Turansky and Miller: Hope for Parents

Parenting_review_07162014Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller.  2013.  The Christian Parenting Handbook:  50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child’s Life.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to get married and have a family.  This meant that my career had to finance a house and allow my wife, Maryam, to stay at home with the kids.  As the economic ground shifted under our feet early in my career, this objective consumed much too much of my time.  Meanwhile, supports in society and in the church for parents raising kids were mostly obsolete or non-existent.  In this family-hostile environment, Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller’s The Christian Parenting Handbook comes as welcome relief.

Turansky and Miller focus on identifying and enhancing character development, not behavior modification, from a biblical perspective.  They advance 6 principles:

  1. Begin with prayer, asking for wisdom, grace, patience, and perseverance;
  2. Build on a biblical foundation;
  3. Think long term focusing on patterns that reveal issues of the heart;
  4. Watch for variations on a theme;
  5. Focus strategically and leave less important issues for another time; and
  6. Look for internal stumbling blocks that hold up development.

They return to these principles throughout the book but do not simply present an analytical framework.  They write the book in 50 chapters focusing each on a particular issue or idea.  Early on they cite the Apostle Paul:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 ESV)

By focusing on heart issues, Turansky and Miller go beyond applied psychology and the how-to suggestions that are usually given parents and think about parenting differently.  Their claim to offer a Christian approach to parenting is not lite fluff.  This point becomes clear when they compare their ideas to the more typical advice to parents.

For example, in chapter 1, Consistency is Overrated, they compare a heart-focus to the usual behavioral modification approach which insists on consistency.  Behavioral modification requires consistency because it is based on stimulus—response theory.  Each time a stimulus (reward or punishment) is applied, the same response is solicited.  But the Christian parent does not want the child to do what’s right because a reward is given (or punishment avoided)—they want the child to desire to do right—a change in their hearts (2-3).  Consistency is often inappropriate when focusing on the heart because each child is different.

In chapter 2, Build Internal Motivation, they compare internal and external motivation as parenting strategies.  External motivation argues:  if you do X, then I will let you do Y (5). The problem with external motivation is that children learn to expect a reward for good behavior.  By contrast, God told Samuel in selecting a new king for Israel:  For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV).  In a heart-based approach, the parent shares values and reasons behind rules while remaining relational and firm (6).  In discipline, the parent expresses sorrow, not anger (7).  External motivations are used primarily to encourage internal motivation (8).

In chapter 3 Turansky and Miller continue this theme advising parents to focus on reinforcing good behavior rather than simply harping about bad behavior. Character qualities to look out for include:  obedience, honor, perseverance, attentiveness to others, patience, self-discipline, and gratefulness (16).  In observing problem behaviors, the idea is to link it to a character quality that needs more development (16-17).  In discipling towards character changes they advise parents to tie the return of a privilege to positive actions, not the absence of bad behaviors (12).

Clearly, this book offers a lot of good advice [1].

Turansky and Miller’s The Christian Parenting Handbook is not your typical parenting advice book.  In focusing on heart changes, they avoid the usual child expert and child psychology advice. Their application of biblical teaching is at the core of their thinking, not just a decoration of their own ideas with Bible passages.  Consequently, their approach to applying biblical teaching extends beyond the realm of parenting.

As I was reading through Turansky and Miller, I kept thinking:  oh my goodness, my kids are 20 something and this book was not available to me when I needed it. Turansky and Miller anticipated this reaction.  They offer encouragement—never give up on your kids.  God can change a person at any age by working on the heart (204).  It is never too late—God can change parents too.

Footnotes

[1] Turansky and Miller are founders of the National Center of Biblical Parenting and Biblical Parenting University (www.BiblicalParentingUniversity.com).

Turansky and Miller: Hope for Parents

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Hamaker on Sibling Rivalry 

Wicks Seeks Availability Deepens Faith

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Jung: Counselor as Secular Priest

Carl G. Jung. 1955. Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Orig Pub 1933). Translated by W.S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes. New York: Harcourt, Inc.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Back before I started seminary in 2008, I read whatever interested me. My urge to read was seldom random. For months on end, I might read about a particular topic like Perl programming, military history, or binge on a series like Horatio Hornblower novels.

Today, after so many years of reading and an imperfect memory, I am often unable to pinpoint where I got certain ideas until paging through one of the books in my library. Carl Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soulis one such book and it is source of a surprising number of my better ideas.

Problem Statement

In his book, Jung’s chapters read as if they had been composed as independent essays, but they make sense together and build together towards his theme as he writes in the middle of the Great Depression (1930s) from Switzerland:

“Today this eruption of destructive forces [World War One] has already taken place, and man suffers from it in spirit. That is why patients force the psychotherapist into the role of a priest, and expect and demand of him that he shall free them from their distress. That is why we psychotherapists must occupy ourselves with problems which strictly speaking, belong to the theologian.”(Jung 1955, 241)

This analysis suggests that much of the increase in psychiatric problems that we currently stem from inadequate attention to spiritual matters, not some mysterious, psycho mumbo jumbo as is usually argued. In other words, the pastor is correct in saying that many people are looking for love in all the wrong places when they should be addressing God.

Neurosis

Back before psychiatrists cataloged their diagnoses with diagnostic manuals, they talked about the vague notion of neurosis. Jung provides as reasonable an explanation of neuroses as can be found:

“Most of our lapses of the tongue, of the pen, of memory, and the like are traceable to these disturbances, as are likewise all neurotic symptoms. These are nearly always of psychic origin, the exceptions being shock effects from shell explosions [PTSD] and other causes. The mildest forms of neurosis are the ‘lapses’ already referred to—blunders of speech, the sudden forgetting of names and dates, unexpected clumsiness leading to injuries or accidents, misunderstandings of personal motives or of what we have heard or read, and so-called hallucinations of memory which cause us to suppose erroneously that we have said or done this or that.”(Jung 1955, 32)

The biggest problem cited by his patients? “I am stuck.”(Jung 1955, 61) Can you image the traumatic effect in the 1930s of having a large family and you lose your job? Jung’s primary answer to being stuck? Learning how to play like a child again (Jung 1955, 69)

Approach to Psychoanalysis

Jung (1955 30) breaks psychoanalysis into four steps: confession, explanation, education, and transformation. Here we witness the priest at work.

Confession

Jung (1955, 31) writes:

“As soon as man was capable of conceiving the idea of sin, he had recourse to psychic concealment—or, to put it in analytical language, repressions arose. Anything that is concealed is a secret. The maintenance of the secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates their possessor from the community. In small does, this poison may actually be a priceless remedy, even an essential preliminary to the differentiation of the individual.”

That Jung would start with an analysis of the effects of sin is mind-blowing for those who want to scrub the word from our modern and postmodern vocabularies. Ignoring sin as we do is almost to invent new secrets that Jung describes as poison.

Explanation

After the catharsis of confession, a patient must have an explanation to avoid a relapse (Jung 1955, 37). If the catharsis fails, it is because the patient is unable to deal with their shadow-side (subconscious) that is the part of their own personality that they try to hide, even from themselves.

Education

Those unable to deal with their own shadow-side oftentimes have problems with other people’s weaknesses as well. Jung (1955, 43) see the need to education these people in basic social skills.

Transformation

Jung (1955, 52) sees transformation of a patient oftentimes being limited by weaknesses in the psychoanalysts themselves. A good psychoanalyst must be able to walk-the-walk, to be a good example their patients.

Personality Classifications

Jung is best known today for his classification of personality types. Jung (1955, 89-91) distinguished introvert from extrovert, sensation from intuition, thinking from feeling, judging from perceiving. Using these distinctions to classify an individual’s preferred reflective tendencies, sixteen different personality types can be identified. 

One can develop hypotheses about how that each of these types would learn and respond to particular challenges. For example, Myers and Myers (1995, 149) write:

“The five types that favored the stable and secure future were all sensing types. The warmest of the sensing types, ESFJ, characteristically favored service to others. Seven of the eight intuitive types favored either the opportunity to use their special abilities or the change to be creative…” 

Personality types are not predictive in a deterministic sense because people change their classification preferences over time, but they indicate tendency or probability.

Background and Organization

Carl G. Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and student of Sigmund Freud. He wrote in eleven chapters:

  1. “Dream Analysis in Its Practical Application
  2. Problems of Modern Psychotherapy
  3. The Aims of Psychotherapy
  4. A Psychological Theory of Types
  5. The Stages of Life
  6. Freud and Jung—Contrasts
  7. Archaic Man
  8. Psychology and Literature
  9. The Basic Postulates of Analytical Psychology
  10. The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man
  11. Psychotherapists or the Clergy.”(Jung 1955, v)

These chapters are preceded by a translator’s preface.

Assessment

Carl Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soul is an amazing book.Jung originated a lot of the techniques of analytical psychology and his patient case studies are a window into the mindset in the 1930s. His picture of the psychologist as a secular priest changed my image of the counseling profession forever. This book is of obvious interest to counselors, pastors, and seminary students, but others would likely find it a fascinating read

References

Myers, Isabel Briggs and Peter B. Myers. 1995. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type(Orig Pub 1980). Mountain View: Davies-Black Publishing.

Jung: Counselor as Secular Priest

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Beechick Outlines Biblical Learning Method

Beechick Outlines Biblical Learning Method

Ruth Beechick. 1982. A Biblical Psychology of Learning. Denver: Accent Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the most insidious assumptions of modern and postmodern people is that the current generation is the most intelligent, most perceptive. It is as if everything that came before was prologue to this fantastic new beginning. Not only is this assumption not true; it is idolatrous because, like original sin, this assumption presumes the role of God, who is the true source of all knowledge. This is why as we grow in our faith and learn about it, we find the Bible increasingly interesting. Books that help us understand the Bible in new ways are especially interesting.

Introduction

In her book, A Biblical Psychology of Learning, educator Dr. Ruth Beechick starts noting that: “we need a theory of learning based on the Bible.” (8) The reason for Beechick’s interest is that in studying learning theory more generally, she was frustrated that the behavioral theory explained primarily the behavior of rats (stimulus-response) and other theories likewise focused on only one dimension of learning. Surely, human complexity required a more complex understanding of learning, she thought (9).

Learning Starts with the Heart

In her attempt to develop a biblical understanding of learning, Beechick observes:

“When we look to the Bible one inescapable fact about man is his heart. The word is used more than 800 times.” (12)

Beechick goes into a long discussion of how modern people understand the biblical concept of heart, but I suspect that, because the heart has a much wider scope of meaning in Hebrew and Greek, heart would translate as a range of emotional and intellectual meanings, which Beechick argues do not all begin with cognition in the mind. She argues from biblical, historical, and scientific evidence that the heart has its own autonomous influence (39).

Biblical Learning Model Uses More Information

Beechick makes an interesting chart comparing sources of input into three learning theories—behaviorism, humanism, and biblical—with their view of man and basis of study. Behaviorism views man as a personless body; humanism views many as a biological organism; and the biblical view of man is that we are created in the image of God. Behaviorism studies laboratory animals; humanism studies mankind; and the biblical view considers animals, people, and the biblical experience (26). From her review, she concludes that the biblical view is better informed than behaviorism or humanism because it takes into account more information (33).

Beechick’s core learning model is built on a model from John A.R. Wilson, Mildred D. Robeck, and William B. Michael called Psychological Foundations of Learning (New York: McGraw Hill, 1969) and has five components:

  1. Wise self-direction (creativity),
  2. Concept Learning,
  3. Information learning,
  4. Heart-set (self-discipline), and
  5. Parental love and discipline (54).

Each of these components interacts with the others and combines influences from both the head and the heart. The remainder of the book focuses on explaining each of these five components.

Example of Psalm 78

Beechick walks through this learning model that she finds illustrated in several verses in Psalm 78 through wisdom and foolishness applications of the model (example and counter-example). The wisdom application is found in verses one, six, and seven (70):

  1. Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
  2. that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,
  3. so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; (Ps 78:1, 6-7 ESV)

The foolish-learner application is found in the verses that follow (72). Proverbs 10 provides another application of the model through example and counter-example. In walking through these illustrations, Beechick notes that learning starts with the orientation of the heart (heart-setting) and that God disciplines his people with both anger and love (69). Because our hearts are not always naturally set on learning, discipline plays a key role in biblical learning, which the Psalmist likens to the growth of a palm or cedar tree (Ps 92:12).

Who is Ruth Beechick?

Her Amazon author page reports the following biography:

“Dr. Ruth Beechick spent a lifetime teaching and studying how people learn. She taught in Washington state, Alaska, Arizona and in several colleges and seminaries in other states. She also spent thirteen years at a publishing company writing curriculum for churches. In ‘retirement’ she continues to write for the burgeoning homeschool movement. Her degrees are A.B. from Seattle Pacific University, M.A.Ed. and Ed.D. from Arizona State University.”

Ruth has written numerous books and curriculum materials for homeschooling, but she passed away in 2013 and does not have her own website.

Summary

Ruth Beechick’s A Biblical Psychology of Learning is an interesting for anyone interested in biblical teaching methods, which explains why she has been so influential in the homeschooling movement. Her learning model is complex which seems appropriate because we are complex people, but it also suggests that rigorous study is required to apply it.

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