If there’s anything that makes me feel guilty it has to be parenting. A sense of failure, shame, and ‘maybe they’ll turn out all right despite me’ never seem far away.
What’s going on? No doubt I’ve erected idolatrous standards against which I fall hopelessly short. I know I’m not alone.
Enter Julie Lowe, CCEF faculty member and licensed counsellor and play therapist, to save the day. Lowe’s book joins a growing line of realistic, gospel-centred parenting books that focus more on the heart and look more to the cross.
She adds to this body of writing by reminding us that, as in all of life, raising our children is a matter of faith and not following a formula. Lowe starts by explaining that we easily develop preconceptions about how our families should be, and from there construct parenting formulas to help us meet that ideal. This may explain my feelings of guilt…
But more than that, Lowe helps us find a way out of our unrealistic standards. In one of her most helpful illustrations she describes ‘the waterfall effect’, God lavishing his love upon us which then flows through us to others. And she reminds us that God’s love is personal, wise, grace-filled: the love of the True Parent. Then, with faith in our Heavenly Father, we begin to love – and parent – as He does. Freedom from formulas!
From there, Child Proof opens up what parenting by faith looks like. It begins with a call to become ‘an expert on your child and your family’ – in the same way that God knows us personally. The book takes time to unpack this, helpfully viewing our children through the Saint-Sinner-Sufferer model and adding in the need to know our child’s strengths, weaknesses, personality and temptations.
Lowe wisely navigates the hot potatoes of rules and discipline whilst sticking to her principles of parenting by faith. Her treatment manages to avoid leaving the reader confused, or guilty (again). In this section, and throughout, her book is infused with a wisdom and realism that arises from her own faith and is shaped by her parenting and counselling experience.
The use of personal illustrations is very helpful. Lowe is honest and down to earth in using her own family experiences. She manages to do this in a way that doesn’t leave us feeling defeated by examples we could never match.
She also includes practical summaries at the end of each chapter – the Parenting Toolbox – and questions to reflect on.
The last nine chapters are shorter, applied sections on, for example, parenting an anxious, difficult or disabled child. Once again, the content brims with practical biblical teaching.
Amongst the things I found most helpful was a little section called ‘It’s Never Too Late’ – wisely placed near the beginning of the book. Also, the subject of the final chapter ‘When Your Child Breaks Your Heart’ is perhaps not addressed enough in parenting literature but is dealt with in a wonderfully hopeful and constructive way.
Those familiar with CCEF’s approach to practical theology will find specific application of familiar principles to the challenges of parenting. May many families be blessed through this deeply helpful book. Excellent.