John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Parenting Is Harder Than Math

There are lots of books written by lots of authors offering lots of techniques which produce lots of mixed emotions about the topic of parenting. You want to get your child to sleep through the night? There's a book for that. You want her to eat her veggies without complaining? There's a book for that. You want him to be fully potty trained before school starts? Get better grades once school is in session? Retain all that information over summer vacation? There are books for all that. Christian authors are big into writing parenting books, too. Many of these well-intentioned books take as their theme a verse from the Old Testament book of Proverbs: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Then they spend 13 chapters explaining in sometimes meticulous detail what "the way he should go" looks like with the promise that if you'll just do it this way, your child will turn out healthy, wealthy and wise -- a morally upright, productive member of society -- an upstanding citizen who will be involved in church activities for the rest of his life.

But the often untold truth is that is sometimes doesn't work out like that.

Sure, sometimes it does. Sometimes the parent does the right thing, and the child responds the right way and becomes the right kind of person.


But not always.

See, the book is called "Proverbs" -- not "Promises" -- it's a general description of the way things usually work.

But when we make Proverbs 22:6 (which isn't at all talking about the morally upright "way", by the way, but that's a topic of discussion for another day) into some sort of promise, we set ourselves up for negative consequences. If our child turns out well, we're prone to pride ("Of course she turned out like that; we raised her right! Everything she does is because of us! She's great because we're great!"). If our child turns out not-so-well, we're prone to unnecessary guilt ("Where did we go wrong? Her failures are our failures! She shouldn't be held responsible for her actions because somehow this is our fault! God is punishing us through her!").

But parenting isn't math. Parenting is harder than math. There's no equation for this. I wish there were. I wish I could say, "If you'll always do x, when your child does y, then the result will be z (and z = happy).

In parenting, there are no guarantees. You might do everything right, and your kid might choose to rebel. Or you might get it wrong more often than you get it right, and your kid might become the next Max Lucado. There's some mystery involving the human will and God's sovereignty here.

I told people Sunday, "You can never be such a great parent that God is obligated to save your kids. But you can't mess them up so badly that they fall beyond the reach of God's amazing grace."

I don't know about you, but my parenting needs grace a lot more than it needs math!