As parents look to parenting books, methods, advice, and make decisions about how to raise up their children, there are skads of opportunities to encounter really lousy advice. It can be difficult, in this age of TV psychologists and celebrity moms and PhD-toting “experts”, to know what is right.
Rather than try to lay out specifics, if you are a first-time mom, or just beginning to make some of these life-impacting decisions about parenting and discipline, I want to encourage you to ask yourself four questions about whatever advice you are contemplating.
(1) DOES THE ADVICE LINE UP WITH WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT DISCIPLINE?
Spend an afternoon at Biblegateway.com and do a word search on “discipline”. Note the way the word is used, who has authority over who, and who is held responsible for children & their actions & attitudes.
Read about various parents in the Bible– Eli and his sons, how Solomon talks to his son as he gives advice in Proverbs, how Samson’s parents interacted with him and what those results were. Take to heart the commands given to parents (Deut 6, throughout Proverbs, to church leaders in the epistles about what their kids should be like, in each of the Pauline letters– how children should act, how parents should train/teach).
Look at the whole counsel of the Word of God as you consider advice, and let it shape and sharpen your view on parenting.
(2) DO YOU KNOW ANYONE IN REAL LIFE WHO FOLLOWS THE ADVICE?
Are their kids pleasant to be around? Depending on the ages of their kids, are their young children generally joyful and obedient? Are their teenagers respectful, or rebellious? Are their adult children following God? Whether they have one or many children, would it be pleasant and encouraging to be around a large group of people like their children?
This is not to say that there is some perfect parenting formula that will turn out perfect human beings– of course not! But on the whole, we should consider the “fruit” of those whose advice we heed. If we want to do well in our marriage, we ask advice from people who have made wise choices and persevered and have a strong marriage. If I want to learn to bake or cook well, I strive to learn from those who do so, not from the person who cooks primarily out of cans and boxes, or who doesn’t enjoy cooking.
Another point on this score is that internet advice, or book advice, can be good (in fact, I’ve been spurred on and encouraged by many godly mamas in online form)… but the proof is in the pudding. You don’t have to go looking very hard online to find women who have very little parenting experiences accompanied by very loud and boldly-declared opinions. It is much more beneficial to have solid advice from a person you know and trust, than to have extensive advice from someone “out there” whose life you really don’t know anything about.
(3) IN GENERAL, DO THE PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW THIS ADVICE HAVE FAMILIES THAT ARE JOYFUL? PEACEFUL & RESTED? A BLESSING TO THE PEOPLE AROUND THEM?
The Bible says: “Discipline your child, and he will give you peace (“rest”, in some translations). He will bring delight to your soul.” ~Prov 29:17 Good discipline should yield PEACE, REST, DELIGHT. These should be the over-arching results of godly discipline in a home.
Does your child (or do your children) give you peace and rest? Delight in your soul?
Do families who follow this advice seem at peace? Is it delightful to be around them?
It’s not at all that I’m saying everything has to be roses and sunshine, or that godly families won’t have struggles or moments of complete and utter humanity and failure. Medical situations come up, seasons of extra pressure or difficulty arise, and of course, we’re dealing with sinful human beings (parents and children alike) and no one is perfect!
And one quick side-note: there are MANY instances where disciplining your children WELL will actually make the child madder in the short-run. This is not what I am talking about. You persevere through that and don’t think “that doesn’t work for him.” Keep going. Discipline consistently and faithfully. Don’t think that long-term “peace & quiet” means immediate/momentary peace & quiet. In our home, there have been a number of times of persevering through a grumpy child’s ugly attitudes that rare up because he/she does not like the fact that they have an authority figure.
But in general, does the advice you’re following lead to peace?
(4) DOES FOLLOWING THE ADVICE PUT YOU AT ODDS WITH, OR STRENGTHEN YOUR ONENESS WITH, YOUR SPOUSE?
Unless there is a situation of abuse or neglect (which is an entirely different matter and should be dealt with legally), we should seek to find a place of peace and agreement in how we parent our children, but in the end, we are to respect and submit to the leadership of our husbands. God made men and women different for a reason… and we may not see eye-to-eye on every single detail. Still, though they (and we) are imperfect, He gives husbands & fathers ultimate headship and responsibility for leading their families.
Many times, I have encountered young mothers who put themselves at odds with their husbands over this issue of discipline by taking a hard stance against the very methods their husbands would like to use. It is not difficult to find young wives online– especially on message forums or blogs– husband-bashing because their husbands desire peace, rest, and delight in their homes– the very thing that Proverbs says that discipline will bring.
If your husband desires peace and quiet, and well-disciplined children, he desires something good. And it’s something that virtually every culture has expected of their children for thousands of years. This IS doable. Listen to the counsel of your husband. Let him lead your family.
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There may be other considerations that are important to you, but these are the ones that came to my mind as common “sticking points” for young parents as they consider how to raise their kiddos. I pray God’s blessings and His wisdom (He promises to give it– James 1:5) on you as you seek His guidance in these matters.
9 thoughts on “4 Questions to Help You Evaluate Parenting Advice”
Another great one 🙂
Anything you would add, Bambi?
I offer another, half-seriously, which is ALMOST as reliable. Does following this advice make you unpopular; does it make you a “mean” mom; do you get zero support from other parents? Then it’s probably the right thing to do.
I’m not totally serious here. I’m just pointing out how lonely it can be when you are persevering in discipling your children. I found that I had very little “backup” from others.
Ha, good point, Madelyn!
Good discipline DOES require perseverance. How often I’ve heard in response to a recommendation of biblical discipline, “well, we tried that, but that just didn’t work for our child” and I think one or two things happened: (1) the discipline wasn’t carried out biblically (i.e., done in anger) and/or (2) the child outlasted the parent (in other words, the parent gave up too soon).
Disciplining well requires fierce tenacity– a commitment to doing things the way the Bible outlines… and like you point out, will often put as at odds with our culture, and even possibly with the people around us.