This is an ongoing series in which I am exploring some of the issues in which we mommies not only face unnecessary guilt, but also place unnecessary burdens on our sisters in Christ.
Parenting books are a multi-million dollar industry and the Christian market is as replete with the tomes as our secular counterpart. So when many books claim to contain God’s formula for parenting, then disagree with the next book, who is correct? Which book contains the biblical formula that will guarantee happy, obedient, respectful, God honoring children who don’t do drugs or get pregnant out of wedlock?
None of them.
Sorry about that.
Inasmuch as each of these books faithfully quote scripture and identify scriptural principles of correcting sin, training in righteousness and loving and caring for our children, they are all good resources. One particular approach to doing those things might work better in one family than another, and what has worked for me won’t necessarily be successful for you. In fact, what works for one of my kids won’t necessarily work for all of my kids. The++9re is value in gleaning tips from these books, but we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and guilt at failure when we believe that any single parenting book or program contains the single, authoritative word from God regarding parenting.
The only authoritative word of God is found in scripture alone, and if scripture is silent on something, then we cannot insist on uniformity in that area. Scripture is silent on so many of the topics that fill up these books.
I have had a hard time in this area because I have very strong opinions about certain parenting techniques and programs. When I hear parents say that they employ those techniques or read those books I struggle not to look down on them as weaker parents. This is a sinful attitude on my part. As long as a parent acknowledges such scriptural essentials as the sinfulness of both the parent and the child, the importance of training a child in righteousness, and the centrality of the gospel, how they chose to approach bedtime (for instance) is really none of my business. If someone asks me how I handle something, I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to say, “What works for us is . . . ” in order to frame the information in the correct way.
As I have discussed in every post on mommy guilt, the root of our sin in these areas is the belief that we can affect the outcome in our children’s lives. We cannot. We have to be faithful, but there is no magic program that will give you good sleepers, good eaters, or children who love and honor their parents at every opportunity. No parenting book can undo the way your child has been built by God, and no parenting book can remove the sin from our children’s hearts. It is unrealistic to expect that as a parent and it is sinful of us to judge other parents by their children’s sins or our perception of them.
So how do we fight the guilt in this area? We need to acknowledge that all righteousness is a gift from God. Realize that when our children obey it is the work of God in their lives. When we are fighting with sleeping or eating or potty training or any of the non-sin issues that consume so much of our time and attention as parents, we need to recognize that this is as much about God sanctifying us as it is us training our children. When we see a child who appears wonderfully obedient and apparently sinless, first remind yourself that they are not sinless, and then thank the Lord for working grace in that child’s heart. When you see Christian parents with rebellious, disobedient, difficult children, pray that the Lord will work in that child’s heart and thank the Lord for the grace that is preserving that parent in the midst of struggle and heart ache.
In the end, Godly parenting is not about the right books or programs. Instead it is the ongoing realization that we are completely dependent on the grace of God in both the successes and the failures.