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Book Review: Hearts and Minds

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I’m not a huge fan of parenting books. Books are neat and organized. In my experience, family life is not – at all. Occasionally I pick one up because it comes recommended by someone I trust. My wife recommended Hearts and Minds by Kenneth Boa and John Alan Turner. I decided to at least scan it. My scan slowed to an attentive read as I began to see this book was not really about how to get my kids to be neat and well-behaved, but rather about following Jesus as a messy, sinful parent.

I downshifted to underlining and note-taking at the middle of page 30 when I read this:

When we are insecure in our identity as children of God, we waste time and energy trying to manage other people’s impressions of us. We spin things and manipulate the truth -ultimately at our own expense- because we so desperately want them to think highly of us.

If we can’t get our peers to think that we’re better, smarter, and more together than we really are, we often settle for fooling our kids.

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This book isn’t about good behavior. It isn’t about discipline or camping or masculinity. It’s about showing our kids how much we need Jesus.

What are we saying to our children when we say that we want them to be ‘good little boys and girls’? It might be best to avoid such talk altogether. Telling a child to be a ‘good boy’ or not to be a ‘bad girl’ gives them nothing to do – that is, no instruction to follow – and it may lead them to believe that they are either good or bad persons. Although we do bad things because we are bad people (sinners), this is not the whole truth about us, and we need to be sure that it is not the only truth we are communicating to our kids. Speaking to kids in such absolute terms can lead them into an oppressive, shame-filled life -

Here’s what this means for parents: When you say that you want your kids to ‘be good,’ you’re really saying that you want them to be like God. What you thought was a propositional truth (goodness) turns out to be a person (God). This is very important because it could mean that some parenting manuals and techniques are built on faulty foundations. Rather than teaching our kids to know right from wrong and good from bad, we shoud be teaching our kids to know and imitate God.

Hearts and Minds is packed full of this kind of wisdom and instruction. I have a feeling it’s a book I’ll come back to over and over as much of my parenting leans on some of those ‘faulty foundations.’ I encourage you to grab yourself a copy and digest it thoroughly.

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