First Ask Why Review: What is Why Parenting?

On April 11, 2018, as a member of hope*writers, I came across a post in which First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God through Intentional Discipleship author, Shelly Hunt Wildman, was introducing herself to the writers’ forum. Reading her post, the name of the book alone felt like an answer to a prayer I’d been praying at least since late February, when I’d felt compelled to write a letter to school about bullying.

Every relationship, I’m learning changes – like a butterfly out of its cocoon. With children, as your feelings for and interaction with them become closer and more beautiful; it also becomes more complex. And complexity…is good and bad. Put another way, kids grow up…and away. They have words and want independence, but they carry the new weight of life and awareness on young foal’s or filly’s shaky legs.

As a parent, I found myself wishing we could pretend – that what I was finding out hadn’t really happened… It would have been nice to pretend it wasn’t my job to step in and have something wise to say. I was terrified, because my kids were trusting us, trust ME – trusting MOM to handle their revelations. Somehow…

I’ve told friends: Though I’d grown distant from things we all associate with God – distant from church, and all that that entails; distant from books by my favorite Bible teachers; and, even my Bible – God plugged me back in, just in time! It was one of the few times since our latest church membership was withdrawn (Yes, our membership was cancelled) that I attended a church service.

It was not MY kind of church. It was pop cultural and relevant and good at sermons people can relate to – with great media and analogies that help attendees think about if they do or, how they can “measure up” to a more godly standard. But God was there, too, and I got sucked into a Bible app plan, which got me reading the Bible again. Every day… It was like me rolling onto my left side at night, after laying on my back, 22 weeks into pregnancy. In other words, I could breathe again.

I once again remembered things vital – about God, about me. I went from grayed-out to my colorful new creation self.

And not a minute too soon.

I don’t know how I’d do it – counsel my kids and have a strategy for talking with them – if I wasn’t deeply studying or, at least READING the Bible every day. It is food. It is wisdom. God the Holy Spirit uses it to teach us and remind us of all truth.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t really hard or, that I don’t feel like this season of motherhood won’t drown me if I’m not on my guard. You don’t understand what you’re signing up for when God rewards you with children – the great burden of training and loving them through darkness within and without.

When I saw Shelly Hunt Wildman’s First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God through Intentional Discipleship, I knew God was directing more wisdom my way. Based on the interest I expressed, Wildman provided me with a net galley for review on April 11, 2018. On April 15, 2018, I finished.

I have a boy and girls (11, 9, 6.5, and a girl due on August 16, 2018), and right away, I started to see why the book is called First Ask Why as I got insight into the mom who wrote it: Parenting is a strengths-based approach to training the children God has given us. Wildman’s approach is, “intentional.”

Intentional Parenting looks a certain way when used. It seeks to instill something into children. It’s forward-thinking and futuristic, seeing the end from the beginning and relying on God to bridge the gap.

Intention is planning. It’s forethought. It isn’t, however, perfection. Perfection isn’t even the goal. Intentional Parenting is NOT simply following a parental checklist. Intention asks, Why? Intentional Parenting helps hold children’s worlds together in a way that makes sense, instead of giving them a set of rules to follow. Intentional Parenting helps parents train their children to have judgment.

Intentional Parents – Disciplers – are learning, too. Like my six year old said to me one morning: “I ask you Why? because I want to learn.” I can’t always answer the questions, but I love that my kids are thinking, trying to piece together their world. In the same way, Intentional Parents are trying to piece together their strategy – choosing what to do, what activities to participate in, what spiritual values to emphasize, etc..

Intentional Parenting is Why Parenting, not How Parenting; the difference is FOCUS. Focus on the reason for everything being done as a parent being, in the case of First Ask Why, “capturing their hearts for Jesus” – versus getting them to act like this or that. First Ask Why is for parents who have a vision of and reason behind who they want their children to be. The book addresses readers about how to be Intentional Parent Disciplers and helps them think about how to “raise children who know and love Jesus, who love others, and who will make a difference in the world for Christ.”

There are things I fundamentally disagree with author, Shelly Wildman about, and as a Christian, First Ask Why depresses me, frankly. With all due respect, I would not suggest the book for theological reasons – after delving into it. On my website, JAY JONES MOM-A-GRAM DOT COM SLASH WORDPRESS, you can read the Synopsis: Book Dissection detailing my reasons for saying so.

While I don’t agree with everything in the book, First Ask Why is a great place to get ideas about teaching your children the value of and ways to be financial stewards of the resources God gives them. Additionally, I think Wildman is truly in her wheelhouse as she encourages moms and dads and guardians to trust God and to choose to open themselves to healthy steps along the journey toward our children’s independence. First Ask Why draws a compelling picture of growing our children’s freedom as we depend fully on God to do so.

NOTE: My Synopsis: Book Dissection on First Ask Why, detailing my complete and comprehensive thoughts on and critique of the book, is attached to the Reviews page as well as my two blog posts concerning the book.

First Ask Why by Shelly Wildman: Why? will Change your Life

I’m barely out of the Introduction and I’m already being influenced by First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God through Intentional Discipleship and its exploration of Intentional Parenting. My oldest was headed to the park to meet a friend (a child of the opposite sex). She didn’t want to check in by riding her bike back here and popping her head in, but instead, she wanted to use her friend’s phone to call.

I don’t like the kids using phones – not yet. Part of our job as parents (in this household), is to limit things. To be a restraint… But after reading just the introduction of First Ask Why, I had to ask myself, WHY don’t you want her using the phone to check in? Should you be using this as an opportunity to explore her growing independence?

Why? is a question that allows us to learn, but…I also think it can have an unraveling effect on us – as parents and as people: I have to trust that God the Holy Spirit is leading me and that God has given me new desires (Ezekiel 36:26.) So, asking myself Why? all the time can lead to self-doubt and introspection for which, I frankly don’t have the time.

I had a long talk with my oldest just the other night. We’ve been having LOTS of those, lately. It’s a season we’re in… I was trying to explain why there are things that we don’t do, even though her friends are doing them and, she would love to be freer. I brought up the story of the prodigal son: “He wanted his inheritance early. And even though his father knew it would probably end badly, he gave his son freedom. Because, I told her, freedom is love. It’s why Adam and Eve were allowed to decide something that would change all of humanity – because God loved them.

“And if you love something, I think you’ve probably heard the saying, you have to let it go. Love is freedom, and freedom is the right to be wrong…”

“Can I have my inheritance early?” my oldest asked me eagerly, making me fear I’d failed to convey something important. “No,” I told her. “It’s my job to train to you in the way that you should go” (Proverbs 22:6.) “But when you’re old enough, I will let you go and make all of your own decisions – right or wrong.”

When, First Ask Why has made me ask myself, is “when you’re old enough”?