Tuesday, May 7, 2013

review: the Christian Parenting Handbook

My basic parenting philosophy is probably best summarized by a quote I found on the internet years ago:  "There is no way to be a perfect parent.  There are a thousand ways to be a good one."  Basically, I see a whole lot of freedom and flexibility in this whole parenting gig.  What works for me may not work for you, and I don't see any problem with that.  Parents are all different, children are all different, families and circumstances are all different.  My biggest pet peeve in the world of parenting books is probably any cookie cutter or "by the book" approach, where certain steps guarantee a certain result.  Sorry, I think as human beings we're all a bit more complex than that.
That said, I like parenting books, and I like having a variety of parenting resources from which to pull ideas.  There is a whole lot of wisdom out there, from people who know a whole lot more than I do.  I received a copy of The Christian Parenting Handbook by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller to review, and I was excited to read it.

Parenting books tend to fall into one of two extremes: highly theoretical or extremely practical.  The theoretical ones put so much time and explanation into the overarching philosophy that it can sometimes be difficult to even imagine how to make it work in practice.  How does it work in the real world?  However, sometimes the immensely practical are so caught up in giving you specific steps to follow or situations to apply that you don't have any long term goals and you lose all ability to think outside the box.  Plus, they can lead to frustration if you follow the "steps" and it doesn't "work."

My favorite parenting books are always the ones that find a balance between these two extremes.  Yes, give me the "big picture."  Let me understand the principles so that I can creatively apply them to my own circumstances.  But also help me out with a few practical suggestions or ideas, just to get the ball rolling.

The Christian Parenting Handbook strikes me as leaning more to the theoretical, but it in no way neglects the practical.  Overall, I think it strikes a pretty good balance.  I plan to go back and read through it more slowly when I'm not on a deadline (paying attention to the places I highlighted especially), but I am pleased with the book and I do recommend it.

I think probably my two favorite parts of the book (at first reading anyway; I reserve the right to change my mind) are the sections on consistency and on tasks vs. problems vs. conflict.  Why?  I'm so glad you asked.  ;)

Consistency is the holy grail of parenting in almost every parenting book out.  "You must be consistent!" may as well have been thundered down from Sinai given its prominence.  And for those of us who are fallible human parents (ahem), it can seem daunting at times.  If you aren't consistent 100% of the time (and let's be honest--no one is consistent 100% of the time), you can feel enormously guilty.  Clearly it's your fault that your child is still having a problem with XYZ.  If only you were more consistent!

But this book rightly points out that our children are not Pavlov's dogs.  "Consistency" is a very behaviorist approach to child rearing.  Is it important?  Sure.  We all know that.  But is it the be-all end-all of the world?  Not so much.  I won't summarize the whole chapter here (after all, I think my job is to make you want to buy the book!), but I will tell you I found it very freeing.

I also appreciated the chapter on the difference between tasks, problems, and conflict.  Ever have one of those days where every task feels like a problem, and every problem feels like a conflict?  Nah, me neither.  Clearly this chapter was written for someone else.  But if you run into that someone else, here's what you can tell them.  Tasks are the basic to-do lists of your day.  Wake up.  Make coffee.  Get children dressed.  Teach children obedience and godliness and basic addition.  Etc.  Problems are the things that are preventing tasks from being completed.  You're out of coffee.  The kids can't find their shoes (that's never happened here).  They also can't remember basic addition, and they're not too interested in obeying.  You know--problems.

Our job as parent is come up with ways to ratchet the problems back down to tasks--not escalate them into conflict.  Yep--that's on us.  How I do that may differ from how you do that.  It may involve consequences and discipline and training, but those things are tasks when are parents--part of our basic job description.  Maybe it's just a mental shift, but viewing problems as a thing I need to get back down to a task does seem to help with it not becoming a big conflict. 

So, yes, I do recommend this book as a worthwhile read. 

The book is available in both paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon. I believe Christianbook.com has it as well.

1 comment:

Ed Miller said...

Hi Friends! The Christian Parenting Handbook is on backorder at all major retail outlets. You can still get the $400.00 bonus parenting deal if you purchase or order the book at your local Christian Bookstore on Friday or Saturday of this week. Go to this website for details. http://www.biblicalparenting.org/parentingshifts/buythebook.asp