NASHVILLE, Tenn.--After almost a decade as a pediatrician, William Slonecker had heard it all -- the medical questions about kids with colic and strep throat and an array of other queries from anxious parents wondering about this or that symptom.
But surprisingly, many of Slonecker's patients were not coming to ask about medicine at all -- but about discipline.
"From that point on, I made a commitment to find real solutions to the everyday struggles that parents face in rearing children," he says.
"After much trial and error, a philosophy began to develop that produced better-behaved children, more confident parents and happier homes."
In Slonecker's new book "Parenting Principles: From the Heart of a Pediatrician" from Broadman & Holman, he shares some of the parenting skills he has learned throughout 48 years of practicing and teaching pediatrics.
"Many times I have been asked the question, 'Why did you write this book?' Is it because I feel I have some new magic formula for parenting? Is it because I am smarter in discipline than the millions
who have gone before me?" Slonecker writes. "No, No, No! I wrote this book because I felt I could share a unique perspective in this discipline and a successful philosophy with proven results."
Frustrated by liberal authorities who confuse young parents amid an American family structure that is slipping away, he wanted to show a God-centered approach to discipline and child-rearing.
"Young couples turn to three groups of people for advice when raising their children: their parents, their pastor and their pediatrician. I have sought to combine the advice of all three into a workable
structure for parents to use to train their children as God intended," he writes. "I have taken from the Word of God the underlying principles that God uses as He parents His children and used them to develop a strategy for parents to incorporate in their own homes."
After working firsthand with literally thousands of children in the areas of discipline and training, Slonecker says there is "very little" he has not experienced. "Parenting Principles: From the Heart of a Pediatrician" begins by comparing homemaking to painting a picture. God's parenting principles are the canvas; love, authority and trust are the paintbrushes; discipline is the color and texture; and a godly heritage is the easel used from generation to generation.
"This book is about preparing parents with the needed tools and proper techniques to paint to perfection the masterpiece God has intended a child to be," Slonecker says.
With that analogy in mind, Slonecker's book emphasizes two basic themes: love and discipline.
"Here is the point: Children need to be loved," he writes. "When we truly love a child, and when he knows this, serious discipline problems are much less likely to arise. We work so hard at 'parenting' our older children that we sometimes forget to love and enjoy them as we should."
With love as the anchor of the book, Slonecker devotes the bulk of his book to the most misunderstood and quibbled-over aspect of parenthood: discipline (yes, even spanking).
Unabashedly "pro-rod," Slonecker points to the biblical value of training, punishment, reward and recompense when it comes to children.
In the chapter, "To Discipline or Not to Discipline? That Isn't a Question!" he discusses styles of discipline and what happens when children are left without any restraint.
"Some parents don't discipline their children because they are afraid their children will quit loving them. That is nonsense; discipline demonstrates to your child that you do love him," Slonecker writes. "Don't discipline because I say to. Don't even discipline because you think you should. Discipline your children because it is right, and it is what God says to do."
In his straightforward and humorous style, Slonecker intersperses Bible verses, stories, statistics and questions he's been asked into a fast reading meld of serious information.
He also includes common mistakes in discipline, basic "how-tos" for making and enforcing rules, age-specific discipline and ways to build trust between parent and child, plus practical help for illnesses and problems between siblings.
The result for a parent's hard work? A heritage, Slonecker says, quoting Psalm 127:3.
"It is your choice what kind of heritage you leave your child. I fully believe that your decision in this matter is perhaps the most important choice you will ever make as a parent," he writes. "Just as you lived out the heritage of your parents, your children will most definitely live out the heritage that you leave them."
Broadman & Holman is the trade book arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Slonecker's book is available at LifeWay Christian Stores and online at lifewaystores.com.
© 2004 Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.