Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Parenting is Hard

These are the times that try men's souls.

Thomas Paine was actually talking about the American colonies fighting for independence from British rule... but it's the first quote that popped into my head when I thought about being a parent.

Parenting is hard. For those of you who are parents, this is not a surprise. There are so many competing needs, expectations & dreams bouncing around in our brains, both for our kids and for ourselves. It's a wonder anybody survives the 18 or so years it takes to raise a child, let alone two or three kids. (Those of you with 4+ children are either saints of incredible patience or gluttons for punishment... or both.)

Some of us had great parenting models from our families that balanced wise discipline with gracious love. We had families that showed interest in our lives & hearts and encouraged us to make good choices regarding spiritual truth & moral/ethical choices. Others of us had families of origin that were replete with all sorts of dysfunctional behaviors: verbal & physical abuse, neglect, addictions & codependcy... the list could go on & on.

Either way, it's pretty common for parents to latch onto some kind of resource to act as a guide for their parenting - when you're tired & frustrated & overwhelmed, it's a lot easier to read a book and follow what it says.

This explains, in earlier generations, the popularity of Dr. Spock & his book "Baby & Child Care" (and, no, this isn't the "live long & prosper" Spock, btw)... and in the last few years, the cultural impact of folks like Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura. (Interesting side observation: we like to listen to people who sound like they are well-educated.)

In Christian circles, the "go-to" guy has been Dr. James Dobson (there is that doctor title again!). While I don't agree with every political crusade that Dr. Dobson has undertaken, I've found his parenting books & the materials he recommends to be helpful.

But there are more folks out there who have teaching ministries, purporting to have THE Biblical way to parent your child(ren) most effectively. Some of those ministries go beyond the bounds of what you can legitimately claim from Scripture to support their particular (usually legalistic) version of parenting.

Without going into major detail, I want to refer you to a couple of sites that talk about two of these ministries:
  • The checkered history of Gary Ezzo and the variety of resources he has published (including Babywise and Growing Kids God's Way) is worth a very careful look - Ezzo.info does a great job of compiling articles & responses.
  • The "teaching" that set me off to write this post comes from Michael & Debi Pearl and their No Greater Joy ministry - TulipGirl's blog has an excellent list of warnings & critiques of what they teach and the horrific consequences
For me, any kind of useful parenting advice is going to lead me to balance grace & truth, to show both justice & mercy, to use discipline in order to build up the character of my boys rather than break their spirits. It will not affirm my cultural preconceptions but instead inspire me to treat my family (and esp. my children) as gifts entrusted to me & my wife. Good parenting techniques will not necessarily make my life easier. In fact, they will focus on helping me raise adults rather than control children.

When the advice goes the other way - and particularly when the advice purports to be "God's way" - I need to call it what it is... a lie.


Jeff said...

Here's the best part of what you wrote, "Good parenting techniques will not necessarily make my life easier. In fact, they will focus on helping me raise adults rather than control children."

This is what parenting is all about as far as I am concerned.

sara said...

not an ezzo fan here. not at all.

you are so right that good parenting techniques won't necessarily make our lives easier. an addendum to that is that God never told us that parenting would be enjoyable. i had a hard time with that at first. i was eventually able to change my perspective to this: God can and will be glorified through my parenting. i may not see it, and i'm not guaranteed enjoyment. the times i do enjoy it (which are increasing) are just the icing on the cake.

Anonymous said...

I assume you've seen the latest death linked to Michael and Debi Pearl? Hana Grace Williams. . .



Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

I had not... it's yet another reminder that what we teach has consequences. (And breaks my heart.)