In almost every culture, children are valued. Historically speaking, kids are important to the family line, productive contributors to the family’s vocation, and mostly a joy to live life with. Children have been an integral part of home and community economics. However, it seems that our current American culture has exalted and centered home and community life around children. We don’t like to admit it, but life tends to revolve around our kids.
There are probably many reasons for this, but author Ted Cunningham in his book, Trophy Child, would say that we turn our wonderful children into idols. Every culture has its idols; things it exalts and deifies. Ours, at least a significant portion of it, tends to:
“…over-indulge their children, center the home around them, and some ways turn their children into idols. As parents, we often use anything and everything to place them on a pedestal–including their accomplishments, looks, personalities, and attributes–in order to impress others” (pg 16).
If our children are doing great in sports, academics, behavior, and developmental growth and milestones, we feel good about ourselves and brag about it on Facebook. However, if our children are not succeeding in these areas of life or are struggling, we feel bad about ourselves and are depressed when we read other “success” stories on Facebook. We compare and gauge our parenting with others who idolize their children as well. Our hope and security and significance as parents is often found in comparing, or reliving our failed childhood through our kids.
This should not be the case! If you believe in the Gospel of Jesus and call yourself a follower of Jesus, then your hope, security and significance is misplaced.
Trophy Child: Saving Parents from Performance, Preparing Children for Something Greater than Themselves by Ted Cunningham, tackles these issues head on. With many honest personal stories of his idolizing moments and chronic trophy collecting, Ted walks the engaged reader through:
- our motivations in parenting,
- creating limits and margins in our lives,
- believing what Jesus says about children,
- cultivating our own spiritual journeys and modeling this to our kids,
- raising kids who follow Jesus,
- getting our children ready for the real world, which might mean experiencing the real world in small, manageable ways at home so the consequences that can be life-altering in the real world are approached with faith and wisdom,
- approaching our children’s development and milestones with wisdom and faith as well,
- and loving your spouse well.
In one place in the book, the author says:
“I want my children to know where their value comes from and that their value is not based on their parents, their family name, what they do, how well they compete, their looks, their IQ, or their relationships. Their value is in Jesus” (pg 92, emphasis mine).
Often the way we parent teaches our children that their value is in how they look, perform academically, and behave. How we parent, what we say when we parent, how we respond to situations, all teaches our children some kind of value. We may not intend it, but implicit messages we send our children reflect what we really believe. You cannot change what you implicitly teach your children unless you implicitly believe it yourself. Because what you believe comes out in your parenting.
Ted Cunningham champions the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the book. Freedom from impressing others and letting go of controlling the outcome of our children’s present and future is found in the simple fact that God loves you (and your children) so much and His opinion of you doesn’t change with your accomplishments or failures. Jesus died and rose to new life for you and your children to bring freedom from all the trappings and idols of this life.
Read this book. It encourages your faith and challenges you to recognize and stop collecting “trophies” from and for your children.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. In no way did the publisher influence me to write a favorable or unfavorable review. My thoughts are my own and this review represents my honest feedback on its content.