Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Biblical" Parenting, Introduction

This is the introduction to a series of posts reviewing Reb Bradley's book "Child Training Tips".
Read criticism #1 here.
Read criticism #2 here.
Read criticism #3 here.
Read criticism #4 here.
Read the conclusion here.

Every once in a while, I realize something shockingly obvious, something that confronts yet another false assumption that has managed to cling to my mind even as I've moved further and further away from my fundamentalist Christian roots.

In the whole Bible, there is not a single verse that credits parents for having raised a good child.  Nothing from God, nothing from any adult sons or daughters in the Bible.  Not one word of thanks, not one word of credit.

It would be easy to insert a few parental credit verses into the Bible.  Maybe we could add a little phrase here or there in the Old Testament, such as "King David, because of his godly parents," or "Moses, thanks to his childhood training;" or maybe we could stick something in the New Testament epistles: "The fruit of the Spirit and of spanking is self-control." No? Perhaps the Gospels then?  Maybe Jesus on the cross could say something like, "I couldn't have gotten where I am today without the support of my godly mother Mary.  There she is, people.  Let's give her a round of applause!"

But those verses are not there.  So why do fundamentalist Christian parents today feel they have so much control over their children's destinies?  Why do they think that they can help their child get closer to God by getting in the middle?  Why do they put so much pressure on themselves, considering themselves failures if their children grow up to take a different path? 

In the homeschooling circles that I was raised in, many of these unhealthy ideas about parenting came from several books that claimed to be about true "Biblical" parenting.   First on the market was a 1979 book by Richard Fugate, called "What the Bible Says About Child Training."  Fugate's book appears to have inspired two other books that surpassed his own book in popularity: Michael Pearl's 1994 "To Train Up A Child" and Reb Bradley's 1995 "Child Training Tips."

Based on these books, the small collection of homeschooling families who attended Reb Bradley's church Hope Chapel along with my family had high hopes for their children.  Yet in the dozen years since, many sincere and dedicated parents have seen all their work fall apart before their very eyes as their children reached adulthood, or even earlier.  I am one of many who didn't "turn out right," yet another disappointment to the former parents and leadership of Hope Chapel.

Everyone responds a little differently to poor results.  Some, like Michael Pearl, laugh at the critics and refuse to self-reflect at all.  Others, like Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, who were just young parents when we attended Hope Chapel together in the late 1990s, apparently felt that they could avoid poor results by doubling down in intensity on poor little Lydia Schatz, who was disciplined to death in 2010 at age 7.

Of all these responses, I find Reb Bradley's 2006 blind spots article, "Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling", to be the most promising because it represents a very small step in the right direction.  Here is a quote from the introduction to the article, in which Reb Bradley acknowledges the unexpectedly poor results:
"In the last couple of years, I have heard from multitudes of troubled homeschool parents around the country, a good many of whom were leaders. These parents have graduated their first batch of kids, only to discover that their children didn't turn out the way they thought they would. Many of these children were model homeschoolers while growing up, but sometime after their 18th birthday they began to reveal that they didn’t hold to their parents’ values. 
Some of these young people grew up and left home in defiance of their parents. Others got married against their parents' wishes, and still others got involved with drugs, alcohol, and immorality. I have even heard of several exemplary young men who no longer even believe in God. My own adult children have gone through struggles I never guessed they would have faced. 
Most of these parents remain stunned by their children’s choices, because they were fully confident their approach to parenting was going to prevent any such rebellion. Some were especially confident, because as teens these kids were only obedient.  Needless to say, the dreams of these homeschool parents have crashed, and many other parents want to know what they can do to prevent their own children from following the same course."
 When I first scanned over many of his points in that article, I was encouraged by the things I saw; acknowledgement that parents don't have total control over their children's destinies, a de-emphasis on authority, and a much-needed emphasis on relationship and acceptance.

If only there weren't this little paragraph at the end of the introduction [emphasis mine]:
"After several years of examining what went wrong in our own home and in the homes of so many conscientious parents, God has opened our eyes to a number of critical blind spots common to homeschoolers and other family-minded people. Bev and I still stand behind what we have taught on parenting in the past. However, we urgently add to it the following insights."
It is because of that sentence, and because of my own desire as a new mother to deliberately throw out the unhealthy ideas of parenting that I was raised with and around, that I have decided to write a critical review of Reb Bradley's book "Child Training Tips: What I Wish I Knew When My Children Were Young."

My critique will be posted in several installments online for the purposes of discussion, and I welcome any comments or feedback from the authors, from parents who have used this parenting approach, from now-grown children who experienced these techniques, from parents who are considering using it, or from horrified online bystanders.

2 comments:

  1. Thank goodness I was not "Biblically" raised! I grew up in deep depression as it was. Had I been raised Biblically, I'd undoubtedly have committed suicide.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your critique. So are we to assume that the majority of the families who use Bradley's methods of training fall short of their goals? Is there a percentage of failure rate versus the approval rate of parents after using these methods?

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