Top Tips for Evaluating Christian Parenting Books

Let’s be honest. There is no “Panel of Experts” that evaluates those claiming to be experts in parenting or their books. Anyone who can write well and has an interesting twist on parenting can proclaim themselves a parenting expert and make a ton of money peddling their “wisdom” to parents looking for guidance. As a parent, you may not know for years whether the advice had short term benefits, but caused long term problems for your children. By then it may be too late to undo the damage caused by faulty parenting advice.

So when you are choosing what parenting books to buy or read, you can’t always go by reader reviews. They may be based on how well the author writes or whether or not the points reflect what the reader wanted to hear. Or they may reflect short term benefits with no knowledge of the long term impact. It’s difficult enough for secular parents, but for Christians you are perhaps gambling your kids’ faith foundation on advice that may sound like wisdom, but is really foolishness.

So how can you tell whether or not a Christian parenting book is worth reading or following? Here are some factors to consider.

  1. How old are the author’s children? Someone with small children has no idea whether or not the advice they are giving helps their children long term. They may be absolutely right or they may be terribly wrong. I read a parenting book recently where the author was extolling the “wisdom” of allowing children to decide when they went to bed, when they woke up and how many hours of sleep they got each night. Of course it worked okay for her. She had only a preschooler who had no real demands of her during the day and could sleep whenever she wanted. If you’ve raised older children and teens you know not having guidelines for sleeping is setting your children (and you) up for disaster.
  2. If the author’s children are adults, how have they turned out? Are they living active, productive Christian lives or does the author make excuses for his/her children’s rejection of God? No parent is perfect, but parents with strong Christian children probably have learned and practiced healthy parenting techniques.
  3. Are the author’s children perfect? Okay, I will admit this is a trick question. As a parenting author, I have to admit that the children of parenting experts don’t necessarily want their entire childhood experiences used as examples for other parents – especially when they are certain ages. Often we will use the examples of other children or a composite of children to protect our own children’s privacy.
  4. What are the author’s credentials? This can be tricky, but helps at times. Those with a background in education, for example, have usually worked with lots of children over a long period of time and have a solid idea of how to manage a classroom full of them so they can learn large amounts of academic content. Education or career, however, doesn’t guarantee the advice is good. Someone who is a phenomenal Christian parent, but who only has a high school education can give better advice than someone with a PhD.
  5. Does the author’s advice line up with scripture? There aren’t a ton of specific parenting verses in scripture, but there are some and certainly lots of examples of parenting – both bad and good. There are also a lot of commands and principles that should be reflected in any good Christian parenting book. So, for example, if a book suggests allowing children to miss worship services for sports or allowing kids to tell “little white lies”, it’s not giving you godly advice.
  6. What informs the author’s conclusions? Did the other look at academic research studies? Interview other parents? Base it on anecdotal observations or personal experience? All can provide accurate conclusions, but the best books often use a combination of sources to make conclusions. If an author is basing conclusions only on personal experience or from observing a handful of families, there may be weak conclusions that are made.
  7. Are the authors conclusions based on the concept that “ancient” or “popularity in other countries/cultures” is always the best advice? There is a subset of parenting “experts” that assumes if something was done in ancient parenting, it is automatically better than current parenting. They often base this on their personal understanding (or lack thereof) about how these children turned out as adults. Just because a time period did not appear to have the same issues as today doesn’t mean they weren’t there or that equally bad, but different problems existed. The same holds true for the concept of promoting ideas based on their popularity in other cultures – often based on the same misunderstandings as those of a historical time period.
  8. Does the author have a bias against certain groups? I recently read a book that rejected any advice immediately if it were given by doctors or people running orphanages. The advice may indeed have been poor, but she was rejecting it merely based on their occupation not on the advice itself. This can also hold true for authors automatically rejecting parenting done by anyone the age of their parents or grandparents.
  9. Is the advice promoting authoritarian, permissive or authoritative parenting styles? Multiple studies have shown that the authoritative parenting style produces the best results. The other styles can be appealing to people based on their personal experiences and may appear to have short term positive results, but they are problematic long term.
  10. Does the author promise easy solutions to major problems? The truth is that children don’t develop serious problems overnight (in most cases). They’ve developed poor habits that will need to be broken and replaced with better habits. This is not easy or fun for the parent or the child. It’s entirely possible, and one method may yield better results more quickly than another, but major change will still require consistent hard work over a period of time.
  11. Do the methods suggested reflect how God parents us? If God is our father as the Bible says, He is the perfect parent. So for example, a parenting method that recommends not having boundaries or enforcing them consistently with consequences for rebellion, does not reflect how God parents us.
  12. Is the book honest about how much time and effort parents need to put into the spiritual teaching and coaching they need to do to raise strong, productive Christians? Studies have shown that children need an average of 14 hours a week of exposure and interaction with God through Church, Bible classes, home and independent Bible study, prayer, character training, conversations about God, scripture, etc. Christian schools can add a handful of hours a week, but math is still math and can’t be counted as religious content. Any author that makes it seem like a couple of hours at Church a week will give your kids everything they need spiritually is sadly mistaken.
  13. Does the author seem more focused on selling you other things than imparting as much information as possible in one volume? Authors have to pay bills like anyone else. Too often though, those wanting to make a lot of money often repackage the same material in multiple ways to sell additional products. It doesn’t necessarily mean the original content was poor, but you won’t necessarily get a lot of added value from buying additional products.

Just like there are no perfect parents, there are no perfect parenting books. Separating the useless ones from the helpful ones can save you and your kids time and heartache.

Fun Way to Teach Kids About Honesty

Honesty is crucial to Christianity. When Christians lie – no matter how tiny the lie might be in the world’s eye – it undermines how people view Christianity and ultimately God. More importantly, the Bible makes it abundantly clear God HATES lies.

In a world where lying is accepted more and more each day, it’s important for your kids to understand some of the reasons why God hates lies so very much. There’s a fun activity you can do as a family to help your kids begin to understand why honest is so important.

Start by telling your children one of the many stories in the Bible where lying caused problems. You may even want to start with the first lie told by Satan to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Ask your children if they can think of more people in the Bible who lied and what happened because of the lie.

Tell them your family is going on a lie treasure hunt for the next week. You are all going to keep track of as many lies you hear as possible. You may want to review that lies can also be with holding truth, confusing people to hide the truth, cheating on tests and papers, etc. Encourage your kids to keep a list of the lies they hear during the course of the day so they won’t forget them. Each night have everyone share the lies they noticed during the day. What problems did they cause? What additional problems could they cause in the future?

To make it a little more fun, you might have “awards” for the person that shared the most lies, noticed a lie most people would have missed, shared the silliest lie heard (for example lying about something when the evidence to prove them wrong is in plain sight), etc. Or set a goal number of lies heard or read and see how quickly your family can find that number of lies. (Don’t forget that if your kids aren’t hearing many lies, most media that contains a mystery or other similar type plot generally contain a lot of lies.)

If your kids are older, you can have great deeper conversations on topics like “Is there such a thing as a good lie and why would God still want us to tell the truth” “How to tell the truth with love and kindness” “Truth versus opinion (It isn’t necessary to share your opinion with everyone or act like your opinion is an absolute truth.)” “What is absolute truth?”, etc.

Have fun with it, but make sure your children understand why lying is not an option as far as God is concerned.

Hearing These Words More Often Can Help Your Children Become Christians

One of the benefits of my ministry is that I get to observe congregations around the U.S. and in other countries. I get a better sense of what works well and what doesn’t in Christian parenting and ministries serving children and teens. This week, my husband and I visited a congregation that regularly seems to average around a couple of hundred baptisms a year. We began asking ourselves why this particular congregation was averaging so many more baptisms (of believers) than others.

We suddenly realized why. The minister there was not afraid to talk about the need for baptism not only to have sins forgiven and for becoming a Christian, but for the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes living the Christian life possible. He walks through it carefully explaining the whys and hows of baptism. Children and teens in this congregation hear about baptism regularly and have a thorough understanding of what it is and why it is so important.

I imagine if I asked the minister I would learn that most of the young people in this congregation have decided to become Christians before the age of eighteen, unlike the majority of their peers in other congregations. I would also imagine the parents are encouraged to talk about baptism at home with their children and Bible class teachers are trained to discuss it in Bible classes with older children and teens.

Think carefully about your own children. How often to they hear baptism even mentioned – much less explained in your worship services? How often do they see a baptism? How often do their Bible class teachers talk about it? How often do you discuss it in your home?

Our young people aren’t getting baptized any more in part because they don’t know it’s something God expects of them. They don’t know why they need to do it (most never hear about Heaven or Hell anywhere either). They don’t know what happens when they are baptized and how it makes a difference both on Earth and after death. They don’t have a space to ask their questions – and may not have any because they have little knowledge and experience upon which to even form a question.

If you want your children to become Christians, you have to talk about it a lot. You need to study it with them in scripture (our free study and the book of Acts are great places to start). You need to encourage your ministers and Bible class teachers to talk about it more often. If you do that, your kids will have the information necessary to make an informed choice about baptism – and they’re more likely to make a great choice.

Here is the link to our free baptism study guide.

The Book Every Christian Parent Should Read

Before you start posting critical comments on social media, the Bible is technically the only book you need to truly Christian parent well. The problem is there are too many people out there who either claim to be Christians or who were Christians who have taken it on as their mission in life to do everything in their power to destroy Christianity. It’s not enough to reject God and the Bible as the standard for their lives. They want to take as many people with them as possible.

It would be bad enough if just former “Christians” were aggressively recruiting young people to leave Christianity, but there are theologians, preachers, ministers, “Christian” authors and musicians and others who still attend church and even lead and teach in churches, but with a message that is meant to destroy the faith of those who hear them. It’s the false teaching warned about in scripture on steroids.

The problem strong Christians and Christian parents have always faced is because they are so focused on studying the Bible, serving others, sharing their faith, etc., they don’t always have a lot of free time to keep up with what is swirling around on the perimeters of Christianity until it has taken hold of their children through some back channel on social media or some book or post that leads them down a spiritual rabbit hole that rarely ends well.

As parents, grandparents or anyone concerned about the faith of children, teens and young adults you need help staying at least close to the curve and how young people are being influenced. What are they being told? What faulty logic are they hearing that seems to make sense, but is really a lie? What makes them more vulnerable to these false teachings and how can you keep their faith strong?

Normally, I finish a book before I suggest you purchase and read it. I will be honest, I am half way through The Deconstruction of Christianity by Alisa Childres and Tim Barnett and I am suggesting you run and read this book ASAP. It’s that good. If you have kept up with everything, it’s not that all of the information will be new to you, but it’s organized in a fashion that will help you work with young people and their parents struggling with the current issues circulating out there. If the very term deconstruction makes your head spin, this book breaks everything down in easy to understand ways that will not only help you, but allow you to have better conversations with others on the topic.

I’m not sure how the young people you care about would respond to the idea of reading this book at the same time you do and discussing it with you (those too far down this road may dismiss it as toxic and refuse to even look at it), but it could make a great book to help you have meaningful conversations with your kids – perhaps before they are even exposed to these issues. Fore warned is after all fore armed!

Whether you read this book for yourself or with your kids or grandkids, read it. We have to stop this current movement from taking any more young people down the path of destruction.

A Cozy Way to Encourage Your Kids to Read the Bible

The Danish have a term “hygge” that is an extremely popular way of creating a warm and inviting environment in a home. While the word doesn’t have a true translation into English, the word cozy is most often used to try and communicate the idea of hygge to English speakers. Think of the most welcoming, comforting environment you have ever experienced. It was probably a home with hygge.

One of the challenges for encouraging children and teens to be daily, independent Bible readers is to get them to sit still and focus long enough for them to read and process a few verses of scripture (or more!). They’re either super busy running from activity to activity or lost in a virtual world on a device. Enticing them to sit and read their Bible for a few minutes each day can seem impossible.

The answer may just be in helping them create their own corner of hygge reserved only for spending time with God. You can call it their Bible corner. Help each of your children find a literal corner of your living space where they can create a permanent Bible study and prayer corner. Some people have even used a closet as a private, quiet place to sit with God.

Allow each child to design their corner so it is comfortable, inviting and has everything they need to read the Bible – including an easy to read version of the Bible like the NIrV or a study Bible, a journal, pens, etc. Many kids will choose to have pillows and a blanket and sit on the floor. Others may find some sort of chair that is inviting. They may even want to keep a bottle of water and some snack foods in their corner. The key is for them to want to sit in that spot when they see it.

The other key to success for a Bible corner is to try and place it where they will walk by it several times a day. Seeing that inviting Bible corner can encourage them to stop and take a few minutes to rest, calm and spend some time with God in scripture and prayer. If your schedules allow, you might even want to create some Bible corner time in your schedule each day, when everyone goes to their respective corners and spends time reading scripture and praying.

Will your house look a little more cluttered? Perhaps, but isn’t it worth it if your children develop the habit of spending time reading their Bibles and praying every day?!