Did you know? 4.3 babies are born into this world every second. That extrapolates out to 255 born per minute, or 353,000 new faces each year. These numbers, in turn, indicate a whole lot of new fathers and mothers are created simultaneously.
You may say, “But many of those new babies are not the only children in their respective families.” True. But as I talk to other parents I find that once you get past the basics (diapers, formula or breast milk, which doctor to use), it is almost as if they are starting over. The parenting style for the first child often doesn’t work for number two. Each unique gift that God presents to our families requires tweaking our ideas on child-raising.
Before you despair of ever getting this parenting thing just right, let me say, you won’t. There are no perfect parents. We have all made mistakes, done things we regret. We have had those “if only” thoughts.
There is hope. One of the thoughts that helped carry me through as a father was the idea that God loves my children so much more than I ever could. Yes, I loved my sons and I still do. But His love is infinitely greater than mine. As I applied my best fathering skills, I would occasionally fall down on the job. I found that God’s grace of healing or forgiveness could limit the extent of hurt my poor parenting created.
Another help I believe God sent was wisdom. We could observe other families with seemingly well-adjusted kids that were just ahead of ours age wise. We would pick their brains for ideas, suggestions and the mutual lamentations (and joys) of parenting. Being in the book business opened another avenue of getting help.
As the owner and operator of a Christian bookstore, I have come across several parenting books that I found helpful for our journey. Remember that parenting books are really self-help books whose authors wrote down what worked for them. Not every book will fit your situation. Their methodologies may or may not be helpful, but basic truths are always of benefit. I would read them looking for the gems that would help with my kids. The books I am listing have stood the test of time. They have sold well, not because of marketing, but because of word of mouth recommendations from one parent to another.
How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell is a good starting place. Its focus is on basics. Eye contact, physical touch, focused attention, loving discipline are a few of the topics covered.
Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman deals primarily with teaching kids that their behavior has consequences. I remember one illustration where the child refuses to eat what mom cooked for dinner. The parental response was not anger, but informing junior that he doesn’t have to eat what was served. He could just wait until breakfast to fill his tummy. Leman writes with a lot of humor. How can we parent without it?
Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay is written without any obvious scriptural reference. But many of its principles can be derived from the Bible. It is published by the Navigators, whose ministry foundation is scripture memory.
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp is loaded with scripture. A couple of my kids have loved this one for parenting their own children.
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt is a favorite reference book of mine. It is an annotated bibliography of wonderful books for children age 0 to 12. Filled with great titles to read to the little ones and beautiful stories for older kids to read on their own.
These books and others offer wonderful help in giving us the knowledge to improve our parenting skills. But that is only half of the battle. We must fully engage our hearts in this ministry to our kids as well as our minds. I found that my love for my kids grew as my understanding of the depths of God’s love for me increased. We love because He first loved us. That love is so healing and freeing, that loving others is a direct by-product. Kids included. Gary Thomas’s book Sacred Parenting speaks so well to that. The subtitle is How Raising Children Shapes our Soul. Gary says that parenting is a school of spiritual formation and the children are our teachers.
There are many books that can aid in growing our love for Jesus. Here are a few that have touched me deeply.
Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, one of the most humble individuals I have ever met. I heard Brennan once say that he had gone to seminary. He had spoken to groups all over the world. He had talked with folks from all walks of life. And he believed that when we get to heaven there will be only one question that the Lord will as of us. “Did you really believe that I loved you?” Answering that question in the affirmative will have made all the difference in our life on earth.
Your God Is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan. Here Mark explores how we get stuck in complacency, dryness, or tedium. He then offers ways for us to grow into new depths of spiritual passion.
Falling for God by Gary Moon. Gary’s writing stirs our heart’s hunger for God. He encourages our passionate pursuit of an intimate relationship with God. Dive in.
I have found parenting to be a whole being adventure. Heart, mind, and soul are interconnected to such an extent that our pursuit of God and our work as parents cannot be divorced into different segments of living. They run together. And the Father’s grace, mercy and love are what enable us to do so.