with this statement.
“Parents claim they are trying hard to be better parents but they are not welcoming outside guidance or advice,” said Scott McConnell, director of Lifeway Research and co-author with Rodney and Selma Wilson of The Parent Adventure, just released from B&H Publishing Group, with complementary teaching and learning resources from Lifeway Church Resources. “The only source of advice that a majority of parents use a lot is their own experience. It’s as if parents are collectively reverting to a popular toddler saying, ‘I will do it myself!'”
Sixty percent of parents look a lot to their own experiences growing up as their source of guidance on parenting and another 31 percent do so to some extent.
By comparison, 21 percent indicate they receive a lot of guidance from a sacred text and 15 percent depend a lot on a church. A full 61 percent completely ignore parenting seminars and 53 percent have no use for books by religious parenting experts.
Only 14 percent indicate they are very familiar with what the Bible has to say about parenting, the research revealed. Twenty-seven percent of Protestant parents are very familiar with what the Bible has to say about parenting compared to only 7 percent of Catholic parents. Among parents with evangelical beliefs, 52 percent say they are very familiar with the Bible’s parenting advice.
A large majority of the parents describe their home environment as supportive (74 percent), positive (71 percent), encouraging (69 percent) and active (69 percent). At the same time, however, 61 percent are unwilling to describe their homes as peaceful, 49 percent as relaxed and 43 percent as joyful.
While 57 percent of the parents say their families eat dinner together on a daily basis and 45 percent indicate they watch television together each day, only 53 percent report they pray together at least monthly and just 31 percent report having religious devotionals or studies together at least monthly.
More than 80 percent of parents rate family life – the quality of family communication, time spent with each other, treating each other with respect – as good to excellent. Thirty percent, however, indicate their family’s spiritual life is only fair or poor.
A full 92 percent of parents agree they need encouragement, the study found. Almost 10 percent say they need help with parenting and 11 percent indicate they have nowhere to turn for encouragement.
Among parents who attend religious worship services weekly, 38 percent indicate they get no encouragement from a sacred text such as the Bible, Torah or Koran and 24 percent report getting no encouragement from their church or place of worship. Forty-three percent of Protestant parents and 85 percent of Catholic parents do not receive encouragement from a sacred text. As for their church, 39 percent of Protestant parents and 71 percent of Catholic parents say it is not a source of encouragement as a parent.
McConnell concluded, “Christians are routinely neglecting biblical guidance and encouragement in their parenting today, relying instead on their own personal experience.”