Even though I’ve been parenting for over 13 years, I still have lots to learn. During those 13 years, I’ve read many books and articles on parenting, some were good, some were really good and some I didn’t finish. I just finished, by far the best parenting book I have ever read.
What I loved about this book was that it didn’t give a list of “do this” or “don’t do that” kind of advice. It spoke more broadly about life concepts and principles that are important in the Amish way of life that have led to children feeling secure and loved, yet a small part of something bigger than themselves. I may not be Amish, but so much of their life philosophy is what I hope to be. The importance of family, community, discipline, work ethic, healthy use of technology and of course faith are vital to raising children who “grow up to be people of value” (p. 156).
The point is not so much that children are happy, but that they grow up to be adults with integrity and who place their own needs in perspective with the needs of the family and the community. Happiness is an emotion that can come and go based on circumstance. The values of family, community, discipline, work ethic and faith are values that last a lifetime, bond people together and create a life in which children know what to expect, know they are loved and know they have value to the greater good.
Together, Serena Miller and Paul Stutzman weave stories of Amish parenting and Amish life together with experiences of “Englisch” living. In showing how the “to dos” of parenting may look different in various family contexts, they show how the overarching principles that guide the Amish way of life can also guide other families. How they can guide my family.
While I was reading, I didn’t feel bad about my failures in mothering, only inspired to be more than we already are. I was encouraged to be more intentional about how I teach my children by modeling life. I thought about my own ways of mothering and how I can shift some of the functioning of our family to create a home where the children have important roles in our home, where we play more together and where we are more open and intentional about some of the “whys” of how we do things.
We’re headed in the right direction. Many families are and most want to be. I think the key is that we must all be more intentional about speaking and modeling and teaching the values that we want to instill in our children. And as the Amish term gelassenheit teaches us “We are not alone in this. God has a plan and He is in control” (p. 323).