Disclosure: As a member of the Parenting UnChained Launch Team, I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review and promotion. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC Guidelines.
Bear with me here – this is my first part in a review! Jenn had to practically force me to read the book, Parenting Unchained: Overcoming the Ten Deceptions that Shackle Christian Parents, and now I can’t put it down. Strange as it may seem, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone–including those who aren’t even parents. Whether or not you have children or plan to have children, the truths in this book will speak to anyone desiring a closer relationship with God.
I am only about half way through this book but I can honestly say that it is deeply impactful. Dr. Dempsey has an insightful way of shining a new light on old truths contained in God’s Word, opening my eyes to things I perhaps already knew on a surface level, but now brought a deeper understanding.
The book is obviously about parenting but the underlying theme is one of relationship building. Too often we become so fixated on rules that we forget God’s utmost desire is to have a relationship with us. Understanding this and incorporating it into your parenting practices will result in deeper and more intimate relationships with your children.
But, honestly, this approach to relationship building translates well into any relationship that you wish to develop; marriage, friendships, and especially God. At the core it’s all about learning how to love in a way that pleases God.
It reminds me of a couple of lines from one of my favorite Rich Mullins songs, Brother’s Keeper:
My friends ain’t the way I wish they were
They are just the way they are
And I will be my brother’s keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won’t despise him for his weakness
I won’t regard him for his strength
I won’t take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
Our children, spouses, friends, co-workers and everyone else we come into contact with on a daily basis are all fallen, broken and imperfect people. They aren’t always the way we wish they were. They are just the way they are (and if they’re believers, the way God is molding them to be). And God loves each of them with an incomprehensible love that moved Him to come to our little world and take their place on the cross, receiving their punishment there. This is love, that Jesus, being God, would become the ultimate brother’s keeper, considering not his own life, but instead humbled himself for the sake of all.
God’s rules are good. He’s God. He wouldn’t have made bad rules. But, as Dr. Dempsey so profoundly points out, [Tweet “God is more concerned with the inner heart than outward behavior.”] God gives you freedom to stumble and even fall sometimes, but He is also there to pick you up help you learn to stand. As we learn to trust in His strength to hold us up, our outward behavior will change as a result.
I John 4:19 says it all:
“We love him, because he first loved us.”
[clickToTweet tweet=”So, basically we need to learn balance. we can’t be all rules and no relationship but you can’t have a healthy relationship without rules.” quote=”So, basically we need to learn balance. we can’t be all rules and no relationship but you can’t have a healthy relationship without rules.”]
So, basically we need to learn balance. we can’t be all rules and no relationship but you can’t have a healthy relationship without rules. We need to learn how to give our children, and anyone really, the freedom to move, grow, and, yes, even stumble and fall without compromising God’s truth along the way. We shouldn’t despise them for their weaknesses or regard them for their strengths. We just need to be there to help them learn to stand. This is what it truly means to be a parent, a husband and a friend.
So, please purchase this book. I promise that you will find it a joy to read and deeply inspiring in your Christian walk and your journey through parenthood.
I think he did great for his first review, don’t you? Poor Jerry has been through many parenting books with me over the years. I have started to read them and tried to interest him, and sometimes he was engaged for a few chapters, but nothing really stuck. Know what I mean?
This book has been different, as you can see above.
Dr. James Dempsey’s book shows us 10 lies that are so similar to truths that we often don’t notice what’s wrong in them.
Know who the father of lies is?
Here are the 10 Deceptions Satan has deftly hidden for parents:
1 – It’s all about your kids; your character doesn’t matter (ouch)
2 – You’re capable; you can do this (never believed that one!)
3 – God only cares about rules (never believed this in theory, but you can’t tell from practical application in our home!)
4 – You can be a parent without investing much time (the old quality vs quantity debate)
5 – Teaching the right information is enough (kids do what we do, not what we say. Expounds more on lie #1)
6 – Why and how you discipline doesn’t matter–just make them obey (ouchie ouch!)
7 – You don’t need to talk about your faith (ouch!)
8 – Children should choose their life course (You don’t need to help them) (have to admit, I’ve never even thought about this. *blush*)
9 – It’s all about consistency (You don’t need to adapt) (lack of consistency is the bane of our parenting existence, so it was a relief to know that our children were not ruined by our indecision)
10 – Life should be easy (never fell for that one)
Believing half-truths can be very dangerous. Even NOT believing them but living them is dangerous! Probably even more so. We have never had perfect children, and have been through tons of parenting books, advice, styles and trials. But recently, things have taken a turn for the worse again.
We’ve been dealing with a lot of things recently with one of our boys that have scared us. He has always been a loving, happy, busy, outgoing child, who loves
getting into trouble having fun and being with family. Recently, there have been major changes in his behavior. We have a few medical theories behind this. Even thinking we might know the reasons for something doesn’t help in managing it. When everyone is happy when he’s sleeping, or out of the house, you know there’s something really wrong.
We didn’t know what to do. We haven’t known what to do and have been grasping at straws, begging God for some answers.
I have to admit that I am
a spoiled brat stubborn and if we can’t be wholeheartedly together in something, I usually don’t want to do it. So, until Jerry started reading this book with me and was on board with the ideas in it (since they are scriptural, after all!), it was pretty clear nothing was going to change around here.
Things were just going to get worse.
Finally, in a moment of desperation (of the behaviors and of the review date coming near), I put the book in his hands. Literally. That same night, Jerry and I started to implement the grace-based way that Dr. James Dempsey in Parenting Unchained suggests. Following biblical principles set to real-life. And already, we are seeing some changes in our little man. He’s still not himself (and I’m not sure if he will eventually need some sort of therapy or what), but he has some forgiving to do of these two dumb parents who messed up pretty badly. See, we were looking at outward behaviors and trying to control them. We were concerned with his heart, sure, but we weren’t focusing on it.
[clickToTweet tweet=”I am so thankful for our forgiving Father, Whom we can emulate, and Who never ceases to amaze us with his loving kindness and grace.” quote=”I am so thankful for our forgiving Father, Whom we can emulate, and Who never ceases to amaze us with his loving kindness and grace.”]
I am so thankful for our forgiving Father, Whom we can emulate, and Who never ceases to amaze us with his loving kindness and grace.
One of my favorite quotes in the book is so simple, yet so profound:
God disciplines His children, and His punishment stings, yet God always forgives…Herein lies the most important structural guide for us as parents: we must have rules (otherwise forgiveness has no relevance), but we must always convey the truth that the rules are the result of the relationship, not the cause. Your message must be “I love you, therefore these are the rules.” Not “These are the rules, and if you obey them, I will love you.”
Our children will be much more willing to obey us when they know we love them unconditionally.
We have always told our kids we love them. Like, multiple times a day. We have believed that relationships trump rules. Always believed that.
But we have both gotten into bad habits – arguing in front of the kids, yelling in front of or at the kids, punishing the kids without dealing with their hearts first, being inconsistent, impatient and unfair far too often.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Our home has not felt very loving at times. It has felt more like a battleground than a safe haven, so it’s no wonder our boys have been lashing and acting out.” quote=”Our home has not felt very loving at times. It has felt more like a battleground than a safe haven, so it’s no wonder our boys have been lashing and acting out.”]
Our home has not felt very loving at times. It has felt more like a battleground than a safe haven, so it’s no wonder our boys have been lashing and acting out.
I was thankful for Chapter Twelve: The Particular Ways of Biblical Discipline. It addressed the elephant in the room. Every parenting book has to deal with discipline sometimes, and spanking is brought up: is the author for or against? Dr. Dempsey says of spanking
Some say the Bible demands it. Others say it is a barbaric practice that breeds violent behavior. Neither of these polar opposite positions is particularly helpful to parents, and neither considers the heart of God. If God is our model, we must admit that there were times He used, and still uses, physical means to discipline us, but if we look at the whole of Scripture, we also see God using discussion, instruction, verbal rebukes, laments, and warnings. From the beginning, God reacted to our disobedience by coming for us, talking to us, and making provision for us. God sent prophets, wrote Scripture, and sent His Son to guide…His family.
Our main discipline for many years has been spanking. It works with some things, but not with others. It really doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, and in some instances, I believe it was causing us to lose our boys’ hearts. It was causing a divide between us that I wondered would ever close again. I’m not saying we will never use spanking in the future, but it will be used only in extreme circumstances, and only thoughtfully, prayerfully and lovingly. Not in the moment. In the heat of anger, frustration and annoyance. That’s not how God planned discipline to be. One of Dr. Dempsey’s three notes of caution is no spanking in anger, under any circumstance, and suggests not to ever use this mode of discipline if you can’t be calm in the situation.
As Jerry mentioned, Parenting Unchained is telling us things we already knew, since it’s Biblical goodness, but it’s said in a way that is easier to digest. Dr. Dempsey really has a way with words – with getting to the heart of the matter, without mincing words and sounding high-falutin’. He speaks truth to us normal people, and it soaks into our dull, tired, sleep-deprived brains and tells it to us straight.
I would have to say that Parenting Unchained is one of those life-changing books. I can’t say good enough things about it, and I’m so thankful that we had the opportunity to own and review it.
[clickToTweet tweet=”We have been at a cross-roads several times in our marriage, and this is one of them. One of those ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’ kind of cross-roads. We choose love. We choose grace. We choose God’s way.” quote=”We have been at a cross-roads several times in our marriage, and this is one of them. One of those ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’ kind of cross-roads. We choose love. We choose grace. We choose God’s way.”]
We have been at a cross-roads several times in our marriage, and this is one of them. One of those “Choose this day whom you will serve” kind of cross-roads. We choose love. We choose grace. We choose God’s way.
Thank you to The National Center for Biblical Parenting for providing us with a copy of this amazing book! All thoughts are our own, unless otherwise noted.
Jenn (& Jerry)