TTUAC: Romanticizing Poverty

To Train Up A Child, chapter 15, part 2

After several breaks, I’d like to my review series of Michael Pearl’s child training manual, To Train Up A Child. I won’t be posting installments on a specific day each week as I have in the past; instead, you can expect additional review posts to appear periodically, over time, as I move toward finishing this series.

Today we cover the second half of chapter 15. This chapter is titled “Training in Self-Indulgence.” In the last installment, Michael advised parents not to let babies have pacifiers, because it would make them learn to use food to self-soothe. This is not how it works, and in fact flies in the face of what we know about child development—babies are supposed to suck on things; it has nothing to do with indulgence.

Today we finish out the last section of the chapter.

INHERITED INTEMPERANCE

A parent’s example of intemperance in one area may be manifest through the child in lack of self-control in another area. Some children so despise their parents’ weakness that their reaction propels them far from it. Yet, the parental example of intemperance will manifest itself in another area where their guard is not up. Parents who are intemperate in food may have skinny children who become intemperate in sex. Parents who are intemperate in possessions may have reactionary children who are intemperate in drugs. Intemperance in any area is a grave, destructive sin. Your children will reap what you sow. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption (Gal. 6: 7, 8). Man shall not live by bread alone… (Matt. 4:4).”

If as an adult you realize that your parents passed on this intemperance to you, you can either blame them and continue letting your belly be your god or you can throw off the curse for your sake as well as your children’s.

I have sadly observed many children being trained in the art of selfish indulgence by the example of parents gathering to themselves and their children the things of this world. The child raised with commercial gadgets heaped upon his lusts is much more prone to be envious and covetous than the poor child who finds satisfaction in the simple things of life. The child who grows up deprived of nothing is greatly handicapped in real life. Never consider your affluence to be an advantage to your children. It is a handicap for which you must compensate. Examine Jesus’ words regarding the disadvantages of the rich: ( Mark 4:19; Luke 12:15; I Tim. 6: 6-19; James 5:1-5).

When I was in high school I went on a missions trip to a developing country. I saw families living in mud huts that flooded annually and had to be mucked out afterwards. There was no air conditioning. At the time, I remember thinking how happy those children looked, even without all of the things children have here in the U.S. I took that to heart as an indictment of American materialism.

Over time, I’ve come to see this as a romanticization of poverty.

People who are poor would typically prefer to not be poor, and for good reason. That country I visited on my missions trip? It had a child mortality rate of nearly one in five for children under age five. I looked and saw happy faces; I did not stay around long enough to see anything else.

It’s true that we can find “satisfaction in the simple things of life,” but everyone I’ve talked to who grew up poor wishes things had been different—and they universally want things to be different for their own children, should they have any. Wondering how you’re going to afford both groceries and the electric bill is not idyllic, and the stress growing up poor puts on children is not healthy. There’s a reason the first federal welfare program targeted families with children.

Certainly, children who grow up in homes with abundance can become selfish and put a high value on owning things. But the solution is not to romanticize poverty. The solution is to teach children responsibility and compassion. Children don’t need deprivation, as Pearl suggests. They need parents who model how to effectively manage possessions and make wise budgeting decisions and discuss these things with them.

A parent who spends all of their time scrolling through Facebook on their smartphone (something I am guilty of more often than I would like) cannot teach their children balanced social media use. A parent who focuses more on getting things than on building connections with friends and family cannot teach their children a healthy approach to material possessions. Children who grow up without seeing their parents budgeting or giving to charity will be at a disadvantage.

Raising children who are balanced and centered and have a healthy approach to money and material possessions in the midst of affluence will always be a challenge. Romanticizing poverty and preaching artificial deprivation, however, as Pearl does here, is not the answer.

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