I have several problems with James Dobson and Focus On The Family Ministries. Among them:
- how about Focus on Jesus Christ?;
- they seem to preach psychology rather than the Bible;
- somewhat paradoxically, the Christians I have known who are the biggest adherents to Dobson and co.'s teachings are the most self-righteous pharasees you'd ever not want to meet;
- in fact, the ministry seems to have a self-righteous spirit, telling parents to do all the right things so fellow Christians and unbelievers alike will envy you and your amazing family;
- lack of emphasis on Scripture except when trying to justify FOTF's position on something.
In this lecture from 1978, what I am not hearing a lot of mention, much less focus on, is love. Why does your child's strong will bother you, other than it creates a lot of day-to-day problems? Is it because it doesn't make you look like a good parent? Is it because you've got your own agenda outside parenthood to maintain and these pesky children you had because you felt you were obligated to aren't going to get in the way of that? Is it because you bought into all the malarchey prominent in both the church and the world about how your children will be a little version of you or your spouse when, in fact, they are created by God as their own individual person?
Children are not born with a steel will at birth, at least not in the way I think Dobson means. Before one year old, a child actually does want to be cooperative. When they get more mobile and independent, they become less cooperative, more because they have a desire to explore their world and become independent than out of some Calvinistic total depravity of man pat answer for every little problem.
They will test, and the strong willed child will try a parents patience, but what we have to be most concerned about in dealing with the strong willed child is firstly our inner attitude. We need to love this child both within our role as their parent, with it's inherent desire to bring them up properly, and within our capacity as an individual human being with whom God has blessed with another little individual person for the purposes of carrying out the former task. In other words, respect and nurture the child's individuality while simultaniously training them up in the way they should go.
Anger won't motivate the child and action is certainly a requisite part of good parenting, but the action has to spring from a loving attitude toward the child and nothing else. Again, it can't be out of concern for one's reputation as a parent or some other agenda. We all crave to be loved, and while the less-than-perfect parent that all mothers and fathers are at times won't always show their love as best they can, I just sense there are more sinister reasons why Dobson's teachings are so popular. Parents who aren't doing so should dare to discipline, but Focus On The Family should also dare to shut it's blathering pie-hole and get off it's legalistic high horse for once, take a good look around, do a cannonball into the deep end of the Scriptures, then take a good, hard look inside their own hearts.