The best Christian parenting books are those that not only give practical advice, but that also help us reach our child's heart. After all, emotional safety is at the core of what helps children want to do well for us as their parents.
The children who feel the safest with us will legitimately want to learn from us.
In Christian parenting, our children check to see if our love mirrors God's love--do they see us living by the fruit of the Spirit--"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control"? (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
If they see us embodying the fruit of the Spirit in these ways in our parenting, Christian beliefs will feel safe to them. They'll want to walk with Christ on their own someday when they're older, because he felt peaceful through us, first.
When we do this, we're speaking their ultimate love language.
Indeed, many of us actively work to live by the fruit of the Spirit every single day. We know we're imperfect, but from the Christian mom writing this article to other Christian parents, we know we're trying.
We're balancing Christian guidance and biblical living with an increasingly secular world, and it's not easy.
And some days, when the "big picture" view of the world feels particularly tough, we wonder whether our Spirit-filled parenting style is really changing the world
Are we bringing children up in a way that will set them up for judgment and failure, or are we raising healthy sons and daughters who fully embrace Christian living?
Will they be able to withstand peer pressure and many of the temptations that surround them?
Will they have a firm foundation on which to grow?
In short, can we change the world through our parenting?
Moreover, how can we spread Christ's message without the secular world shutting us down before we get a word out?
We know we can affect our own children, but can we reach the hearts of other parents, too--even those who don't want to hear about Christianity?
That's a tall order.
Many people, unfortunately, will automatically pass on Christian parenting books we recommend to them simply because they're labeled as Christian. They may say, "No thanks! That's not my thing."
I respect that. Even Jesus didn't force anyone to believe in him, so it's certainly not our place to do so.
At the same time, it's one of many forms of spiritual warfare that we face--how and when do we encourage other moms and dads to follow a Christian parenting journey if they're turned off by the very mention of Christianity?
Here are two reasons some of the best Christian parenting books might not look like they used to.
1.Christ has always worked in unconventional ways--and he's still doing that.
A biblical truth is that Jesus was about as unconventional as they came during his lifetime. The Pharisees were considered the be-all-end-all for "religion," yet he despised them.
On the other hand, the tax collectors whom everyone else despised?
Jesus hung out with them--including Matthew of "first book in the New Testament" fame, not to mention others like Zacchaeus.
Perhaps it teaches us that, like Jesus, if we want to help spread the word of Christianity, we need to do it in places that people won't expect.
For instance, we can read and recommend a parenting book that is not overtly Christian.
I realize that this, too, is unconventional.
Bear with me for a moment.
Some parents are going to turn away from rock-solid information simply because it's labeled as a Christian parenting book. That's a hard reality.
It may be tempting to also say, "Well, if they don't want the message, that's their loss."
Last I checked, though, it's the lost sheep that Christ wanted most.
If we're going to pursue Jesus in our daily lives, we need to be like him...and not try to force non-believers to read "Christian books." It's just not going to fly with them.
We know that if people are going to come to Jesus, they'll judge us by our actions, including (and perhaps especially) in our parenting:
Are we seeking only to have so-called "obedient children" who blindly listen, or are we deeply committed to hearing our child's heart, just as Jesus does for them?
Are we teaching kids about Christ's love through fire and brimstone (fear-based parenting), or are we tuning into their love languages and helping children feel seen and loved for their wonderful and unique personality?
Are we losing the next generation of followers by raising kids who feel "Christian parenting" is emotionally unsafe, or will parents pass along the comfort and grace that Christ does?
Other parents are watching. If we're parenting our children with love--if we're leading with grace--if we're living as a lifegiving parent who displaces fear with connection that makes children run to us rather than away from us when they're struggling, people are going to notice.
So, when non-believing parents ask us if we have any parenting books to recommend, yes, sure, we can mention some that are overtly Christian, full of Biblical references and so forth.
These are absolutely valuable, and I'm not saying they aren't. And there's certainly no better book than the Bible itself.
At the same time, we can also know that Christ sometimes works through whispering to the heart instead of through neon lights.
Some books, like Peaceful Discipline, are written by Christian authors and are of the "whispering" variety.
They're the kind that say, "You're welcome here. Let's grab a cup of tea and hang out for awhile."
This will feel emotionally safer to many people, and it's a strong starting point to get them curious.
My favorite books, truth be told, aren't necessarily marked as "Christian," particularly because I find many of the popular ones to be contradictory to what I believe families need. More importantly, I see many that don't seem to be in line with the fruit of the Spirit.
The authors may say they're Christian, but I don't always feel God or grace or any inkling of how vast I believe his love to be. To me, this is a red flag. I won't buy them, much less use them as a guide for how to raise my daughter.
Many books will help us set rules, but without a focus on connection, the rules will be meaningless for our children.
Other books talk about punishment, but lack encouragement--and that can drive many away from faith.
Many teach that we need to be harsh with our children and raise them by "the rod," but neglect to mention that the rod in the Bible is used to peacefully guide sheep and drive away predators, but not harm the sheep themselves.
Therefore, I'll go back to the fruit of the Spirit once again and see how we can use that to drive family-driven faith, more than any other single insightful book beyond the Bible:
After loving God, do we love our neighbor? Would we be willing to consider that our child is our neighbor?
Do we delight in our children in a way that they can feel, knowing that delight is one of the basic tenets of secure attachment?
Does the grace we've received spill over into our parenting, so we can live peacefully with our children?
Are we patient with our children? Do we have the sensory calming tools and other resources to keep our calm in the proverbial storm?
Are we showing Christ's mercy and kindness to our children?
Do we see the goodness in our kids and share our goodness with them, even knowing we all mess up sometimes?
Are we raising grateful kids by modeling genuine gratitude for the gifts we've received that help bring us closer to Christ? Are we looking for "proof" of our child's heart being faithful, or can we trust that to Jesus?
Are we being gentle with our kids from their perspectives, not just our own? After all, it's their perspective that matters to their hearts.
Are we able to feel and express anger in ways that do no harm to our kids or to our relationship with them? Can we stay calm enough to express ourselves peacefully, or seek support when we need it?
If we can model these things for our children and for other adults around us, they'll learn how to find more peace, as well. My hope is that you'll feel the fruit of the Spirit very much alive in Peaceful Discipline.
If you do, I'd love to hear about it. If you don't, I'd love to hear from you, as well.
As for specific books other than my own, I do like The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman, another book written by a Christian author where the book isn't expressly Christian. It helps us parent our kids well by understanding them, knowing parenting isn't a "one size fits all."
Any book that helps us teach our children through encouragement and connection is a "win" in my opinion, especially when written by a Christian author who's inspired by God.
Any book that claims to be faith-based but recommends punishment rather than grace is an automatic "no" for me. There are plenty of these, unfortunately.
Choose carefully, remembering again that there is "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1 ESV)
Jesus was punished so we didn't have to be. Once again, we can guide our children and teach them, but if God removed our punishment (and that of our kids), who are we to override his decision with punishment for our kids?
We can choose to be peaceful with them. We can invite them into relationship with us through our gentle guidance and love--we can be the kind of parent they'll want to return to when they're older.
So maybe, just maybe, some of the best new Christian parenting books aren't overtly labeled as a "Christian parenting book." Instead, perhaps the best Christian parenting books are the ones that feel different and guide parents to living out Christ's love, even if they don't realize that's what's happening yet.
My prayer is that non-believers will say, "Something feels different about this book, Peaceful Discipline. What's this author like? Where do they get their guidance? How can parenting feel like this?"
Perhaps part of God's plan for you is to reach others through whispers of conversation starters, as well. As it turns out, connection is what we all need, and it's the foundation for the deeper discussions to come.
May you feel the presence of God in every aspect of your life, including in your parenting. There's great hope for you and your children, and great hope for every family who wonders where your peace originates.
To clarify, my intent is not expressly to "convert" non-believers to Christianity. That's between them and God, and it's well beyond my pay grade.
Rather, my intent is to help bring more peace to every family I have the pleasure of meeting, influencing, or otherwise knowing.
As I've said before, I truly believe that peace on Earth begins at home.
If children feel loved and valued, they have the ability to love and value others. They're not bringing childhood traumas into their future relationships.
Instead, they're bringing peace and the love they received at home to their future friends, partners, and co-workers. That's what they'll have to give.
If knowing about my inspiration from God helps them get curious about him, that's great. However, if they're not open to God yet (or ever) yet still treat their kids with more peace, and parent from connection rather than fear, that gives me incredible hope for a better world.
I don't pretend for a moment that Peaceful Discipline will show people how to be Christian. That's not the point, and it's not expressly what the book is about.
What I want is for non-believers and believers to co-exist peacefully.
Step one, in my opinion, is the hope that non-believers will cease believing that Christians are "scary" or "oppressive" or "crazy" or any of the other unflattering adjectives that are bandied about in this day and age.
I promise you, I am not among those who support oppression or any of the injustices we've seen so often in recent years. I don't believe Jesus would be on board with those things, either.
May we have mutual acceptance as a starting point; may we truly love our neighbor (and not just the neighbor who "says the right things.")
May we choose curiosity over judgment; compassion over emotional distancing. The world has too much conflict right now.
We need to start the healing process somewhere. Peaceful Discipline may show us how to get started, even if reading the book is all we have in common with the person sitting across from us wherever we happen to be reading it.
My prayer is that Peaceful Discipline will help us all be kinder to one another, no matter what we believe. Our kids will feel the shift not only in our family, but they'll also see it in the world around them.
It's time for a more peaceful world. Will you join me in helping that happen?