Though I’m not one for parenting books in general, Tim Kimmel’s Grace Based Parenting is a helpful take on what parenting by principle looks like. I liked his approach, perspective, and evaluation of what’s behind so much bad parenting advice today, namely fear. He writes:
“Parents armed with little more than a vibrant relationship with God consistently served as the ideal springboard for great people. So something changed. We got scared. And I think that fear is what motivates so much of the Christian parenting advice we get.” (12)
In our effort to avoid riskless parenting, I personally swing toward a conservative version of parental recklessness, at least philosophically speaking. Kimmel’s counsel is wise – neither extreme is the right one – but I struggle with landing biblically between the extremes of the riskless, safety-preoccupied church culture and the reckless American culture’s claim (as verbalized by former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
The question for me, then, is how do I train my children to recognize the difference and dangers of these two extremes without giving into either of them myself in doing so? Kimmel would suggest that parents replace their preoccupation with where not to go with more of a focus on where to go (and, as importantly, how). He writes:
“One of the great general purposes you can transfer to your children is the goal of being a wisdom hunter. Wisdom is seldom available to the young, but it’s made available sooner rather than later when we see that part of our role as parents it to teach our children how to turn knowledge into practical truth and insight.” (76-77)
With regard to our parenting, I think I can thankfully recognize Kimmel’s description of grace-based families/homes being where children are given: 1) the freedom to be different; 2) the freedom to be vulnerable; 3) the freedom to be candid; 4) the freedom to make mistakes (134). Though we’ve not always been perfect in reaching them, our goals for raising our kids line up well with Kimmel’s counsel, and have for the most part from the beginning.
The key for us – somewhat in the past, but especially in the days to come – is checking our vision with regard to Whom we’re looking for affirmation regarding our kids. As Kimmel writes, “Where too many parents are concerned with how others view their children, grace-based parents are more excited with how God views their children.” (212) In general, I think we are excited about how God views our kids, but we need to be more conscientious of how closely our view of them – past, present, and future – lines up with His.