This book by Ann Benton has been sitting on my bedside table for far too long. I finally got round to reading it and can honestly say I wish I had read it sooner. It’s an easy-to-read, practical and relevant book for parents today.
I am now writing this in a cafe at our local beach and it seems very apt. I’m watching the sea gently move in and out. This, I guess, is how most of our days go, just gently getting on with what we have to do. Sometimes, however, the sea is not so calm—the waves are raging and crashing against the rocks. We can sometimes be in seasons of life that are like that—we feel like we are constantly getting battered about. In those times, we can feel more keenly that we are going against the tide—we are using all our strength to go in the opposite direction of everything else around us. Or we can be like the graceful swan on the water, looking all calm and serene but our legs are paddling hard to keep us moving. Whatever season of your parenting life you find yourself in at the moment, this book will have something to say to you.
God’s Word and the World’s Lies
Ann writes about various current trends that have crept into our society and talks about them specifically in relation to how we parent today. As I was reading it, so much of what she was saying made sense and rang true. What makes her book different from all the other parenting books out there is that she is addressing current cultural issues and using the Bible to counter their falsehoods.
She says in chapter three “we need to be continually reminded that it is not what people think, it is what God thinks that counts”. This is how she approaches all the issues that she is talking about. This was such a good reminder to me because it is so easy to allow other people’s opinion to mould and shape us. We can so easily get sucked into unbiblical thinking without really realising it. Our behaviours and attitudes can be more influenced by what is ‘culturally acceptable’ rather than allowing the Bible to shape us. This is not how it should be. Let me ask you, does what the Bible say influence you more than what the world says?
Let’s get into the nitty gritty of the book. Firstly, let me say it was really refreshing to be reading a parenting book written by a British author. I don’t think there are many of them around. I think it resonated more with me because all her illustrations and examples were things I instantly recognized, meaning they had a greater impact. Each chapter starts with a quote or wee story that shows the point she is going to be making in that chapter. This is also good because they are all pretty thought provoking. At the end of each chapter, she gives a couple of questions to reflect on, which I guess you could use as discussion starters if you were reading the book with others.
The first chapter lays out the biblical foundation for family & parenting. She carefully talks about the fact that parents have the authority over their children. This may seem like an obvious point, but as she unpacks it, you can see how other ‘authority’ figures try to dictate how you should bring up your own children. These ‘authority’ figures may be teachers or parenting gurus who are in the media. I know from talking to other parents that many often feel like they need to comply with what they are being told even if they disagree or think that what they are being told isn’t the best thing for their child. Ann’s point is that God has given your children to you and you have been given authority from Him to bring them up. After all, we are the ones who know our children best. And as Christian parents our main goal is to bring them up in a way that pleases the Lord.
The rest of the chapters each tackle a specific issue, ranging from self-esteem to the naughty step. From delighting in our children to gender distinctives. Some of these issues are obviously very hot topics today and I think she handles them sensitively yet directly. For example, she says: “parents will march to rid the streets of paedophiles but will buy their little girls crop tops and allow them to watch Childrens TV with its obsession with pop/celebrity culture and the accompanying overt sexual display.” This, in a very stark way, shows the inconsistency we have in our culture today. Yet the majority of people don’t see this.
In the community I live this inconsistency is shown in a different way. Many parents are too frightened or lazy to put in boundaries and use discipline with their children (this issue is covered in one of her chapters). Yet when they get to teenagers, the same parents are in uproar that their kids are now getting into all sorts of mischief. It’s no wonder they do when they haven’t been given any boundaries! As someone looking on, it seems obvious, but they can’t see it at all. As it says in Proverbs 22:6: ‘start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it’
As Christians, the way we bring up our children, what we allow to influence them, and how we talk to them about the current issues of the day should be very different from non-Christians. We say the basis for our life is the Bible and that we are seeking to live in a way that honours the Lord. But are we really? Does that mindset filter through to our parenting, or have we just become lazy with it? Think about it, when you are having a conversation with a non-Christian friend about a parenting issue, are your approaches the same? I mean at the root of it. I think every parent wants their child to be obedient, but our motivation for that obedience is because we are wanting to teach them about obedience to God. At least it should be. Do you have those types of conversations with your children?
None of us are perfect, we all have days, weeks, or months when we lose our consistency. There are moments when the tiredness kicks in and we can’t be bothered to fight the same battle again. Don’t let that drag you down—tomorrows a new day where you can get back on it.
She ties this all up at the very end by saying ‘The main thrust of this book has been to encourage parents to be parents as God intended and as he himself has modelled: confident in their authority, consistent in their values, clear in their boundaries and loving in their relationships with their children. If all that seems obvious to the reader then I am glad to have reinforced what you are already doing. You may call it common sense. I observe that it is not as common as it ought to be.’