Parenting is such a complex undertaking, so the question is: How do you break it down? As we reflected on our own years of parenting our four children, three issues kept surfacing, what we call the “3 Rs” of parenting: being realistic, relational, and responsible as a parent. In each case, there is a tension. The first is between realism and idealism. What we’ve found is that many of us start on our parenting journey, like marriage as well, with a lot of excitement and best of intentions, but we tend to underestimate the challenges that lie ahead. So, we urge parents to be realistic and to manage expectations, so they won’t be as disappointed or overwhelmed when challenges come.
You start your book with parents, not children. That may seem counterintuitive at first. Parenting is all about children, is it not?
Margaret: We think of parenting to be primarily about the children. It’s important to realize that parents are a key part of the equation, however when it comes to good parenting. Parenting starts with the parents. Who are you as a parent? It’s a good idea even for aspiring parents to start thinking about what kinds of persons they are before parenting begins. How will the person you are affect the way you’re going to parent your children? As parents, we reproduce after our own kind, and everybody knows that children typically imitate their parents.
In light of this, we need to come to terms with our own sinfulness, both as an individual and as an individual parent and the way we relate to each other as a couple. This is a big part of having realistic expectations in parenting. We’ve also noticed that it’s very important for parents to be unified. Having a shared outlook on discipline, instruction, social media use, and that kind of thing is a very important starting point. So a key in parenting is to start with who you are as a person and as a parent.
In your first chapter, you have a section called “Toward a Theology of Parenting.” Why do we need a theology of parenting, and what are some of the major components of such a theology?
Andreas: “Theology” is simply a word that means looking at our lives from God’s perspective, from the vantage point of the way he made us as revealed in his Word. For our purposes, we’ve looking at a theology of man and woman and of the family. In the first chapter of Genesis, we learn that God made us male and female, in his image, that is, he made us as his representatives on this earth. We are to be fruitful and multiply as a man and a woman and have children who will serve God and glorify Him. God also created us within an order in which the man is to be the spiritual leader in his family and the woman is to come alongside him as his partner as they raise children for the glory of God.
We also read in Scripture that humanity rebelled against the Creator, which messed up not only our relationship with God but also our relationship with one another. As a married couple, and as parents, we’ll find that we often can’t live up to our own expectations, because we’re sinful. And yet, if you’ve trusted Christ, and accepted his gift of salvation, you also know that redemption in Christ means being able to rise above our sinful nature by the Spirit he has graciously given us. This life is really an enormous revitalization project in which God is engaged with us, in which he is restoring our relationships with one another to the pattern he has designed from the very beginning.
As you can read in greater detail in the book, those are some of the planks in a theology of parenting—being created in God’s image, God’s order for the man and the woman, the reality of our sinfulness, and redemption in Christ. In addition, as mentioned, God himself is revealed in Scripture as Father, and so we can also probe the implications of the fatherhood of God for our role as parents of our children—how we’re supposed to nurture them, provide for them, protect them, and love and care for them.