I have read a lot of parenting books- some good, some bad. Most of them start out really good, and then slowly digress from awesomeness as the chapters unfold. Often I finish the book simply because I have a high need for completion. Jake is, of course, used to this about me and will ask me how it’s going as I’m approaching the middle of a book. Typically I respond with a tirade of how the author has lost the vision of the first chapter, or how beautiful the book could have been, etc., etc. This time, my friends, was different.
The Christian Parenting Handbook: 50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child’s Life is the best parenting book I have ever read. Each of the short (3-5 page) chapters contained just enough information and ideas to get one thinking, but not so much that the point is over-explained. Some of the chapter titles are really intriguing–
- Consistency Is Overrated
- Affirm Approximately Right Behavior
- Children Can Only Take as Much Pressure as the Relationship Will Allow
- Teach Kids to Be Solvers Instead of Whiners
- Firmness Doesn’t Require Harshness
- Good Character Qualities Misused
Another bonus is that the content can be applied to a wide age range- preschoolers to teenagers.
At the beginning of the book, the authors emphasize that this is a heart-based approach to parenting, not one based on behavior modification.
The problem is that behavior modification embraces humanistic thinking, the belief that people are just a higher form of animal. The Bible teaches something very different. God created people different from animals. He gave each person a spiritual ‘heart,’ and that heart affects the learning process. The heart contains things such as emotions, desires, convictions, and passions. In short, the heart is a wrestling place where decisions are made. … Simply focusing on behavior may provide some quick change, but lasting change takes place in the heart. We’re not saying behavior modification is wrong. We’re suggesting it is incomplete and, in the end, lacks the depth for long-term and lasting change.” (p. 2)
Another aspect the authors emphasize is that it’s never too late for heart change. Sometimes we hear things like, “a child’s self-concept is formed by the time they’re 5” or “A child’s worldview is developed by the time they are 12,” which makes us believe that we’ve lost our window of opportunity if we’ve made bad or uninformed choices about how we raise our kids. Instead, the authors say, we know that God can and does change us at all ages and stages, and that by appealing to a child’s heart, major changes can happen with the help of the Spirit.
I must admit that I was a bit worried because the authors talk about how we need to develop a biblical philosophy of parenting. Sometimes when people use the word “biblical” as an adjective, I get a little worried. “Biblical” has been turned into a word that means “I’m about to say something and use this word that will make sure you don’t disagree with me and if you do disagree, you are actually disagreeing with God.” Good for you if you don’t have this hang-up, but if you do, then you don’t have to worry. The authors do a GREAT job of emphasizing that each family is different- different parents, different kids, different age ranges, different life circumstances- and how parenting is going to look different in light of how all this works itself out. There are general character traits, attitudes, and values that the Bible emphasizes as part of God’s design, and in our own ways, with the leading of the Spirit, we can help those things to be part of our family culture.
I would recommend this book to every parent. It’s one that you’ll want to keep on your bookshelf but also give away, so be prepared to buy more copies! Beware, if you are having a baby soon, you just might be getting a copy for your baby shower gift…. 🙂
Jake and I are going to begin reading and discussing a chapter a day together. There’s a ton of good stuff to munch on, and I have a feeling this is one we re-read every couple of years. So get a copy now and start reading!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”