Motivate Your Child | Book Review

Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told
by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN

In their book, Motivate Your Child, Turansky and Miller know just how to get the attention of any parent.  They give scenarios we can all relate to, like trying to rush our kids out the door in the morning and being tired of saying the same things every day, “put your shoes on….brush your hair…..don’t hit your sister.” Or dealing with kids perpetually fighting in the back of the minivan. Many parenting approaches offer more of a method or formula to address problem behaviors.  This book focuses instead on parenting the heart of your child, which relies more on prayerful discernment and customizing your parenting to match your child.

I likened a lot of their advice to parenting with the end in mind.  I don’t need to just address the current behavior of picking on a little sister.  I’ve been learning to say to my daughter, “I know you want to be kind.  What does that look like?  What do we need to do to fix this?”  Consequences match the behavior and the child and the ultimate end of Christ working in her heart and transforming her life.

In Part 1 of the book, they focus on moral development in children and spend a great deal of time talking about the conscience (as distinct from the Holy Spirit, whose role they also discuss in parenting Christian kids).  In a no-conscience approach to parenting, you have to be your child’s conscience with bribes and consequences as your main tools.  But our goal as parents is to foster independence, so the book focuses on teaching a child about integrity, honor, compassion, selflessness, responsibility—the root issues—and complementing that with consequences as needed.

In Part 2, they discuss spiritual development of children where they cover important topics such as salvation in young children and how to ‘go solo’ as a single parent or perhaps the only Christian parent in a home.  Their advice for moms especially who aren’t sure how much of a leadership role to take in family devotions is some of the best I’ve ever read.  They also talk a lot about how to disciple your children at home (and not just rely on the church to do it for you) and how any family can find a way to establish family nights and devotions/Scripture.

The book seemed like a perfect fit for me as I parent mostly elementary-age children, and I think it addresses issues well for tweens and teens also.  However, the truth is that in the very early ages of parenting, mostly we really are just addressing behaviors.  I need my child to obey my ‘no’ and that doesn’t normally require a great deal of conversation, questioning, or deep psychological work.  Most of the techniques and suggestions they give seem more appropriate for kids 3 or 4 and older.

I liked the emphasis on parenting the heart of the child and I specifically leaned in anytime they talked about teaching siblings to love one another and show kindness to each other.  That’s a need in my home!  The truth is that this parenting model will take work and a great deal of discernment.  It means making decisions for each individual child in each individual issue.  It requires deeply knowing the heart of your child, especially your child’s weaknesses and propensity to sin so that you can come alongside God and address the needs there.  It means using Scripture, not as a club to beat children into submission, but as a motivator and teacher of right and wrong.  For parents of teens, it means using more of a coaching-style in parenting—asking questions, allowing some independence in safe ways and removing the freedom of independence as necessary.  At any age, they suggest asking questions instead of telling your child what needs to happen or what needs to be done, such as “What are you missing?  Do you see anything that needs to be picked up?  How can you treat others the way the Bible tells you to treat them?”

This is not just time-outs and stickers and that’s what I love about it!  I don’t want good, moral kids.  I don’t want behavioral automatons.  I don’t want kids who never make mistakes.  I want kids who love Jesus and are thankful for His grace and are passionate for His Word.  Christian parenting should be such a blessed responsibility and high calling and ultimately we rely on the Holy Spirit to help us as parents know how to draw our kids to Christ.  I can see this being a parenting book I re-read in the future, gleaning tips for the moment and then coming back for more ideas as the needs change in my family.


I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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