Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who wouldn't like him...he's a wonderful guy!

Unfortunately, Christian child-rearing "experts" tend to lure people in with their charm, wit, and seemingly happy and functional families. In fact, the strange, but frequent plea, from Tripp supporters here in Seattle was:

"Why don't you come and see him? You could hear what he's really like! You'll see that he's a wonderful guy!"

Clearly, there was a confidence that Tripp's personal charm would override his written beliefs and fix all misunderstandings.

The problem is that the Christian community is rife with parenting experts who achieve a cult-of-personality status because worried and insecure new parents look to them for answers.

These teachers assure parents that by following their advice, no matter how repugnant to the average person, they can guarantee the result will be an obedient child and godly adult. They promise that families will be free from the scourge of teenage rebellion and the embarrassment of children who "turn out" badly. They will produce submissive housewife daughters and sons who go into the ministry.

Although these teachers dispense advice that is quite similar to previous generations of Christian parenting gurus, each new generation of parents seems to be convinced otherwise.

Faced with the difficult task of raising a child, they rush into the arms of various "experts", many of whom dispense harsh advice with a folksy arrogance.

Sadly, by the time parents realize that this advice can harm their children and does not guarantee their children's "success", it is too late.

Take the example of Reb Bradley, author of the notoriously harsh parenting book, Child Training Tips. The Bradleys' technique was one of extreme control over their children, including physical punishment to enforce their dominance. Their approach to children is endlessly adversarial, seeking and creating opportunities to "subdue" the will of a child at all times.

Yet, the Bradleys were extremely popular conference speakers, known for their funny and warm presentations and what appeared to be a happy family. They sold many books and recordings of their presentations.

However, recently, Bradley wrote an article exposing himself as a gullible victim of his own advice. Eventually, when he could no longer dominate the boy, he kicked his teenage son out of his house. He watched a few of his other children rebel and unravel once they were free from his complete dominance in the home.

He notes:
"As each of my three oldest children reached adulthood I was shocked to discover that they did not conform exactly to the values I had sought to give them. They had retained much of what I had given, but not everything. Instead of being perfect reflections of my training, they each turned out to be individuals who had their own values and opinions. I had wrongly thought them to be exactly like wet clay, me being the potter with total control over what they would become. I was not prepared for their individuality, nor was I ready to see them as fleshly beings."

Interestingly, his disappointment is largely for his wife and himself and his comments sympathize with other similarly disappointed parents who spanked and spanked with rods and spanked babies and endlessly controlled and isolated and limited and dominated their children.

Strangely absent is an apology to his and other people's children who endured a painful childhood and were denied many opportunities for growth and independence because of his advice. Those children's relationship skills, educations and decision-making capabilities were all stunted in an effort to produce a person who would mirror their parents' conception of godliness, whatever the cost.

I give this example because it displays the danger of allowing a guru's charm to override the implications of what he or she is actually saying. That is why I quote Tripp's book and do not wax sentimental about his charm as an individual.

Mars Hill parents saw Ted Tripp once. The books they bought will be reread over and over as problems surface. They are young and convinced they have stumbled on a child-rearing formula that the rest of us fools cannot possibly understand. That's why I'm worried.


The Mule said...

I just found your blog and am wondering if you are still 'out there' as your posts are all quite old!
I am currently campaigning to get Amazon to refuse to stock books such as Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp, and any that advocate the physical abuse of children.
Here is my blog post about this:
and here is the Petition:
Please do get in touch with me if you would like to.
Or just sign and share the petition!
Thanks for caring about this.

Robyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robyn said...

Hi, my name is Robyn. I am 33 years old, married to a loving husband and a mother of two precious daughters under 2 that I love so dearly! They are miracles. I have a deep and wonderful relationship with my parents (who are still married) and two older siblings who also are married and have children. I grew up in a loving, Christ-honoring home where my parents taught us to learn how to serve and obey God, the creator. I was spanked when I disobeyed my parents, who were given authority over me as a child. To train and love and admonish me in righteousness so that I may learn how to obey God above all man-kind when I grew in knowledge and wisdom. The Bible says the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and a fool despises knowledge and understanding. I am eternally grateful for the gospel of Christ Jesus -that He -God very God came as a baby to live a perfect life and die on the cross for my sins, rose again on the 3rd day and will receive me into eternal glory when I perish someday! I repented of my wicked heart and He has received me based on His perfect will and perfect Word! I am thankful for the message of the gospel that my parents shared and demonstrated in raising me and my siblings. I know that by spanking me when I was young, my parents were doing the most loving thing (all be it hard) to show me that sinning against God is serious and there are consequences to our actions. We are called to obey God and submit to His authority. The bible says that wickedness is bound up in the heart of a child. (All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God) You see, we're born sinners. We're not taught how to be selfish, rude, prideful... we are born that way. You don't have to teach a child to steal a toy or have a tantrum- they do it all on their own. Parents are entrusted by God to LOVINGLY train a child to be loving, kind, patient, good, faithful, gentle, and have self-control. I am so indebted to my parents for doing just that. And that includes the spankings that I received when I was a child. I learned love through their discipline. The bible says that if you don't discipline a child when he disobeys - you do not love him. Yes, it actually says that! I pray everyday that God help me to love my children in the way that He instructs -with Love, without anger, with patience, with good example -not only in behavior, but in the heart issues. If I expect my children to obey with the proper motives, then I had better be practicing those myself!! It is quite a sanctifying process being a parent, but just that - sanctifying. So that I may become more like Christ -perfect and holy. I'm not here to please man. You may read all this and still think I'm foolish. You may not believe in the message of the gospel. But the Bible tells me that the message of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing. Maybe you have repented since you wrote this- it's an old post. You may not believe. But out of love, I am sharing it with you so that you might believe. This is more important than anything else.

A child/mother who knows the value of spanking.