Sunday, April 17, 2011

Eleven

Well guys, I finished a book.  Book Ten. It was Tim Kimmel's Grace-Based Parenting.  I read it very sloooooooowly.  I will tell you why in a minute.

First, I think you should know that I am ditching my usual format today.  I'm leaving behind LIKE, NO LIKE, and QUOTES, in favor of what I can only suppose is going to be a chatty, rambling, winding post.  I personally am drinking a lovely glass (or two) of Reisling that we picked up at Trader J's this weekend.  Feel free to go grab your own adult beverage if you'd like. Because, aside from subjecting you to a rambly post, I'm about to get all theological on your ass.

I am so sorry.

I read this book very slowly. It was because it kept making me mad, and I kept putting it down.  And, normally, I just quit reading books that I don't like.  Really, I do it all the time. It drives David crazy. So why not this time? Because of the stupid 52 book challenge! I can't quit reading books willy-nilly! I have a quota, gosh darn it!  So, I finished it. Which means now, I feel honor bound to write a post wading through what I liked and didn't, what I agreed with and what I don't, what I think is theologically sound and what I think is a liiiiitle off.  Sigh.

Kimmel's book is based on a great idea. Grace-based parenting. Parenting that is based on grace. Not legalism. Not image. Not fear or self-protection. On grace. It's a GREAT idea!

But, I had a few problems with his execution.  

Problem One: Kimmel gives a LOT of power to parents. Too much, in my opinion. I'm not sure if it's intentional, but the language he uses sends a clear message of 'do this, get this.'  Be a legalistic parent, get this kind of kid. Be a grace-based parent, get this kind of kid.  Handle a situation this way, produce this quality in your child.  This kind of discourse bothers me, because it elevates parents to a God-like standing.  It sends the message that if you parent a certain way, you can CONTROL who your child becomes.

It just ain't true.  We all know people, or at least stories of people, who grew up in terrible parenting environments, and turned out to be amazing people, or who grew up with wonderful parents, and turned out to be terrible people.  I'm certainly not saying that the way we parent doesn't have any effect on our children, that it doesn't shape them or encourage the growth (or death) of certain character traits. (Clearly, I think how we parent is important, because here I am, reading and posting on parenting books like a nerdy first-time mommy.) But I DO reject the idea that parenting properly is a foolproof way to produce a 'good' kid.  That kind of mindset puts an unrealistic burden on parents and totally strips God of His power in our children's lives.

Problem Two: And, uh, speaking of 'good kids' that's another issue I had with GBP. Kimmel definitely perpetuates the idea that our kids turn out 'good' or 'bad', which is theologically sketchy, at best.  One of my favorite quotes in this vein was (he's talking to his kid here) "I love you too much to let you continue in this pattern and grow up to be bad."  

Okay. Now, Tim. Listen. We're Christians. We believe in original sin. We're all 'bad,' in the sense that we all sin, we are all selfish, and we all desperately need the grace of God.  The idea that we can parent the 'bad' out of our kids is unbiblical, it attributes way more agency to parents than scripture actually gives, and it sets up a dangerous dichotomy to teach our children that they are either 'good' or 'bad' people.

Problem Three: My last beef with Tim, is in a slightly different vein.  One thing I liked about his book, was that he really encouraged parents to embrace their freedom to make choices that suit their families and their children.  That parenting was not a one size fits all deal.  That we don't have find one 'type' of parenting and jump on their bandwagon completely. He pointed out that the dynamics of different families, different children's personalities, even different relationships within the family may merit different choices in raising children.  THAT'S A GREAT CONCEPT, TIM!!!  We could ALL use a little of this!  We have been given the grace, wisdom, and authority to prayerfully make our OWN decisions for whats best for our kids. And they can change with the situation! With the child! With the season of life! That's a beautiful freedom. But, then, he puts weird restrictions on it.  He makes it a point to say what HE thinks is the best way to feed babies, or to deal with a picky eater, or to discipline a recalcitrant teenager.  Uh, Tim, I thiiiink you missed your own point there, buddy.  That may have worked for you, but you JUST TOLD US that we get to decide for ourselves. Shhhhhhhhh, you're ruining it!

Okay, now that I've got all that off my chest, I can honestly say that there were several other things that I really enjoyed about the book.  
Here's one: 
"The success of our parenting plan rested far more on our personal and daily relationship with Christ than any other factor."

And another:
"Grace understands that the only real solution for our children's sin is the work of Christ on their behalf"

He also does a good job of pointing out common parenting mistakes, and does it in a clear and non-judgy way, which I did appreciate.  He talks about the idea of 'image parenting,' or parenting in a way that is focused on protecting the image of the family or the parents, instead of on the needs of the child.  He also takes a significant amount of time to encourage parents (and all adults, really) to give appropriate weight and merit to children's problems, concerns and emotions instead of writing them off or trivializing them.  He encourages parents to treat their children like people, with an individual personality, with preferences, and skills, and ideas that matter.  Yay, Tim!

Honestly, I feel a little bad for being so down on his book. I do think he's coming from a really good place, and I appreciate any book that is trying to perpetuate the idea of being a parent that focuses on the well-being of your child, while coming from a biblical perspective.  And honestly, for someone other than me, it could be a great read.  If you grew up in a very legalistic home, and are trying to shed that mentality, this book could be groundbreaking.  It might also be a more helpful read for someone in the midst of raising teenagers and struggling with where to draw boundaries.

But, I didn't grow up in a legalistic home, and I'm not raising teenagers (yet) and, well... I'm a little picky about theology, especially in practical application.

So. There you have it. If you haven't read this book, I don't really recommend it. If you read it and loved it, THAT'S AWESOME! WE CAN STILL BE FRIENDS!  If you hated it, come sit next to me and tell me why.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you!! I have read several "Christian" parenting books and had the same issues that you mentioned. We are struggling to raise our kids in a home with boundaries but not legalism, structure AND grace.... It's a hard job- and I love that I can do my best but ultimatly, God is the one in control of their hearts!! I'm so glad that God is in control! And now, thanks to your review, I don't have to read this book!! Thank you!!

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  2. Agree with you on all counts! If you haven't yet, you should check out http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/community/index.php...it's been a good place for me to browse and talk to like-minded Christian mothers.

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  3. Wow, I think this book would drive me crazy. I've heard good things about Gospel-Powered Parenting and really liked Shepherding a Child's Heart, just FYI. Oh, and you're awesome.

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