Book Review: Home Grown – Handbook for Christian Parenting by Karen Deboer

Home Grown by Karen Deboer is a good handbook for parenting if you are looking for creative ideas on parenting.  She has her best intents in her authorship, however, there is a lack of biblical support.  As with many Christian books on the market, authors and the public assume what is written is biblical, Christian and/or appropriate. That may not be true. In the case of Home Grown, there are many good answers to parenting, but there is also an integration of human viewpoint, which will be explained below.

Deboer takes a humble approach to not claim to be the expert on dealing with Christian parenting. However, she bases much of her parenting expertise on “Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care,” who approaches parenting from a secular and humanistic approach.  Fortunately, many writers have discovered the humanism of Spock and avoid his writings.  Deboer has best intents and provides many wonderful ideas and answers for parents in the process of raising their children.  A person can gain great insights and ideas, but the question is, “Does the parent reading this book also have the discernment to not put into practice what is not biblical.”

There are many aspects that I appreciate about DeBoer’s work. First, she seeks to direct parents to God, Who is the only perfect Parent. Hence, she desires to inspire the reader to seek after God’s ways of raising children. Secondly, her seven chapters: 1) Home is Where the Heart is; 2) Fearfully and Wonderfully Made; 3) Setting Boundaries, Showing Grace; 4) Daily Details, Special Celebrations; 5) Challenges and Transitions; 6) Time, Talents and Tithes; and 7) The Church Family, are all great sub-categories of parenting that need to be addressed.  Thirdly, she has excellent questions related to each of the chapters that many people will ask in order to become better parents.  Too often, the question that one person has is the same question MANY other people also have.  Her initiative in providing questions is a great way to lead into providing helpful information. Fourthly, she provides very creative ideas that would be helpful for a variety of personalities and temperaments of children (p.  67).  Children are all created differently and parents cannot raise children in a cookie cutter format. She gives several excellent ideas on how to deal with children’s tongues that swear (p. 85). She has excellent ideas on how to celebrate holidays with children (p. 128-129) as well as other milestones (p. 131-132). Children need celebrations! Of course, so do parents!  There are certainly consistent biblical commands, however, in order to reach the heart of the children, different approaches or practices may need to be used in order to nurture and instruct the child, instead of exasperating the child.

There are several drawbacks of this volume. First, there is no Scripture cited and it is rarely referenced if at all.  That is the problem when the term “Christian” is applied to a study.  It may be Christian in name, but biblical truths may not be the foundation.

Secondly, there is an integration of humanism at various points, in which the unsuspecting reader may not discern. For example, she says, “Paul’s God-inspired guidelines are great in theory; after all, if parents always took time to gently lead their kids God’s way and if kids honored their parents with obedience, family life would run much more smoothly. But the guidelines are difficult to observe…” (p. 59-60) That is enough to set the book aside.  God’s ways are difficult if the parent is not committed to Jesus Christ in God’s way (Eph. 6:4; Pro. 1:8; 10:1; 15:20). The flesh does not want to follow through with God’s way (Rom. 7:15-18). In dealing with anger, she uses no Scripture on how the parent should respond to his anger, nor Scripture on how to seek reconciliation.  The questions and points she makes are good, but they lack biblical substance and spiritual power (p. 74-75, 77).

Thirdly, she rejects Scripture when discussing spanking. Instead of looking at the passages which are related to discipline, she instead comments, “Research has overwhelmingly shown that spanking and other forms of physical punishment are harmful.” (p. 83) I guess her book is her advice to God that He is wrong in what He wrote. She wrote, “Spanking teaches kids that hitting is OK.” (p. 83) A common problem is that authors pick and choose passages they want to believe and reject others, like Proverbs 10:13; 13:24; 22:15; 23: 13,14, which must be taken in context of all of Scripture, not as isolated verses. Can the rod be used in abuse? Yes, but not when studied in context of the rest of Scripture. She writes that discipline in anger takes away a child’s dignity (p. 84), which is why parents should be taught from Scripture, not humanistic philosophy (cf. Eph. 4:26-27; Jam. 1:19-20).  The parent must evidence the fruit of the Spirit before, during and after discipline (Gal. 5:22-23). Otherwise, yes it is not just wrong, she should call it what it is – sin.

Considering some of the drawbacks, I would not hand this to just any parent.  I would give it to parents, who have discernment.  I like the creative suggestions, but am concerned regarding the lack of biblical support.

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