Sunday, October 26, 2008

Psychobabble Parenting

Maybe you've noticed it too? I've been discouraged to see a growing movement -- found among Christians -- that employs psychological nonsense in their parenting advice. They give bad advice, use long, confusing titles for various sin problems, and recommend strange methods and behaviors for parents. And then they accuse others of parenting unbiblically. I confess, it drives me bananas.

First, they give flat-out BAD advice. Advice that produces a domineering, self-centered, disobedient child. Then, once a young mom follows their advice and it yields a two-and-a-half-year-old domineering, self-centered disobedient child, these same advice givers will say something like,

"Yeah I know what you mean. Just buckle down and hang in there. That's a tough age. Remember, we're in the right because we're not being punitive like those other terrible parents whose kids only look like they're behaving and content."
They may then dispense a few methods for fending off disobedience by prevention or avoidance. Or worse, they may recommend that she see doctors so that she will have a series of letters or labels to identify what's wrong. They don't tell her that the problem is sin, and that they themselves (following their own terrible advice) are perpetually on the verge of mental break-down because of not having dealt wisely with their own children.

Just this week, I came across a random blogger's profile and I had to look up several of the concepts she used to describe her parenting style. I'm fairly well-informed about parenting methods and trends, and still some of her words were foreign and confusing. But biblically wise parenting doesn't have to be reinvented every couple of years.

As I've come across more and more absurd advice (full of big words and labels and conditions, but rarely-- if ever-- mentioning sin, discipline, and obedience), I'm convinced that we as Christian parents need to be cautious in this area of whose advice we're heeding. There are several things that get all jumbled up in modern-day parenting advice, particularly that which is whitewashed with a "Christian" veneer. Instead of trying to combat each false idea or method, I'll just try to simplify things a bit here.
  • Children are a blessing. A sweet gift from God. We ought to be thankful for our children... not only in words (like, "of course I love my children, but I don't always like them heh-heh-heh"). But we ought to be able to truthfully say and believe, "these children ARE a sweet blessing to me." When we become mothers, we have the privilege of interacting with neat, funny, unique individuals. Sure, sometimes it's tough. But, overwhelmingly, motherhood is a gift, and if we are continually frazzled, on-edge, angry, exhausted, and embarrassed because of our children and their terrible behavior, then we are doing something wrong. Children are a sweet gift from God.
  • That said, children are sinful. Children don't learn sin. It is inherent, and must be dealt with. The longer it goes unchecked, the more it will run rampant and unchecked in their hearts and minds. If your parenting advice doesn't deal with the sin problem, or tries to postpone the facing of it, it's lousy advice. Go straight to the Word and see what it says about foolishness and children.
  • Sin is sin. Disobedience, and disrespect are not justified simply because there's a reason for them. Children need to be taught self-control and obedience. Yes, sometimes they're sick or extra-tired (and, lemme tell ya, I know about this one, having moved around the world multiple times with preschoolers) and we need to wisely take these things into account, but we need to quit coming up with more and more labels and conditions to describe plain, old, run-of-the-mill sin.
  • Children should listen to and obey their mom and dad. It's sad to me that this needs to be spelled out these days, but since I virtually never see this actually said in the forums and blogs that dispense this bad parenting advice, I'll come out and say it here.

    Children are not smarter or wiser than their parents, even when it comes to assessing their own "needs". Much of what's doled out in modern advice is a bunch of hooey. Toddlers are inherently foolish and want all sorts of things that are not good for them. They need parents to wisely guide them and teach them. Giving them latitude and "freedom" to display horrible attitudes and further turn their little hearts towards sin is not wise or loving.

    Choices come later, once they've been carefully discipled and display wisdom in their choices. But in the beginning, with little ones, the basic thing that kids need is a loving mom and dad who will teach them to obey. Pretty simple, really.
Passing these basic principles of child rearing along to younger women is a bit of my part in the Titus 2 chain of women.

We moms need to get our advice from the One who made humans. If we have to resort to ridiculous behavior, newly-created labels, and psychological methodologies just to deal with a sinful and/or foolish child, we're not dealing with him/her correctly. Go to the Word of God, discipline your child accordingly, and you will have rest and delight in your soul.

[An explanation about why comments were closed: Messages, forum posts, and blogs from young moms who are floundering following worldly philosophies aren't difficult to find, and oftentimes, the most that they get is a pat on the back, a cutesy parenting "tip", and perhaps an, "I'm struggling with the same thing." That's not Titus-2-ing. That's commiserating.

I get letters and e-mails and comments fairly regularly asking for me to share what our parenting philosophies are... how we raise our kids, what we do with tantrums, whether we spank, how we handle x, y, or z... and this post is my certainly imperfect but honest attempt to answer part of that question.

And with that, I'm closing comments. This isn't an "I'm packing up my toys and going home" closing of the comments, but rather, because I think this post stands on its own and doesn't need to be picked apart word by word. If you have something to say to me (as many of you already have), you can always e-mail me at

Thanks for the dialogue... it is both difficult and wonderful to talk through these things. Even when it feels very personal (both to me and to some readers), I think it's worth it to work through that feeling and get to the root issues of the matter. So, thanks!

Blessings & may God teach us all more and more of how to be like Him and like He intends for us to be as parents as we walk the adventure of life with the precious children He entrusts to our care and teaching. ~Jess]


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