Parenting Books: Moving From Formulas Back to Principles
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably read a parenting book, recommended a parenting book, and/or asked for a recommendation for a parenting book. I entered “parenting” in the Amazon search box, and voila - 200,000 entries! A general internet search yielded 389,000,000 hits in .57 seconds.
You are probably greatly influenced by friends, family, church, or social media concerning the books you choose, and people of similar age, or with children of similar age, have probably read many of the same books. (As an aside, it would be interesting to see how many books are the same old messages packaged in today’s lingo or with emphases that make such books attractive to modern readers.)
Why is it that we turn to so many books? I am convinced it’s because we want to know the formula to accomplishing whatever parenting goals we have. Yet those goals are as numerous as the books available to help us. Parents wonder: How do I get my kids to go to bed earlier - or stay up later so they sleep longer? What are the right things to say - or the wrong things to say? How do I get my kids moving – or get them to sit still? How do I get my kids under control - or give them more control? You get the idea. Depending on what you want, you can find a book to help you. And if someone else wants the opposite thing, well, there’s a book for that too.
Now, I didn’t take the time to scroll through the tens of thousands of entries to see if the Bible was included somewhere in the mix of all these parenting books. Not likely. Many Christians would even say that the Bible isn’t a parenting book, because it doesn’t give practical day-to-day help. It is true that you won’t find verses about the terrible twos, the tween years, or helping your twenty-something child to “adult.” We can, however, miss the forest for the trees, forgetting the foundational principles from which we parent in the moment.
Paul David Tripp’s 2016 book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family lifts parents from the daily details to biblical principles which can point us in a better direction.
Here are the principles covered in this helpful resource:
1. Nothing is more important in your life than being one of God’s tools to form a human soul.
2. God never calls you to a task without giving you what you need to do it. He never sends you without going with you.
3. Your children need God’s law, but you cannot ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish.
4. Recognizing what you are unable to do is essential to good parenting.
5. If you are not resting as a parent in your identity in Christ, you will look for identity in your children.
6. You must be committed as a parent to long-view parenting because change is a process and not an event.
7. As a parent, you’re not dealing just with bad behavior, but a condition that causes bad behavior.
8. One of the foundational heart issues in the life of every child is authority. Teaching and modeling the protective beauty of authority is one of the foundations of good parenting.
9. The foolishness inside your children is more dangerous to them than the temptation outside of them. Only God’s grace has the power to rescue fools.
10. Not all of the wrong your children do is a direct rebellion to authority; much of the wrong is the result of a lack of character.
11. You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.
12. The goal of parenting is not control of behavior, but rather heart and life change.
13. It is only rest in God’s presence and grace that will make you a joyful and patient parent.
14. No parent gives mercy better than one who is convinced that he desperately needs it himself.
We must remember that no book covers every possible principle or application of those principles. You might get to the end and still have a lot of questions about the nuts and bolts of daily life. Yet, I am certain you will come away having raised your sights just a bit higher. Perhaps you’ll see that the grade, the team, the mess, and the moment are merely opportunities for us to be faithful parents applying God’s principles to our parenting, rather than merely seeking certain outcomes from our parenting.