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Bless This Mess

A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World

By Rev. Molly Baskette and Ellen O’Donnell, PhD
16-minute read
Audio available
Bless This Mess by Rev. Molly Baskette and Ellen O’Donnell, PhD

Bless This Mess (2019) is a parents’ guide to raising Christian children in a bewildering age. Combining spiritual wisdom with the latest thought in child psychology, the authors aim to show that there’s no reason to think of the terms “progressive” and “Christian” as contradictory when it comes to child-rearing.

  • Prospective parents who want to raise their children to be both Christian and progressive
  • Current parents who have lost touch with their own childhood faith
  • Anyone interested in twenty-first century Christianity

Rev. Molly Baskette is the senior minister at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, California, and has written books on a wide range of topics – including public confession, coping with grief, and the revitalization of churches. Her recent works include Standing Naked Before God and Real Good Church. Ellen O’Donnell has a PhD in clinical psychology and is a child psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston. She also works as an instructor at Harvard Medical School and has authored a number of scholarly articles in academic journals, such as the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

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Bless This Mess

A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World

By Rev. Molly Baskette and Ellen O’Donnell, PhD
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
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Bless This Mess by Rev. Molly Baskette and Ellen O’Donnell, PhD
Synopsis

Bless This Mess (2019) is a parents’ guide to raising Christian children in a bewildering age. Combining spiritual wisdom with the latest thought in child psychology, the authors aim to show that there’s no reason to think of the terms “progressive” and “Christian” as contradictory when it comes to child-rearing.

Key idea 1 of 10

Instead of trying to remodel your children, adapt your parenting style to better suit their personalities. 

For too long, Christian parenting has relied on one all-too-familiar proverb: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Fortunately, most of us disagree with that piece of “advice” these days – and the Bible has more to say about child-rearing than just that.

We can find an alternative attitude worth imitating in another Biblical proverb: “Train children the right way, and when grown, they will not stray.” What makes this statement especially interesting is that the language of the original Hebrew version seems to recommend raising our kids “in accordance with their own character.” 

This nuance is significant. Raising children with, rather than against, the grain of their characters involves discerning each child’s uniqueness – and then changing our own style of parenting accordingly. In other words, we need to tailor our parenting methods to fit our children, rather than trying to force them into complying with a one-size-fits-all method.

Taking this advice to heart entails considering a number of important questions: Who are these children God has given us? What are their individual strengths? What are their inclinations? And what can we, as parents, do to work with their God-given temperaments?

One of the problems we can run into when addressing these questions is ego-involvement. This term describes parents’ tendency to over-identify with the successes and failures of their children. And while it’s only natural that we root for our kids – wanting them to do well and meet their goals – we must be careful not to cross the line by replacing their dreams with our own. In short, we must avoid being too ego-involved.

In practice, this might mean learning the difference between wanting your daughter to receive a good education for her own benefit, and wanting her to go to Harvard to satisfy your ambitions. Alternatively, it might mean learning that your son will never be the academic type, and that working with his hands is what will make him happiest in life. 

Relinquishing control over your children’s aims for the future can be difficult, but soul-searching of this kind is the first step in starting to change our methods of child-rearing. By separating our kids’ true temperaments and inclinations from our own imaginary ideals, we can begin to formulate new parenting strategies from the ground up. 

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