Well, I am almost finished the five books I was talking about, but before I post individual reviews, I thought it would be sensible to mention some thoughts about parenting books in general that should be kept in mind while reading these books (or any other parenting books for that matter).
It seems to me that how you respond to a particular book or methodology of parenting is going to be determined by several factors. Perhaps it would be most helpful to refer to them as presuppositions. Whatever you call them, it is my theory that we all view parenting books or methods through a variety of lenses.
The reason I say this is because if you only have to talk with a few different people (especially in Christian circles) and the fervour with which people hold to methods of parenting is quite astonishing. Even more astonishing is that these styles of parenting can be poles apart, too.
Here’s what seems to be the things you need to notice:
1. Your Age. Perhaps I shouldn’t call this age so much as just how much life experience you have with children. If you’re like me, you’ve had about a year and a half with one child. Other people have had 25 years of experience and five children. Why does this make a difference? The reason it makes a difference is that when you’re in my position, you have no practical hands-on experience of testing these ideas. It’s even worse before you have any kids. So you can’t say, “Yes, if I follow that, my child will turn out like that.” You can decide whether you trust the author or not of a particular book, but you don’t know what will happen. However, if you have age on your side, you can say, “Ah yes, that’s what worked for me.” Or “I can see now that if I’d only done that with my second son, I wouldn’t have had so much grief.” Etc.
2. Perception of Children. Everybody has varying views on children. On one extreme is people whose lives revolve around their children – on the other extreme are people who hate children and never want to have any. But you will fall somewhere on this spectrum. If you’re really enthusiastic about children, I believe you will gravitate more towards styles of parenting (such as attachment parenting) that really encourage you to have a close bond with your children. If, however, you perceive children as somewhat of an added burden to your life, then my guess is that you will gravitate more towards strong disciplinary methods that promise to keep your children in order so that they won’t interfere too much with your life.
3. Goal of child-rearing. This is especially important to think through as a Christian. What is the goal of rearing your child? It’s important to think this through, because it will impact the decisions you make. For some people, the goal is have “happy” children. For others, the goal is to raise “responsible members of society”. For others, the goal is simply to have children who are seen and not heard and don’t impinge on their life too much. For others, their is no goal, and whatever happens, happens.
4. Clones or Flowers. It’s a bit unfair labelling this point as “clones or flowers” because nobody ever falls into exactly either extreme, but for some parents the goal is to raise children who are exactly similar to them (at least in the good points) – to create “clones”, in other words. For other parents, they believe that their children are like flower seeds without the labels. You nurture them and look after them, but you don’t really know what type of “flower” they’re going to become. The goal is to raise the child to be the individual that he or she is destined to become.
This distinction is important because if you’re more of a cloning type parent, you will probably not only be wanting your child to adopt your moral and religious beliefs, you may well be pushing in other areas as well. (“I’m good at football, so therefore I want my child to be good at football.”) I believe that these type of parents will want a more strong-handed approach to parenting, because they will be controlling not just their children’s behaviour, but also their interests, hobbies, education, etc.
For those parents who are trying to grow flowers, while they will still have a concern with passing on morals and religion, things such as hobbies, preferences, personality style, etc. they’ll probably leave up to the child. They’ll tend to go for more laid-back parenting styles that vary themselves according to the child’s temperament.
So, the question is, which are you? Seeing as it’s a bit unfair of me to dish out all these descriptions without playing my own hand, here are my own thoughts:
1. My Age. Obviously, being 29, with only one toddler daughter, I must say that with the following three points, this is my thinking at the moment. I’m quite aware that things I try may not be appropriate and turn out to be wrong. But if you don’t try things, you’ll never know. I’m praying that God will grant me the grace to try things and get them wrong without too much disaster in the family. So perhaps it would be worth asking me about parenting in 10 years’ time.
2. Perception of children. The Bible says, and I agree completely, that children are a blessing to their parents. While I’m not prepared to jump on the bandwagon of “Well, let’s just have heaps and heaps of them because they’re blessings and it’s evil not to”, I don’t really believe there’s any Biblical basis for putting career and comfort concerns ahead of having children.
When it comes to my own daughter, I love her dearly, and I don’t wish to use a parenting style that makes her into a robot slave of mine. She is a distinct person (albeit one that is immature and needs a lot of guidance) and she is under my authority (parenting is the managing training school for all of us), but that doesn’t mean that I treat her as second class. No employer in today’s day and age could hold onto staff very long if he used a “my way or the highway” attitude, and I don’t believe parents should either.
3. Goal of child-rearing. My goal, ultimately, is to raise my children to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. While I’d also love to turn them into raving classical music fans, extremely well-read theologians, and fellow movie buffs, this is not what it’s all about. At the end of the day, I believe my responsibility to God is to raise up servants for the Kingdom and teach them obedience to God. As to exactly where and how they serve in that Kingdom, that I’ll have to wait and find out. (But I’m also aware that I will provide a lot of guidance to them as my children work that out.)
4. Flower-grower. I’m also a flower-grower. Granted, that is less of a Biblical thing and more because it seems that’s how the Western world is structured. If it was 300 years ago, and I was a miller, I would have just raised my sons to be millers and my daughters to be millers’ wives. But today, in our rapidly expanding society, there are all manner of areas that my children will be able to get involved in God’s work in society, and I would be foolish to try to herd them into just the narrow corner of my own interests. So, who knows what they will become?
Anyway, with all that out of the way, I will post the book reviews soon.