Editor's Note: This was originally a two-part series published in May (Mother's Day) and June (Father's Day) of the print edition of the AFA Journal.
Building healthy, responsible children
(Originally published here as Part 1.)
Mother’s Day articles tend to be sweet pieces on the nobility and sanctity of motherhood, but not this one. AFA Journal spoke with Dr. Den A. Trumbull, co-founder and past president of American College of Pediatricians, in hopes of offering mothers (and fathers) practical, Christ-centered parenting advice.
In his book, Loving by Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children, Dr. Trumbull examines the current trend of parents following rather than leading their sons and daughters through childhood.
Leading not following
“Even though I am a Christian,” Trumbull told AFAJ, “I wrote this book for believers and nonbelievers alike, and it was born out of very real concerns.
“One particular concern involves well-meaning parents who are in constant pursuit of making their child happy. That sounds like a loving, thoughtful approach to parenting, but research proves otherwise.”
In contrast, Trumbull seeks to help parents successfully lead children into productive adulthood. Accordingly, he first examines the true nature of a child, a child’s deep need for discipline, and the importance of family.
Then, Trumbull discusses pros and cons of various parenting styles: authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritative. Finally, he suggests useful methods of authoritative parenting.
“Parents often mistakenly make behavior their primary focus,” he explained. “Don’t simply focus on what a child does. Look beyond the action and into the heart. And don’t overlook a child’s need for clear direction and consistent affirmation.”
Trumbull also reminds parents that discipline and disciple both come from the same Latin word root, disciplus. Therefore, authoritative parents should view discipline as making conscientious disciples of their children. And discipleship requires modeling.
But how can parents realistically model and apply discipline? It begins with conscience building versus conscience busting. Here are some examples.
Conscience building requires parents to:
Always be truthful.
Demonstrate patience with others.
Treat spouses with respect.
While helping their child to:
Control impulsive, selfish behavior.
Stop any bullying behavior toward others.
Politely respect the property of others.
Conscience busting, in direct contrast, results when parents:
Ask children to tell convenient “white lies.”
Are highly critical of others behind their backs.
Mistreat their spouse verbally and/or physically.
While ignoring and/or failing to apply discipline when their child:
Grabs/plays with the toys/property of others without asking.
Of course, age factors into every aspect of parenting. So, Trumbull offers a three-pronged approach to leading children from birth through pre-adolescence: instruct, affirm, and correct. Loving by Leading lays out age-appropriate suggestions for all three parenting components.
As Trumbull so aptly concludes, “If you invest in your children while they are young, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor when they are grown.”
Next month, in recognition of Father’s Day, AFA Journal continues the discussion with Dr. Trumbull as he outlines the different parenting tendencies of mothers compared to those of fathers.
These differences can cause friction between parents and disharmony in the home. But Trumbull will examine the complementing value of differing tendencies and offer a solid, balanced approach to lovingly lead children toward healthy, responsible adulthood.
The truth about building healthy children (originally published here as Part 2.)
According to C. S. Lewis, “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth.”
Lewis’s statement is a timely one for parents, for perhaps no task on earth is more daunting or equally rewarding. Sadly, the most difficult part of raising children can be discerning godly truth amid the many diverse voices offering parenting advice in our world.
In his book, Loving by Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children, Dr. Den A. Trumbull offers a voice of truth garnered from over three decades as a pediatrician. In honor of Father’s Day, AFA Journal continues a discussion with Dr. Trumbull on balanced ways parents can lovingly lead their children toward adulthood. (See AFA Journal, 5/20 for Part 1.)
Opposites not opposition
“Marriage tends to attract opposite personalities,” Trumbull told AFAJ, “and this is good since the differences between husband and wife often complement each other.”
He outlined complementary tendencies mothers and fathers often demonstrate when raising children:
• Fathers tend to be firmer disciplinarians; moms are stronger on nurturing.
• Fathers tend to push children to try new experiences; moms tend to protect.
• Mothers tend to manage the family schedule better; dads are more spontaneous.
• Mothers tend to encourage conversation and draw out a child’s emotions; dads seek facts and solutions.
• Mothers tend to point out beauty in the world; dads often focus on
“While these tendencies may be reversed in some marriages,” added Trumbull, “they each tend to supplement the other, helping fathers and mothers parent better as a team. Their children, in turn, benefit as these tendencies give balance to the parenting approach.”
Trumbull pointed out that mothers tend to impose limits and discipline more frequently but with greater flexibility. Conversely, fathers tend to discipline less frequently but more predictably, meaning children are often more likely to comply. Working together, both approaches create a solid plan of discipline.
Fathers are also more spontaneous in play, often supervising playtime rather than intervening, allowing children to explore and take risks during play. But when playing with their children, mothers tend to emphasize interaction, predictability, and joint problem-solving.
Yet, risk-taking, exploring, interacting, problem-solving are all life skills children need to navigate life successfully. Therefore, parental teamwork is crucial.
Character and competence
Since it is vital for both parents to share the same goals for their children, Trumbull identified character and competence as two of the most important aims of child development.
“Character is related to accountability, control of impulses, and persistence in the face of obstacles,” explained Trumbull. “Self-control, honesty, patience, trustworthiness, and humility are desirable character qualities parents should seek to help their children develop.”
Trumbull described competence as the acquired capability to obtain one’s desired personal and social goals in life. Personal qualities that help a child achieve competence include respect for others, respect for authority, kindness, industriousness, confidence, and a sense of humor.
Together, character and competence will produce what Trumbull termed genuine behavior, rather than temporary performances designed to momentarily please parents.
“Genuine behavior,” Trumbull assured parents, “will flow from a child’s heart that is rightly oriented and considerate of others. This is the kind of behavior that is lasting.”
Learn a little more
▶ Loving by Leading: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy and Responsible Children is available online and at retail bookstores.
▶ Learn more from Dr. Den Trumbull at lovingbyleading.com.
▶ John Rosemond’s Parenting Set provides the conservative expert’s insights on all aspects of parenting in this Cultural Institute Series (four DVDs) produced by American Family Studios. Available at afastore.net or 877.927.4917.