I am sure I will be referring to it again in future posts but I wanted to give you a brief introduction to a book I have really enjoyed recently. It is Children of a Greater God by Terry W. Glaspey. I had lamented in previous posts not finding a parenting book which addresses instilling in children a standard to live by, not just sets of rules to obey. But this book does just that. On the very first page of the introduction, Glaspey states his goal:
“In this book I want to suggest that rules alone do not make a child moral and that unquestioned obedience to a parent is not in itself the goal . . . We must instill within our children a vision for the good and moral life.” (“Introduction”)
This is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. I have said before that I do not think God’s law can be boiled down to a set of rules; even the Ten Commandments are only an approximation. Instead the law of God is like a picture that you may be able to describe in words but which words will never completely capture. One needs to look upon it; the prophet would say to have it written upon one’s heart. This book gets that.
I was very eager to hear practical suggestions on this topic though I found myself for long passages wondering when they would come. I suppose it is understandable that Glaspey spends a while describing the problem and what he means by a “moral vision” which enables one to identify and do the good. It is a set up which should allow one to determine what the right thing to do is even in situations one has never faced before.
The problem, as he sees it, is not really knowing what is good. He would say, and I agree, that we more often than not know what the good choice is, we just fail to make it. It is rather a matter of the will:
“We usually know what we should do in a given situation. The problem usually comes in having the moral strength to do what is right.” (p.17)
So how do we begin to instill such a vision and strength in our children? I don’t want to get into it all in detail in this post but here are the highlights:
1. Introduce children to the virtues and what they are. Glaspey identifies seven: fortitude, temperance, justice, prudence, faith, hope, love, humility and compassion.
2. Practice habit training.
3. Teach them to think Christianly and teach them theology.
4. Read living books, both Christian and secular, which show the virtues at work (or the lack of virtue at work) . They will also through stories vicariously experience other situations and be better prepared for what may arise in their own lives.
5. Teach them to read the Bible and pray and given them a sense that God is real in their lives.
6. Limit television.
7. Expose them to good art and music which Glaspey says will help them to identify good in other aspects of life as well.
8. Keep the Sabbath. Glaspey doesn’t state this as strongly as I would; I get the impression he views Sabbath-keeping as more of a suggestion than a commandment.
9. Have them play sports, especially team sports.
I am more enthusiastic about some of these than others. We have never been big into sports on our family though I think a lot of the lessons learned through sports we derive in other ways. We certainly learn to lose when playing board games.
Overall, this is a good book. Even if one may not agree with every suggestion, the basic premise, that our goal is what Glaspey calls the moral vision is right on target and I would recommend it to all parents.