“Parents and children need help, a lot of help” (page 3). To this line on the book’s first page, all the parents, pastors, and counselors say “Amen.” Thankfully, Martha Peace and Stuart Scott have written The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family to provide some of that much-needed help.
The main idea running throughout this book is that rather than striving to produce Christian children, parents should instead focus on their own parental faithfulness. Success is not measured by how our children turn out, but by how we honor the Lord in our parenting. As frustrating as it may seem, we simply cannot control our children, and God doesn’t expect us to. Instead, God is calling us to trust and obey Him as we seek to raise our children in the fear of the Lord.
The contents of this book are organized into three sections. Part One clarifies the Bible’s expectations for parents and children through a pair of two-fold purpose statements. Faithfulness demands that parents both discipline and instruct their children. Children then must be careful to obey and honor their parents. These purpose statements are useful for bringing clarity to the counseling room. In Chapter Two, Peace and Scott admonish parents to be both evangelists and theologians who repeatedly bring the character of God, the reality of sin, and the need for grace to their children. The faithful parent will provide gospel-oriented evangelism and discipleship throughout childhood and well into the teenage years.
Part Two addresses how faithful parents should interact with their children during the different stages of their lives, dedicating a chapter to each of the five developmental stages. The authors follow a familiar pattern in each chapter by reviewing major developmental milestones, how the Bible views this stage of childhood, and then offers considerations for how parents can provide age-appropriate discipline and instruction. Each chapter also includes some commonsense tips and discussion questions, which counselors may want to assign as a part of a counselee’s homework. These five chapters are full of practical counsel and give special attention to the most relevant biblical commands. Though the authors don’t include a detailed treatment of the heart, these chapters make it clear that parents should strive for lasting character formation, not merely behavioral manipulation. One of the book’s strengths is how the authors encourage parents to wed discipline, instruction, and discipleship together with the character and skills involved in being a life-long disciple of Christ. Parents should teach their children how to maintain friendships, resolve conflict, practice thanksgiving, interact with foolish people, and exercise self control.
Chapter 8 is the standout chapter in the book addressing the often-overlooked problem of “Parents Who Provoke” their children (Colossians 3:21). Here, the authors identify fifteen common attitudes that parents may sinfully adopt, provoking their children. These range from “The Proud Parent” to “The Why Can’t You be Like Your Brother? Parent.” By attaching these common struggles to the biblical language of “provoking,” this chapter will provide plenty of counseling fodder for those who seek to walk alongside struggling parents.
Part Three addresses special parenting cases by identifying the most pertinent biblical principles which apply to issues like single parenting, blended families, or parenting children with special needs. Though brief, these sections are a way for counselors to quickly orient themselves to how the Bible may speak to situations such as these.
Chapter 10 provides help for parents who are grieving rebellious children and organizes the material into a month’s worth of daily devotions. Counselors would be helped to familiarize themselves with the appendices and tables in this book, some of which may prove immediately applicable to ministry. The “Put Off” / “Put On” chart in Appendix B (see also 189–191) and the “Taking Thoughts Captive” worksheet in Appendix D will certainly be sources of inspiration for counselors looking for helpful homework ideas.
Overall, this book will be informative and encouraging to those who are seeking to honor God in their parenting. Biblical counselors will appreciate it for the same reasons and will likely find its appendices and charts reason enough to keep it on a shelf close to their counseling chair.
- “In all of eternity, there has been only one perfectly faithful parent, and he had the only perfectly faithful son” (page 3).
- “Faithfulness, not perfection, is rewarded by the Lord. That’s because we can no more live a sinless life than we can make our children do the same thing. Only our Lord Jesus is he ‘who knew no sin’ (2 Cor. 5:21). He never sinned, but we do, and he knew we would need his help and encouragement to raise our children faithfully as he desires” (page 5).
- “A person who is striving to honor the Lord in parenting, repenting, and changing is a faithful parent” (page 5).
- “Take care that you do not seek to micromanage your children’s faith or expect total sanctification today in their lives. You can’t force them to grow, but you can lead them gently” (page 32).
- “Time out places a child who is raging in his heart into a seat. Then he plays over and over in his mind the circumstances that made him angry. Ultimately, the child will likely calm down, but it is not good for him to have all that time to brood in his heart” (page 61).