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    Bradley’s Central Question

    October 11, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    In my last post, I quoted some of Reb Bradley’s Child Training Tips. I have read many {dozens?} of parenting books. Some were practical and “secular,” such as What to Expect the First Year. Others have walked that fine line of syncretism, blending Biblical principles with modern psychology — books like Bringing Up Boys and Boundaries with Kids. My favorites, however, have been those like Bradley’s, which truly believe Scripture is profitable for all areas of life, and seek to build a complete childrearing model from Scripture alone. {Other than Bradley’s, I have also appreciated books like Roy Lessin’s How to Be the Parents of Happy And Obedient Children as well as William and Colleen Dedrick’s The Little Book of Christian Character and Manners.}

    Based on Scripture, Bradley sets forth a bit of background I think important to reiterate here in order to put forth what I call his “central question of parenting.” Bradley explains that the Greek word ektrepho found in Ephesians 6:4 means to rear up to maturity. He concludes from this {and other passages} that the “primary goal then, of training and instruction, is to rear up children to maturity.” Using the book of Proverbs, Bradley defines the three primary elements of maturity as self-control, wisdom, and responsibility.

    This is my favorite part. Bradley writes, “To exaluate our parenting decisions we need simply determine: What will this activity, organization, or relationship, foster within our children–maturity or immaturity?

    One of the reasons this struck me is that it caused me to recall a bit of a debate over baseball that took place on the Dominion Family blog months ago. I tend to veer away from mommy cliques wherever I find them, so I am not privvy to a lot of the debates that go on in the homeschooling/childrearing worlds. In the comments, women mentioned feeling either pressured to have no sports/outside activity involvement at all, while others mentioned that there was a lot of pressure to have their kids involved in all sorts of extracurriculars. In the midst of it all, there were hints that homeschool “gurus” pull a lot of weight when it comes to how families decide to manage such decisions.

    In contrast, I think a litmus test like Bradley’s {Will this foster maturity?} actually leaves room for much more room for families to differ from one another. It assumes the Biblical absolute {childrearing’s goal is maturity} and then assumes that parents are the best one’s to make such decisions.

    I admit that sometimes I am wary of what I call the Treadmill Parents. They seem to run around going nowhere. I think of one lady in particular who works 40-60 hours per week, and then spends the extra time putting her five-year-old only child in every activity known to man {sports, music lessons, martial arts, gym, etc.}. But I do think she is quite the extreme.

    On the contrast, we do very little. Our son attends Sunday School on Sunday mornings {we all attend our church’s main service together, however}, and then he also attends our church’s Awana program once a week. I have, however, already been questioned by others as far as his activities. Specifically, I was confronted on how the new baby could really cramp our ability to put our son in sports. This particular woman seemed to view sports as a “right” of children, and if additional children made it difficult for our existing children to be involved in lots of activities, we were being immoral in bringing forth those additional children.

    It all gets rather complicated, and I fear I am beginning to ramble. Bradley does offer a warning to Treadmill Parents:


    If we are overindulgent parents, having as our highest goal to give our children fun, fulfilling childhoods, our children will learn to equate joy with fun. They must learn, however, that the greatest joy comes not through abundant recreation, but through a job well-done, and more specifically, through serving others.


    In other words, too many activities that indulge the self can be detrimental.

    But still, I go back to the beginning. If a parent will agree with the Bible that maturity is the goal, there is much creativity and diversity possible. It is practially standard procedure in our community to put a child in sports, without questioning the activity’s impact on the child’s character. When parenting decisions are made deliberately, they can be catered to each child’s needs for increased maturity and personal growth, and therefore become much more than a mere activity for the child.


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    1 Comment

  • Reply kristie October 11, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    I agree. You have to decide on your objective before your course of action (a general teaching principle!). There is often more than one good way to achieve a goal. Like you said, the question is whether or not the goal is one worth pursuing. If it is, we should procede to determine what course of action we believe will best achieve that goal. I think that these differences of belief are what lead to various acceptable methods of parenting.

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