Pulling the Plug on Perfect Parenting

Brad M. Griffin | Jan 13, 2010

Recently Christianity Today posted the online version of this months cover story, The Myth of the Perfect Parent: Why the best parenting techniques dont produce Christian children by Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt. I havent checked on much of the research and parenting book sources Fields uses to support her writing, but she makes a great presentation for why we need to lay off parents (and for those of us who parent, give ourselves a break) when it comes to raising kids who ultimately follow Jesus into adulthood.

Plenty of research does point to the importance of parents in kids’ faith development, like Christian Smith and the National Study of Youth and Religion teams data. To paraphrase something Smith said in a panel here at Fuller, when it comes to the faith of their kids, parents basically get what they are. The faith of parents tends to be the strongest predictor of faith of kids.

Yet, that canand doescreate all kinds of unnecessary anxiety for parents. Most of us walk around thinking that theres some long list of things we can and should do that will result in our kids growing up to love, follow, and serve Jesus too. Fields calls this spiritual determinismthe Christianized cultural myth that good Christian parenting produces godly children. But it just doesnt (necessarily) work that way.

Heres a great quote from the end of her article:

It is faith rather than formula, grace rather than guarantees, steadfastness rather than success that bridges the gap between our own parenting efforts, and what, by God’s grace, our children grow up to become.

What do you think? How can we help parents be intentional while also freeing them from the pressure to, well, be God?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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