'Trophy Child' Author: Children Should Focus on God, Not Achievements

A new book by Pastor Ted Cunningham, the author of parenting books such as Great Parents, Lousy Lovers and Young and in Love, has put out a new work that teaches parents that the greatest mission they have is not to raise their children to win "trophies," but to walk in the light of Christ.

"Parenting motives have changed over the years. The shift started in the 80s with the kid-centered home. Parents became more encouraging, nurturing, and praising, bombarding kids with gold stars for every paper, no-loser competitions, no-failure-allowed assignments, participatory medals and ribbons, big moments on the stage or field, and plenty of opportunity and privilege," Cunningham, who serves as the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Mo., shared in an email with The Christian Post.

As parents are preparing their children for the start of a new school year this September, he noted that the shift toward the kid-centered home has many roots, but divorce is one of the leading causes of such homes and the raising of trophy children.

Cunningham, a graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary, addresses those issues and others in his book Trophy Child: Saving Parents From Performance, Preparing Children for Something Greater Than Themselves.

"Parents elevate their children to adult or companion status, and they require their kids to bear a burdensome emotional load. The kid-centered home is also a reaction to the way we were raised. Our moms and dads were strong in their desire to prepare and launch us into the world, and at times it was interpreted as harsh," he continued.

Cunningham added that the shift away from biblical parenting is subtle. "As one parent shared with me after a conference this summer, 'I sometimes think that all of us parents are on the bus together having a good time, but we are headed down the wrong road, all of us together.'"

The pastor explained that the line between encouraging children to follow Christian principles and at the same time leaving them room to form their own opinions and choices is best found in the context of age.

"Parents today are accelerating the childhood milestone and delaying the adulthood milestones. For the first 10 years or so we push our kids with programs like 'My Baby Can Read,' potty training by first birthday, accelerated reading, gifted programs, and launching their professional sports career in kindergarten," Cunningham continued.

"Our children become conditioned to run, run, run. Then at age 10-13 (tween years) something happens. Our children begin to differentiate and separate from mom and dad. They pick their own clothes, friends and activities and mom and dad freak out and start to apply the brakes. This is when we start delaying the adulthood milestones. We pushed our kids for 10 years, now we want them to slow down and not 'Grow up too fast.' I think the teen years are more about a parenting crisis than a teen crisis."

The Christian author noted that Scripture speaks to two seasons of life: childhood and adulthood.

"The real question is when does your child become an adult? 13? 18? 22? With prolonged adolescence, some are holding off adulthood well into their 30s. When will you allow them to take on adult responsibilities, and that includes their own opinions and choices? When do they become responsible for their faith," he asked.

Cunningham expressed that he wants parents to walk away from Trophy Child "with a desire for Jesus to be their child's priority relationship, not the parent."

"When Jesus is the priority relationship, it changes everything," the Woodland Hills pastor said. "My child is no longer about me or what I want for them. I get to spend my days discovering along with them the good works they are to do. Allow room for loss, hurt, pain and conflict. Don't bubble wrap and helmet your kids for everything. Be most concerned about their character, not comfort."

"Our character is developed through difficulty. Take a step back from the playground and allow your child to develop those critically important life negotiation skills without interference from a helicopter parent," Cunningham concluded.

Trophy Child was published on Sept. 1 and is available for purchase online and in bookstores.