“There Are No Bad Children; Only Bad Parents”

The title of this post should send a shiver down the spines of all honest parents. It does for some, but not for all.

A good biblical theology tells us that there are no good children, only sinful ones. But somehow, somehow, by some miracle of theological pretension, many conclude that by the application of the proper parenting techniques, Biblical parenting techniques, we are told, these no good, sinful children, will emerge as lovely specimens of godliness, gems of their parent’s faithfulness.

Which leaves parents who are as faithful as they know how whose little Johnny or Janey grows up not nice with only one possible conclusion: we were bad parents. And so, they are back to the slogan in the title, with the added guilt and shame attached to the fact that their parenting just must not have been ‘biblical’. So, the Christian version is something like this: “There are no good children, only sinful parents.”

No, we modify it still: “There are no good children, only parents who fail miserably to be the kind of parents that God would have them be.” Try living with that self-assessment for a day or two. That is what the logic of ‘Biblical technique = godly children’ leaves us with.

Call me negative if you will, but though it is clear that there are some parents who do a better job than others (I in no way want to suggest that we ought not try to be the best parents we can) yet I am convinced that each of us inject just enough parental screwiness into our parenting that the ONLY way ANY of them come out the other end as remotely godly, well adjusted kids is the grace of God.

My book on parenting, due out in, oh, well, maybe I should write it first, will be titled something like this: “Eight Ways to Totally Screw up Your Kids and How God’s Grace Can Fix the Mess“.

I clearly DON’T have parenting figured out.

I find that THERE IS ENCOURAGEMENT then, in an unlikely source, for those of us who do our best as parents and can’t therefore figure out why our children subsequently make bad choices. A psychiatrist in the NY Times pondering why bad children happen to good parents, makes this startling judgment:

Not everyone is going to turn out to be brilliant — any more than everyone will turn out nice and loving. And that is not necessarily because of parental failure or an impoverished environment. It is because everyday character traits, like all human behavior, have hard-wired and genetic components that cannot be molded entirely by the best environment, let alone the best psychotherapists.

Don’t we call that ‘hard-wired’ reality sin? Yes, I think that’s it.

The article is called “Accepting That Good Parents May Plant Bad Seeds“. Read it. Especially if you are feeling guilty.

I find the article interesting because so many of the presuppositions of the Perfect Biblical Parenting schools, and there are many out there, are the same presuppositions of the secular Baby Einstein schools. It’s called behaviorism.

Both schools not only overlook the sin that can lead to a rebellious child, but as well both fail to credit the grace that alone produces the stellar child.

Barb and I have been richly blessed by that grace. God has had to spend extra amounts to overcome our stumblings. But I think there is still enough to go around!

Parenting, with Caution

Problematic teachings often march under the banner of the Bible. Jesus gets blamed, therefore, for a lot of stuff that is not his doing.

With gentleness and grace, and yet intellectual and theological rigor, Tulip Girl and friends alerts us to one such set of teachings in which the Bible is invoked:

Ezzo Week 2010

I appreciate the care with which this is handled, and I have been convinced of the necessity of the alert.

If you or any you know are considering or using the method of child-rearing taught by Gary Ezzo, I highly encourage you to visit Tulip Girl’s site and to ponder her material.

The Economy of Kids

As I catch up on my reading, I have run across two blog posts linking kids and economics, both spawned by the same WSJ article on the subject.

Now, I’m on top of this. I note that the average cost of raising a child from 0 to 18 is something like $180,000. We’ve gotten five that far with one more to go, so I’m not surprised that I’m broke. But I also would say that I’m a very, very rich guy. (And hope to enjoy that wealth for a long time if the stress of having two very attractive and very available unwed daughters does not kill me first.)

Both blogs question whether the economics of satisfaction should control or be a factor in our child bearing decisions. Megan McCardle puts it bluntly:

And here’s where I wonder if we ought to re-examine our commitment to happiness. It seems to me that there’s possibly some merit — if we persevere and have the sense to learn from it — in the other-orientation that is (good) parenting. It’s fine to go through life happy, in other words, but I suspect we also want to go through life without becoming big fat self-absorbed jackasses. Children really help in that regard.

Mike Sacasas reacts in a similar vein:

…it seems misguided to capture the meaning of a child’s life and the experience of parenting with its tears and joys in a simple statistical survey or a budget line item. Perhaps it is the reduction of social life to economic life, that accounts for the changing patterns of childbearing; perhaps it is an almost narcissistic view of personal fulfillment.

I am not one advocating the ‘have as many children as you can’ mentality of some. (A wonderful review of this point of view here.) And I confess that there have been times when I’ve wanted to turn in my resignation as a parent, but have been unable to find the office where it was to be submitted.

That said, in the wonderfully providential way in which God has lead us, He has given to us a myriad of blessings, sometimes through pain, which could never be measured with economic instruments.

Though, it is clear, we are still broke.