The Christian life has always been a swim against the tide of the world. But perhaps there are times and places in history where, in some aspects of the Christian life, the strength of the tide against us is not that great or, either by coincidence or by the direct influence of the church on culture, the direction of swim and direction of tide are roughly the same. Perhaps that has been the case in relation to Christian parenting, or at least some aspects of the task, in past centuries. But now the tide is turning and Ann Benton writes into a UK context where the tide is now very definitely against a biblical view and practice of parenting in a whole host of ways:
- God’s plan of a family of married father and mother as the context for children is discarded and any ‘parent’ or ‘care-giver’ combination embraced as good.
- The God-given authority of parent over child has given way to children’s rights, parent as pal and child-centred self-actualisation and entertainment.
- The God-given need of a child to receive unconditional love is turned inside out (or outside in) into a self-esteem philosophy where children (and everyone) must be helped to love and affirm themselves by pumping the ego.
- God’s revelation of truth and what is right and wrong in bringing up children is rejected and replaced by relativism (anything goes), naturalism (live like animals), hedonism (if it feels good) or populism (what everyone else is doing).
- God’s grace to parents and children is replaced with a great deal of guilt and judgmentalism and manipulation.
- Physical discipline is viewed as child abuse and is replaced with pragmatic behaviour modification tactics – excuse them, ignore them, organise them, consult them, bribe them.
- God-given differences between girls and boys replaced with idea that gender is socially constructed and even self-chosen.
- God’s good design for sex, marriage, sexuality and singleness inverted and selfishness and immorality defined as the new ‘good’ and necessary to personal fulfilment.
- From the virtues of simplicity, purity and face time to the rise and rise of busyness, isolation, screen time and particularly the dark side of the internet and social media.
- From the virtues of contentment, gratitude and generosity to the rise and rise of affluenza.
- From the goodness of passing on to your children what is true and life-giving to the belief that such passing on is ‘indoctrination’ and that we should create a ‘neutral’ environment where children make up their own minds what to believe.
This tide is particularly strong in the UK but it’s coming towards Kenya very fast. Some of it is already here [Daily Nation: “State of the Kenyan family”].
Benton doesn’t just speak against but gives plenty of wonderful biblical framework to help us swim back in the other direction. E.g.:
- The overarching Bible storyline “which is gloriously not about you or me”
- The fatherhood of God as the source and model for our delighting in our children
- The goodness and blessing of God-given authority properly used
- The goodness of sex, marriage, singleness and friendship
All this is peppered with very helpful, very practical advice. E.g. on the 4 levels of friendship, on screen hygiene and on giving instructions to small children:
- Stop what you’re doing
- Wait for the child to pay attention
- Give the instruction once (as a warm clear command not a suggestion or a question)
- Ask the child to repeat it back
- Stand and wait for them to do it
- Encourage, encourage, encourage
Benton manages to pack an incredible amount of wisdom into 240 pages. Easy to read. Doesn’t fear the hot potatoes (smacking, homosexuality, home schooling). Discussion questions at the end of each short chapter. Perfect to read with your spouse or in a group of couples. Benton finishes with a couple of very important little chapters on what we really want for our children as Christian parents, the role of prayer, the sovereignty and grace of God. Highly recommended.
Worth it’s weight in gold. But available from iServe Africa Bookstore for only 800 KES.