For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1Cor13:9-12)
One element of several popular Christian parenting books that I have found distressing is the confusion (or non-deliniation) between the sin nature vs. the ages-n-stages children go through. For example, around 2, a child goes through a negative (“no”) phase because s/he is learning a new level of separation from the mother. That little tidbit helped me not to make every No as a battle of the wills, to adapt my mothering to this stage of development.
The Bible doesn’t criticize childhood. Children go through fairly standard stages of development, mentally and physically. Of Jesus as a child it’s written, “And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luk 2:40) Nothing is criticized about being a child. It’s not painted as a time of foolishness or inferiority.
One major mistake several parenting books make is misapplying Proverbs. When Proverbs talking about “foolishness” and the “fool,” it doesn not have in view a small child. It is more talking about a teenaged child. Everywhere in the Bible, children are cared for as children, not treated as fools that need to be beaten.
Here are some examples:
Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels . . . (Gen 31:17)
Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.” But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. (Gen 33:12-13)
Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, … and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” (Exo 2:5-6)
Jesus gives us several examples of how He viewed children, and interestingly, there is no condemnation of foolishness or other childlike qualities. Becoming a mature adult is a goal (Gal 4:3), as Paul showed us (I Cor 13), but Jesus points out that there are elements of life and faith that come easily to children that we need to imitate.
Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mat 18:3-6)
Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mat 19:13-14)
Look at what these children did!
But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant, and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself’?” (Mat 21:15-16)
God shows Himself to be, over and over again, gentle toward and protective of children. (“In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom.” (Isa 40:11) And He Himself designed their stages of development! Some of the most valuable tidbits I’ve learned to help me with parenting are basic facts about usual developmental stages and what I can expect.
So, when reading parenting books, I ask myself a few filtering quetsions:
- Does this book help me understand and respect my children as children?
- Does this author expect children to behave like adults? (Sure, adulthood is the goal, but there is a lot to go through before that stage.) Does it expect some type of robotic, adult-like obedience?
- Does this author teach me as a parent to be gentle and patient with my children? Or am I being taught to be authoritative and slow to mercy?
- Is spanking or other negative styles of discipline the main tools I’m being given, or am I being taught positive skills to nuture relationships while teaching obedience.