Now, this book actually is from a Christian perspective, so there is actually references to the Bible here. But we run into another problem with Christian parenting books – there’s not actually heaps and heaps to go on in the Bible about the ins and outs of child-rearing.
There is certainly the injunction for parents to train up their children in the ways of the Lord. There is the double command in Ephesians 6:1-4 for children to obey their parents and parents not to exasperate their children. But what exactly does this mean? I’ve heard children obeying their parents defined to an extent where if you’re in a church and the youth group leader comes up and asks your child whether they would like to come to youth group that they’re undercutting the parents’ authority by not asking them.
So how do you work out to what extent the parents’ control extends? This, I think, is the issue. As far as children are concerned, I think the Bible is pretty clear – they’re to obey their parents in all things, as long as it’s not displeasing to God. So, whether the parents are being completely controlling or not, the child is to obey.
So how do we avoid domineering parenting? The onus is on the parent to make sure they discipline and lead in a fair way. But, the Bible doesn’t seem to have an awful lot to say about exactly what that covers. Parents are to lead their children into obedience to God, but whether that means that you make every decision for them is not something I’m completely sure about.
All of which brings us to Kevin Leman. Kevin is a Christian and a psychologist (apparently you can be both) and, like Williams Sears, has made quite a name for himself. So, in tone and style, this book is fairly mainstream and popular.
For that reason, one of the glaring weaknesses of the book is that there’s not an awful lot about spiritual leadership of your children. (For instance, it would be great to hear more about how to lead devotions with your children, approach to getting them interested in church and Christian things, etc.) He also seems to be more concerned with raising children who are good people, balanced, etc. rather than disciples of Jesus.
However, given that it’s difficult (as I said above) to draw hard and fast principles for all aspects of parenting (other than that we’re to lead our children into loving and obeying Christ), this book is actually worth a read. Kevin’s main thesis is what he calls reality discipline. Quite simply, this means letting your children understand reality as a disciplinary measure.
So, if your child doesn’t want to eat food, rather than a, “You eat that food because I told you to”, Kevin simply suggests that you throw the child’s food away and let them go hungry. The idea is that the child can understand the reality that it’s better to eat the food you’re given, rather than have no food at all. After all, when they’re grown up, they’re going to have to eat what they’re given or go hungry.
If your teenager spends all their pocket money on candy and wants more, rather than give them a lecture on why they’re wasting their money, just tell them that there’s no more money until the next allowance day, and let them work out themselves the reality that if I spend all my money, I can’t buy other things.
Obviously, the worry with all of this is that, is this really teaching children to obey their parents? Or is this just playing strange mindgames with them? I don’t think this is what Kevin is saying, and certainly, there are issues where he believes the parents’ word goes, no arguments.
But sometimes, he suggests, it is better to let the child have a dose of reality rather than just a dose of parents’ wrath. So they learn that their actions have consequences – not just an angry parent, but consequences in real life.
It sounds like a pretty good way of building wisdom in your children, but the only problem is it’s a bit hard to know exactly how to apply it in all areas of child-rearing. This book isn’t as comprehensive as the Sears book and may leave you with questions. However, it does have some sound ideas, and there’s also some very helpful information on divorce, stepfamilies and other such modern-day realities.
4 out of 5.