Mega-Pastor Gives Almost Good Parenting Advice – a lesson in sloppy tweeting

You’re [sic] little kids may not feel like a blessing right now. That’s okay. Parent them in such a way that they become a blessing. (A tweet from Mark Driscoll.)

I could take Mr. Driscoll’s tweet a couple different ways.

One is as encouragement to be faithful in raising your children even if you don’t see the fruit of your faithfulness in their lives. That would be good advice, because the Bible is full of instances where people kept serving God despite not knowing whether they were making a difference or not.

The second way to take his advice is truer to the context, and not at all as good as the advice in the first way to take it.

You see, he didn’t say “Parent them in such a way that you are faithful to the task God has given you as their parents.” He said “Parent them in such a way that they become a blessing.” In saying so, he places a huge burden of unreasonable expectations on those parents, the unspoken expectations that go like this:

If your children do not grow up to be blessings, you did something wrong. You didn’t parent them in such a way that they became a blessing. You knew they weren’t blessings when they were young and now that they’re older they still aren’t blessings. You failed.

That’s not how parenting works, though, and it’s not the burden God places on us in the Bible. Sure the Book of Proverbs has verses (e.g., 22:6) that say children raised well will grow up to be good people, but these verses aren’t given as promises or guarantees, merely as observations of general principles. Difficult children who grow up to be difficult adults sometimes end up that way despite the best parenting in the world.

Let’s take a look at another verse or two from Proverbs:

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (Proverbs 13:24.)

Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. (Proverbs 13:18.)

Disciplining children is a responsibility of parenthood, and being willing to impose discipline is a loving act. It’s not that parents have to beat their kids with rods to be biblical parents; it’s that parents are supposed to exercise care in how they raise their children.

Yet that next verse says some people simply disregard discipline, and let me tell you I see plenty of those people in the courtroom all the time. You’d think that once the discipline became severe enough, a person would stop doing wrong things. Not so. That’s why the English language includes the phrase “repeat offender”.

In fact, Paul wrote that rules can tend to push people to more lawless behavior, not lawful lifestyles. (Romans 7:5 – “sinful passions aroused by the law.”) For these people good parenting will not cause them to become blessings. Only the work of Jesus, the will of the Father, and the power of the Spirit lead to people truly being blessings to others.

So is there any guidance for parents in the Bible? Yes, and I would expect Mr. Driscoll is very familiar with it:

Parents, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4.)

Proverbs said discipline is to be carefully exercised, and Paul specified that we should concentrate on the training and instruction of the Lord. Neither of these passages say that if parents don’t see their children as blessings (which is a whole ‘nother can of worms worth a blog post of its own), then they need to work harder and make them into blessings.

Training and instruction of the Lord means we should follow the example of Jesus, the one who is meek, whose burden is easy, who says the weary can come to him and find rest. If you want to exercise careful discipline with your children, that’s what it will look like.

As I said in the title, Mr. Driscoll gave almost good parenting advice. But as Mark Twain put it:

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

I’d say the same for almost right parenting advice and right parenting advice. Unfortunately, all Mr. Driscoll tweeted – despite the best of intentions – was a lightning bug.

***

Some claim – rightly on occasion – that Mr. Driscoll is criticized unfairly by those who take his words out of context. I’ve given you the entire context in the quoted tweet at the top of this page. He said it, and that’s exactly how and where he said it.

For those who point out that it is difficult to be precise when limited to 140 character tweets, I completely agree. But when a mega-pastor, author, speaker and pundit desires to give advice on something as important as raising children, either say it well or don’t say it at all. There’s too much damage that can be done through this type of sloppy communication.

***

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35 Responses to Mega-Pastor Gives Almost Good Parenting Advice – a lesson in sloppy tweeting

  1. lauradroege says:

    Amen and amen to everything you’ve said here, Tim. Thank God that how my kids turn out isn’t completely dependent upon ME and MY efforts.

    I particularly appreciate your point that some people disregard discipline. I hope that I remember that when I see someone else’s kids misbehaving and start to make a snap judgment about their parents’ parenting ability. Maybe their parents aren’t being effective disciplinarians, and maybe the child is just hardened to even the parents’ best, most careful efforts. Either way, I should show grace, not condemnation.

    • Tim says:

      Good point, Laura. We never know what’s going on in someone else’s family. I have a hard enough time figuring out what’s happening in mine!

  2. Excellent parenting reflection post here.

    This is why I don’t tweet. How can you say much in a few characters/words? Then it is all out there–spelling errors and all. At least with blog posts one can correct errors.

  3. Bronwyn Lea says:

    Lightning bug – haha!! Thank you for a sane and encouraging response.

  4. Jeannie says:

    You had me at [sic] — but anyway …
    I agree totally with what you’ve said here. “Parent them so that they become a blessing” puts impossible pressure on parents.

  5. Erica M. says:

    I think my main issue with the tweet is that it implies that if your kids are troublesome or rowdy then they aren’t blessings. That implication makes me fairly uncomfortable.

    But you’re right; our actions would not make a jot of difference without God’s grace and love. My mom told me that both times, after giving birth, she dedicated my brother and me to God. Thinking back on all the pitfalls and problems my family has been through, and seeing how we’ve pulled through, I can definitely see God’s hand in it all. And I’m incredibly grateful for that.

    I should also note that I tried to use the Ephesians verse on my parents once. All Mom had to do was cock her eyebrow at me and give me the “you’re really going to try that?” look, and I promptly retreated. 😛

    • Tim says:

      Your mother sounds like a very wise woman, MA. And I agree about the implications of saying the children who misbehave are not blessings. The faulty doctrine behind that implication in his tweet really is worth a whole blog post of its own.

  6. Dana Tuttle says:

    You knocked this one out of the ring, opps! I meant park!!

  7. Driscoll has recently had a string of tweets about parenting (I think part of his 10 Commandments series). I thought a few of his other ones were equally problematic … but then again I think a large percentage of his tweets fall into that category. Anyway, as always you do a wonderful job of clarifying the nuances of the issue at hand!

    • Tim says:

      Thanks Dan. You are one of the clearer writers on these issues in the body of Christ. I appreciate the care and irenic nature of your analyses.

  8. Kathleen says:

    Tim, I’d like to reblog this on my site ahomeschoolerstale.com if that’s ok. I think I’ll need to copy and paste it so it will go to the right site. Will wait for your approval 🙂
    Great post and such good insight. I think many Christians have lost sight of this perspective which makes us loose sight of God and His goodness and focus on our works instead.

  9. Pingback: Mark Driscoll gives almost good parenting advice… | A Homeschooler's Tale

  10. Aimee Byrd says:

    Tomorrow I am reviewing Rachel Jankovic’s “Fit to Burst,” which is both practical parenting advice, and has the whole blessings part right.

    But I think Driscoll has much to answer to this week:
    http://www.dennyburk.com/mark-driscoll-crashes-the-strange-fire-conference-and-hands-out-books-security-confiscates-them/

    • Tim says:

      Why on earth does he say and do those things? Anyway, looking forward to tomorrow’s review, Aimee. Good parenting advice would be a nice corrective to his outlandish tweet.

  11. Rob Grayson says:

    Very good, Tim. I’ve tried to be as good a parent as I can, yet looking back I see plenty of ways in which I have failed monumentally. Then again, both of my kids have turned out pretty well-adjusted and decent people, in spite of my best efforts to mess them up. I tend to think that whatever has turned out well in them is by God’s grace alone. And, conversely, that it’s only by His grace, and not by any effort of mine, that they haven’t fallen into any number of pitfalls and snares.

  12. Rev. Carlene Appel says:

    Driscoll is not noted for giving out the best advice to married couples on sex so why would one expect much different from him when it comes to parenting.

    Children are a blessing and that’s not dependent on how their parents “feel” from one moment or day to the next. Whether one has raised their children well is not to be gauged or judged upon our feelings when kids are going through a rebellious period or what they choose to do when they become adults if you’ve done your best to raise them in the most loving and Godly way possible. Children have free will just like any other human being and it doesn’t mean one has failed at parenting them when they choose to use their free will in the wrong way.

  13. Pingback: How to Handle Your Child’s Temper Tantrums | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  14. janehinrichs says:

    Just look at the Perfect Parent, God…..If all His kids don’t turn out perfect, then why would we have better results???

    • Tim says:

      That’s the best insight I’ve read on this, Jane, thanks!

      • janehinrichs says:

        It’s something God must have taught me when I wrote down — don’t judge God by His kids.This really hits home for me with the behavior of my youngest child — sometimes her choices are so wrong. Does that make me a bad parent? No. It just makes me a parent who is challenged by one of her children!

  15. Lesley says:

    I’ve been meaning to comment on this post for a week! What a timely reminder for me, Tim, as we’re in the early stages of disciplining with Anna. I could easily become a very controlling parent if I’m not careful, and phrases such as the one you shared above only fuel the fire. I appreciate your wisdom!

    • Tim says:

      Good point, Lesley. This type of bad advice just fuels bad parenting and bad feelings about bad parenting. It feeds on itself.

      You and Jonathan, on the other hand, are going to do wonderfully as you raise Anna and Owen. You know Whom you trust and you know how to trust Him with your children.

      Blessings on the whole family!
      Tim

      P.S. Aren’t Jonathan and I supposed to be having lunch sometime soon?

  16. Pingback: John Piper and Voddie Baucham: Bad Parenting Advice That’s Worse Than Bad Parenting | Spiritual Sounding Board

  17. Pingback: Bad Parenting Advice | Why Not Train A Child?

  18. I totally agree with you! Its a good post on parenting advice.

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