Is a comment an aside if it is the first thing written? Regardless, here it is, an opening aside: on my wife’s birthday a few weeks ago, we needed a new alternator for the van, and a new hot water heater. There was just flat-out nothing sentimental or nice about her gifts this year.
Which brings me to this: your wife (if you are a reader who is a husband), should she be a mom, most likely does not want an appliance for Mother’s Day. And certainly not a part for under the hood of the mini-van.
But I also have a hunch, and I bet you are with me on this, that she doesn’t really need some fancy piece of jewelry like I saw in all the Sunday paper Mother’s Day ads today. Or a sexy little cocktail dress (what were those models, like, twenty?)
So, I guess the “don’t celebrate motherhood with an appliance or auto part (or glitzy bling — it ain’t Valentine’s Day, after all)” advise isn’t an aside, it is a lead-in. A set up. I think it is a great way to honor a mom by getting her a book which celebrates her desire to take up her parenting vocation with intentionality and care. Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, and we’d love for you to order a book from us as a Mother’s Day gift — which we can gift wrap for free, and enclose a little note if we send it to her for you. Most good moms would love a good book, especially if it is smart and practical. And today’s feature is a great suggestion. And you can give it for Father’s Day, too, so order extras for some guys you know!
The Christian Parenting Handbook: 50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child’s Life by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller (Thomas Nelson) sells typical for $16.99 although we have it at a Hearts & Minds BookNotes 20% or so discount. This upbeat and lovely paperback would make a great gift for any parent you know. It seems to me that while Christian parenting books are nearly “a dime a dozen” some are either too psychological and formulaic, without much distinctively Christian insight, or they are so laden with theology and heady analysis that they aren’t that practical. Some are so full of tender care that they drip with sappy sentimentality; others are so strict that they just seem harsh. (Including, I think, some authors who make much of God and grace and a “gospel-centered” approach. Yikes!) Finding a thoughtful, well-written, insightful but user-friendly handbook from a balanced perspective is not as easy as it seems, even in bookstores where there are dozens and dozens of mostly fine choices.
We have our handful of favorites and the previous books of Turansky and Miller have been high on our list. Parenting is Heart Work, Say Good-Bye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes… in You and Your Kids, and Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character… in You and Your Kids are each must-reads. In these, and in this new one, they are clear that they believe that parents are to evoke “heart change” in their children. That is, behavior modification and compliance — raising “nice” well-behaved kids who don’t embarrass us in public — is not the goal. We don’t wish only for kids to obey us in dutiful compliance, but for children to desire to do the right thing, to be people of character, to be followers of Christ who enhance the family with good energy, not draining it with bad. We want them to learn to take responsibility and to be kids of compassion. In a way, they have set the bar high, but they write and work with a light touch. Very nice!
Turansky and Miller take up their position within the plethora of family-oriented self-help books wisely in the philosophical and theological middle. They aren’t about just having fine-looking outcomes; they want deeper heart change, although they aren’t so religious and into character formation that they are in la-la land. No, these are real parents, who understand real children and real parents, and realize that through God’s grace, with some intentional effort, laughter, outside help (from coaches, teachers, church groups and the like) and a little luck, children can be mentored into gracious maturity and can turn out to be kids we enjoy and young adults we admire. And they are masters at showing us how it it is done, pointing to example after example.
In many ways, The Christian Parenting Handbook is a culmination of their 25 years of work on this. It offers their 50 best ideas, their top 50 strategies, short chapters that have proven to be the most fruitful (some of these were previously published in the newsletter of their National Center for Biblical Parenting and Biblical Parenting University, an on-line course they have taught for years. Watch their brief introductory video to get a sense of their style. This new handbook really provides the cream of the crop, the best work they’ve done, distilled into enjoyable, easy-to-understand bites.
When I say that this represents the best of the research, work, writing and prayerful consideration of Scott and Joanne, that is truly significant! They have been at this a long time, have been on endless speaking tours, have tirelessly done workshops and conferences, large and small events, here in the mid-Atlantic and (honestly) in places quite far away. They have listened, observed, talked with thousands of parents of all ages and cultures. They are always busy, have a spectacular array of good resources at their useful website (more on that anon) and can talk for hours about all that they have come to learn. Yes, to say that this is their best work is really saying something!
Again, The Christian Parenting Handbook offers 50 good strategies for creating the sort of parenting style and home-life that hopes for gospel-driven, wholesome heart transformation. It invites creativity, flexibility, and prayerful attentiveness rather than a formula. It doesn’t give formulas, as they just aren’t technique-driven teachers. But, as I’ve hinted, they don’t (like some authors) over-react against easy steps and simple formulas so much that all they offer is broad, visionary ideals. No, they have case studies and stories and examples which illustrate their principles, underscoring that you can do this! We have heard from our own customers — and from my own use of one in a time of personal struggle — about how applying the insights of their previous books that this material can be life changing.
We all want better home lives, and those who have children at home — from little ones to teenagers — can certainly benefit from the guidance, gentle support, wise teaching, and helpful ideas shared in this wonderful resource.
The wonderful opening chapter sets the tone and, in a way actually illustrates much of their own philosophy of parenting. It is called “Developing Your Own Biblical Philosoph
y of Parenting” and that’s it! They don’t want to force compliance or demand that they have all the answers or that their perfect plan is all you need. No, they invite you to have your own heart touched by the profound grace of God, to have your own mind formed by a Biblical worldview, to have your own family habits guided by the lovely mercies (and, yes, hard teachings) of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, yes, even in this first chapter they are not bludgeoning readers, but inviting you to think along with them and consider with your own discernment and then to be creative and find a pattern of parenting that is faithful and fruitful, for you and your kids. My kids are mostly grown, and I was deeply moved by this book, even the introduction!
Here are just a few the kinds of chapters they offer. I hope it gives you an indication of how interesting and fun, wise and helpful, these diverse entries are.
- Consistency is Overrated
- Build Internal Motivation
- Consequences Aren’t the Only Answer
- Parenting is an Investment — Think Long Term
- Bookmark Good Days
- It Takes Two to Argue But Only One to Stop
- Children Can Only Take as Much Pressure as the Relationship Will Allow
- Be Prepared for the Three Arenas of Resistance
- Use Creativity to Teach Your Kids Spiritual Truths
- Teach Kids to Communicate Emotions Wisely
- Firmness Doesn’t Require Harshness
- Good Character Qualities Misused
In a bit more than 200 pages, they offer 50 of these sorts of well thought-through, Biblically-grounded, very practical, and quite interesting, short pieces. They aren’t random, really, but they can be dipped in to as needed. It really is a handbook — one you will use over time, keeping it handy for years to come. I am sure of it.
By the way, to illustrate their fairly centrist, balanced view, consider their thoughtful chapter on spanking. The book has been out a week (although many bloggers have been promoting it beforehand) and they have already gotten some firm rebuking letters from both sides — some say they are too conservative, some say they are too liberal (or something like that.) Although they do not rule it out, they fear that spanking is often used in anger, which is troubling, and that it frankly isn’t that helpful, anyway. (The Turansky’s have served as foster parents and to foster kids one has to pledge not to spank. And guess what? They learned, even though they think it is Biblically-permissible, that there are a whole lot of other, better strategies that can be used in times when discipline is needed.) So, they are moderate, practical, living in the “real world” and yet have remarkably good hopes to see Christ honored and children nurtured in transforming ways by the gospel, and by the fruit our own on-going inner formation.
We are big fans of The Christian Parenting Handbook and are happy to commend it, even now, as a way to honor and assist some mother you may know. What a nice gift it would make! We carry all their other resources as well, including a brand new set that Turansky and Miller, with some help from others, have created, a set of five books, covering parenting ideas throughout the developmental stages of a child’s life. Let us know if you have questions about any of their other good work.
The authors have other good resources at their National Center for Biblical Parenting website. Check ’em out.
Of course, there are oodles of other family-related books of various styles, formats and theological tones. We have a lot! And other kinds of books are certainly appreciated as Mother’s Day gifts. We realize, naturally, that your own mom may not be the target audience for this or any other parenting book. So, buy her a cookbook or gardening book, a novel, a women’s Bible, a memoir, a current event study or historical biography, or a guide to deeper spirituality. We’ve got so many great books here at the shop, and books make such wonderful gifts. As always, we have gift certificates, too, which we can send to you, or to your mom on your behalf. Just let us know how we can help. Thanks. To you and your mom.
The Christian Parenting Handbook
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