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Worry is not a parenting skill

2023 BOOKS OF THE YEAR | Counselor’s book helps readers see through common child-rearing lies

Worry is not a parenting skill
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“How would you say worry affects you, as a parent?”

Imagine seasoned counselor Sissy Goff asking you this at Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, Tenn., the city rocked by the shooting at Covenant School in March. Though Goff offered extensive free counseling to Covenant students after the tragedy, her new book, The Worry-Free Parent (Bethany House 2023), was written and slated for publication before the shooting occurred. Her words have just become timelier. “I’m sitting in my chair, leaning toward you, and smiling,” Goff writes to parents learning to cope with their own anxieties. “You’re on my couch. My little dog, Lucy, is sitting at your feet. I want you to start by ­taking three deep breaths. Here’s what I want you to hear me say first: I see you. I believe the best about you.”

Some parents have grown so accustomed to their anxiety that they seem to consider worry a prerequisite to good parenting.

Goff claims that in her three decades of counseling, she has never seen so many parents as weary, discouraged, and critical of themselves as she does now. Over the course of roughly 240 pages, her book offers 12 concise chapters to address that problem, breaking subjects into helpful groups of “5s” (5 Ways the Anxiety of Parents Impacts the Anxiety of Kids, 5 Ways Parents Can Learn to Trust Their Gut, etc.). “I know that the voice in your head and your thoughts turn toward self-criticism or even self-hatred way too frequently. Here’s the honest truth: It never helps.” Acknowledging that worry is contagious between parents and children, she urges moms and dads to do their own “worry work,” whether that’s getting counseling themselves or finally taking care of their own bodies and getting much-needed rest.

Some parents, Goff posits in her chapter “Understanding Worry and Anxiety,” have grown so accustomed to their anxiety that they seem to consider worry a prerequisite to good ­parenting. “The average age of onset for anxiety is seven. Take your age and subtract seven. That is likely how long this anxiety storm inside of you has been brewing. And I believe becoming a parent strengthens the storm significantly.” Goff’s typical anxious clients are bright and caring and tend toward perfectionism. They may believe their anxiety and rumination can help them control their unpredictable worlds—one of many lies Goff exposes with Scripture. Her wisdom for chronic worriers includes such gems as try softer (as opposed to harder). Good parents get it right 50 percent of the time. Admit failure. Know grace. Zoom out.

Goff loves the Enneagram and The Message paraphrase Bible, but you don’t have to share those loves to benefit from her points. She offers tools based on talk therapy and practical exercises (grounding, meditation, prayer, breathing). She helps readers become good thought detectives in their own brains and to seek evidence that proves their worried thoughts, which they probably won’t find. She asks: Which common parenting lies do you allow to live in your head? Maybe, “I’m harming my kids in ways I can’t see now but will regret later”? Or “Everyone else is doing a better job”?

In a thought-scape with the air sucked out of it by demanding extracurriculars, scary news, and social media pressures to do it all, parents need a guide like Goff to remind them that they’re actually doing a better job than they think and that they can trust God to love their kids well through them. Goff believes in the reader so much, in fact, that you’ll wish you were actually there with her at Daystar, taking those three deep breaths.

Honorable Mentions

Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age

Rosaria Butterfield
(Crossway 2023)

Butterfield seeks to equip believers to stand against “five lies” related to sex and gender. Her short list includes the lies that homosexuality and transgenderism are normal, that feminism is good but modesty is bad, and that being “spiritual” is “kinder than being a biblical Christian.” She demonstrates that such lies now thrive in Christian circles by quoting numerous authors like Greg Johnson, Preston Sprinkle, and Kristin Kobes Du Mez. And she measures an author’s claims (e.g., the idea of “queer treasures in heaven”) with Scripture and historic Christian doctrines. Butterfield does seem to speculate beyond Scripture at times, but offers conservatives strong arguments against LGBTQ and “Side B” propaganda, especially when cloaked in Christian verbiage. —See Emily Whitten’s full review in WORLD’s Oct. 7 issue

The Toxic War on Masculinity

Nancy R. Pearcey
(Baker Books 2023)

Pearcey details the many ways Americans have mishandled gender, ­particularly zeroing in on the post–Industrial Revolution belief that men are brutes to be civilized by religious women. She argues that if women treat men as if they ­cannot rise to God’s ­calling—gentle fatherhood, faithful marriage—then women will get what they ordered: boys, not men. Still, she doesn’t let men off the hook for shirking responsibility. Pearcey’s idea of the good life is informed by Colonial America, where, in her view, both men and women better fulfilled the call to be “fruitful and multiply” and “take dominion.” We hear a lot about how women “want to have it all,” but Pearcey demonstrates that men do too—and that fatherhood is good for them. —See Chelsea Boes’ full review in WORLD’s Oct. 21 issue

Time To Think

Hannah Barnes
(Swift Press 2023)

Time To Think is a bombshell book. Barnes chronicles the rise and fall of the once-largest gender identity clinic in the world—the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in London—and she provides crucial data and testimonies of irreparable harm caused by common gender treatment protocols (many still used in America). Sadly, Barnes doesn’t see the root deception here—a denial that gender is God-given and matches one’s biological sex. But she brilliantly exposes how a particular version of trans ideology took over the British scientific community and how many whistleblowers ­sacrificed their careers to wake Britons up. The book offers a critical blueprint for how Americans can work to end some of the worst malpractice still harming our children. —See Emily Whitten’s full review in WORLD’s Oct. 21 issue

Digital Liturgies

Samuel D. James
(Crossway 2023)

Tech analysts talk about the hypothetical dangers of sentient artificial intelligence—that technology will become like us. James makes the opposite case: We are in danger of becoming like technology. By removing people from what he calls the “givenness” of the natural world, technology communicates that humans can transcend the natural limitations of their bodies and circumstances. This can create a kind of cognitive dissonance, making ­people feel discontent with their lives when they have a far “better” vision only inches away from their eyes. With social media, people can create ­profiles based solely on their self-perception, even if that perception has little to do with reality. This fuels the trans movement, the teenage mental health crisis, and ever-widening political divides. —See Bekah McCallum’s full review in WORLD’s Nov. 4 issue

Next in this 2023 Books of the Year special issue: “Treating a theological disease.”

Chelsea Boes

Chelsea is editor of World Kids.



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