No one who starts a family plans on falling into patterns of dysfunction, but between the baggage of the past and the pressures of the world today, developing destructive parenting patterns is all too easy.


Family ministry leader Dr. Michelle Anthony has now brought hope and practical help to parents in her new book, Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family: Avoiding the 6 Dysfunctional Parenting Styles (David C Cook/January 1, 2015/ISBN: 978-0781411394/$15.99).


Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family was made for that “freak-out” moment nearly all parents have when they realize their child’s view of God largely comes from what he or she learns at home. While the task is intimidating, parents can avoid the temptation to ignore, outsource or overcompensate and find balance in letting the Lord become the Director of their family’s story.


Interview with Michelle Anthony



Michelle Anthony

Michelle Anthony

 Q: What does a spiritually healthy family look like?

A spiritually healthy family is made up of members who, in a relationship with Jesus, seek to understand and live a surrendered life to God’s plan and will. Through God’s Word they learn this plan, are convicted by God’s Spirit to understand sin areas and allow forgiveness and grace to heal broken places in their (lives). They understand that without God’s help and power, they will not be able to live in peace or victory.


Q: In the book, you present six dysfunctional parenting styles. Of those six, which do you think is the most common?

All of these represent the common dysfunctions in today’s families. What is interesting about them is that these are the “acceptable” dysfunctions . . . so much so that we don’t normally think of these styles as “dysfunctional.” We tend to think of addiction and abuse as dysfunctional, but things such as control and friendship in parenting as good things.


So when these things begin to creep into the excessive category we simply justify we are doing more of a good thing rather than engaging in a habit stemming from a place of brokenness or dysfunction. I have found rarely do we fit neatly into one category. Often we see many of these dysfunctions and/or their tendencies woven together in our lives. Once we take our eyes off God’s plan, this loss of focus opens up our families to all kinds of “acceptable” dysfunctions simply to survive.


Q: Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family shares a number of stories from parents trying to make Christ the director of their families — what is the common thread you see in spiritually healthy families?

Spiritually healthy families still make mistakes and have sin in their lives; however they are endeavoring to live in reality, and they own up to their shortcomings and mistakes. They keep short accounts with God and others so a one-time offense does not have to become a habit or character flaw.


Q: You use a picture of the relationship between a director and an actor to illustrate our relationship with God. Why did you choose that analogy?

James Dean once said, “When an actor plays a scene the way the director intended, it isn’t acting, it’s following directions.” I love the idea that our Christian lives are simply waking up every morning and following directions from God. There is security in living our lives “on script,” but in order to do so we must give up our need to be in control. We must give up the entitlement to have it our own way. Submission to Christ is one of the most difficult parts of living a spiritually healthy life.


Q: What have you done to avoid dysfunction in your own parenting?

I have seen all of these dysfunctions in my parenting at one point or another. At the root of these dysfunctions is sin. Because I am sinful, I am susceptible to any and all of these every day. The best way to be a spiritually healthy parent is to be a spiritually healthy individual. I thrive as a parent when I am living in concert with God’s way and keeping a pure and humble heart before Him. When I am regularly in God’s Word, bringing all things to Him in prayer and thankfulness and being honest about my need for Him, my kids reap the benefits of having a mom who is living with Christ’s love and grace. Yet when I live my life on my own terms and neglect His Word and my prayer life, my sin seems less offensive. Then my kids and those in my family are victims of my selfishness.


Q: What should a parent do if they recognize themselves in the descriptions of dysfunctional parents you’ve included in Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family?

The first part is simply to recognize the dysfunctional behavior. Next, to accept responsibility for its presence instead of blaming others is important too. Once this has taken place, I encourage parents to have a conversation with God about it — simply as if you were sharing it with a friend. God is not going to be surprised by what we say; He already knows it all. He is gracious and loving and will give us wisdom right away on how to deal with things in a more God-honoring and healthy manner. Often God will use a close friend, pastor or counselor to bring clarity to the next steps, so we should seek those individuals in our lives for fresh perspective and accountability.


  1. Why is it important for parents to identify whether or not they were themselves parented in a dysfunctional style?

If we can understand where we came from, often it will inform where we are going. Parents typically fall into either repeating sin patterns that were handed down to them or they will swing the pendulum to the opposite extreme and begin a new dysfunction in an almost-rebellious response that is motivated by a heart that does not want to repeat how their parents did it. Neither of these extremes solves the problem. Yet, taking an honest assessment of how we were parented and the good and bad impact it has had on us creates an environment for parents to make healthy and appropriate adjustments to their new families.


Q: You talk about living “on script.” What do you mean by that?

“Living on script” is simply a metaphor for surrendering the need to control my own life, to accept the life God has given me and to play out that life, as written, for His glory and my good. It acknowledges I am not God and He knows better. He sees the beginning from the end and is working things together to accomplish His plans. It is His story, not mine. But I do play a part in it. If I don’t play my part, no one else will.


Q: In Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family, you encourage parents to go beyond chore charts and good behavior. What do you mean by that?

Sometimes we are seduced into believing that somehow in the abundance of good deeds and behavior we have achieved spiritual health or faith. However, the Bible is clear that there is a distinct difference between good people and redeemed people. Good people will never be “good enough” to be in a relationship with a holy God. Redeemed people are made right with God because Jesus is good and He took the penalty for sin. When we accept His goodness, He makes us clean. When we try to achieve it on our own we will remain far from God. We want to make sure we are passing on faith to our children, not the counterfeit.

Q: Why are rites of passage and milestones in a child’s life important?

These rites of passage give children an identity in their faith community and in their relationship with God. It helps them see their lives as a work-in-progress rather than a moment when magically we should have it all together. These rites of passage mark a journey, not a destination.


Q: What role does a mission statement serve for a spiritually healthy family?

It serves as a compass. It keeps us focused on the things we declare are most important. Life is full of distractions, and without it we will consistently find ourselves with competing agendas and priorities.

Learn more about Michelle Anthony and Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family at

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