Today I recommend to you a book for new parents, and maybe not so new parents.
It is entitled, Why Children Matter, by Doug Wilson. First, a disclosure. Doug favorably reviewed my recent book, Man of the House, on his Plodcast, podcast. But even if he had panned my book, I’d still recommend his book, Why Children Matter. Here’s why.
Doug is a father and a grandfather. He’s also a pastor. He’s been around a while. He’d done some things and he’s seen some things. His reflections on raising children draw on the scriptures, naturally. But they are seasoned with the wisdom of years. Without that you might as well save your money just stick to your Bible and a concordance. But the book is worth the money because this is tested wisdom; not tested in laboratories–those antiseptic things, but in the messy places we call households.
My set up here is important. Doug Wilson is not Benjamin Spock (thankfully–I suppose I’ve dated myself with that one), but he’s not James Dobson either (thankfully, again). There is no pretense of scientific expertise here. This is homespun wisdom. And raising children is an art, not a science. You don’t raise children with the formulas and calculations of an engineer! You can’t reduce it even to “to do” lists, because children are not reducible.
When it comes to the art of raising children you must be a student both of human nature and the peculiar natures of your children. In one sense, one size fits all, but in another, everything must be cut to size.
Obviously there is a universal human nature (I don’t care what the nay-sayers say–how they behave confirms this.) When it comes to human nature there is a good side–the image of God, and a bad side–original sin. But there is something unique about how these are mixed up in every peculiar person. You are working with your child, not the concept of childhood.
Now, Why Children Matter is broken down into two parts.
The first part consists of 14 chapters (and 4 subdivisions), written in a Chestertonian mode. Like Chesterton they’re full of paradox and oblique pathways into the subject at hand. And the second part of the book is a question and answer section with Doug and his wife, Nancy. I don’t know where the questions came from, but I assume they’re either from the editors at Canon Press, or they come from Doug’s congregation.
The chapters are quick reads and full of choice bits, like these:
“Ironically, when parents bring up their children with a godly, biblical independence in view, their children actually want to spend time with them when they are grown up.” p. 12
“While it is true that repetition is a necessary part of childrearing, the quaver of self-pity and exasperation in the voice is not.” p. 21
“Liberty is not moderate legalism or moderated license. Liberty os stricter than legalism, and liberty is freer than license.” p. 26
“Remember that God gave Adam and Eve a perfect garden: there was a world full of yes, and there was only one no.” p.39
“…we have to trust in the Lord, knowing that we only know one tiny fraction of everything that is going on, even when it comes to what is going on with our own children.” p.65
I could go on, but you really should buy the book yourself and find your own choice bits.
Were there things I disagreed with? Sure, but they were relatively minor things. Sometimes what I disagreed with was merely a matter of emphasis, or how something was put. But that’s happened with every good book I’ve ever read. Rather than go into those, why not read it for yourself and find your own points of disagreement. Usually arguing with a good author is a great way to get even more out of a book.
So, five stars for Why Children Matter.