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The Myth of the Perfect Parent

    Posted by admin on January 11, 2010

Arguably, the topic of parenting and parental advice is one of the most discussed and opinionated items of contemporary life.

People used to say that politics and religion were the most controversial topics to talk about. They still are. But one might also easily add to that list "parenting advice."

"Christian parenting" can be an especially touchy subject. No less than their non-Christian counterparts, everyone is an expert on Christian parenting.

Overtime, just given the amount of ideas, approaches, methods, and collective experiences, its not surprising that parents, especially Christian parents, can begin to adopt and adapt to myths as part of their central beliefs about parenting.

"Myths" you say? Yes, flat out myths.

Leslie Leyland Fields, mother of six, has written a discerning and smart cover article for the latest issue of Christianity Today, titled, "The Myth of the Perfect Parent."

The article is helpful snapshot of her book, "Parenting is Your Highest Calling," and 8 other myths that trap us in fear and guilt.

What are these myths?

1. “Having Children Will Make You Happy and Fulfilled”

2. "Nurturing Your Child 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”

Myth #1 is obviously and explicitly related to happiness as satisfaction of desire or pleasure, which is a theme that Klaus has often raised in his books (e.g., The Lost Virtue of Happiness).

But perhaps all of these myths, in part or in whole, can (and often are) motivated out of deep "need-love," to use C.S. Lewis' words, and not a "gift-love" (see his monumental book, The Four Loves).

If so, then perhaps that need is the need to obtain happiness (in the sense above) in this life as a result of parenting, raising "great kids," having a complete "Christian home." Perhaps that is what tends to permeate or color our Christian sense of parenting until their is an encounter with reality that shows us otherwise.

How much of an "empty self" tends to govern thinking and action related to Christian parenting?

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Dr. Klaus Issler