In this first chapter, “Why Well-Meaning Parenting Falls Short,” Kimmel lays out what he feels is the trouble with much of modern Christian parenting. It is not filled with dire statistics but solid principles and observations.
Dr. Kimmel uses a very apt word picture to describe the dilemma we often find ourselves in. He says that raising children is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with no edge pieces, no cover picture, and a handful of pieces from a different puzzle thrown in to confuse us. To unpack his metaphor, it is hard to parent in a culture that values no moral boundaries and that refuses to follow the parenting picture that the Bible has laid out for us, but that another huge challenge is extra man-made standards thrown into the mix by those who claim to know what is best for all children.
He acknowledges that some Christian parents have given up on standards or Scripture, preferring to feel good rather than do good. However in this chapter, it seems like his primary concern is parents who are too controlling and restrictive, who have lost sight of grace. Christians who fearfully withdraw from culture lose out on their privilege of "being porch lights in the darkness" and this affects our children's ability to sense the active presence and power of God. Ironically, we often lose our children by holding on too tight.
No wonder we lose our way when our maps are wrong. When we raise our kids based on fear, behavior modification, control, image, what others are doing, or in reaction to crises we are facing – where is the joy and peace in that? And, bottom line, where is the lasting success? Kids who grow up in these kinds of home environments are at a distinct disadvantage. Their faith and convictions will be shallow and apathetic, more concerned with outward appearances than a deep inward maturity or a passion for Christ. They will feel intimidated and confused by the world around them, unable to navigate with true wisdom and confidence. They will feel stressed by an unhealthy sense of guilt and inadequacy, always struggling to “do it right” so their parents will approve, or failing that, rebelling against these expectations and values as being unreasonable.
What is the alternative? Parents who model a vibrant, trusting, and joyful relationship with Christ. Parents who rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in making decisions for their own families. Parents who apply firm and sensible standards in affirming ways. Parents who see their children as incredible treasures from God, uniquely created to be uniquely loved. Parents who are quick to extend mercy and forgiveness. Parents who see life as a grand adventure. Parents who nurture rather than control. Parents who set their families free with GRACE.
In order to do this, we need to be aware of three driving needs that children have – needs that we parents have too! These are:
- a secure love
- a significant purpose
- and a strong hope
“As your children see you meeting your need for love, purpose and hope through your abiding relationship with Christ, your example will put power and authenticity behind your words.”