There was a time when raising the next generation was a “seat of the pants” operation—literally and figuratively. Intuition was the basis for most parental moves, with someone’s mother or a trusted neighbor the closest child-rearing expert. Parents wanted the best for their children, but understood the best was by no means a given; the future was, after all, not entirely in their own hands.

These days, however, a mother or father can hardly make a move without running headlong into a talk show, lecture series, or shelf of books brimming with advice on how to ensure a child’s place in the up-and-coming generation. Says Barbara Katz, writing in Parents magazine, “professional parents” are downright driven to cultivate their children’s abilities and college-bound resumes—superparents raising superkids. Armed with expert advice, they view parenting less as an instinctive process than a quantifiable set of do’s and don’ts, which, if applied properly, can transform any child into a runner by three, a reader by four, a writer by five.

To be sure, the findings of child psychologists over the past century have proved a blessing in helping frustrated parents better understand their particular “kid under construction.” And yet a question harried parents should be asking themselves is what this infatuation with the “quantification of child-rearing” might be saying about our relationship to the growing next generation—not to mention our relationship to God.

Assembly-Line Kids

Parenting has never been easy. But according to David Elkind, author of the ground-breaking book The Hurried Child, not since the Great Depression have American moms and ...

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