I'll be frank here: I'm not a fan of parenting books at large. Then again, I'm not a fan of the self-help genre in general. I don't like tips and tricks to make life better. I don't like five easy steps. I don't like them, because I don't think they work. Everything worth doing is hard and complicated. Most everything anyway (This is not the time to bring up my "5 Ways To Get Happy" post).
Parenting is definitely hard and complicated. And you do it for a very long time. Tips and tricks may get you through a rough week, but for the next twenty years? For that you're gonna need some hard core life-change.
I have a sneaking suspicion that to be the parent I want to be, to be the parent God intends for me to be, I'm going to have to make difficult choices, big sacrifices, and a thousand tiny, everyday readjustments. I'm going to have to pray like a monk, on the hour. I'm going to have to bury important truths deep in my heart and let God transform me in uncomfortable ways. I suspect that's how parenting works (that's how it's worked so far), because that's how everything works. You want results? Pray. Work your tail off. And be very patient.
That's my parenting advice.
Luckily for you, I did not write the parenting book I'm giving away today (Did I mention I'm giving away a book?!). This book is my favorite parenting book of all time. It's incredibly engaging--I could not put it down. It's SO true. It's helpful. It's inspiring. It doesn't pretend parenting done the right way is easy.
I must have highlighted a good third of the book.
Simply put, Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel is the book on parenting for people who want to parent like God.
I could summarize it for you or rattle off all my favorite parts, but I'd rather share one thing I learned and tell you how it's shaped the way I parent...
Somewhere early on, Kimmel writes, "Children brought up in homes where they are free to be different, vulnerable, candid, and to make mistakes learn firsthand what the genuine love of God looks like." I thought that was great. I underlined it and drew a big blue star beside it. Of course. So true.
Later, as we unpacked that sentence, getter more and more specific about how grace works, he said, "The primary way to give our children grace is to offer it in place of our selfish preferences."
I did not put a star next to this sentence. Not immediately.
Instead, I ran back through the previous week with my kids. I thought of the time I rolled my eyes at my youngest and said dramatically, "Whyyyyy does it always take you so loooong to get out of the caaaaarrr?" I thought of the time I told London we didn't have time to play with Barbies because I wanted to stop by Starbucks on the way to my meeting. I thought of the time I got caught up in Facebook and let them play for too long and then freaked out because they weren't ready yet, forcing them to anticipate my ever-changing schedule. I thought of the time I made Eve wear a certain dress to church because we were visiting family and I thought it looked nicer than the skirt she preferred.
I don't consider myself a severe mother. But in reading this book I realized I've been a selfish one.
Yes, I'm the mom. It's perfectly fine for me to get Starbucks. There's nothing wrong with expecting my kids to wear what I pick. But sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, I expect things of my kids not because those things are important but just because they're more convenient for me.
Because of this book, I'm paying a lot of attention to what I want from my kids. I'm weighing my commands, making sure what I expect aligns with what's important. Too, I'm reminding myself to let my kids be themselves, even when it's inconvenient. Like today when I wanted to take pictures because the sun was FINALLY out and my daughter dressed like this:
Oh well. I can have grace for fox socks over red plaid pants with neon pigtails, right?
If any of this resonates you should read Grace-Based Parenting.
If you have kids you should read this book. Probably even if you don't have kids you'd benefit from this book. It's that good.
Today, I'm giving away one free copy to one lucky reader. To be entered in the random drawing*, share this post on Facebook or Twitter and leave a comment below telling me one of your most embarrassing parenting moments. I can't wait to laugh at us! ;)
*Winner will be chosen on Monday, March 9th.