There was a time when a father could build a moat around his family to protect them. If he had the resources, Dad could build a trench around his castle and keep invaders out. However, in the past 50 years, that moat has been breached. The problem is, as dads, we don’t realize the magnitude of the invasion. In fact, we have invited the invaders in.
There are three dynamic modes of attack that have taken place to the peril of the American family. These invaders are not bad in and of themselves, as long as they are kept in a cage.
These three invaders that have robbed us of security and family time all begin with the letter “T.”
The first infiltrator into the family castle is the television.
Television is an asset of information, but if it’s left unmanaged by the leaders in the home, the TV robs the family of time and innocence.
No longer do families sit on the porch or in front of the fireplace and talk. Nor do families sit around a table playing games. Instead, in many homes, once the television is turned on, the night is over.
In the 1960s, the drawbridge was lowered, and the television was invited in to become the center of the American home – and often even invited to the dinner table.
To blend dinner and TV time, we even developed something called “TV dinners.”
The challenge with this subtle invasion was the fact that the programming didn’t reflect American society – it directed American culture. Trends that weren’t yet the norm in the American family became the norm after seasons of desensitization by television sitcoms.
If the first invader is the television, the second is certainly transportation.
Transportation became an invader through the easy access of an automobile. The American family obviously had automobiles decades before the 1970s, but that was the decade where parents felt compelled to use their easy access to instant transportation to get their children out of the home and drop them off.
Instead of sitting at home as a family or staying home watching television together, the American family became obsessed with taking their children away from home and getting them involved in non-family activities.
An asset like the automobile actually became a family liability, because of our inability to restrict its use.
Instead of using this luxury to get each family member back together sooner each night, family leaders actually began using this piece of equipment to divide the family members from each other. And in most homes today, one automobile isn’t enough to accomplish this task.
The third “T” is technology.
The technology that is available through computers and mobile phones is sometimes helpful, yet, if unrestrained, this same technology becomes invasive.
It is not uncommon to see an American family sitting together in a restaurant, each with their own devices texting someone. Families aren’t really together even when they are all traveling in the same car. One is texting someone, another one is talking on their phone, one is playing a handheld video game and yet another is watching the movie playing on the DVD player in the back seat.
Each of these three “Ts” has great potential for enhancing the comfort of the American family. Because of them, we can stay informed, accomplish more and return home quicker. Our access to knowledge and mobility has been greatly widened. These three “Ts” should even be providing the American family with more time together.
Instead, they have severely robbed us of our very precious and much needed family time.
The majority of America’s families have actually become divided by the very advances that were meant to give us more time together. These advances no longer serve us, we serve them!
Now is the time for fathers and leaders of each home to decide if there is such a thing as too many “Ts” in their homes. The fact that we have access to something doesn’t mean we have to use it constantly.
This can be a season where we decide to stay home more, save money and spend time together as a family. This can be a time when we set boundaries for the technology we have in our homes. One boundary we can set is not answering the phone during certain times each night. Instead, we are going to actually spend time together as a family.
Teaching our children and teens how to say “no” to the invasion from outside the castle walls has to start with the leaders of the castle. As a dad, I have to turn off my mobile phone when I walk in the house, put the TV remote back in the drawer and talk or play a game with my family.
If we don’t teach our children how to participate with the family, why should we expect them to know how to lead their own families when they become adults?
Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues.