Cookie-cutter parenting


Thanks to Netflix streaming, my family just discovered the past episodes of what is now called, Nineteen Kids and Counting, the TLC reality show featuring the lives of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their uncommonly large family.

In no way do I want to criticize the Duggars or their choices. But their television show has stirred up some interesting conversation in our home. My two teenaged sons, especially, want to know, is this how the Christian family should look?

"This" meaning: homeschooling, polo shirts tucked into khaki pants, no rock music, courtship instead of dating, no kisses until one's wedding day, long hair for the girls, skirts that skim the floor, denim jumpers, no makeup, no birth control.

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Perhaps you know the type. Perhaps you are the type.

I was the type.

Which is why watching the Duggars' show so disturbed me I couldn't sleep for several nights. I vividly remember the pressure well-meaning friends placed on me when I was a young mom. To homeschool my rambunctious daughter when she was only 3 so she would "settle down." To grind my own wheat and to make my own bread and to never let a preservative, much less a Totino's pizza, enter my kitchen. To eschew any reading but the Bible with maybe just a tad of Elisabeth Elliot. To dress in shapeless and/or 1980's styles so as not to force a male into sin. To perm my hair. To go without pain medication in childbirth or so much as a single Advil afterward.

The Duggars' personal decisions don't bother me as much as the attraction such one-size-fits-all parenting seems to have for many Christian families.

The usual way we defend our extreme choices is to say, "We just have this conviction . . ." After all, who would dare condemn or criticize a conviction?

But here we should tread lightly. We should be convicted to tell the truth and not to murder and to keep our eyes off our neighbor's Porsche. But once we enter the realm of "personal conviction" the line gets fuzzier. Conviction should come from the Holy Spirit based on God's absolutes, not from people who think we should follow in their footsteps, particularly in (what should be) matters of indifference such as schooling choices, how many babies we should have, or if our teenagers should or should not have Facebook accounts.

God tells us to be Bereans, examiners of the faith and examiners of the culture. Perhaps nowhere is this more important that in areas where the Bible is silent.

Whether or not we choose to crack our own wheat or throw out the Pill, let it not be because our friends are doing it or because we worry about what the ladies at Wednesday Bible study will think of us. Opinion, preference, "personal conviction," and formulaic parenting models should never be added to the Canon of Holy Scripture.

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.


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