What Parenting Method is Best? (Pt 1)

Every new mom or dad feels the daunting nature of the task—parenting. Questions fill your mind. Am I ready? What makes for a good dad or mom? How should we discipline? What kind of schedule should we follow? Is a schedule important? How do you raise an eternal soul? Nervous and excited, I piled up the books! I read everything on parenting from Psychology to Theology to Methodology. I also met with fathers whom I respected and asked them lots of questions on how to be a good dad. I even formed a group of other soon-to-be dads, so we could get together to pray for our kids and encourage one another.

There’s nothing like becoming a parent to freak you out. Expecting mothers freak out too. They get so freaked out, they devour blogs, join mom groups, buy lots of baby stuff they think their baby can’t live without. When we had our first child, we received a wet wipe warmer, seriously. All of a sudden all your conversations bend towards being a mom, raising kids, pregnancy. It’s easy for a lot of other stuff to get pushed out. Then there’s the birthing and parenting methods. In America, we get obsessed about this. We gravitate to books like What To Expect When you Are Expecting because we have to know what to expect! I wonder where faith is in all of this preparation?

Raising Kids is Hard & Great

I’m a seventeen-year-old parent (if you add my kids ages up), and I still don’t know what to expect. New stages bring new challenges. Diapers, potty training, schooling, friends, birds and the bees, puberty, culture, college, marriage, and so on. Working through education for our kids is one thing, but once they are in school its a whole different thing. Parenting can be daunting. Children require constant attention, even when they sleep! We watch them breathe at 2am. And even when they are not around, they are still in our thoughts. And for some reason they like doing the opposite of what we ask them to do! Raising kids is demanding, but it also delightful.

I love being a father. We get to experience unprecedented joy as we watch our children grow, change, eat, walk, talk, learn, sing, play, pray, and laugh. You get to roll around with them on the floor, and marvel at what they say. This week we were at the breakfast table and Owen just whipped out the Pledge of Allegiance, reciting it from memory. Ellie put on a black, curly, Halloween fro and, holding up her finger, said: “Don’t laugh!”.

6 Parenting Methods 

What methods do you follow? Some of us go for touchy-feely (Brazelton). Others lean into attachment parenting (Sears). You like the family bed. Others of you are freaked out by the idea of a family bed, so you schedule every second of your child’s life and then do it “God’s Way” (Ezzo) meanwhile abandoning worship, community, and mission (incredibly formative things for the soul). Or there’s Parenting by the Book (John Rosemond), who apparently figured out exactly how to raise children according to the Bible. It’s funny. In the midst of eternity, we clamor for temporal methods. Anxious about the safety, performance, health, and future of our children, we put faith in our methods, not in Christ.

Secular parents are realizing the futility of method-driven parenting. As a result, confessional parenting has become popular. Confessional parenting allows imperfect parents to be imperfect. Moms can confess to their various parental “sins” online, like faking an illness just to get some time alone. The problem with confessional parenting, is that while it might remove your guilt, it doesn’t raise your children.

Enter Slow Parenting, pretty popular in Austin. Slow Parenting replaces the experts, who told us what a good parent worries about, with experts who now tell us that a good parent doesn’t worry so much. Chill out. Take is easy. Don’t run your kids or yourself all over town to make sure they are in the right activities. Family, Family. Family. Do I detect a idol?

Attachment parenting, scheduled parenting, Christian parenting, and Slow parenting. We soothe our anxieties by staying up with the latest research and banking on our methods. But as a recent article in Time tells us, parents are wearing thin. Discouragement sets in. There’s a word for this. It’s called “nurture shock”, what happens when the mythical fountain of parenting knowledge fails us. We become over-informed, unsatisfied, anxious parents. Placing our faith in methods will drive us crazy, and kids don’t do so well with crazy parents.

3 Shortcomings of Method-Driven Parenting

In his foundational work God, Marriage, and Family, Andreas Kostenberger lists several shortcomings of methods-centered parenting:

1.     Method driven parenting focuses on practices not the person.

2.     It provides parents with a false sense of confidence.

3.     It is not sensitive enough to the uniqueness of each child.

I’m growing up with my kids, and I’m learning that that’s okay. God designed it like that, probably because he knows our kids need parents of faith more than parents of methods. Most parenting books miss the most important part of our children–their souls. Overwhelmed with the ordinary struggles, we can easily jettison eternity and latch onto the best crutch we can find, our parenting methods. If we keep a nap schedule, give them organic food, make sure they are having a “well-rounded” childhood (=putting your kids in everything imaginable and neglecting the most important things), then we can be confident. Maybe this methodology thing is more about us being confident and less about our kids being parented well. We can be so focused on finding the right parenting “method” or “educational philosophy” that we miss the most important part of parenting.

In the next post, we will consider a child-centered approach alongside gospel-centered parenting.