Andy Peck rates a popular parenting book against the Bible
The Canadian magazine, Today’s Parent ran a piece based on The Princess of Wales’ parenting preferences when they noted that that she sent a letter to the author of her favourite book on the topic.
Kate applauded the anonymous author of:The Modern Mother’s Handbook: How To Raise A Happy, Healthy, Smart, Disciplined and Interesting Child, Starting From Birth. She was no doubt suitably pleased as were the publisher.
The book provides important advice for her and her husband Prince William as they raise George, Charlotte, and Louis in the media spolight for a very different kind of childhood.
All truth is God’s truth, so we don’t need a Bible verse for every ounce of wisdom and can helpfully plunder the nuggets in many kinds of parenting advice. But how helpful were the tips* in the book measured against the ‘Good book’ we call the Bible?
1. Breast feed naturally
Today’s Parent was not impressed with this aphorism and told its readers to ignore the advice! No doubt there are Christian advocates of this approach and there were (presumably?) few alternatives in the ancient world. Certainly God provided this loving connection between child and mother, but we would daft to presume that those preferring to use a bottle for whatever reason are going against the Almighty.
2. Accept help
This seems eminently sensibly. The wider family and friends, especially in a church community are a necessary part of the growth of your child, whether through baby sitting, personal advice, to teaching the Bible and navigating teens, when advice from parents seems to be the last place you would want to receive it. We may want to be ‘independent’ of others as we raise our child, but the child will be poorer for it, and so will we.
3.Keep calm during tantrums
We have all had moments when we had to remind ourselves who the adult is, when a child’s behaviour has pushed all our buttons all at once, and the shame of the behaviour when in a public space make us want the ground to swallow us up.
‘Be slow to anger’ says James 1:19),and this is surely timely advice when things are kicking off. The tantrum demonstrates their realisation that they have a will and want to use it. In time they will learn (hopefully!) to moderate it, but for now let’s be grateful that they are not flopped in a corner looking listless, but have life! This too will pass and we can think of something suitable to say and do.
4.It’s OK for them to be selfish
Here’s the major challenge to anyone with a Christian ethic, though we are wise to be careful how we express it. Christians believe that all humanity has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). At the heart of sin is a heart that is turned in on itself. ‘I’ is at the centre of the word S.I.N. as preachers are fond of pointing out.
Kate was confirmed into the Church of England in 2011, so maybe she questions this idea too?
Sin needs to be forgiven and we need a new ‘heart’, as we come to God in simple faith and ask for Him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Didn’t Jesus say that we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him?!
So we bear this in mind as we seek to direct our children. We want them to develop their will, learn what they like and prefer as part of who they are, but at the same time teaching the joy of a life that cares for others and gives itself to others. As they learn that God meets their needs and forgives their sin, and has a wise way of living, so they invite him to work to change their wills and find that his yoke is easy and burden is light. Of course this is so much better if we have learned this ourselves and are in a community that exemplifies the joy found in lives that give themselves away
5. Play music
Kate clearly learned that a musical home (palace…) creates a good atmosphere. Christian parents will want to ensure that there is a healthy sprinkling of child appropriate music mixed with their own tastes (and lyrics that work). If you want some ideas go here.
6. Encourage them to find their talent
This is so key for any Christian. God has wonderfully gifted all his people and we sense his presence and power as we offer our talents to serve others. Where the book says ‘talent’, we would say ‘gift’ though there may be overlap, God may sanctify what may seem to be a ‘natural talent’ but equally give us a capacity we don’t naturally know. As you look for your child’s talents, which may lead to work one day, don’t forget to be asking God what role they should play in the church.
7. Don’t force your kids to do things
Perhaps the word ‘force’ is the operative one. Wise parenting knows when there is resistance and seeks to not ‘exasperate their child (Eph. 6:4) when making unreasonable demands. But the Christian parent surely wants to fight back against any view that makes the home some kind of democracy with children having an equal say. Wise parenting recognises their God-given authority, and this is a servant authority exercised for the good of the child, which may include gentle guidance and necessary boundaries and consequences when they fail to do what is for their ultimate good.
8. Teach thoughtfulness early
What a blessing to have a book that values the child’s mind. Christians know we are transformed by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2) and teaching a child to think about others, to pause before doing something will save them an awful lot of grief, even if this will be a tough lesson to teach and will need reminding constantly.
So much wisdom in the book, if measured against the Bible and let’s pray for the Prince and Princess of Wales children: George, Charlotte, Louis. They are bound to have influential lives, George especially, and how great if God was their chief and major influence!
*We have left out a few which overlapped with ones included