Grace Based Parenting: Set Your Family Freeby Tim Kimmel
Now, there is a grace-based solution from Dr. Tim Kimmel, founder of Family Matters ministries.Grace-Based Parentingis a refreshing new book divided into two parts: the needs we are trying to meet in our children and the delivery system for how we meet them.See more details below
Now, there is a grace-based solution from Dr. Tim Kimmel, founder of Family Matters ministries.Grace-Based Parentingis a refreshing new book divided into two parts: the needs we are trying to meet in our children and the delivery system for how we meet them.
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GRACE BASED PARENTINGSet Your Family Free
By TIM KIMMEL
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Tim Kimmel
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhy Well-Meaning Parenting Falls Short
Indulge me for a minute. This won't take long. I want to use a scenario to set the stage for our discussion about parenting.
For starters, I'll need you to pull up a chair on one of the sides of this card table I'm looking at. You'll notice that it is crowded with tiny pieces of an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. You can tell-just by looking at the colors and designs on the pieces-that this is going to be a bit of a challenge.
Before you tear into this project, though, there are a few things you need to know about what you're looking at:
* The border pieces have all been removed. I know it's easier to start a jigsaw puzzle by putting the edge pieces together to form a border. That gives you an early sense of accomplishment before you move on to the difficult stuff. Sorry. You'll have to decide the boundaries of this puzzle for yourself. * Somebody threw a couple of handfuls of pieces from a different puzzle into the box. They may look like they belong to this one, but they don't. They won't fit no matter how hard you try. And because you don't know which ones they are, you could waste a lot of time before you find out.
Are you ready to start putting the puzzle together? I realize I've complicated matters for you, but you're fairly resourceful. Given enough time and enough soothing medication, you could probably figure it out. All you need is the picture on the box cover and you can begin.
Oh, I forgot to mention something: We lost the cover to the box. You're just going to have to guess what this picture puzzle is supposed to look like. Does this sound like fun? I can't speak for you, but I'd rather get my gums scraped. If anything, this puzzle project sounds more like a sick joke. It's tough enough when you have all the right pieces, all the edge pieces, and the picture on the box. Take those things away, and it's anybody's guess what you'll come up with. Not only that, but without a clear picture of what you are trying to put together, you'll never really know if you even came close to what it was supposed to be.
WELCOME TO THE PARENTING PUZZLE
I have just described the job of raising children. You labor many years to put the right pieces all together, but when your children grow up, they often don't resemble what you thought you were creating. Even with the disappointments, however, raising children is still the greatest thing you'll ever do. It's greater than any milestone you can hit in your career. It dwarfs any fame you may receive for your ideas or your inventions. You've been handed a piece of history in advance-a gracious gift you send to a time you will not see-and you play the biggest role in how that history will ultimately be recorded. That's why, in spite of the challenges, you need to have a plan for parenting that works.
Good intentions aren't enough. Every parent starts out with them, but it doesn't take long before you find that you've been set up for failure by circumstances that you didn't plan on or ask for. Good parenting skills aren't enough either. You need something bigger than your brains and your wits to get you through.
Take the issue of boundaries. Just as the edge pieces of the puzzle mentioned earlier were removed, our culture has removed many of the moral boundaries that made raising children more clear-cut. Right and wrong used to be black and white. Lying, cheating, stealing, and pushing your weight around at someone else's expense were wrong. Disrespect to people and property were obvious calls for parents to make.
We also had excellent guidelines to live by-like the Ten Commandments. But after decades of culture chipping away at them, the Ten Commandments are no longer etched deeply in stone but written in pencil on a Post-it note. They are more like ten hints or suggestions that you can use when it's in your best interest to do so. Somewhere along the way, they've lost their authority in the average family's life. To too many of today's parents, it is no longer "right and wrong" but what I feel is "right and wrong" that rules the day. This kind of thinking leads to two dangerous parenting extremes.
One extreme consequence of erasing clear moral boundaries is a degree of license in some parents-even Christian parents. Their kids can hang out with whomever they choose, watch anything on television or at the movies that they'd like, act out their frustrations with little consequence, click on anything on the Internet that they'd like to see, start dating early, accommodate their sexual desires, and use whatever means works best for achieving success in school, sports, and relationships.
I said this is an extreme example. Most parents wouldn't admit to being in this category even if their names were Ozzy and Sharon Osborne. Regardless, somebody probably came to mind as you read those last few sentences. The local section of just about any daily newspaper reminds us that there are lots of parents who wield negative and even destructive influences on their children. They are guilty by either commission or omission of failing to lead their kids properly through childhood.
Unfortunately, even well-meaning parents can cave in to a certain degree to this type of parenting. It's actually quite easy to become a bit desensitized by the boundary-less culture we were raised in. We may do a noble job of leading our children when things are going well, but it's actually common for many of us to surrender some of our best convictions under duress. Our culture can be nasty and punitive to parents committed to doing the right thing. That's why so many parents acquiesce under stress. The painful reality is that too many parents would rather feel good than do good. Raising kids with clear moral boundaries can be an extremely lonely job. Who else in your neighborhood is trying to raise kids the way you are?
FROM ONE EXTREME TO THE OTHER
But there's another extreme that parents can go to that is equally toxic for children. In fact, it can leave scar tissue on their spiritual lives that may never go away. This form of parenting is often an overreaction to a life or a culture without boundaries. The extreme that I'm referring to is when parents bring the boundaries in far more tightly than they need to be to effectively raise their kids. These are parents who restrict or control just about everything. They tighten the boundaries regarding friends, entertainment, sports, education, and their spiritual lives, hoping that they have somehow made it safer for their children to go through life.
Some parents do this because that is how they were raised. The biggest candidates for this kind of extreme parenting, however, are those who were brought up in homes without boundaries. They often revert to this very controlling approach to parenting because they've seen how much damage can result when children are left to their own devices. These parents want to make sure their children don't become ensnared in the traps they found themselves in. And so to make certain that doesn't happen, they not only have clear moral boundaries, but they add inner fences to make it even more difficult for their children to get close to the edge. These parents are often driven to this strategy as a result of embracing two incorrect assumptions. First, they assume that their obedience to a stricter and tighter standard will somehow help them raise safer and better children.
Since how children turn out is far more contingent on what is going on inside them than outside them, unnecessarily tight boundaries undermine the desire of the Holy Spirit, who is working to build a sense of moral resolve in their hearts.
The second incorrect assumption that drives parents to construct unnecessary inner fences around children is that it somehow helps them gain more favor or protection from God.
It doesn't. God can't give more of what He's already given in abundance when we become His children.
My parents were both brought up in homes where the moral boundaries were adjusted to fit the circumstances. Shortly after they were married, they both became Christians, which helped them realize that they didn't want to raise their children in the same kind of environment. They knew they needed to grow in their faith first, however, so they joined a church that would give them guidance in how they should live their lives and raise their children. Unfortunately, this particular church believed that the basic boundaries God outlined in the Scriptures needed more "development" and "clarification."
Take, for instance, the way church leaders handled the biblical concept of the "Sabbath," which Scripture says we are to keep "holy." Since "holy" meant "set apart," they wanted to make sure the Sabbath was as set apart from anything that looked like a normal day as possible. The church leaders defined the Sabbath as a day when you went to church and worshiped as a family (not a bad idea), and then went home and spent a quiet, restful afternoon (another idea that wasn't so bad). The pastor liked to elaborate on what both of these anchor tenets of a Sabbath Day looked like, and he taught these points as if they were inscribed on stone tablets themselves.
That's not all. "Worship" meant arriving on time, with every family member bringing their Bible (including infants, he said, "to get them in the habit"), every member of the family dropping some money in the offering plate, and then every family going straight home after church. Going out to restaurants with other families for lunch was discouraged. Once you were home, "rest and quiet" meant no television or radio (today he'd probably add "no computers"), no loud or active playing by the children, and nap times for everyone. You finished off the day by coming back to church for a junior version of what happened that morning.
It would have been fine if the pastor offered these as suggestions and encouraged my parents to confirm these through prayer. This would have allowed them to let God configure their Sabbath to meet its stated purpose in the Scriptures (to rest) in a way that aligned with the age and unique personalities of our family. But he didn't. This pastor taught his version of the Sabbath as the way "good" and "serious-minded" Christian families observed Sabbath. He also intimated that the church leaders had ways of checking up on members.
I'll never forget a time when I was seven years old. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon, light breeze and comfortable temps. I wasn't supposed to lie down until 3:00 p.m. Mom was cleaning up after lunch, and my other siblings had scattered to various corners of our house. I slipped outside with a rubber ball and began tossing it lightly against an outside wall of our brick house-a little game of catch with myself. I'd maybe thrown the ball a dozen times up against the wall when my mother came barreling out of the house.
"Tim, stop that immediately!"
"Because it's Sunday!"
"But Mom, why can't I play catch on Sunday?"
"We're not allowed to do things like that on Sunday."
"Who told you that?"
Mom was so young in her relationship with God that she actually thought everything the pastor said was straight from God's mouth. And then she added the coup de grâce: "Besides, what if someone from the church drove by and saw you playing ball on Sunday?"
This statement points to a trap that some parents fall into when it comes to drawing tighter boundaries than what the Bible outlines: They often measure their effectiveness as parents by how they compare to others. They monitor other families and serve as a kind of "morals police," measuring these other parents' effectiveness by how well they meet their arbitrary and tighter standard. These parents have a knee-jerk reaction: They are often quick to stand in judgment if some other set of parents falls short. These parents are deluded into thinking that the families with children who learn to obey the most rules produce the best kids.
If anything, this is an excellent way to wreck your kids.
Fortunately, Mom figured out that she could increase her chances of raising great kids if she'd just lighten up. For her, God and some common sense worked just fine. Some of the best games of baseball I remember playing as a child were on Sunday afternoon, with my mom cheering me on. (By the way, that pastor started to "lighten up" himself once the little boys in his house became teenagers.)
Incidentally, all that I've just said doesn't preclude a stricter view of Sabbath rest. It simply changes the reasons why a family might choose to set aside one day a week to focus their attention on God. God could actually lead a family to observe one day of the week where quiet, rest, and minimal activity were the standards of the day. That could actually have a very beneficial impact on a busy, hurried family.
But it should be done out of a desire to focus on God and get rest rather than making the Bible say something that it doesn't and, in the process, practicing image control.
OUR WAY OR THE HIGHWAY
One of the things complicating the parenting puzzle is that even more pieces have been added to the picture than are necessary. These pieces don't actually fit into the picture, but they've been forced in because convincing voices insist that they belong there. These extra pieces don't necessarily have any power in determining the final image on our puzzle, but you wouldn't know that by the way they are presented. Strident voices tell parents that if they don't feed their children certain ways, or discipline them certain ways, or educate them certain ways, then they are setting their children up for certain doom. You can even infer from some of these teachings that God wouldn't be pleased if you tried to raise them outside these strict guidelines. Once again, it's one thing to offer these additional suggestions in these areas, but it's another thing to turn these suggestions into the only way to effectively parent children.
Like the voices at the drive-through windows of the world, the voices of some of these experts compel us to add things that aren't necessarily vital to effective parenting and clearly don't guarantee better results. I suppose it's fair to say that not one of these experts (at least that I've ever heard of) offering advice to parents claims that his or her method guarantees anything. Children are free agents and capable of resisting even the most effective parenting plans available. It's also fair to say that doing certain things as a parent obviously raises the odds that you will produce better kids-like having clearly defined moral boundaries. But within the clear boundaries of God's moral law in the Bible, there is actually a lot of latitude offered as to how to raise your children. Unfortunately, it's easy for some voices to frame many good ideas as requirements for effective parenting.
We're used to turning into the drive-through lane and hearing a chirpy voice say, "Do you want fries with that?" or "Would you like to supersize your order?" We hear a similar echo when we go looking for help in raising our children:
* I'm trying to figure out my options on feeding my new baby. "Would you like breast-feeding with that?" * I'm trying to figure out the best way to discipline my boy. "Would you like spanking with that?" * I'm trying to figure out how to educate my children. "Would you like anything but public schooling with that?"
It's hard to maintain a balanced view of parenting when these voices are so loud and adamant. The proof that any model of parenting is effective is not how the parents and children get along. It isn't even in how well they treat and respect each other after they are all grown up. Even nonreligious families can accomplish this. The real test of a parenting model is how well equipped the children are to move into adulthood as vital members of the human race. Notice I didn't say "as vital members of the Christian community." We need to have kids that can be sent off to the most hostile universities, toil in the greediest work environments, and raise their families in the most hedonistic communities and yet not be the least bit intimidated by their surroundings. Furthermore, they need to be engaged in the lives of people in their culture, gracefully representing Christ's love inside these desperate surroundings. The apostle Paul gave us as parents an excellent goal for our children to pursue:
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life-in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Philippians 2:14-16, emphasis mine)
Excerpted from GRACE BASED PARENTING by TIM KIMMEL Copyright © 2007 by Tim Kimmel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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