~ S O U R C E for the following article ~
I had wrongly thought them to be exactly like wet clay, me being the potter with total control over what they would become
Unfortunately, Christian child-rearing “experts” tend to lure people in with their charm, wit, and seemingly happy and functional families. In fact, the strange, but frequent plea, from Tripp supporters here in Seattle was:
The problem is that the Christian community is rife with parenting experts who achieve a cult-of-personality status because worried and insecure new parents look to them for answers.
These teachers assure parents that by following their advice, no matter how repugnant to the average person, they can guarantee the result will be an obedient child and godly adult. They promise that families will be free from the scourge of teenage rebellion and the embarrassment of children who “turn out” badly. They will produce submissive housewife daughters and sons who go into the ministry.
Although these teachers dispense advice that is quite similar to previous generations of Christian parenting gurus, each new generation of parents seems to be convinced otherwise.
Faced with the difficult task of raising a child, they rush into the arms of various “experts”, many of whom dispense harsh advice with a folksy arrogance.
Sadly, by the time parents realize that this advice can harm their children and does not guarantee their children’s “success”, it is too late.
Take the example of Reb Bradley, author of the notoriously harsh parenting book, Child Training Tips. The Bradleys’ technique was one ofextreme control over their children, including physical punishment to enforce their dominance. Their approach to children is endlessly adversarial, seeking and creating opportunities to “subdue” the will of a child at all times.
Yet, the Bradleys were extremely popular conference speakers, known for their funny and warm presentations and what appeared to be a happy family. They sold many books and recordings of their presentations.
However, recently, Bradley wrote an article exposing himself as a gullible victim of his own advice. Eventually, when he could no longer dominate the boy, he kicked his teenage son out of his house. He watched a few of his other children rebel and unravel once they were free from his complete dominance in the home.
“As each of my three oldest children reached adulthood I was shocked to discover that they did not conform exactly to the values I had sought to give them. They had retained much of what I had given, but not everything. Instead of being perfect reflections of my training, they each turned out to be individuals who had their own values and opinions. I had wrongly thought them to be exactly like wet clay, me being the potter with total control over what they would become. I was not prepared for their individuality, nor was I ready to see them as fleshly beings.”
Interestingly, his disappointment is largely for his wife and himself and his comments sympathize with other similarly disappointed parents who spanked and spanked with rods and spanked babies and endlessly controlled and isolated and limited and dominatedtheir children.
Strangely absent is an apology to his and other people’s children who endured a painful childhood and were denied many opportunities for growth and independence because of his advice. Those children’s relationship skills, educations and decision-making capabilities were all stunted in an effort to produce a person who would mirror their parents’ conception of godliness, whatever the cost.
I give this example because it displays the danger of allowing a guru’s charm to override the implications of what he or she is actually saying. That is why I quote Tripp’s book and do not wax sentimental about his charm as an individual.
Mars Hill parents saw Ted Tripp once. The books they bought will be reread over and over as problems surface. They are young and convinced they have stumbled on a child-rearing formula that the rest of us fools cannot possibly understand. That’s why I’m worried.