In 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids, Todd Cartmell focuses on eight areas which parents need to be aware of as they interact with their kids daily. Each of the eight areas is comprised of five small chapters which illustrate how parents can practice these tools effectively. Those who have read many parenting books will be familiar with most of the concepts that Cartmell discusses such as choosing right words to encourage children towards positive behaviour and spending quality time together by learning a new instrument or sport. The author begins each chapter with a personal example or illustration before explaining how parents can pragmatically utilize the tool in their own households. At the end of each chapter, there is a short summary paragraph and reflection questions to help parents consider how to implement those changes. One of the book’s analogies that were especially helpful to me is to view our children as little gold mines. The author asserts that most parents spend much of their time noticing the “dirt” (negative words, actions, and attitudes) instead of spotting the small specks of gold (positive words, actions, and attitudes) in each child. However, if we change our focus to dig for gold instead of feeling defeated in trying to clear up the dirt, we will gradually begin to see and dig for more and more gold. Cartmell emphasizes that the analogy is not intended to mean parents should refrain from correcting or disciplining their children. Rather, parents should place their focus on what God is doing in the hearts of their children and see how they can continue to help these positive traits and behaviours blossom. As a whole, the book is fairly accessible with many useful strategies for parents to employ in helping their children grow and mature into responsible followers of Christ.
A weakness that I found with the book’s overall message is that it fails to acknowledge those parents who do use the right tools but still have kids who remain obnoxious and unyielding. Being sinners ourselves, we know that the rebelliousness of our children lies in the depravity of their sinful hearts and even using the most proven parenting techniques will not cause that sinful heart to respond in obedience permanently. At best, we end up raising a child who is superficially obedient and will quickly turn from God’s ways once they reach adulthood. Thus, the most vital tool to the transformation of our children’s hearts is to be found in Christ who is the only One that can redeem and recreate a new heart willing to submit to God and their parents as His ordained stewards. Naturally, younger children and toddlers would require more intentional instruction and discipline until they have the capacity to understand their heart’s sinful disposition. However, the gospel is not only for adults and even infants should be taught that the only hope they have is found in Jesus alone.
I would recommend this book to all parents as the author provides valuable advice on how to approach parenting with small, implementable steps. Parents need to be prepared and equipped to take advantage of any opportunity to nurture their children. However, despite our best efforts, we need to keep in mind that true heart change can only take place through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit which indwells each of us who put our faith in Jesus. As parents, our first priority is to display and preach the gospel to our children so that they can see Christ as the answer to their unyielding hearts.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Moody Press in exchange for a book review.