As a Christian parenting blogger, I am offered quite a few parenting books to review. It’s important to me to make sure you are using books to guide you that will actually help your parenting and not make a muddled disaster out of your best intentions.
Which is why I am really torn about the new book, Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart by Jim and Lynne Jackson. The authors are obviously trying to counter what they see as parents who never really listen to their kids and correct in anger and for childish mistakes, not just rebellion. They also introduce godly principles and commands into the parenting mix. Obviously, I am a huge fan of all of those principles.
The problem I have with the book is really two-fold. First, the overall tone of the book is a bit touchy-feely for my tastes. I prefer a more straight-forward style. There is nothing wrong with writing or preferring a less direct style. Unfortunately though, that style always makes me want to immediately reject things that are shared – even when I am a strong proponent of those very things – because of the way they are written. It just feels a little too etherial. If you enjoy that style, you will appreciate this book, because it is a rather unique way to write a parenting book.
My other issue is with some of the remaining content. I really vacillated on this quite a bit, because much of what they promote is important parenting advice. Unfortunately, some of the advice is either wrong (in my opinion of course), stated in a way that is confusing enough for people to get the wrong idea or taking a couple of scriptures out of context of the rest of scripture in an attempt to prove a point.
One of my biggest concerns is that the authors appear to think the word “obedience” is a bad word. They cite examples of parents who are so focused on forcing a child to obey, they cause power struggles or miss the fact that their child’s heart is rebellious in spite of compliant actions.
While I agree with the rest of their theory, I have to reject the notion that “obedience” is a bad word in parenting. Let’s face it. God expects us to obey. How many times are the words obedience or obey mentioned in the Bible? Your children learn to obey God in part by learning to obey you. At times, you do give them reasons for your rules and so does God. On the other hand, when your child is running out in the street in front of a speeding car – absolute, immediate compliance is vital. God sometimes works the same way. We just have to obey because He is God and He said so.
I am also concerned about the idea of in the heat of the moment having a long drawn out discussion with a two year old about the pros and cons of biting. Sometimes, a quick “no, we don’t bite other people” and consequences are your best friend and more educational to the child.
Which brings me to another concern. The authors seem to have no knowledge of Kohlberg’s work on moral development. Each stage incorporates and builds on previous stages. What’s the first stage on which the highest moral development is built? A healthy respect and fear of punishment. I don’t believe in overly strict or abusive parenting, but I do think firm boundaries and consistent rule enforcement with consistent, mostly natural consequences are appropriate and godly.
I appreciate their attempts to help parents understand the idea that your child’s strengths often bring with them weaknesses that can cause behavior issues. I do not think though that when a child is in full rebellion mode, it is the best time to say you are misbehaving because you are so gifted in this area. There are lots of opportunities for that, but a child does need to understand they have made a poor choice and not just exhibiting giftedness. I have known people who were parented in that way. Their take away was that the parent secretly wished they could be doing those inappropriate and/or sinful things.
Not to mention, they used Philippians 4:8 as some sort of proof text that you should only focus on your child’s good points as you correct them. First, I think they take the verse and give it an unusual twist at best. Secondly, they point to how Jesus interacted with Peter as an example. What they fail to remember is that those are separate incidents. When Peter failed to walk on water, Jesus corrected him. There were many, many times Jesus corrected Peter. Did Jesus love Peter and show and tell him about his gifts and potential? Absolutely, but most of the time not in the middle of a correction.
I just kept thinking about how the author said kids who lie are creative and have a great memory and should be praised for that while you are correcting them for a lie. My thought was Ananias and Sapphira. I don’t recall anyone saying “Wow, aren’t those two creative, with great memories!?” Nor did God say that to Adam and Eve or others who lied.
I also do not at all approve of letting a child say hateful, spiteful things to anyone for thirty or more minutes in the “good” parenting examples they gave. The authors said it was okay because the child was venting. So sorry, but that is why there are things like road rage today. In our house, when those words first started to fly, we calmly told her we don’t speak to each other that way (and no one is ever allowed to say “I hate you” – you can say “I am so angry I could shoot flames out of my nose” or some other additional modifier, but never “hate”) and she could go cool off and come back when she was ready to speak more calmly.
Honestly, this book was written as if it were for parents with teens who were totally out-of-control. Many of their examples would never happen if more appropriate parenting were done when children were little. It would have been great for them to share that parents could often avoid these scenarios entirely if they parented their children differently when they are young.
I wish the authors had spent more time addressing the real issue they were trying to correct, but missed hammering home. Parents aren’t spending nearly enough meaningful time with their kids. They don’t really know their kids or their hearts. They don’t really listen to their kids. They don’t constantly talk about God and what He wants for them and from them like commanded in Deuteronomy. They don’t love their kids in ways the kids can feel and believe. Ultimately, almost every parenting ill they attempt to address would be corrected with truly loving, involved parenting.
The book does address specific scenarios in the back and how to handle each one. Once again while much of the advice was good, it was ultimately just too much. Obedience and rules with a very loving relationship do not foster rebellion or encourage separation from God. It is expecting obedience and rules with little or no relationship that is the problem plaguing parents today. While this book may help you in many ways, I wish they had focused on that instead of pushing the wrong boundaries.
This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.