Former Growing Pains and Left Behind star Kirk Cameron is getting into the parental advice business. In a recent post, Cameron shared the “train, don’t explain” childrearing philosophy of author Jay Younts.
Basically, this approach says you don’t owe your kids an explanation. Ever. You tell them what to do/think/believe and demand their unquestioning, unhesitating obedience.
To quote Younts:
God has not called parents to explain but to train. Explanations often lead to frustration and anger for both parents and children. Children are not in need of lengthy, compelling explanations. What they are in need of is the understanding that God must be obeyed.
Setting aside the question of whether this parenting advice is better suited for raising robots than actual humans, there are at least three things in the Bible you might not want to let your kids read if you follow a “train, don’t explain” approach.
Otherwise, your kids might start getting ideas.
1. Don’t let them read Exodus 12. Or Deuteronomy 6. Or Joshua 4.
The ancient Jewish faith had many rituals, ceremonies, and symbols. And these had a way prompting curiosity. Every time a family would celebrate Passover or break out the phylacteries or build a monument from a pile of stones, kids would ask why.
Even worse, it seems this was the whole point: so that kids would request an explanation from their parents:
“When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’…” (Exodus 12)
“In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees, and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?’…” (Deuteronomy 6)
“In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’…” (Joshua 4)
It’s almost like the Israelites didn’t follow Kirk Cameron’s parenting advice at all.
2. Definitely don’t let your kids read the book of Job.
After being hit with all kinds of calamity (apparently the result of a cosmic bet between God and the devil), Job spends most of the book demanding an explanation… from God himself.
Job’s three friends are shocked by his impertinence. Their advice to Job — essentially, “Shut up and take your medicine” — sounds a lot like Kirk Cameron’s “train, don’t explain” method of parenting.
The only problem is God doesn’t seem to mind Job’s impertinence. He shows up. He answers Job’s summons. And when he does, he’s angry — not at Job, but at Job’s friends.
If kids read Job and see that it’s OK to question God, they won’t think anything of questioning their parents now and then.
3. While you’re at it, you might want to avoid any mention of Israel.
After all, their name means “wrestles with God.” To the ancient Israelites, the Scriptures were not a monologue from God; they were a dialogue with God. And God’s people didn’t hesitate to ask some hard questions.
In fact, it’s probably best not to let your kids read the Bible, period. Otherwise they might stumble across Abraham asking God to explain how he can possibly deliver on his promise of children for the aging patriarch. Or Jeremiah accusing God of deception. Or Habakkuk demanding God explain himself over his plan to use Babylon to punish his own people. Or Jesus wrestling with his Father in the garden.
And so on.
God is often described as a Father in the Bible. Yet he doesn’t seem to follow Cameron’s “train, don’t explain” method of parenting with his own children.
Maybe a better approach would be one that honors the curiosity and personhood of our children. One that shows them it’s OK to ask questions. In other words, “Explain. Don’t just train.”
(H/T Benjamin L. Corey, who wrote about Cameron’s parenting advice on the Formerly Fundie blog.)