People often ask about my favorite parenting books.
It’s a fair question, particularly because I am a prolific reader. If you were to peek into my childhood, you would see a girl with a worn-out library card, binders of favorite poems, and a certificate for winning 3rd place in the spelling bee.
Even now, I choose books over television ten times out of ten (In fact, our family doesn’t own a TV). Because I read at an above-average speed, I go through books at a tremendous rate.
Despite this, I can’t name a single “parenting” book that I would highly recommend. Not a one.
Most parenting books take a tactical approach. Say these magic words. Implement this routine. Set up this procedure. And your kids will surely be obedient and successful.
But these promises are deceptive. I’m afraid that it’s much more difficult than that. Raising children requires that we raise OURSELVES…to higher standards.
Although parenting books are not necessarily a poor investment of time, they tend to neglect the most important thing. Parenting is not, by and large, about “discipline” or schedules or self-esteem or “love & logic.” The painful, honest truth is that it’s about example.
Our kids see us with brilliant clarity. Do we gossip about our coworkers? Do we extend grace when mistakes are made? Do we pray? Are we sarcastic? Are we wise with our money? Do we – ahem – say “please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry”? Do we exercise with regularity? Are we good listeners? Are we thankful? Do we consume media that is intelligent and pure? Do we yell when we should be gentle? Do we whisper when we should speak loudly with conviction?
As Ann Voskamp wrote so eloquently, “The parent must always self-parent first, self-preach before child-teach, because who can bring peace unless they’ve held their own peace?”
This truth is both terrifying and liberating: Who I am striving to BE is who they will BECOME.
In light of this realization:
- I work to develop my character – to cut out bad habits, to implement good practices.
- I gather wisdom from unexpected places like Stafford’s Too Small To Ignore and classic works of fiction and stories from other fathers & mothers.
- I pray – not as much as I ought to – but daily, desperately.
- I cling to the Words that have the power to heal and transform.
And when I fail, I get up again. Because I know they are watching it all.