A couple months ago I encountered a Christian parenting book (and website, actually – the entire book is available chapter by chapter for free online) called Raising Godly Tomatoes about which I’d never previously heard. I was a bit surprised since usually the resources reviewed and discussed in intentionally Christian parenting circles are few and familiar – but thankful because it’s got some great content. I’m not sure I agree with all the author’s methods or conclusions but I appreciate the thoughtful and biblically sound fodder she provides parents as they reflect and pray through appropriate methods for godly childrearing.
Author Elizabeth Krueger has raised ten children and speaks very practically and quite specifically about parenting issues. She and her husband developed the methods she uses and describes in her book (which she refers to as “tomato-staking”) when her third child turned two, so her input is offered with the advantage of some “what I now believe” versus “how I started out,” which I also find helpful. She kicks off her book by asking readers to:
“ponder a few of the problems I run into over and over again as I speak to parents about their families. Failures in parenting today can frequently be traced to the following four underlying areas: (1) what your priorities are, (2) what your beliefs in regard to authority are, (3) how willing you are to separate your children from the world, and (4) your willingness to reject worldly parenting theories and adopt biblical principles and godly standards instead.”
Regarding #2 in her list, parental authority, she says:
“If you don’t believe that you have God-given authority to rule over your children for their good, you may as well close this book right now. Nothing in it will work, and then you’ll blame me! I don’t care what your teachers in school told you, or what you learned from the hospital-sponsored parenting classes you took, but the Bible teaches that an understanding of authority is an essential part of parenting, and indeed an essential key to faith itself.”
Krueger emphasizes watchfulness and consistency by parents and an effort to reach the heart in all things. She also couches all her advice and methodological strategies in one of the most compelling frameworks I’ve seen on our responsibilities as parents to our kids which she calls “Guarding your Child’s Trust.” She writes:
“If you love your children, you will discipline them when needed. But when you discipline, you must do so justly and without anger. The Bible says not to ‘provoke your children to wrath’. We must be certain that we are just in the way we treat our children. The following checklist of questions will help you determine if your discipline is appropriate and just, or whether you are at risk of provoking your children to wrath.
1. Do you betray your child’s trust and confidence by ignoring an infraction one day, then punishing for the same infraction the next? Or do you consistently watch and correct them whenever needed?
2. Do you emotionally unsettle your children by praising them one minute, then yelling at them the next? Or do you control your own emotions and consistently address them with calmness and peace?
3. Do you constantly pick on your children for trivial transgressions? Or do you consistently show love and affection the majority of the time?
4. Do you spring unreasonable demands on your children without warning? Or do you let them know clearly what is expected of them ahead of time if at all possible?
5. Do you discipline them just as severely for a simple accident as you do for outright defiance, or are you appropriately merciful when an innocent mistake occurs?
6. Are you unreasonably regimented for no good reason? Or are you flexible and understanding when possible?
7. Are you always suspicious or your children’s motives, conveying it by constant accusations and criticisms? Or do you trust your children when they’ve earned your trust, and let them know it by your words, smiles and the privileges you allow them?
8. Do you emotionally abuse your children with unnecessary shaming, belittling, and manipulation? Or are you reasonable, straightforward and direct when dealing with them?
9. Do you leave your children feeling that no matter how hard they try, they can never quite measure up anyway? Or do they know they will receive your approval as long as they make a sincere effort to do what is right?
10. Are you a critical, controlling ogre? Or the pleasant loving parent you ought to be?
How you treat your children in all of these things will profoundly determine the quality of your relationship with them. One thing is absolutely certain: a good relationship will lay a foundation for the growth of true Christian character in our children, and of a close relationship between them and God Himself in the future. A poor parent/child relationship will almost certainly frustrate and undermine the development of the godliness that is the goal of our sacred labors. An unjust, unkind and unreasonable parent can easily lead our children to reject the Lord completely in the end . Please take this to heart and build a close loving relationship with your child that models the relationship our Lord offers us.”
I find the truths embedded in these questions so essential to the mothering job God’s given me that I just posted them on my fridge for quick reference. Hope some of you find something useful in there for you as well!