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 author 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 author’s conclusions based on the concept that “ancient” practice 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 advice given 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 or attendance at a Christian school 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.
  14. What is the author’s definition of parenting success? Is it the child’s happiness? Easier parenting in the moment? If the top priority is not helping your kids get to Heaven by building a strong faith foundation and helping them reach their full God given potential, the advice given may not help you reach that critical goal.

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.

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.

Great Resource Using Animals to Teach About Noah

Did you know that African crested porcupines live in family units called prickles? Or that Virginia possums are immune to rattlesnake venom? How about the facts that naked mole rats can chew through concrete and move their front teeth independently like chopsticks? Neither did I until I read the new book Awesome Facts About Animals from Answers in Genesis.

So why are we choosing to promote this book (we receive no affiliate benefits)? Because you and your kids will learn about more than just interesting facts about animals. Interspersed are explanations of things that often confuse people about the Bible’s account of the Flood and Noah’s Ark. The book carefully explains the concept of ”kind” and how that impacted what animals were on the Ark. It also explains little remembered facts – like all animals were vegetarians until after the Flood – making it safe for a tiger and a lamb to be together on the Ark. They even provide various viable theories for things the Bible doesn’t explain, like how animals got from the Ark to places like Australia.

One of the ongoing issues with the criticisms of the Bible is that many of them are outdated. What’s even sadder is that many Christians believe these outdated criticisms not realizing that many atheists and/or scholars have since found evidence repudiating the claims. It’s nice to have a resource that subtly explains the truth while also teaching children lots of interesting facts about animals.

The book is graphically pleasing with lots of great photos. The facts are interesting and although the book is paperback, the paper stock is sturdy. You can find the book on the Answers in Genesis website and it is currently out of stock on Amazon, but it looks like they do carry it. Have fun learning about animals with your kids while reinforcing Bible truths.

Read This Book Before You Divorce

Churches usually go one of two ways when discussing divorce….they either say it’s wrong in most cases or they accept it as normal in today’s world. The reality is that divorce was something God has allowed with certain provisions, but it was not something He ever wanted for us (Matthew 19:8). Whenever we stray from God’s original plan and His wisdom, there are usually real earthly consequences. The church has avoided discussing many of these for fear of hurting someone’s feelings….or perhaps because they don’t feel understanding the possible consequences is even necessary.

Yet to move people towards strengthening marriages, reconsidering divorce or in some cases understanding the divorce is both scriptural and has better outcomes than the marriage, we need to better understand what really happens to kids when their parents divorce.

Between Two Worlds by Elizabeth Marquardt uses research and the personal stories of the author and others to enlighten readers about the actual impact of divorce on the children. While she obviously has her opinions, the author does a great job of using research to support the ideas she has formed based on her own experience and observations. Her most compelling belief is that adults filter their opinions of divorce through the adult perspective and have done little to examine the short and long term impact on kids. She is also quick to point out that being able to get an education, hold a job and have romantic relationships as an adult aren’t the only ways to measure the impact of divorce on children.

Marquardt is from a Christian background, but actually deals with faith rather generically in the book. She looks at how a divorce impacts kids faith and beliefs and how a church’s response to a parent’s divorce also impacts children. Interestingly, throughout the book, she categorizes children as growing up in homes with “bad” (contentious) divorces, “good” (low conflict) divorces, high conflict marriages and low conflict marriages. As one can imagine, even within divorce and marriage there are nuances that can make the impact children for better or worse.

If you are considering divorce, I highly suggest reading this book. It’s important to understand how it will really impact your kids. If you are divorced – whether it was something you wanted or were heartbroken over – you should read the book to understand what is happening to your kids and to find ways to minimize and/or address the issues. If your marriage is fine, it’s still a great book to read to motivate yourself to keep working to make your marriage better.

Helping Your Kids Slay Goliath

One of the toughest things for some adults to understand is that problems which seem small to them can feel insurmountable to a child. Adults have learned that friend troubles pass or a bad grade on one homework assignment isn’t the end of the world. To a child, however, these are problems that can feel scary and overwhelming, causing anxiety, dread and fear to grow.

For years, kids have been told the story from the Bible of David and Goliath. Hopefully, your kids have been taught it’s an example of how, for God, even the impossible is possible. That God will be with them as they face their giants, if they will let Him. For some kids, that is what they need to know to understand how to lean on God. Others need a little more practical help applying the lessons from David and Goliath to their lives.

Louie Giglio has written a new book for eight to twelve year olds called Goliath Must Fall. Within its pages, Giglio tries to give older children some practical advice to help them apply the lessons from David and Goliath in practical ways to their lives.

Sandwiched in between introductory and closing chapters, Giglio goes into detail about several giants with whom he believes older children struggle – fear, rejection, comfort, anger and addiction. For the most part he does a better than average job of giving kids practical strategies to use. I particularly appreciate how often he encourages them to read the Bible and suggests numerous passages to them. I also appreciate that he quotes quite a few scriptures within the text, for those who may not be as inclined to actually look them up to read.

Personally, I appreciated Giglio for tackling the topics of comfort and addiction – too often ignored when teaching young people how to live a Christian life. Although the chapter on addiction deals primarily with age appropriate topics like video games, earlier in the book he mentions addictions which the eight to twelve year olds for whom the book is written are a bit too young. He also writes a bit about social media. He does add that most have parents who don’t allow them on it yet, but that he hopes to prepare them. I would have preferred that he address head on the required age limits and that cheating them to get on social media is already showing a potential to “build a giant” in that area.

My other primary criticism is his discussion of how to become a Christian. I will never understand how people supposedly so deep in Bible study will promote a man made invention within the last two hundred or so years as the way to become a Christian. Following the example of Jesus and a quick reading of Acts make it abundantly clear baptism is essential, not only for the remission of sins, but to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. To make kids believe they are saved and have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit from praying a modern made up prayer is irresponsible. Thankfully, for kids who have been taught the Bible, this is about one page in the book and can be mentioned with reminders before giving the book or when discussing it.

If your child struggles with anxiety or other issues, this book might be the practical help to understand how to apply scripture to their lives that they need. It can also give you some helpful, godly hints to work with your kids to incorporate in their lives.