Although I’m still confused as to how the cover image fits with the theme of the book, How Children Raise Parents: The Art of Listening to Your Family is a Christian parenting book written from a relatively rare, yet refreshing and much needed perspective.
The theme of the book is similar to that of Sacred Parenting, in that the emphasis on parenting is less on how to “change our children,” and more on how God uses parenting to change, grow, and mature us into adults who parent with love, strength, and humility.
There were many “aha!” moments on parenting in general, but I was also amazed at the depth of of Allender’s insight into to all of life.
Much of the book builds on learning to listen to our kids, and realizing they are asking two basic questions, “Am I loved?” and “Can I get my own way?” Even as we are learning to recognize the voices of our children in their words and action, Allender points to the fact that we, too, as parents are asking the same two questions. “These two questions mark us throughout life, and the answers we receive set the course for how we live.” Sometimes it is difficult to listen to our children when we ourselves are unsure of the answers.
The final portion of the book hones in on learning to play with and teaching our children through play. By “play,” the author is referring to much more than just learning to throw a ball, and shows the importance of habitually interacting with our children and integrating them into our lives as we learn and grow together as a family.
If I was going to read just one Christian parenting book (for personal application, not just research) this year, this is what I’d choose. The book is succinct, and each sentence is pregnant with thoughts that could easily be expounded upon as the basis for additional books. The book provides a helpful, and God-centered framework for discipleship parenting.
A Sampling of Excerpts:
“Indeed, if we are willing to learn along with our children, parenthood may prove to be a maturing, even transforming experience. On the other hand, disengaged or duty-driven parenting can easily prove to be a paralyzing and heart hardening experience. Regardless of how you parent, one thing is certain; raising children will bring its fair share of fear and frustration, for both mothers and fathers.”
“The more we set as our goal to parent with perfection, the more we will not only fail, but we will fail with rigidity, anger, and guilt. We will come to covertly hate our children since their presence in our lives is the occasion for what we perceive as our greatest failures.”
“We must become better at hearing what is spoken behind the actual words being said.We must learn how to read our children’s core questions, accusations, and invitations.”
“Reading our children’s bent is not a matter of taking a series of personality tests. Instead it is the
demanding call to watch, listen, study and interpret our children. It requires enormous wisdom to see
our children’s true bent versus our own dream for what our children will accomplish or become.”
“True redemption involves being struck dumb by the enormity of our failure and then struck even dumber by the enormity of the heart of God that cancels our debt.”
“Grace is a problematic concept for parents: We don’t truly believe in it. If we did, we’d relax and
invite our children to risk and fail, play and fall. We’d know far less turmoil when they got a bad grade
or wrestled with relational ups and downs. We’d trust that, even in the middle of the struggles, a
greater good was growing if we only had eyes to see.”
“Our reliance on everything but grace has us exhausted, worried and secretly counting the days until
our little cherubs are out of their diapers, or in school, or out of adolescence, or out of the house.
The desire to rush through one stage to get to the next is the idiocy of believing that the grass really
is greener on the other side. It isn’t, of course. Don’t rush the future; generally parenting only gets
“There is nothing that my son or daughters will do that I’ve either not done or would not do if given the opportunity along with the guarantee of not being caught. Therefore we’re not permitted the luxury of being shocked or dismayed by our children’s self-centered, indulgent idolatry.” “Furthermore, we are not permitted to judge if we have already been judged as equally guilty…Rest in the embrace of God’s forgiveness for our sin, then we’ll more aptly extend the kindness of God’s mercy to our children.”
“Playing with our children gives them the skills, character, and context for living out their God given calling. This is by far their most important inheritance, which means that it is callous to deprive a child of a parental playmate…A worldview based on a belief in the Resurrection demands a vision of life that begins and ends with a celebration, a feast of pleasure and delight. This is a party, not some somber affair… Play is not an escape from the heartache of reality. Instead it involves embracing the outcome of all reality.”
Table of Contents:
- Preface: I’m a Parent: What Was I Thinking? What Was God Thinking?
- Introduction: Children Shape Our Souls: That’s Why We Need to Read Our Kids
- Chapter 1: Listening to the Voice of Our Children: How to Answer Their Two Crucial Questions
- Chapter 2: To Principles, Add Wisdom: The Solution to Formulas That Don’t Deliver
- Chapter 3: Know Your Child’s Brave New World: Why We Need to Raise a Generation of Activists
- Chapter 4: Discerning the Voices of Our Parents: Breaking Free from the Past to Raise Our Children Well
- Chapter 5: Turning Down the Voice of Our Culture: We’re Not Here to Prove That Our Children Are Great
- Chapter 6: Hearing the Voice of Your Marriage: The Music of Godly Union
- Chapter 7: Living in the Heart of Mystery: How We Give Our Children a Taste of God’s Character
- Chapter 8: The Perseverance of Hope: Dreaming God’s Desires for Our Children
- Chapter 9: Naming and Being Named: How to Learn the Name God Will Give Us
- Chapter 10: The Divine Dialogue: How Our Children Reveal God’s Name
- Chapter 11: Welcoming Grace Home: What We Must Embrace to Become Great Parents
- Chapter 12: The Freedom to Play: God’s Highest Calling for Parents