Chapter 8 focuses on a child’s relationship with their peer, property, and nature.
Much of the initial content I have no issue with. Gary states to instill a sense of compassion and love for others within your children. But he then follows quickly with statements that make it clear compassion and love for others is not enough. A child must also learn to act “with a servant’s heart” towards others. And Gary believes that giving a child household chores will help cultivate this. Service to others within the home is suppose to model their need to serve and care for other’s outside the home.
Also in direct contrast to the initial teaching about compassion is a section entitled “Life is Not Fair!” In which Gary gives a “deal with it” mentality towards the idea of fairness. Instead of trying to fulfill what he terms as subjective fairness, Gary states that a child must instead learn to be content. I just see the direct contrast of Gary’s own ideas here. A child must serve and love others regardless of the child’s choice (the previous section). But when it comes to a child’s own desires and ideas they must instead find contentment.
The next portion of the text deals with property. The first portion deals with teaching your child not to steal. But the next subsection immediately delves into how children must be taught to respect property within a household. I’ll quote a portion of the section that sums up his mentality.
“We didn’t child-proof our house; we house-proofed our children.”Growing Kid’s God’s Way – p 138
Gary states that children (including toddlers and babies) should be taught not to touch an adult’s property within a home. “As they became increasingly mobile, we set boundaries both for their welfare and for our peace of mind. Certain household times were off limits to their little hands…We did not worry about bruising their psyche or stifling their creativity. To us, moral correctness was more important than a presumed, psychological correctness.” p137 I hope you can catch his tone. He does not care about a child’s sense of exploration or curiosity. To him this is a matter of GOD’S LAW (Moral correctness in his words) and a child must submit.
He also teaches that a child must learn to work to have a proper sense of how much a piece of property is worth. He gives an example of having his children carry buckets of rocks out of his garden for $1 each in order to earn a toy. Gary makes it clear that a child should not be paid for expected household duties and chores, but that a child must go above that to earn financial compensation.
The last section on nature is surprisingly refreshing. The author takes a very reasonable middle ground and states that man has control over nature, but he also needs to protect and nurture if for future generations. He advocates against littering and unnecessary destruction of nature, but stays clear of anything resembling environmentalism.
Chapter 9: Principles of Obedience
This next chapter is completely about a child’s obedience. Much of this seems to focus on a child’s complete obedience to their parents. This is important in his mind as it also reinforces and completes the mandate to honor your parents mentioned earlier in the book.
I will continue to post this song when I talk about this topic because my parents used it to remind me of my biblical need for obedience to my parents.
Gary starts off with some very strong initial language that very much mirrors the song I posted.
“Teach him to obey according to the character of true obedience – immediately, completely, without challenge, and without complaint.”p 147-148 Growing Kids God’s Way
Gary states that this is much harder on the parent than it is the child. And that this precept hinges on a parents resolve and commitment. A parent must be willing to hold their children to what Gary sees as god’s standard.
“What is the nature of God’s standard? According to 1 Samuel 15:22-23, God requires obedience from His children above all else…..’Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness (insubordination) is as iniquity and idolatry.’ God puts a premium on obedience.”p 148 Growing Kids God’s Way – Parentheses is original author’s and was not added
He warns parents to avoid putting off discipline if a child does not obey right away. In his eyes a parent should not have to repeat themselves if a child doesn’t obey. At that point discipline should be enacted instead of allowing the child to just receive a warning.
The next warning is not to bribe your children to obey. Any type of bartering or bribery is a false motivator. And Gary states this type of motivator to obedience only creates selfishness in a child.
The last warning to parents is that they should not compromise in the heat to the moment with a child. Compromise or negotiation indicates to a child that the parents authority is also open to negotiation. According to the author this can completely undermine the parent’s authority.
Can you see Gary’s ideas a bit more fleshed out here? He demand’s full and total obedience of a child. A child cannot negotiate, barter, or delay in obedience. And the parents must enforce complete obedience as this is portrayed as god’s mandate.
The author continues to pursue further instructions on how to result obedience from children. The first is to demand an immediate and complete response from a child when a parent gives a command. The second is a parent must be always willing to enforce and follow up with the instructions they give. The third is that continual disobedience on the child’s part is sinful, and parents must not allow their children to continue in their sinful behavior.
We stop a moment in the book for a quick notice from Gary that a child must also provide direct eye contact and a full verbal response when given an instruction. He declares that a child that is allowed to look around the room when instructed will more often not comply. He also adds that a child should be trained to do this without the parent having to repeat this instruction.
It’s just hard to read through all of this even as an adult. I can see myself as a child, and I know this is exactly what my parents demanded of me. When they spoke I was suppose to follow this to a T. And my father was uncompromising on these points. My mother would at times waver and was a bit less draconic with punishment. But I can see how teaching like this fueled some of the worse parts of my childhood. And gave my parents the supposed biblical authority for their actions in how they raised me.
Their teaching of obedience may have been a successful, but was it worth it? Do they realize that their child has very little emotional connection to them because of their authoritarian child rearing choices? Or are they just mystified as to why their child can’t hold eye contact now or hold a deep conversation with them?
I realize a lot of Gary’s teachings on these sections may not sound horrible, and may just sound more like authoritative parenting rather than abusive. But realize that most lapses in obedience could easily justify corporal punishment. And in many homes this was often the case (including my own).