Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Teachable Moments"

Teachable Moments: Using Everyday Encounters with Media and Culture to Instill Conscience, Character, and Faith

Books about parenting are a lot like books about dating: there is a steady stream of new ones coming all the time, and they tend to miss the larger picture. 

With dating books, they focus on sex -not having it-  and they forget all about wholesome relationships in general. They don't talk about conversation, communion, and closeness, the intimacy that we are designed to have with multiple people of both genders and all ages. 
They boil it all down to sex, and fail to guide us into a fuller relationship reality. 
With parenting books, we hear about returning to the old days of obedient children and a nice clean world to raise them in. (Without music videos, Instagram, and same-sex marriage.) 

It's a rare parenting book that sets your relationship with your kids in the context of your relationship with God, and their relationship with God, and points to a child and parent's roles in the world today as it is. 

The premise of Teachable Moments is a great one. Wouldn't you love to use "everyday encounters with media and culture to instill conscience, character, and faith?" 

I read this book with a mixture of feelings. 
Some of it is extremely helpful, and exemplifies "sanctified common sense." 
Other parts of it never would have worked on me as a child. Certain explanations parents give children for why we do this or why we don't left me cold even now, reading them. They probably would have just piqued my curiosity and sent me to the dictionary to try and figure it out myself! And maybe that's the point... there is no human guidebook, no perfect plan, no two-step process for parenting. And the author tells us that right up front. 

Yet something about this book rubbed me wrong. Three hours after finishing it, I think I've hit upon it.
There seemed to be very little grace in this book. And by grace I don't mean no-consequences-la-di-da-parents-with-their-eyes closed. This book seemed less about leading your children into the full-bodied Gospel of life than it did about using Biblical principles to make your kids "be good."  

Like somebody said, we drive our kids away from Christ when we tell them that He came to make them good, instead of He came to give them Love. 

At one point, there is a sentence suggesting that shame and guilt need to be reintroduced in our children. I know this is semantics, but shame is not equivalent to healthy Biblical conviction. Shame is a chronic state of mind, a feeling of unworthiness that no amount of good behavior can scrub away. Ironically, in a world that has cast off so many moral ties, shame still exists, and it's not leading to repentance in the sinners-it casting them further down. It's not keeping the righteous on the straight and narrow, it's intruding in their peace.

A lot of parents seem more concerned with having tidy, presentable, un-troubled kids to show off than they do with getting their hands dirty to help their kid wrestle with life. That kind of parent wants the book that tells them what not to allow. They make actions, outfits, words, and websites the enemy.
We think that we have to protect our preteen from makeup and high-heels, when we really need to guard her against the heart-breaking hookup culture.
We think if we can keep our son off of Facebook that he will never cave in to peer pressure or use foul language, but we need to address his desire to fit in. 

So many parents seem to give their kids access to all the bad stuff and then punish the child for getting sucked into it. 
They spend 18 years worrying about weaning their kids off of the world's evil influence, instead of loading the kid up on so much good music and good stories and good times that they won't want to seek out much else. And if they do taste lesser food, it won't appeal to them. My own parents never forbid a single song or book or movie- they gave me access to so much quality, pleasurable, fun stuff that I hardly regretted missing the alternatives. 

I also wonder if maybe we can spend *too* much time trying to explain situations, behaviors, and other people's choices, when we could be just living well and falling in love with our Savior, and inviting our kids to join us. I don't know where the balance is on this between explaining everything over and over vs. confusing our kids with silence, but there must be one. 

If you already like Marybeth Hick's earlier books, then this is probably one to add to your shelves. 

Thank you Howard Books for my review copy.

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