Parenting Myths We Can Do Without

Brad M. Griffin | Feb 14, 2011

This Valentines Day—filled with American cultural myths championing an emaciated version of love—how about a little anxiety relief? This ones directed toward dismantling a few American cultural myths specifically about Christian parenting. Whether you are a parent or work with parents in ministry, you’ve probably stumbled across all of these.

In a post last year on Christian anxiety about parenting, I highlighted the work of Leslie Leyland Fields. Author and mom, Fields explores the common myths that trap us in worry and guilt in her book Parenting is your Highest Calling. Ive been chewing on this one for a while, especially in light of our own release of a Sticky Faith parent book later this year. Below are the nine myths Fields tackles with scripture, research, and captivating stories. Just reading this myth-list alone makes me feel better, so Im offering it to you for thought:

  1. Having children makes you happy and fulfilled
  2. Nurturing your children is natural and instinctive
  3. Parenting is your highest calling
  4. Good parenting leads to happy children
  5. If you find parenting difficult, you must not be following the right plan
  6. You represent Jesus to your children
  7. You will always feel unconditional love for your children
  8. Successful parents produce godly children
  9. God approves of only one family design ((I should clarify for Fields’ sake that she is not advocating directly for approval of divorce, gay parents, or other hotbed issues here; rather, just pointing out that all families are imperfect and many unsuspecting parents end up single, facing marital infidelity, or a whole host of other issues. Parents even feel insecure about the number of kids they have and whether it’s too few or too many according to current Christian subculture ideals.))

I can think of personal examples in my own parenting that have made me feel like a failure in every one of those categories, because Ive either suspected or bought in wholeheartedly to their rhetoric. And my kids arent even teenagers yet! Fields shares that several studies among Christian parents have identified failure and guilt as dominant feelings.

Ugh.

So much of Fields work in this book is to point out that we often make too much of ourselves and too little of God. Last month Kelly Soifer reminded us that there are no perfect families in the Bible (or since then). I think these are liberating messages for all of us. No plan, process, or system even if recommended by FYI produces great kids or ideal families. Beware if we or anyone else tells you otherwise.

My children belong to God. They are here to fulfill Gods purposes, not mine. And my highest calling is to live faithfully before God, not create ideal children. I feel less anxiety just putting that in writing. How about you?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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