Monday, November 29, 2010
Christian parenting books--how our bookshelf grew
I didn't realize how polarized the views on parenting were among Christians until my daughter was born. Within days of her birth, we were given materials by Ezzo, reminding me that my newborn had a sinful nature and that any crying was just an example of her evil, tiny, selfish heart. Ironically, the way to counter this was apparently to indulge my own self-centeredness at every possible occasion to show that I was hardened to any attempt at manipulation on her part. Not only was it absurd from a developmental standpoint, it didn't seem to fit at all with Jesus' teachings about being a servant or with the way God responds to me when I cry out to Him.
I disregarded the Babywise stuff and nursed my baby whenever she seemed interested, even at night. Our pediatrician had regularly asked questions about this and on her six month check up, the disapproval boiled over. She was "strong-willed" (as if that were a bad thing). As parents we weren't doing our job and "winning every battle". My husband and I had no idea that we were supposed to be at war with her--we had naively assumed that we were on the same team. He gave us a copy of To Train Up a Child.
At that point, I had never met a family that didn't spank, and I fully planned to spank my children. Yet as I read through the horrific descriptions of physical and emotional abuse in that book (and later the counsel to remain a submitted wife when your husband sexually abuses your children :gag:) I felt physically and spiritually nauseated. I could only read a few pages at a time, and the thought of hitting my baby with glue sticks (which break down the underlying tissue and can even cause death) or throwing her into a cold pond and letting her sink (at 7 months!) to teach her to stay away from water hazards was repugnant and ludicrous. I wasn't shocked to learn of deaths related to precisely following the instructions in the book, which insist on not leaving the child with breath to whimper afterward, but I was shocked that we had been given that book by a pediatrician. No wonder our state has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the nation! We never went back to that ped.
The good thing is that caused me to re-examine our views on discipline, punishment and spanking. Our journey is told in this post. As I prayed and studied and sought Godly wisdom on this topic, we were led to some wonderful grace-filled sources.
So, in a sea of punitive parenting books, where are these Christian islands? I wrote about our finds here.
Of course, the best source for Christian parenting is the Bible. We have a really mixed up mindset in the church, where a few verses from Proverbs (completely misinterpreted) are applied to children. Yet clear and consistent passages describing how we are to treat others, how we are to behave as believers, how to follow the example of Jesus, and how we are to instruct others are completely disregarded when it comes to children. Why? I haven't been able to find any answer. I suspect that in the minds of many, children aren't really full-fledged people, much the way that in the past, people of other color or women weren't considered on the same level of personhood as male white landowners.
Anyway, I suggest reading through the Gospels and noting how Jesus treated children and everyone else. How did He disciple the disciples? What character does He want us to demonstrate? Read through I John. How can that be applied to family relationships? Read through the Epistles. How do they relate to our own behavior and how we teach others? The Bible is full of examples of love and grace.
And as always, take comfort and encouragement from Isaiah 40:11, "He shall lead his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs in his arms and carry them close to his heart and shall gently lead the sheep who have nursing lambs."