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January 31, 2005

Mothers' Little Helpers

For 4+ years I avoided family and parenting books like the plague. Once bitten, twice shy. Instead of books, Hubby and I discussed ideas and theology, pragmatics and principles. I asked my Mom and MIL for advice; bounced ideas off of other mothers in the thick of things with little ones; sought wisdom from the older moms who had been there, done that. I related every theological point I studied to parenting. I made mistakes and had successes.

All the while, I did a lot of loving up on and praying for my boys.

Finally last January I dove in and read four parenting related books.
Families Where Grace is in Place
Relational Parenting (On sale: $2.99!)
Heartfelt Discipline
Biblical Parenting

I hesitate to recommend any parenting materials. Christians are well-meaning but seem to be vulnerable to getting caught up in legalism, rather than applying the Gospel in their families.

Each of the above authors emphasize that there is no "program" to replace a lifestyle of discipleship, relationship and love. These books are not prescriptions for parenting, but provoke thought as we work out the answers to the question, "How can we apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we raise our children?"

While I find much that is worthwhile in these books, I have reservations about them as well. When reading any parenting materials, it is important to be willing to search the Bible, apply theological thinking to family relationships, and look at what we can learn by observing God's creation. This help us focus on relationships and parenting by the Spirit, rather than getting caught up in man-made rules.

I intend to write my own reviews of these books in the coming week. Until then I encourge you to read the Amazon reviews and the discussion in this post.


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Tulipgirl, are you familiar with "Sacred Parenting?" If so, what do you think? I loved "Sacred Marriage," finding it very Gospel-centered, but haven't read SP yet -- Wife(tm) is currently working her way through it.

Posted by: Reid at January 31, 2005 11:25 PM

You know, the one thing I did not have in my raising (and the one thing I have always had in the Lord) is Grace. I never truly understood God as a Father until I became a parent. Then, the clarity, the depth, hit me like a freight train: if I, in my convoluted and fallible state can be *this* devoted to and invested in my child... how much moreso is our God? WOW! Key to parenting right there, at least for me.

Anyhow, that's completely unrelated to your original post. I just so thoroughly enjoy your parenting posts and your blog in general that sometimes I've gotta say hi! :-)


Posted by: Dy at February 1, 2005 03:18 AM

Tulip: I like Jeff VanVonderan (Families where Grace is in Place). He also wrote another book for those seeking to recover from legalism and effort-based Christianity called, Tired of Trying to Measure Up. I think he gets pretty close to the heart of your question, "How can we apply the gospel of Jesus Christ..?" I seek to live under similar questions: What does it mean to love well in this instance and What does it look like to live out the gospel here. Kudos to you for seeking out the wisdom of those who have gone before you. I can stand to do that more often.

Posted by: Ben at February 1, 2005 03:20 AM

Have you read "What's A Family?" by Edith Schaeffer? I've really enjoyed that book and "The Hidden Art of Home-Making" by her.

Posted by: Coyote at February 1, 2005 03:46 AM

I haven't read either of those, but did read an intriguing review of Spiritual Parenting by Jared at Mysterium Tremendum. It seems to be less about parenting, than about how God works in our lives as parents. Btw, did you ever meet David Campbell and his wife when he worked in the Atlanta office? He's now at Covenant. But conversations with him lead me to endorse Ross Campbell's books with even more confidence. *g*

I ordered that book from Amazon with Christmas money, based on how I was blessed by "Families. . ." and reviews from other people I respect. I haven't started it yet. I appreciate hearing from someone else that it is a worthy read.

Hi, Coyote
When I visited my MIL last spring, I was able to skim through Mrs. Schaeffer's books, but didn't get to read them thoroughly. I'm looking forward to being in the States where books are more accessible (borrowing, buying used and new. . .)

Dy, thank you for your hello and kind words. *mush* It's been like that for me, too--understanding God more because I am now a parent. And as I understand theology more, I feel like I am better able to model my parenting on God's. Even though there is a vast difference between God's omniscient, omnipotent parenting and my limited, fallible parenting--there are still patterns I see that I want to emulate.

Related to that, one of the shifts I've had is not only viewing my kids in the parent/child relationship. (Not to minimize that! Or the importance of the responsibilities we have to teach, train, nurture, disciple, etc. . .) But also relating to my children as fellow sons of God in the Covenant. It was quite sobering to me when I realized that it was easier for me to apply the "one anothers" to those in the church, except for those in the church who were also my children.

Along with that was seeking how to help them understand that Christ has already borne the punishment for their every sin on the Cross and that they are now adoped sons of God. For me, that's one of the biggest struggles I see in Christian parenting--applying the Gospel as we raise our children.

Posted by: TulipGirl at February 1, 2005 12:48 PM

Here's the description of "Sacred Parenting" from Amazon: An exploration of the spiritual dynamics of parenting
Many books have been written about how to parent a child effectively, how to become a better parent, and how effective parenting produces better kids. But Sacred Parenting—the new book by Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage—delves into an entirely different reality: how parenting affects the parent. It explores the spiritual dynamics of parenting, and why caring for children is such an effective discipline in shaping our souls and forming the character of Christ within us. Thomas doesn’t tell parents how to handle a chronically sick or rebellious child, but he does help parents find spiritual meaning behind the almost heroic care such children require.

Because Sacred Parenting is not a "how to" book, it openly admits the difficulties, struggles, and failures that often accompany parenting. And it goes on to show how God uses those trying and discouraging times to build up the parents who experience them. Parents of all children will be encouraged by the examples of how other men and women have successfully handled the challenges and occasional defeats of parenting, and will be inspired by stories that reaffirm the spiritual value of being a parent.

Product Description:
Explore the spiritual dynamics of parenting, and why caring for children is such an effective discipline in shaping our souls and forming the character of Christ within us.

...Sound like something you may well endorse!

Never met David Campbell, but I bet my momma did. With the office now being out in Suwannee as opposed to Clairmont, I can't just pop in to take my mom out to lunch or dinner like I used to. Alas.

Posted by: Reid at February 1, 2005 04:17 PM

I understand the aversion to parenting books. I'll skim through some when I go to the bookstore and they all seem so formula-based or a just a derivative of pop psychology - and these are the "Christian" ones.

I have actually started to read Heartfelt Discipline but haven't finished it yet. I like what I've read so far though.

The other one I would like to read is Jeff V's book, but I feel guilty buying it when I have a stack of a dozen other books I haven't started reading yet.

Posted by: sozo at February 1, 2005 08:15 PM


One of the things I liked about Jeff V's book (which, if I were to recommend just one of the above, would be the one) is that it echoed from an experienced point-of-view some conclusions I had come to one my own through theological study and discussions with others. You'd probably find the same.

That one sounds very interesting. I'll add it to my wishlist. *grin*

Posted by: TulipGirl at February 1, 2005 08:52 PM

I just finished reading a couple of parenting books and reviewed them on my blog. I not only reviewed them i told how I put the steps into practice. That was not a smart thing to do. Now I have people telling me I am abusive. I have learned a valuable lesson! Next time I will just review the books and forget about the application with my own kids.

Posted by: Mrs Darling at February 3, 2005 02:30 AM

I just finished reading "Biblical Parenting!" It's wonderful. I'm planning to review it on my blog in the near future. Another book I would recommend is "Parenting with Grace" by Gregory Popcak. It's directed to Catholic parents, but has a lot of great insights for everyone--really promotes attachment parenting. I just found your blog recently and am enjoying it so far--when I get the chance to sit at the computer and read for a while, hard to come by with a toddler lol :-)

Posted by: Beautiful Belgian Babe at February 4, 2005 06:45 AM

After going through 3 Ezzo classes, (prep for parenting, prep for toddlerhood and GKGW), I'm looking for another way to raise my kids. My 6-yo is so dramatic and over-sensitive, GKGW would just push her further and further away. I've been thinking about Dobson's _The Strong-Willed Child_, but really what I need is _The Too Smart For Her Own Good Drama Queen Who Always Knows Better Than Mamma What Is Right -- How to Raise Her Without Crushing her Spirit and Determination_. ::Sigh:: I don't think that one has been written yet.

Posted by: Jema at February 7, 2005 02:59 AM


*L* Sounds like you really know your daughter.

You might find some encouragement and a safe place to bounce ideas around at the FreeFromEzzo Yahoo Group.

Posted by: TulipGirl at February 7, 2005 03:09 AM

I highly recommend Doug Wilson's Future Men. The blurb says:
    How do we build our sons to be tough but not arrogant? mannered but not soft? imaginative but not lazy? bold but not hollow? Future Men is a Christian guide to raising strong, virtuous sons, contrary to the effeminacy and sentimentalism of contemporary culture.

    As we look to Scripture for patterns of masculinity for our sons, we find them manifested perfectly in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who set the ultimate pattern for friendship, for courage, for faithfulness, and integrity.

Good stuff. You can D/L the TOC, Intro and first chapter at the Canon Press site.

Posted by: Cris at February 8, 2005 06:48 PM

Ooops... Canon Press is at http://www.canonpress.org/pages/family.asp

Posted by: Cris at February 9, 2005 05:11 AM

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