Parenting For Dummies?
Proverbs 22:3 “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.”
To the right is the cover image of the popular book by Sandra Hardin Gookin, “Parenting For Dummies.” Millions of copies have been sold and from its popularity you can conclude that quite a few parents feel apprehensive about parenting, and are actively looking for advice on the subject.
I have to confess that at the time I wrote this article I had not yet read the book by Sandra Hardin Gookin. (She sent me a copy to review!) This article was not intended to criticize her book, or the “Dummies” book series in general. “Parenting for Dummies” is one offering in a broad-ranging series of how-to books designed to help coach inexperienced people do things for the first time. The concept is rather cute and from a marketing standpoint, the series has been tremendously successful. There is something to be said for the willingness to admit ignorance as a prerequisite for learning something new!
However, there is a growing ignorance among Christians on Bible truth that is a serious concern. Over the years the Barna surveys of Christian attitudes documented that increasingly, professing Christians look, act, and live exactly like unbelievers. This is the practical result of a growing Biblical ignorance as Christians spending too little time reading the Bible, and much too much time absorbing the influence of secular television, movies, books, and magazines. Christians are at fault for their ignorance about Biblical parenting because they don’t consistently read the Bible. In addition to neglecting the Bible, many Christians are undiscriminating when it comes to the materials they do read. They are frequently enamored by popular fads and self-help teachings which have little or no foundation in Bible teachings.
No faithful, obedient, and diligent Christian need be ignorant of the Bible scriptures that address the spiritual well-being of their family. Ignorance can be quickly remedied by developing a structured program of Bible reading. On the other hand, willful ignorance is equated in the Bible with foolishness. The Biblical definition of a fool is someone who could be wise if they took the effort to learn, but won’t because they have given in to the character flaw of laziness!
This careless attitude towards truth and wisdom is something Scripture repeatedly warns us to avoid since a careless attitude leads an individual to act like, and therefore, become a “fool.” The fool’s natural state of mind leads to foolish decisions, bad choices, and ultimately to punishment and personal disaster. Many in Western society who consider themselves to be Christians are clearly “fools” in the Biblical sense, as they habitually show the characteristics of fools which the Bible warns us against.
Jeremiah 5:21 “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not”
Jeremiah declared foolish the Old Testament Israelites who had eyes, but refused to see what God was trying to show them, and ears, with which they refused to hear his prophetic warning of imminent danger!
Ephesians 5:15-17 “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
The Apostle Paul was a little more specific. He tells us that the fool is one who is unwise because they have no understanding of the will of the Lord. This type of ignorance lead to a foolish lifestyle. Fools waste the short time they have to live their lives on things which have no eternal consequence. Paul commands us to walk circumspectly (wisely) and to understand the will of the Lord.
So how wise are you? Have you noticed the downward changes in our society lately? Does it seem to you that TV has gotten trashier? Have you noticed how the borders of what is acceptable in polite society have shifted to include things formerly considered unthinkable?
Many Christians have been changing right along with our society and seem to be unaware of the moral slippage. These people are living as fools! Rather than resisting the decay they are joining in the decline! It is a matter of genuine concern that many parents, when it comes to Biblical parenting, have become spiritual dummies!
Sallie and I were recently discussing how young Christian families face the challenges of parenting and it was apparent from observation that young parents are frequently confused and lack confidence in their philosophical understanding and the methods of discipline to be used. This confusion and lack of confidence results from ignorance of the Bible. Many Christians have never even read the Bible from cover to cover. A lack of personal knowledge of what the Bible teaches leads to being tossed to and fro by the waves of human opinion! Dear Christian, if you are not a serious student of the Bible you will naturally gravitate towards membership in the category of the “spiritually unwise.” If so, it’s clearly time to make a change and begin serious Bible study to understand God’s will for your life. Parenting is not a matter for “Dummies,” but for wise, sober, and discerning individuals who fully understand what is at stake.
The growing Bible ignorance in evangelical Christians has become very evident in the way families interact, particularly in how parents discipline their children. Many Christian parents, especially mothers, are unwilling to discipline their children. Though they may have been spanked by loving parents as children, grew up sound in mind and spirit, and often even approve of spanking as a legitimate form of discipline, they won’t spank their own children! They have been so thoroughly influenced by the thinking and propaganda of humanist rejecters of Bible teachings they’re afraid to spank their children for fear of what others will think of them.
The main reason parents should continue the time honored practice of corporal punishment is that it is clearly commanded in the Bible. Proverbs 19:18 states, Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
Ok, this passage says we are to chasten our children, but doesn’t say anything about using the rod! Perhaps you might ask yourself why the child would be crying unless chastening involved the application of corporal punishment? I have rarely been able to reduce a child to crying by delivering a stern lecture, but the rod quickly has the desired effect and generally leads to crying. Children frequently need the sting of discipline to help them change attitudes!
To remove all doubt, Proverbs 13:24 is much more explicit: He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. (betimes is old English for early or often.) To review, chastening a child was recommended to be done while there was hope (when they were young and teachable, before they become hardened and set in their ways.) Parents were warned not to spare in their discipline due to their children’s crying, but to show their love by using the rod often and early.
Spanking used to be a traditional form of discipline, even among non-Christians. Over the last 20 years the Biblical concept of authoritative parenting has been under continuous challenge from unproven approaches based on psychology and pop culture. The result of Christians bowing down to the false gods of psychology and pop culture has uniformly been a disaster. Modern “politically correct” parenting pressures parents to act as advisors rather than display the benevolent, but firm authority prescribed by Scripture. As a result, it’s common to see parents embarrassed and humiliated in public as they unsuccessfully plead for their children to follow their “advice.”
In the past it was considered a parental duty to guide and direct your children. Now, misguided parents have fallen prey to the erroneous notion of “the rights of children.” Instead of teaching children right and wrong and holding them accountable to do what is right, “new age” parents have caved in to modern so-called parenting “experts.” These experts’ credentials are often no more than having graduated from medical school, or authored a book. I can only compare the willingness of the public to the try some of these unproven theories to the naivety of seeking marriage advice from a newlywed, or worse yet, someone who was divorced.
The gulf between one renowned expert, Dr. Benjamin Spock, and his own son, was so great that his son refused any contact with his father right up to his father’s death. Yet Dr. Spock was recognized as the man who instituted many modern child care philosophies and techniques! Society was perfectly willing to accept his theories and methodology without insisting on seeing its results before trying it! Thanks to Dr. Spock we had a whole generation of undisciplined hippies who tuned out and doped up! Christians should not be “foolish” and fall for the teachings of the new guru’s of parenting before examining their ideas from a Biblical perspective!
Parents, uncritically accepting new world parenting advice, watched their arsenal of discipline techniques reduced to presenting options for their children to choose from. Many of these misguided parents cling to the vain hope their children will choose what is best for them. They are sadly surprised when they find their children lack the discipline and motivation to make the right choices! What child chooses broccoli over candy?
God gave us parents for the simple reason we need them to train us and help make many of our decisions for us until we are sufficiently trained to make them ourselves. Permissive parents perpetuate a subtle form of child abuse. By denying their children the security and protection of wise and benevolent discipline, they unload their responsibility for parenting onto the child himself. Parents who raise their children this way, in the end, reap contempt, resentment, and disrespect.
Children are poorly equipped for success through parental failure to discipline. Eventually they recognize their parent’s permissiveness for what it is — the lack of genuine love and affection, resulting from their parents own lack of self-discipline!
Sadly, our observation is that today’s parents, whether Christian or not, are often parenting with little Biblical understanding of their responsibilities. The result of this breakdown in parental competence is a youthful population tending to be progressively more ill-adjusted and unmannered each generation, even among evangelical Christians. This new breed of youngsters are simply reflecting their own parent’s Biblical ignorance and misinformation, as well as the effects of “TV values.”
Lack of parental control over young children is endemic today, even among Christians. Recalling our own experience with Ruth and Tim we are grieved over how common it is for Christian parents to overlook their young children’s routine disobedience as if it was simply unavoidable!
Foolish Christian parents, unwilling or unable to establish positive control over their children when they are young, often hold onto the irrational hope that their unruly children will “grow into” the self control and obedient spirit valued in God’s eyes. Unfortunately, children who don’t learn to obey and respect authority when they are young, don’t suddenly improve when they are teens!
This world is increasingly hostile towards the family. Our hope is our readers will use the scriptural tools God has provided so they may successfully perform their parental duties. The end result of applying Biblical truth at home is godly children in happy families, who know and enjoy God. We offer these articles in the hope they will help parents live wisely, and recognize and avoid some of the cultural errors undermining families in western societies before these errors take root and grow in their own homes.
Our Christian testimony is grounded in what God has done in our home. We know from our own experience that your testimony will also be dramatically influenced by your success or failure at parenting.
As you can see, parenting is not intended to be done by dummies! Sandra Hardin Gookin’s book states in the introduction “You are not a dummy, but parenting makes you feel like a dummy.” Reading and studying up on parenting is the right approach to overcome your apprehension. It takes a good measure of spiritual wisdom combined with diligence to be a responsible parent. We want to encourage those of you with “little feet” running around the house to not be “spiritual dummies,” but to carefully read the Bible so you can discharge your parental responsibilities with competence.
We believe a Biblical world view provides the very best framework for success as a parent. In closing, I would like to make it perfectly clear that we believe there are many fine books, such as “Parenting for Dummies,” which can and should be used as helpful tools for discriminating parents. We should study and make use of these books to increase our knowledge of all aspects of parenting.
As Christians, our goal should be to use every opportunity to discipline our children from the very start of their lives. It is amazing how quickly they grow to adulthood! While we hope you enjoy these articles, most of all, we desire to encourage you to diligently seek God’s scriptural directions on parenting and apply them in your own home as wise and successful parents.