I’m not sure what to think of this: one of my favorite parenting books isn’t a Christian one. I do, of course, believe we should raise our children in a distinctly Christian manner, centered around God and his Word. And of course there are helpful Christian parenting books out there (some unhelpful ones as well!). But sometimes Christian parents should remember that in God’s common grace, we can learn from those who don’t hold explicitly Christian views. This book, How to Unspoil Your Child Fast by Dr. R. Bromfield, is a great example.
Even if we may not realize it, most of us who are parents today (myself included) spoil our kids to some extent. We allow our kids to argue with us, we do too much for our kids, we cater to them too often, we side with our child instead of the teacher or coach, we do their homework for them, we hesitate to say no to our children, and we are overprotective. Because of these things, our children often think they have entitlements galore (and have a meltdown when you won’t let them watch two movies in one night). I have four kids – I know how it goes!
Bromfield’s book is a great help in “unspoiling” our kids. It is short, to the point, clear, and understandable. I’ve found some parenting books to be overwhelming, giving parents too many things to think of. This book doesn’t overwhelm. In fact, some of it echoes common sense and is thus memorable. I also appreciated Bromfield’s critique of consumerism and narcissism in our society today (which negatively affects our parenting!).
Here is an example of some common sense points Bromfield makes: Parents should give punishments that seriously get our kids’ attention and not back down (because our actions usually speak louder than our words). Parents should not allow children to argue with them or manipulate them. Parents should not be afraid to say no more often, and we don’t have to explain ourselves to our children all the time. We should let our children deal with the consequences of their sin, mistake, or foolishness and not be quick to bail them out. We shouldn’t buy them so many things or bribe them (if we do this habitually, they will most likely grow up expecting everything to be handed to them). The list goes on.
Here is some of the wisdom found in this book:
“Do not worry that your firm action [of discipline] will harm your child. It will not.”
“The more highly valued the thing is that’s taken away [for a punishment], the more powerful the learning effect on the child. A child, for example, won’t willingly lose too many birthday parties.” (Note: we’ve found that taking away screen time – ALL screens – is an effective punishment – SPL.)
“If your child mistreats you on Saturday morning, why would you ever give her a ride to the mall that afternoon, no less with a $20 bill? It is foolhardy and risky to reward rude, abusive, immoral, or other bad behavior.”
“Stop treating your child as royalty whose every want must be met.”
“Giving children too much, today and tomorrow, can deprive them of more precious and profound gifts, such as patience, contentment, consideration, and other skills that help make for a rich, successful, and fulfilled existence.”
Bromfield does talk about love, nurture, forgiveness, and care for children in the book as well. His view of parenting might be summarized as “firm love” or “parenting with loving authority” or something like that. Though the book wasn’t a Christian one, several aspects of it did remind me of Christian truth that we should convey to our kids: grace, forgiveness, love, support, and help. It’s just that we don’t have to spoil our kids and bend over backwards to show them love and grace! As the Bible teaches, sometimes love is displayed in saying “no” and in firm discipline.
You can get a used copy of this book on Amazon for under $6. Even if you don’t think your kids are spoiled, I highly recommend this book. It’ll help you parent your children with firmness and authority, yet with compassion and kindness.
Richard Bromfield, How To Unspoil Your Children Fast (Naperville: Sourcebooks, 2010).