The parenting book market is overwhelming, and for Christian parents, it’s difficult to weed through the options to find some truly great books that will encourage and challenge us in our journey. The 6 excellent books for Christian parents I’ve chosen here are a mix of old-fashioned and newer releases, and they have one thing in common: they make no apologies for an unwavering commitment to raising children by God’s biblical standards.
These books are (mostly) not about bedtime routines, getting your kids to eat their vegetables, or potty training. These focus on the heart and soul of your child, which should always be the number one priority of Christian parents. When parents focus on this, child-rearing takes on a completely different look. These books give you practical, biblical advice for training behavior, not punishing behavior. They do address the actions of children (and reasons for those actions), and gently show the reader how to apply God’s wisdom to each situation for long-term solutions.
These books will not high-five your “messy life” or pat you gently on the head and tell you just to follow your heart. These books will convict you, challenge you, encourage you, and stretch you. They might make you a little angry, or they might be the mentoring and encouragement you’ve been desperate for. I have read and re-read these five books and highly recommend them all for your parenting library. (They make very thoughtful baby-shower gifts, too!)
The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle
Here’s why I love this book: “A true Christian must be no slave to fashion if he wants to train his child for heaven. He must not be content to do things merely because they are the custom of the world. He must not teach and instruct his children in certain ways merely because it is the usual way. He must train train with an eye on his children’s souls. He must not be ashamed to hear his training called narrow-minded and strange.”
That about sums up the straightforward honesty of this book, and sets the standard for all the books on this list.
“This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind in all you do for your children. In every step you take for them – in every plan, scheme, and arrangement that concerns them – do not leave out that might question, ‘How will this affect their souls?'”
The Duties of Parents is written with an encouraging and kind voice, but doesn’t mince words on the actual biblical duties of parents. J.C. Ryle lists 17 different duties of parents, including: Train Your Child to a Knowledge of the Bible, Train Them to Redeem the Time, Train Them and Beware of Overindulgence, Train Them to Realize the Power of Sin…Though the book is old (published in the 19th century), the biblical truths transcend time. This book is at the top of my list for good reason.
The Life Giving Parent by Clay and Sally Clarkson
This is a modern book filled with solid biblical parenting advice combined with practical ways to implement it. Sally Clarkson has written many books for mothers (and they are all equally excellent), but this one is co-authored by her husband Clay, who also shared in writing Educating the Wholehearted Child — still my favorite book on home education after all these years.
The Lifegiving Parent seems to be a rather ho-hum title, but the words in this book are anything but!
“‘Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23) What [Solomon] instructs them to do for themselves as young men is what we must also do for our young children in order to guard their hearts.
So what does it look like to guard your children’s harts? What has changed in three thousand years since Solomon’s words? I would have to agree with him that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The reasons a guard is needed on the wall of your children’s hearts are roughly the same now as when Solomon expressed the concept to his sons. Your children need your protection in three major areas: relationships, appetites, and influences.
Training our children’s appetites for the things that bring them into the life of God is a proactive process; training their appetites away from things that don’t is reactive. By being heart-guards who keep those appetites at bay when children are young and trainable, we can exercise for our children the mature discernment and self-denial that they do not yet possess.”
Each chapter is written by Clay Clarkson, and followed up by Sally’s memories of raising their children, and then summed up with practical tips for application. The Clarksons have four grown children who are a testimony to their parenting. I strongly recommend everything they have written!
(You can also purchase a 10-week study guide to The Life Giving Parent for personal or group use!)
Come Ye Children by Charles Spurgeon
Another gem from the 19th century, and by the Prince of Preachers himself! Charles Spurgeon wrote and preached prolifically, and has left us a wealth of encouragement for the Christian life. This book is no exception. In Come Ye Children, he writes about the necessity of leading our children to the Lord through our daily words and examples, and by the life we lead with them.
“Parents sin in the same way when they omit religion from the education of their children. Perhaps they think their children cannot be converted when they are children, so they don’t think it matters where the children go to school in their tender years. But this is not so. Many parents even forget this when their girls and boys are finishing their early school days. They send them away to the universities, to places polluted with every moral and spiritual danger, with the idea that they can complete an elegant education there.
In many cases, I have seen education produce young men who are degenerate prodigals and young women who are mere flirts. As we sow, we reap. We must expect our children to know the Lord and mingle the name of Jesus with their ABCs from the beginning. Let them read their first lessons from the Bible, for it is a remarkable thing that there is no book from which children learn to read so quickly as from the New Testament.”
Spurgeon is also very kindhearted in his language, gently encouraging the reader in solid truths. He speaks to parents raising children for the Lord, but also to pastors and churches and anyone else responsible for training children. I think it’s a wonderful handbook for children’s ministry — not full of statistics and charts on modern ministry — but the clear direction of Scripture in reaching little ones.
Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull
From the Foreward: We have unearthed a treasure in Hints on Child Training, originally published in 1890. H.C. Trumbull was one of America’s most prominent Christian authors and spokesmen, dedicated to the evangelism of children. It was his love for children and a goal to see peace and order restored to our homes that prompted the writing of this book. He shares very frankly from his lifetime experience of teaching and raising eight children of his own. These are working principles, not untried theories. Trumbull was also the great-grandfather of Elisabeth Eliot.
His “hints” are divided up into chapters on everything from Training the Will to Training a Child Not to Tease. There are everyday-life matters and spiritual matters all combined.
In the chapter Will-Training, Rather Than Will-Breaking, he writes: “To break a child’s will is to crush out for the time being, and so far to destroy, the child’s privilege of free choice; it is to force him to an action against his choice, instead of inducing him to choose in the right direction. A child’s will is his truest personality; the expression of his will in a free choice is the highest expression of his personality. And a child’s personality is to be held sacred by God’s representative who is over the child, even as God Himself holds sacred the personality of every human being created in the image of God.”
In another chapter, he admonishes: “Children need to learn how to do things which they do not want to do, when those things ought to be done. Older people have to do a great many things from a sense of duty. Unless children are trained to recognize duty as more binding than inclination, they will suffer all their lives through from their lack of understanding of discipline in this direction.”
Equipping parents in the daily, yearly, constant issues of parenting is a specialty of this book. Great for reading as your family grows or with the changing seasons of childhood.
Education: Does God Have an Opinion? by Israel Wayne
As I said in the beginning, the books I’ve listed here will challenge you, and convict you, and might offend your long-held beliefs. Education is definitely in that category!
Israel Wayne is, like me, a 2nd generation homeschooler. He has presented a case for Christian education in a very thorough and biblical manner. Guess what? You won’t find the words “public school” or “homeschool” in the Bible, and yet despite that, God does have an opinion on education! This book is a wonderful illustration on how to find God’s will on any topic without looking up key phrases in a concordance. It comes from a deep and consistent study of the Bible.
Let’s put all the cards on the table “He [God] never intended nor instructed the State to teach children. They are to punish evildoers and protect the citizens from harm. Education was given to parents, and Christian parents dare not neglect their responsibility.” As the subtitle states, this book is a “biblical apologetic for Christian education and homeschooling.”
Though home education grows by leaps and bounds every day in America, there is still a strongly-defended mindset that public education “isn’t all that bad.” If you are of that opinion, I challenge you to at least read this book. Consider the scriptures, the history, and the examples given.
After reading the first four books on this list, it would be almost impossible to follow the advice given in them while simultaneously sending your child away from home for a minimum of 10,000 hours of their childhood. If the majority of their waking hours is spent in the company of others, who is having the most influence on their tender years?
That’s why this book is on my list for Christian parents. It’s a parenting book, because, let’s face it: school makes up the biggest part of childhood. It’s a parental decision to relegate that part of your job to others.
After laying the groundwork for what God says about education, Wayne doesn’t leave you hanging. There are chapters devoted to each school subject, and a section on getting started. You can read my full review of this book here.
Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham
Baucham sums up everything the first five book say, and applies it to a post-Christian world. He says, “We do marriage according to Dr. Phil, raise our children according to Dr. Spock, govern our sex lives according to Dr. Ruth, and only run to Dr. Jesus when things have gotten so bad we can’t find another doctor to help us.” Ouch.
This book is a mixture of Baucham’s own family story (from growing up in the Los Angeles “hood” to discovering the importance of his role as head of a Christian family) and his honest admonition to defy the culture and raise our children God’s way. And in doing so, he illustrates the secular culture and shows us how to rise above it.
He addresses marriage, dating, family size, education, churches, and so much more, and in doing so, he compares what the secular culture looks like in each of these areas to what the Bible tells us.
This is an excellent read for newlyweds!
When to Read These Books
Depending on where you are in your parenting journey, you may wish to read these books in a certain order:
If you are about to have children or are currently rocking your first tiny baby, I recommend starting with The Life Giving Parent and Family Driven Faith. These two will give you some great inspiration for getting your family started on a solid biblical foundation. Follow those up with The Duties of Parents.
Maybe you need some direction on shaping behaviors? Read Hints on Child Training for sure. Maybe you have preschool-aged children? Definitely read Education: Does God Have an Opinion?
If you were not raised in a Christian home, or perhaps you have no idea how to have a Christian home, start with Family Driven Faith and Come, Ye Children, and then read The Life Giving Parent, followed by The Duties of Parents.
If you already have children (all ages), you’re going to benefit from all six at any time!
I hope my recommendations for these 6 excellent books for Christian parents will encourage you to begin a parenting library. If you want more like these, consider reading other works by these authors. You won’t be disappointed!
While you’re here, visit my Knowledge Keepers Bookstore! In it you’ll find the books and the stories that have shaped this great country, the books that influenced our founders and our ancestors, the books that Americans have mostly ignored or never heard of, but the good books that we should all read and protect. Join me in saving Western Civilization, one book at a time!
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Board of Directors. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.