So many moms call me and say they read one or another parenting book at Bible Study and they should change one or another thing about they way they have been parenting. These books get away with telling new moms all sorts of things about how they should or shouldn’t parent, under the banner of Christian parenting. Already as soon as I hear “should be doing something” I think “but why?” I think as moms we need to show discernment. How do you decide that a parenting book is good or bad? Just because you read a book for Bible Study doesn’t make it a good book, in fact the only really good book to read for bible study is the Bible!!! Remember the authors of parenting books are generally written by folk who have hopefully had some experience with parenting and are really just like us… raising their kids the best way they can. Trust me their children are just like yours, wonderful one day and well, less wonderful the next.
So how do we choose a good parenting book from the ocean of parenting books around us? This is a very tricky question, to be sure their will be a group of moms that swear that you should read a particular book and that “ALL” the parents are using this book (unlikely, but moving on) there will also be parents that tell you that same book is far too controlling for them you must read another book that is free and easy and allows you to explore. Let me just say, none of this is helpful!!! NONE of it!!! When you are a new mom what you want is answers and you want them now. Often you don’t even have the questions, but still you want answers. The question is where does a new mom turn to for truth and direction?
I have found that knowing a couple of things about my children gives me a little piece of mind:
- My children are gifts from the Lord, on loan for a time: They are passing through my life and have no doubts completely intertwined with mine… but I am not training them up to live out their days in my home… I am training them up to leave one day and at that stage they need to look after themselves. So take the time to train them to do the laundry, make a handful of meals and greet people courteously, they will need those skills.
- My children are their own unique being: When I am at the end of my tether – that is my tether, and very few parenting books ever tell the reader what to do about themselves. They are always about what to do with your kids – maybe so that your tether can stretch a little further. Your kids must work harder, perform better, get outdoors more, sleep longer and any number of other things too. But honestly when a day goes off the rails it is most often more about me than it is about my kids and it is my attitude that needs attending to long before I check the spilt cereal or the unswept floor.
- My kids aren’t all bad and they definitely aren’t all good: The trouble with self-improvement books, and that is what a lot of parenting books are, is that they always start with the worst scenarios, you are either lulled into the fact that your kids “aren’t really that bad” and you don’t really need this book. Or you are just one outburst away from ruining your children forever, and you will never get them back onto the “straight and narrow”. Either of these scenarios could be true. But chances are your kids are going to grow up somewhere in between.
- My children need God’s grace every step of the way: “There go I, but for the grace of God…” is not just a blessed little thought it is true. We are who we are by God’s grace – nothing else really matters. You can train up your children in the way they should go but if they then choose a different way to go there is not a lot you can do about it. And any one parenting book that you read when your child is an infant is not really going to make the difference.
- My kids deserve my respect in everything: These books are often little short of gossiping, and when moms gather to discuss them it very quickly can become a competition about whose toddler sleeps the least, and which teen is the most rebellious. Leave the gossip to the books, especially those that build up one worst example upon another. And back away, other moms in your Bible study are folk that your children have to interact with, it is not fair for them to step into a world that is full of pre-conceived and not very nice ideas about them.
- My children are not the only ones at fault: We never sin in isolation, the double standard in these books is palpable… your child doesn’t do the chores because it is a wicked sinner (that may be true!!!) but let’s not puff up ourselves with self-righteous importance. I am just as guilty of leaving the laundry a little longer before I get round to it as they are… yet I don’t get my privileges removed – I get a poor-mom-message: “You have small kids you must be overwhelmed,” but often I am just being lazy.
- Stick with the Basics: There are so many parenting labels and so many parenting books and so many parenting tools – if you are told that you cannot parent without reading a particular book or a particular product then you can almost guarantee you are being conned!!! Most children in the world are raised without fancy gimmicks, it is not the sleight of hand tricks that will make your children better adults, better parents or “better christians” one day.
- Our children need a cushion of Prayer: And they need to know that you pray for them. I often use bedtime prayers, when I pray out-loud with my children to help them know what I am praying for, for them. In your heart you know what for kids are battling with, their strengths and their weaknesses. When I was a new mom I wish someone had told me to spend all those hours that I was fretting about what books to read, and direct that energy to praying for them. Seriously how many more hours of prayer would they be surrounded by by now.
And the se7en + 1 thing… So what is the trick? I don’t know. But I do know that as my children get older I realize that I have less and less part in the life-decisions they make. Yes they know what is right and wrong, we all do, and yet we all make decisions that are often less than wise. but I do know that I can pray for my kids and pray hard, and not just a blessed little arrow prayer. Pray, really pray for them.
My advice is to choose the parenting books you read with real discernment. Don’t read a book because everyone else is reading it or because it is for Bible study. Instead of surrounding your children with one or another parenting philosophy surround them with a cushion of prayer. Pray for God’s grace to surround them and stay away from books that tell you what you should or should not be doing. If you do need to read a parenting book then read a good book like the Book of Proverbs, no it isn’t going to tell you that your child needs to have cloth or disposable diapers, and neither is it going to tell you where your child should or shouldn’t sleep or if and when to start kindergarden. But you will gain wisdom and a sense of peace that will help you to make the right parenting decisions for your kids, as you carry them on their journey towards adulthood.