Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Review: The Christian Mom's Idea Book

The Christian Mom's Idea BookThe Christian Mom's Idea Book contains a menagerie of counsel from more than 80 mothers in almost 40 categories. The chapters are short and largely consist of a bullet list, so it is easy for the busy mom to pick up and begin reading wherever one might desire a few extra ideas. The book attempts to give suggestions for questions like: "How do I know when to take my child to the doctor?", "When should I keep my child home from school?", "How do I occupy my child(ren) during long car trips?", "How can I enrich my children's lives and/or be involved in their education?", and much more.

Firstly, and most importantly, while there were Scripture references throughout, there was very little Gospel and almost no focus on heart issues. It seemed to me that there was more of an emphasis on externals such as circumstances and behavior modification rather than on the hidden person of the heart (1 Peter 3:3-4). For example, in order to prevent conflict, the author purchased one boxed cereal for each of her four children and put each child's name on their box (pg. 91). Personally, aside from the expense, nutritional aspects, etc., I wouldn't want to do this because I would miss great opportunities to teach conflict resolution, sharing, and considering others' interests as more important than their own, among other things. I want to deal with my kids' hearts, not simply manipulate circumstances to avoid conflict. Furthermore, the Bible teaches us that kids don't "act out" simply because they are tired (pg. 100) or because someone is eating their cereal, but rather, their actions are a direct result of what is in their hearts (Prov. 4:23). A "great mom" trains and disciples her children, and this is hard, heart work that requires much discernment. In The Christian Mom's Idea Book, there are many instances in which the advice suggests an easy way to avoid circumstances that might produce conflict rather than doing this hard, heart work.

There were also lots of suggestions for using rewards and/or incentives like paying kids for everything from folding laundry to reading. While this may not be wrong, in and of itself, I want my kids to learn to serve because it honors God, not because they're going to get something in return. I also want my kids to realize that reading in and of itself is rewarding. Again, I want to be very careful to consider what is going on in my kids' hearts.

In a number of instances, I felt that The Christian Mom's Idea Book was somewhat worldly in its content. For example, with regard to clothing and mothers, one tip says: "Since I don't want my son to be embarrassed to introduce me to his friends, I try to keep up with the latest styles! I was always proud of my mom because she consistently looked nice, and I want to do the same for my family" (pg. 72).  In contrast, the Bible teaches that "man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart" (1 Sam. 16). It isn't necessarily wrong to want to look nice, but the above reasons are not a good reason for keeping up with the latest styles! If my child is embarrassed of me due to the way that I dress, we have much bigger issues to address than my wardrobe!

Other advice was simply not particularly well-suited for our family. This book is clearly geared toward public school moms. Advice such as: read to your child for fifteen minutes each day, help your child with his/her math facts & memory work, visit the library, etc. isn't particularly helpful as it is already a normal part of our regular routine.

While this book did generate a few new ideas and was easy to read, much of it seemed like basic information that I had encountered elsewhere.  For example, one car travel tip was:
"Use seat belts! Our family travels frequently on long trips around the country, and we have very young children. We find there is little commotion when they are safely tucked into one small area of the car. Each child brings a backpack of things to do: crayons, paper, books, tape players, games, etc." (pg. 58).
However, there were also some unique tips:
"Give young children a box or can of assorted Band-Aids and let them customize the back windows of the car. It takes a long time to open them all, and the Band-Aids can be moved around creatively for a long time!" (pg. 59)
While this isn't something I'd be inclined to try, this may be a great suggestion for somebody.

All of that being said, The Christian Mom's Idea Book isn't prescriptive or legalistic and simply offers basic ideas, tips, and activities that may or may not be taken. Some folks may love it. (Tim Challies, for whom I have a lot of respect, recommended it.) However, I can honestly say, this isn't a book I would purchase.

*Many thanks to Crossway for sending me this book in exchange for my honest opinion! You can visit their blog to see what others thought of this title.

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