Gleanings from a Book: Parenting Toward the Kingdom by Dr. Philip Mamalakis
I was so excited when I learned that this book was in the works! Before reading it, I had great expectations: I anticipated that it would be filled with gentle nudges towards godliness based both on years of education and personal experience. I knew that the wisdom in this book would be presented in a practical way backed by the in-the- trenches research that life with 7 children offers to their parents. And once I received and read the book, I was not at all disappointed! My expectations for this book were the result of personal experience. Our family had the privilege of meeting the Mamalakis family at Family Camp at the Antiochian Village years ago when they were the featured presenters for the parent sessions. We learned so much from Dr. Mamalakis (and from his lovely wife, Georgia) while we were together. My husband and I could step out of the parent sessions and immediately apply the concepts we had just discussed. Our family is the better for having learned these principles, however imperfectly we have applied them. (An aside: We also benefitted from watching the Mamalakis parents apply the principles they had shared, as they interacted with their children over the course of the family camp sessions. It is a joy to watch these parents lovingly guide their children using the principles! There is an abundance of love in Mamalakis family, and these principles allow them to parent their children in the context of that great love. It is a joy to experience.)
But I digress. Let's get back to the book. "Parenting Toward the Kingdom" outlines the principles that the Mamalakis family has followed:
- Always parent with the end in mind.
- Respond, don't react.
- Understand struggles in terms of the values and the virtues of the Kingdom of God.
- Separate feelings from behaviors.
- Teach the joy of obedience.
- Teach the joy of repentance.
Each principle has a chapter (or four!) of the book dedicated to it. Every chapter takes an in-depth look at the principle and cites personal experiences or related stories. The stories and examples make this book very accessible to its readers. The principles can be immediately applied, just as my husband and I experienced when we sat under the Mamalakis' teachings at Family Camp. I would highly recommend this book to any parent or educator who wants to lovingly guide the children in their care in a godly manner. The book would be a great Adult Sunday Church School curriculum, parish book study, or parenting class text. "Parenting Toward the Kingdom" is easy read. However, its principles will take a lifetime to apply. May God help (and forgive!) all of us as we parent, grandparent, godparent, and otherwise raise His children towards His Kingdom!
Here are a few quotes from the book, to give you a taste of its contents. Purchase your own copy at store.ancientfaith.com/parenting-toward- the-kingdom.
- "Parenting cannot be reduced to a series of steps, techniques, or strategies. The goal of this book is to help parents understand how the daily challenges of parenting relate to our journey in Christ and our child's journey in Christ, intimately connected to the life of the Church, and how that connection can inform our responses. Understanding this, we can put all the techniques and strategies in this book in their proper context. Using this book requires that you take a genuine interest in your child and reflect on your own personal spiritual journey. Understanding this, we can put this book in its proper place." (pp. 12-13)
- "Thinking long-term means thinking about how you want your children to conduct themselves when they are on their own, away at college, or married with children of their own. What type of adults do you want them to become... As parents... we want our children to be successful in life. As Christian parents, we need to be clear about what we mean by successful. That's where God's perspective on success becomes important." (p. 19)
- "Parenting is not about stopping misbehaviors or getting children to listen to us. It is the process of shaping and guiding our children's souls in and toward God's love through the tasks that need to be accomplished and the struggles of daily life. We are teaching them about the spiritual life and the path of holiness as we break up sibling fights or get them to clean their rooms. We are walking with them on that path, on the journey, of growing closer to God in daily life." (p. 24)
- "We would never deface an icon, yet when we get angry, attack, criticize, or mock our children, we vandalize the icon of Christ. We don't worship icons, either, yet when we are lenient or indulge our children's desires, giving in to their demands, we are worshipping our kids, not Christ-- -which is equally destructive." (p. 36-37)
- "Learning how to parent is not about learning how to get our children to behave; it's about learning how to get ourselves to behave. Remember, modeling is the most effective way to teach our children. The goal of this parenting book is to invite parents how to learn to act like adults, no matter what childish behaviors our kids present to us." (p. 51)
- "While some children act up because they want everyone to look at them, I'd like to suggest that most often our kids are looking for a connection with their parents, not for mere attention... Connection is central to our human nature, and children are wired to seek it." (p. 66)
- "If we correct, command, direct, or react to our children before connecting with them, it communicates that we are more concerned about where cleats and balls go than about who they are." (p.165)
- "Time-outs are most often misused as consequences by parents... A time-out is not a consequence, just a good idea. It is, in fact, exactly what a child might need at that moment... Sports teams don't take time-outs as punishment but as an opportunity to slow down, regroup, and make a plan for going forward... Kids need time-outs when they cannot control themselves or their behaviors. In fact, taking a time-out is something we all need to learn to do when we feel out of control." (p. 210)
- "Never make decisions for your children or tell them what to do when they can figure things out by themselves. Letting children experience the effects of their decisions respects their intelligence, their ability to learn, and their developing judgment and autonomy. Kids learn better from firsthand experience than from our telling them what to do, anyway." (p. 227)
- "We teach the joy of obedience by helping our children see that obedience is not something just for children. Obedience to God's commandments is the path for all, parents and children alike... When children feel connected to their parents and see their parents living in obedience to God, they internalize obedience to God as the path of life." (p. 264)
- "If we are trying to love our children and grow in Christ, then our mistakes become just another opportunity to teach. Remember, our children will learn ore from how we live than from what we say. Children learn how to handle their mistakes by watching how we handle our own... When we repent we show our children both the right path and how to get back on the path when we fall off." (p. 288)
- "To parent toward the Kingdom requires us to improve the way we interact with our children in every situation and to connect our hearts and homes to Christ and His Church. In this way our children experience the love of God in the home and encounter Christ and His Church in the center of it." (p. 317)