Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Thoughts on Authentic Parenting

Yesterday I introduced Mary DeMuth's new book, Authentic Parenting for a Postmodern Culture. It was an easy book to read quickly, but it deserves a deeper wrestling with the issues that Mary raises. It deals a lot with heart attitudes, both with our kids and our relationship with God.

She brings out several areas or themes that are important areas to consider in our parenting:

1. Conversation. She encourages parents to keep the doors open in communication with our kids, because it will lead to unexpected opportunities for blessings (both for our kids and us!). She also discusses the power of the tongue, which can be a terrible thing used by impatient, harried parents (read: all of us) at times that hurts our kids instead of building them up. This is an issue I am just developing into since my kids are all younger than Mary's. Initially kids need more directives - they need to be taught to listen and given concrete direction in what to do. However, this conversational parenting becomes a blessing as they grow older, because it keeps the relationship avenues open and flowing both ways.

2. Haven. We need to protect our children's innocence and provide safety and security for them. Again, when they are young they need more protection. The ideal I get from Authentic is building a haven that gives them peace and security, without keeping them locked in a fortress. The world seems to be getting worse with debauchery and cruelty all the time. It is tempting to hide our children in a Christian safe house, avoiding any taint of culture. Now, I don't want my kids to sin, but they are going to have to face the world and walk out in it someday. In a haven we can train our kids in how to understand and walk in wisdom and purity without being fully sequestered.

Mary's family lived this out when they went to France to help pioneer a church. They could have cloistered their family from the secular education system in France (actively hostile to faith). By God's leading they did put their kids in public school. They had several trials, but it led to opportunities for character growth.

3. Art/Creativity. She placed a premium on encouraging kids in their creativity as an avenue of worship to the Lord. Some of this chapter could sound a little weird to some people I suppose, but as a creative individual myself I thought it was a wonderful reminder of using everything we've been given to help our kids experience God. (This from the boy who got in trouble in 1st grade for coloring George Washington's hair purple - Mom stood up for me though. Go Mom!) Our Lord is amazingly creative, and whether you like art, music, outdoors, or whatever, may it all be used to show our kids the glory of Jesus.

4. Authenticity. This can be a "buzz-word" in a postmodern discussion, but it is an important topic that is more than a tag-line. Mary speaks of being real in our faith, as opposed to Christians who put on a good outward show. She related families she's seen who do the right things on the outside, but at home scream, belittle, and live a superficial life. We know the words Jesus had for the Pharisees that only lived religiously without having a proper heart. I've learned some of the things Mary discusses in this section. Like her husband, I have a temper, and I've had to go back to my kids after blowing my top and confess that Daddy just sinned and should not have acted that way. I don't think my kids are my equals and require a justification for everything I do, but if I model humility when I've made a mistake, then hopefully they learn a lesson in how to walk out things when they make their own errors.

There's a lot more I could draw out of this book, but I don't want to re-write it here. Again, it is a book that helps us see heart issues in parenting. There are a lot of examples that are suggested, but it is not a "this is how you do it point-by-point" book. Authentic Parenting is a well-crafted resource for parents in considering their parenting skills and how to raise our kids to deal with the new world that is still in process of developing. Like any book, there are going to be points you may not fully agree with Mary on - so eat the meat and spit out the bones. Don't choke on them, because you'll miss good nourishment for your parenting life.

Thank you Mary, for your heart to share this. It was a valuable investment of time, and I hope it can be a blessing to many, many parents out there.

If you'd like to read an excerpt from the book, click here.

1 comment:

  1. I like that you defined authenticity in terms of integrity. It's more than just vulnerability and transparency. Thinking of it as the opposite of hypocrisy is helpful.