I wanted to read a couple of books while on vacation with my bride last week. One of the ones I chose is a parenting book I had purchased for my Kindle reader some time back. Tim Challies had included it on his list of Kindle deals on his daily blog, so I spent the small fee and filed it away for later. That was months ago! I finished the book, though, wishing that I hadn’t waited so long to read it!
The book is by Dr. Rob Rienow, and is called Visionary Parenting. You can purchase it through Amazon here. The content of his book provoked hours of conversation between Erin and me, and offered encouragement and hope to some of our deepest parenting struggles. I appreciate how well Rienow’s book correlates with another book that we have read and highly regard, Shepherding a Chlid’s Heart, by Dr. Ted Tripp. Both books seek to help parents focus on the hearts of their children and not just behavior, which serves to bring the gospel into focus.
I highly recommend this book, and hope that many parents I know will buy it and read it. I want to offer some reflection that I hope will either provoke others to read the book for themselves, or at least share some of the more practical takeaways for us. So, this will not be a ‘book review,’ but rather a brief summary of the 4 most practical points of application that Erin and I have already begun to put into practice in our home.
1. Having a Generational Outlook
Rienow writes, “If we are not intentional with our parenting, we run the risk of ending up with a family filled with achievement, recreation, and niceness. God has a far grander plan for us and for our children. He created our families for a purpose. He gave us children for a reason.” (Kindle Locations 107-109) First, he asserts that God’s primary plan for the Great Commission includes the family, as parents shape their children’s hearts and point them toward Jesus. Second, though, comes the idea that our families should not exist for themselves, but rather for the shaping of generations to come. The book challenged me to admit that my vision for my family is quite myopic, or nearsighted. Rienow even includes a 200-year vision that he and his wife have adopted as their purpose statement in parenting. Wow! As parents, we must realize that our work does not simply affect one generation, but generations to come. That perspective should change the way we interact with our children and view our God-given role.
God created your family to be a discipleship center that will build a legacy of faith for generations to come. (Kindle Location 362)
Many families today are recreation centers, activity centers, wealth-building centers, television centers, and anger centers. What kind of “center” has your family been? If you had to fill in the blank, what would you say has been the central purpose and focus of your family? (Kindle Locations 222-224)
2. Discipline as Discipling
The author reminds us that, “The root of the word discipline is disciple. Discipline is something God commands parents to do for the purpose of forming them into disciples. The word disciple means “devoted follower.” Therefore, the purpose of biblical discipline is to help your children become devoted followers of Christ.” (Kindle Locations 1990-1991) Discipline, however, can become all about moral steering and behavior modification. I have an ideal in my mind of how I want my children to act or behave, so I will do all I can to shape that. Instead, the goal of our parenting should be for our children to come to understand their struggle with sin, embrace Jesus as Savior, and desire to follow him as a disciple. This means that our primary obligation is addressing the heart, not just individual undesirable behaviors. Understanding that every act of discipline should be driven by an opportunity to disciple will help parents remained focus on the most important aspects of their calling.
If we have any hope of reaching the hearts of our kids when we discipline them, our approach must be centered on God and His Word. (Kindle Locations 2223-2224)
3. Drafting and using an If/Then Chart
Probably the most practical takeaway Rienow offers in his book comes in the form of a chart parents can use in disciplining. This chart is called an “If/Then Chart,” and offers a highly adaptable way of pre-determining consequences to specific sinful actions. On the if side of the chart, parents can list the actions. The then side, then, contains specific consequences to each action. Rienow suggests consequences that correspond to each action, which I think is a great idea. For instance, sinful actions by the tongue will bring consequences to the tongue. (If you say a dirty word, then you will receive a drop of soap on your tongue.)
This chart will aid parents in at least 3 extremely helpful ways. First, it offers the opportunity for consistency. Children understand the consequences beforehand, and specific actions are not met with inconsistent reactions. Second, it helps parents maintain self-control in determining consequences to actions. If consequences are not pre-determined, attempting to decide upon an appropriate consequence in the heat of the moment can result in anger and frustration. Third, it helps husbands and wives be in the same page because consequences are predetermined by both parents and clearly displayed. Don’t forget to include Scripture so that you can offer spiritual/gospel application with each consequence!
Erin and I spent a good amount of time simply talking through and listing the ten or so lingering actions we see and deal with in our homes consistently. We then worked through each to determine the appropriate consequences. We sat down with our children a couple of nights ago and walked through each, making sure they clearly understood the chart.
Biblical discipline allows a consequence to be the source of appropriate pain for our kids rather than our anger. (Kindle Location 2194)
4. Using Practical, Shepherding Language
Rienow offered a couple of great lines that we will definitely seek to implement as we speak to our children in our home.
In implementing the If/Then Chart, the consequence is explained as follows: “I’m sorry you chose to _______________. You understand what the consequence for that is.” Consistency in using this same language each time has already helped me remain more calm and focused as I deal with issues with my children.
In explaining the importance of obedience: “It is very important that you learn to obey/honor/respect mommy and daddy that you do see, so that you will obey/honor/respect God who you do not see.”
Those are just 2 examples, but the book is full of great little lines and suggestions to file away and use with children. Included in his chapter on discipline, he offers a 7-step guide to help in speaking into situations that must include consequences (Chapter 9).
Conclusion: If you are a parent, READ THIS BOOK!
I have read several really good parenting books over the past couple of years. This book belongs right up there with the best. I give it such high accolades primarily because of three reasons. (1) The author centers his content on the gospel. The best parenting books I’ve read are gospel-centered. This should be the most important aspect of any parenting book for Christian parents. (2) The book offers a ton of practical, tangible steps for parents to easily adapt and utilize. (3) I found myself really able to relate to the author. I have read books before and left with the impression that I could never be the author, and therefore, never hope for parenting success! But Rienow offers some refreshing transparency as he writes, making him seem approachable and real. He shares his own struggles that have largely led to the wisdom he now shares. I appreciated that, and felt as if I could sit down and have a wonderful, edifying conversation with him.
If you are a parent, or hope to be someday, I hope you will consider buying Visionary Parenting. If you do, I pray that it will encourage you and equip you in the way it has us. I have discovered that a companion DVD course is available for this resource, as well. Because I feel that much of this book corresponds so well with the Milestones Discipleship program we have put in place here at our church, I look forward to looking more deeply into the possibility of offering the course for our parents.
Dr. Rienow has also written Visionary Marriage. I plan to read it very soon. You can also check out lots more at www.visionaryfam.com.
If you have read Visionary Parenting, I would welcome your own feedback in the comments section below!