Book Review: Raising Kids for True Greatness

For the past month I’ve been reading Raising Kids for True Greatness by Dr. Tim Kimmel.

And when I say that it’s taken me a month to get through, I mean that I read it in snippets on the cross-trainer during my lunch break, so I don’t really have a good handle on how long it took to finish.  It seemed like a pretty quick and easy read.

The foundation of this book is to influence parents in evaluating – and amending – their personal goals for their children, and to make sure that they are encouraging their children toward God’s greatness rather than the world’s standards.

What parent doesn’t want greatness for their children?  We dream of success for them:  academic achievement, fulfilling and prestigious careers, financial security (even wealth), and eventually a happy family of their own.  We certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if they also ended up attractive and charming, too.

Dr. Kimmel challenges parents to realize that those things are not authentic measures of greatness.  “[T]rue greatness is a passionate love for God that demonstrates itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others.” (p. xii)  He goes on to outline ways we can foster greatness in our children.

I have to admit, I wasn’t necessarily itching to pick this book back up every time I put it down.  But maybe that’s because I was reading it at the gym.  Now that I’m finished reading it, though, I am finding that taken as a whole I really appreciate the perspective and wisdom of Dr. Kimmel.  It has certainly given me a lot to think about in my own parenting.

A lot of challenging things.  It’s not easy to relinquish your dream of “success” for your child – or to compromise on raising your child in a safe, incubated environment.

For me, the most compelling story in the book was about Dr. Kimmel’s daughter.  As a kindergartener they instilled in her the value that she should love everyone – especially those who no one else would.  Consequently she befriended a girl at the expense of her own reputation.  Other classmates rejected her, and her new friend’s difficult home life exposed Dr. Kimmel’s little girl’s ears to words they didn’t want her to know, and her eyes to things they didn’t want her to see.

But they didn’t forbid her from seeing her new friend.  Instead, they parented their daughter boldly and purposefully, encouraging her Christ-like love for her playmate.  And that relationship ended up having an effect for eternity.

Did I cringe when I read that story?  Yes.  Do I still cringe?  Yes.  Am I still conflicted?  Absolutely.  But I have been challenged.  And when you are challenged to step out of safety and security, faith comes into play.  Growth happens.

Sometimes the message seemed a little repetitive, but since it’s a good one I didn’t mind.  There was only one aspect of the book that really bothered me.

Dr. Kimmel talks quite a bit about how living for true greatness often breeds the unintended consequence of worldly success.  He cites many examples (Biblical and contemporary) of righteous individuals who were then blessed with success, reputation, wealth, beauty, and influence.

While I absolutely believe that God rewards obedience and integrity, I don’t think it is always in this life.  By continually referencing the worldly success that is likely to come with (oddly enough) forsaking worldly success in your parenting goals, it unfortunately serves to undermine his whole premise.  He unintentionally waters down the message with the continued “carrot” of worldly success.  Since his overall goal of the book is to redefine success in your parenting, I think a quick mention of this phenomenon at the beginning of the book would have sufficed.

I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bath water, though.  Overall I thought this book was very thought-provoking and challenging.  Good stuff.

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