Raising Great Kids: A Comprehensive Guide to Parenting with Grace and Truth


What does it take to raise great kids? If you've read any books on parenting, conflicting opinions have probably left you feeling confused. Get tough! Show acceptance. Lay down the rules. Lighten up, already! - There's got to be a balance — and there is. Joining their expertise with the wisdom of MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers), Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend help you provide both the care and acceptance that make grace real to your child, and the firmness and discipline that give direction. ...

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Raising Great Kids: A Comprehensive Guide to Parenting with Grace and Truth

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What does it take to raise great kids? If you've read any books on parenting, conflicting opinions have probably left you feeling confused. Get tough! Show acceptance. Lay down the rules. Lighten up, already! - There's got to be a balance — and there is. Joining their expertise with the wisdom of MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers), Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend help you provide both the care and acceptance that make grace real to your child, and the firmness and discipline that give direction. Avoiding the twin extremes of permissiveness and over-control, Drs. Cloud and Townsend show how you can help your child cultivate six necessary character traits: attachment, responsibility, reality, competence, morality, and worship/spiritual life. - At last, here is an effective middle ground for raising up children who will handle life with maturity and wisdom. Raising Great Kids will help you equip your son or daughter to accept life's responsibilities, grow from its challenges, and freely and fully explore all that it has to offer.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310235491
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 791,977
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Henry Cloud is a popular speaker, and co-host, with Dr. John Townsend, of the nationally broadcast New Life Live! Radio program, and cofounder of Cloud-Townsend Clinic and Cloud-Townsend Resources. His bestselling books include the Gold Medallion Award-winning Boundaries books and Making Small Groups Work. Dr. Cloud and his wife and two daughters live in Southern California.

Dr. John Townsend is a leadership consultant, psychologist, and New York times bestselling author. He has written twenty-seven books, selling 8 million copies, including the 3 million-selling Boundaries series. John is founder of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling and conducts the Townsend Leadership Program. He travels extensively for corporate consulting, speaking, and working with leadership families. He and his wife, Barbi, live in Newport Beach, California. They have two sons. One of Dr. Townsend's favorite hobbies is playing in a band that performs in Southern California lounges and venues.

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Read an Excerpt


A Forbidden Topic

At a retreat at which I (Dr. Cloud) spoke recently, the discussion at the lunch table turned to parenting. At first, people talked about their children. But soon they started talking about particular parenting philosophies and practices. I remembered what my childhood barber once told me: "If you want to stay friends with people, don't talk about religion or politics." I think he should have added parenting to his list of forbidden topics.

As the table discussion progressed, battle lines were drawn. In fact, I was reminded of Buffalo Springfield's classic song of the '60s, "For What It's Worth":

Battle lines bein' drawn;

Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.

People carrying signs:

Mostly saying, "Hurrah for my side."

Although people were prefacing their remarks with conversational niceties, I could feel the underlying tension.

On one end of the spectrum, my luncheon partners advocated structure and control at the expense of everything else. To raise an obedient child is the most important thing. On the other end, they advocated love over structure. Having a child feel loved and secure in love is primary. Structure plays a secondary role.

Then there were those who emphasized the sinfulness of children. According to them, if you didn't seize every opportunity to focus on getting control of the little sinners, you would lose them for sure. Still others emphasized the inherent goodness and innocence of children, feeling that they only sin when they have been first mistreated by the outside world.

The tone of their voices and the expressions on their faces revealed that each saw the other side as a villain. Where is this conflict coming from? I thought to myself. Why can't they just discuss their viewpoint without vilifying those who disagree? As I listened further, some things made sense. I understood why there was so much passion around the table.

My luncheon partners were not talking philosophy after all. They were talking about something much closer to home. They were discussing four aspects of their lives in which they had invested their very hearts:

1. Their children's welfare

2. Their community

3. Their own welfare

4. Their God

When I understood the role that each of these "heartbeats" played in their discussion of childrearing, I got it. There should be passion surrounding an issue that touches on the things they care about the most. Let's look at each and see why.

First, in terms of their children's welfare, these people wanted the best for them. What would help their children be healthy now and secure for the future? What discipline would give their children the ability to say no to drugs? What would help them to succeed in school? How do parents make sure that their children grow up to be capable of intimacy and love? What can they do in a child's early years to prevent divorce later on?

For these reasons, parents can hardly stay neutral when talking about parenting practices. After all, what they decide to do might affect several generations, much less the next handful of years. Because parents love their children, parenting philosophy is more than an academic topic.

Second, in terms of community, these parents were not alone. Instilled in their thinking were the admonitions of the people with whom they live day-to-day. Their friends, families, and church groups were all telling them what to do. Many were members of some particular parenting group at their local church, meeting regularly to learn how to be the parents their children need. Others received regular input from their own parents, grandparents, or other extended family. Still others received advice from their close circle of friends and other support systems.

So this topic couldn't be neutral. To entertain an idea about what to do with a crying infant that is different from what the group tells you to do might put you at odds with your closest friends or support system.

Think of the pressure on a young parent who wants to discipline a certain way, or raise a teenager with certain limits different from those of her pastor or her mother. You are no longer just talking about the child. When you parent, you invite conflict with those who care about you and who care about your child.

Third, when one talks about parenting, he is not just talking about his child. He is also talking about his own welfare, or the welfare of his marriage. After all, isn't your life greatly affected by how your children are doing? Don't you want to be able to sleep through the night and not have to feed a crying infant eight times? Don't you want to be able to spend that savings account on a family vacation and not drug treatment? Don't you want to have a loving and playful conversation around the dinner table instead of constant bickering? And don't you want to be able to avoid the broken heart of watching your child live out a life of pain?

So when a parent talks about parenting, he is talking not only about the welfare of the child but about his own welfare also. It becomes understandable why a parent cannot just listen neutrally to a discussion about what to do with an infant or a teenager. The topic concerns him in a very deep and personal way.

And finally -- something that would probably surprise my barber -- a discussion on parenting styles is a discussion about religion after all. It is a discussion about morals, values, and responsibility to the God who entrusted that child to the parents' safekeeping for eighteen or more years. Try suggesting to a devout believer of a particular philosophy of parenting that this philosophy is just a "secular theory," not really something God would approve of. Those are fighting words. The discussion can quickly escalate from potty training to whether or not the parent is a "true believer" or a heretic. To change or entertain a new idea threatens a larger belief system and one's own view of true spirituality.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Elisa Morgan
Introduction: A Forbidden Topic
Part 1: Raising Children of Character
1. The Goal of Parenting: A Child with Character
2. The Ingredients of Grace and Truth
3. The Ingredient of Time
Part 2: Developing the Six Character Traits Every Child Needs
4. Laying the Foundation of Life: Connectedness
5. Developing Self-Control: Responsibility
6. Living in an Imperfect World: Reality
7. Developing Gifts and Talents: Competence
8. Making a Conscience: Morality
9.Connecting to God: Worship and Spiritual Life
Part 3: Working Yourself Out of a Job
10. Preparing Them for Life on Their Own
11. Dealing with Specific Teenage Issues
Part 4: Dealing with Special Circumstances
12. Understanding Temperaments
13. Parenting on Your Own
Conclusion: When in Doubt, Connect

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First Chapter

------------ One ------------
The Goal of Parenting
A Child with Character
My friend Tony had asked me (Dr. Townsend) to dinner to talk about a family problem. After we caught up on what was new in our lives since we had last seen each other, he began talking about his recent struggles with his fourteen-year-old daughter,
Halley. She was skipping school, drinking, and hanging around with a bad crowd. Tony and his wife, Denise, were working with the school, their church, and a counselor to deal with Halley's behavior.
'It must be awful. How are you handling it?' I asked Tony.
'It's been tough for all of us,' Tony said. 'But for me the worst part is what we've lost.'
'What do you mean?'
'Remember when Halley was three or four?'
I nodded, having been friends with the family for years.
'She was the sweetest, most responsive kid you'd ever see,'
he said. 'We were all so close. Halley wasn't perfect, but she was a good girl. Then out of the blue, this angry, lying, rebellious person seems to inhabit my daughter's body. I don't know this Halley.'
I sat quietly with my friend, empathizing with his sense of loss.
Sometime later, Tony and I met again, and I asked about
Halley. With a look of weary wisdom, he said, 'We've all worked hard, and things are a lot better. I've learned some things about how we raised Halley. We wanted her to be good. But we weren't doing a lot about helping her have good character. That's our focus nowadays.'
Tony's observation illustrates an important point about parenting.
Everybody wants good kids. Good children do what they're supposed to. This is a proper and right desire. We are all to do what is good and right in God's eyes (Deuteronomy 12:28). But many good children don't grow up handling life well. They may become either not-so-good people or good-but-immature adults.
As Tony learned, the issue is not about being good, but about having good character. That is the subject of this chapter.
The Importance of Being a Parent
If you are a parent, congratulations! You are engaged in one of the most meaningful jobs in the world. Although cleaning up spilled milk and arguing about dirty rooms may seem trivial,
you are doing eternally significant work: developing a little person into an adult.
God understands and supports you in this endeavor. People didn't invent parenting, God did. He is in a parent-child role with us, his people, forever. He loves us and wants to nurture and develop us. He wants us to call him by a parent name:
Being a parent is one of the most important tasks God gives anyone. Children are a blessing and a great heritage. Through parenting, humanity continues down through the centuries, our spiritual and cultural values are preserved, and the image of God is revealed in every new generation.
Parenting is a huge task. Parents shoulder the burden of being the source of life, love, and growth for their children. One of the elements of childhood is dependency. Dependency defines a child.
Children look to and need parents for all those things they can't provide for themselves. Especially in the early years, the parent takes responsibility for both knowing and giving needed elements of life to the child. A dependent person (child) and a source person
(parent) are at the core of the parent-child relationship.
If you are reading this book, most likely you willingly chose the responsibility of becoming a parent. If this isn't true, you have certainly still accepted this responsibility. Most parents have strong values and emotions that influence them to raise kids. For example, they want to:
Create love with a spouse, which can transfer down to another generation
Pass on their values to others
Create a warm and caring family context
Have fun with their kids
Contribute something to the world
These are all good reasons for parenting. However, once you have become a parent, it can be hard to get your head above water long enough to figure out exactly what you are trying to accomplish and how you will know when you get there. Parents need a way to keep in mind the ultimate goal of parenting.
Creating an Adult
Most parents want their children to grow up. In other words,
we define success not by how our children are doing today, but by what happens after they leave home. Imagine your children as adults in the following areas of life:
School. They are investing in training for life and career.
Job. They are growing in career life.
Dating. They are choosing people who are mature and have good values.
Marriage. They have chosen a life's partner, and they are working at their marriage.
Friendships. They have a close-knit group of friends who support them.
Personal values and conduct. They have thought through what is important to them and live consistently with good values.
Spiritual life. They are actively involved in a relationship with God.
All these help define what is a functioning adult. Adults take on the challenges of life and find their niche. They know what is important to them, and they focus on those things. They know their limits, and what they can't provide for themselves they are able to get from outside resources.
God designed your child to function independently of you.
This is what is so difficult about parenting: It's the only relationship designed by God that measures success by how well it ends. You are investing in helping your child leave you. In the biblical teaching that children should leave father and mother
(Genesis 2:24), the meaning of leave is 'to forsake.' Every mom and dad who have sacrificed for and loved a child suffer a real parent-wound when their child grows up and leaves. And yet mature parents gladly suffer this wound, because they know the benefits the child will receive from their investment.
Sadly, kids don't always grow up well. Sometimes they don't leave, and they depend on their parents far too long. At other times they leave, but they aren't prepared for adult life. They may not depend on their parents any longer, but they aren't functioning well in love or work. They are adults on the outside,
but they are broken or undeveloped on the inside.
Who Is Responsible for What?
Who is responsible for your child's maturity and readiness for the world---you or your child? This important question deeply affects a parent's attitude toward a child. Answers to it fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. Some see the child's successes or failures in life as primarily the parent's responsibility.
These parents diligently do whatever they can to help their child grow, and they feel that the child's adult years reflect on how they parented. Others see the child as taking the weight. 'I did my best, and he had a choice,' they say when problems arise.
We believe in the following three principles about responsibility.
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