I would never compare parenting to assembling an IKEA dresser—parenting is way more nuanced and complicated—but, like putting furniture together, you’ll have a better time of it with some help and instruction.
Hence, these three books. God’s word will always be the most influential, life-and-soul-shaping text in my life, but here I share my three-way tie for second place, at least when it comes to parenting. These books have been like the friend holding the panel at the correct angle while I hammer in the peg. They’ve helped me implement the gospel in my everyday, given me incredibly practical strategies, and are a reminder that I’m not the only parent limping through this.
I’m grateful to these authors for the way they encourage, inspire, and share gospel truth.
Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family
by Paul David Tripp
If your kids have reached toddler stage, then you’ve probably discovered that selfishness and rebellion don’t need to be taught. And since you’ve become a parent, you may have also discovered that you’re not, in fact, the patient, loving, gracious person you thought you were.
It turns out we all need grace, parents and kids alike.
This book’s truth is piercing. I know the gospel, but applying it to parenting was not my default. Tripp explains biblical principles in each chapter, things like:
- You must be committed to a long view of parenting, because change is a process and not an event
- As a parent you’re not just dealing with bad behavior, but a condition that causes bad behavior
- No parent gives mercy better than one who is convinced he desperately needs it himself
Besides weaving the gospel into parenting, Tripp imparts a heavenly, eternal perspective, a long-term view. It’s not just about making sure kids eat their vegetables, or learn how to say please, or grow out of that throwing-toys phase. The problem is much worse than lack of manners, but the gospel can take us far beyond good behavior (or good parenting!) to lasting heart change. That’s what I want, for both me and my kids.
Foundations: 12 Biblical Truths to Shape a Family
by Ruth Chou Simons and Troy Simons
I’ve been so blessed by Ruth Chou Simons’ ministry. Reading her posts on Instagram feels like I’m sitting down with her across cups of coffee. Here, she and her husband, Troy, set out 12 biblical foundations they’ve implemented into their family’s dinner discussions, devotion time, and all the crazy in-between moments—and they have a lot of those, raising six boys.
Knowing Christianity’s foundational truths is one thing; it’s another to apply them to your parenting and to convey them to your kids, over and over again. Because they apply to everything.
When my kids fight with each other, my default is to say, “Be nice to each other!” I want to squash their behavior ASAP. Let’s get back to peace, please. But like Paul David Tripp’s book, this one reminds us there’s a deeper sin problem at work, offering tools on how to talk to our kids about it. Each foundation is broken into five short chapters, perfect for daily discussions throughout the week.
If you’re desiring more godly discussions with your kids but don’t know where to start—look no further.
Discipline that Connects With Your Child’s Heart: Building Faith, Wisdom and Character in the Messes of Daily Life
by Jim and Lynne Jackson
A thousand books on discipline means a thousand opinions on how best to do it. But parents all have similar goals, right? To teach kids acceptable behavior, how to respect others, and to help them become functioning members of society.
But no matter my good intentions, I often end up in power struggles with my kids, which can quickly escalate into emotional outbursts—on both sides. In those moments, the fight-or-flight center of our brains are engaged, which means my kids can’t learn anything, and I’m not in a good place to teach them. We’re all too upset.
This book speaks into those situations while recognizing a universal human desire: connection. When Jim and Lynne Jackson felt overwhelmed by their own parenting struggles, they came up with a framework with these four foundations:
- You are safe with me
- You are loved no matter what
- You are called and capable (of making wise choices)
- You are responsible for your actions
Notice the order of these. Kids can learn they’re responsible for their actions (a huge goal in parenting!), but first they need to feel safe. And if they know your love for them is not dependent on their behavior, that kind of security shapes not only their immediate response to you, but also their identity.
Because parents are also human beings with our own emotions and sin, one of the best questions a parent can ask before reacting to conflict is, “What’s going on in me?” And it’s a game-changing question. Is my response based on embarrassment? Irritation at having my plans interrupted? The fear that they’ll never change?
Discipline that Connects is so rich in biblical truth and emotionally-healthy strategies; it’s definitely one to revisit again and again.
Like Proverbs 26:4 says, “In abundance of counselors there is victory” (ESV). Even if these book descriptions don’t resonate with you, I pray you find other sources that help you parent in a way that honors God, pointing your kids toward him and his truth.
Photo: Ergita Sela