[The following review is written by Mark Tubbs and was posted by the Biblical Counseling Coalition.]
Qualified Authors/Qualified Parents. If anyone possesses the credentials to write about childrearing, it is Paul and Karen Tautges. Not only do they have ten children, but they serve a congregation in Plymouth, Wisconsin, which has benefited from their solid and consistent parenting counsel over many years. Help! My Toddler Rules the House is one of many booklets in the Day One Help! biblical counseling series. When I first scanned the titles of the first batch of Help! booklets, this one caught my eye, raising the question of whether our little toddler—our third child—rules the house?
Biblical Foundations. With a lengthy and melodramatic sigh of relief, I can confidently report that he does not. But lest you think I have used the booklet merely to carry out a self-aggrandizing parenting audit, here is a brief outline of the ways in which this booklet established the foundations of godly, effective parenting.
First, the Bible needs to be seen as the revelation of God, and as such, authoritative for the family. This was a helpful reminder that the Bible is truly the sole authority of faith and practice—parenting obviously being a major area of Christian practice! Second, although God cares intimately for the children He has created, He never intended for life to revolve around them. Third, because behavior (of both children and parents) is rooted in the heart, we must understand that “We Are All Like Cain”—a sub-heading in one of the best chapters of the book, entitled “Are You Raising a Cain?” Based on this provocative question, aren’t you now inclined to pick up this book to find out one way or the other?
New Perspectives. New things I took away from this booklet include:
- The insight that Ephesians 6:4 places responsibility for provoking children squarely in the parents’ lap. This affected me deeply because I have been known to try to suppress my children’s anger when I have been responsible for exasperating them—which likely only exasperates them all the more!
- The realization that “a soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1) applies to my children as well. The admonition to “bring them up in the discipline of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) connotes tender care and the application of discipline within the context of love.
- The revelation that children need to be taught to confess sin and ask forgiveness directly of the Lord from a very young age. This requires a prayer during the time of restoration following the administration of discipline.
Parental Homework. True homeschooling parents that they are, the Tautges do not let the reader walk away from the book without a few pages of homework. Although I have not yet attacked these Personal Application Projects, their benefit is already obvious. Karen rounds out each chapter with a helpful “From One Mom to Another” section. Yesterday, I inadvertently read every single one of these sections to my wife.
Tone… My critique of this booklet is solitary, but worth recording here. It could have begun with a slightly more gracious tone, I thought. The first page of the first chapter cites “the almost incessant whining of undisciplined children”— may I mention that my toddler was an exemplar of this “undisciplined” child in Walmart the other day? He was teething. One other mention of a shopping mall incident a few pages later that I thought a tad hypercritical cemented my opinion of the tone. This is far from a major complaint, but I know of some good Christian parents who would be turned off within the first ten pages.
Comforted and Convicted. I have a like/dislike relationship with parenting books: “like” in that I look forward to learning how to better parent my children, “dislike” in that I often open them with trepidation, wondering if I will find that we have gone really, really wrong somewhere in our parenting. In these respects, I was both comforted by Help! My Toddler Rules… that our parenting is on the right track overall, and at the same time was convicted of some laxity in certain areas. I set this book down at page 61 (its final page) having acquired new understanding about how I might parent more biblically, and therefore more effectively.
See the other 15 titles in the Living in a Fallen World booklet series here.