In preparation for our series The Perfect Kid I have read a bunch about parenting and family. It is amazing to me how many books basically say the same thing.
William Farley’s book Gospel Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting is not that book. One of the things that sets this book apart is that it sets out to see how the gospel changes parenting. Christians who are parents should parent differently than parents who do not know Jesus because of the gospel. If the gospel has changed our lives (and the gospel does that), then it should transform how we parent.
Farley starts with the idea that the gospel changes people, in this case, parents. That change in a parents life then changes parenting, which means it changes everything about their family. Their roles as parents, as a couple, how they communicate to their kids, how they discipline their kids, their expectations and goals for their kids. Many Christian parents seem to have a goal that their child attend church when they become an adult. For a parent who has been captured by the gospel, this isn’t a goal, that is too low.
This book was less about what to do and what principles to put into place as parents and more about what parents are and the type of people they become. This has been a major theme in my preaching and my thinking: I think God is less concerned about what we do and more concerned about who we become. For this reason, who we become dictates what we do. We cannot make any changes to our behavior until we make changes to who we are. We cannot become better parents until we are changed inside by the gospel to be better parents. Tips, tricks, new ideas will not make us better parents if we don’t change ourselves.
Farley says “the gospel makes parents effective in these 7 ways”:
- The gospel teaches Christians parents to fear God.
- The gospel motivates parents to lead by example.
- The gospel centers families in their male servant leaders.
- The gospel teaches and motivates parents to discipline their children.
- The gospel motivates parents to teach their children.
- The gospel motivates parents to lavish their children with love and affection.
- The gospel is the solution for inadequate parents.
For Farley, and the whole point of the book is that the gospel shapes everything about how we parent. For too many Christians, the gospel seems to have very little to do with parenting. His chapters on discipline, fatherhood and marriage are worth the price of the book and some of the best material on parenting I have found.
Here are a few other things that jumped out:
- Aim discipline at your child’s heart, not their behavior.
- Our marriage is the most powerful example that we possess. To the degree that the gospel makes our marriage attractive, God will empower us to reach our children.
- The “ways” of effective Christian parents are holy. They are different from the world around them.
- USA Today found that 70% of teenagers said their parents were the greatest influencer’s in their lives.
- The opposite of holiness is not sinfulness. It is commonness.
In case you are curious, here is an interview with the author.