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Children are not problems

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Martin E. Marty

The Mystery of the Child

Martin E. Marty

Every day a new parenting book is published. The majority of these parenting books seek to answer the challenges of how to raise your child and how to tackle discipline issues. The American historian Martin E. Marty has written a parenting book about childhood without the answers! And the author happily admits it. Marty writes from the perspective of being a father and grandfather, an award-winning author of many books, and as a professor who taught at the University of Chicago for 35 years.

The Mystery of the Child is a book that makes readers think. Though written for the general audience, it’s like spending an afternoon debating our current way of thinking about childhood with Socrates. Are we discipling our children or are we controlling them for our own purposes? Do we trust God for his workmanship in our children’s lives or are we trying to entirely mould them on our own? Do we look at childhood as a problem to get through until our children arrive at the adult stage?

The discussion on these questions is rooted in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, and comes after Marty’s three-year intensive study on “The Child in Law, Religion and Society,” at Emory

Marty says that when we lose the wonder of childhood we start to look at children as a negative problem. We tend to look at children as “good” kids or “bad” kids. Marty says once kids are labelled, they “will tend to find a home in the category and snuggle away into a cozy corner, far from the zone where she is to be responsible in either case. The good kid then has nothing to learn, and the bad kid has no reason to learn.”

Instead, Marty says we should look at childhood in a totally different way – as a wonderful mysterious adventure instead of a problem to be solved. By changing our attitude we change our thinking. Then, instead of trying to change our children, instead of worrying and hovering over every problem, we can enjoy the process of raising them once again.

—Gabrielle Wiebe has been children’s pastor at North Langley (B.C.) Community Church for the last 11 years.

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