Although I do not have any teenagers in my house, I thought it would be better to read this book too early, instead of too late. I believe I was right. This book reminds me a lot of Tedd Tripp's book, Shepherding a Child's Heart, but with an emphasis on teens and how to relate to the teenage populace.
I truly enjoyed the honesty and also the way in which Dr. Tripp directs us as parents at the heart instead of our children instead of fixing mere actions. Usually, we as parents believe all is well if our children would just obey us, whether they are obeying us for the right reasons or not is a totally different question. Paul's book sets up so the parent gets to the teen's heart so that they obey based on their love of the glory of God rather than merely trying to follow rules that are set up. What this will do is drive critical thinking in the teen so that they can make decisions for themselves in different situations and will not need to know, "did my mom and dad say specifically I couldn't do this or that?" Instead they will strive to seek the Lord's will and ask, "In what way does this decision either glorify God or take away from it?"
The book is set up in three parts:
Part I: Clearing the Debris
In this first part Dr. Tripp is really trying to lay the foundation of the family and how God desires it to be set up. He speaks to those involved (parent and teen) and also speaks to the parent understanding the teen so that the next parts of the book can fall into place. I sincerely appreciate the chapter on "Whose Idols Are in the Way?" Dr. Tripp drives home the importance for us as parents to seek out our idols and destroy them so that our discipline and time with our children becomes godly, instead of reactionary.
Part II: Setting Godly Goals
This is really the practical part of the book. After laying out the foundation Dr. Tripp shows what should be important for every godly parent. He helps show forth how to disciple your children to have godly convictions towards culture and wisdom in how to respond. The idea behind this chapter is so that when that day comes where the teen leaves home, you can be confident that your work in them has been accomplished and they are ready to decipher the world through godly vision.
Part III: Practical Strategies for Parenting Teens
This last part is only 40 pages of the 253 page book. It seems to be more of a wrap up instead of completely new ideas. It seems to be more of a conclusion than a separate part. Part II and Part III really bleed together to make the last half of the book the practical wisdom given from Dr. Tripp to the readers.
One of my favorite discussions in the whole of the book was found in chapter 11. Dr. Tripp sets up four verbs for parents who desire to model Christ to their teen. I believe a quick synopsis of this will give you an overall feel for how the book is laid out.
Accept: We are to accept our sinful children with the grace of Christ. We are not to enable their sin, but we are also not to be judgmental parents who are condemning to the teen. When condemnation and judgmental attitudes prevail the teen will shut themselves off and never feel as though they can openly communicate to the parent.
Incarnate: As Christ was incarnate God to the world and to us, so too we are to incarnate Christ to our children. We are to reveal love, grace, patience, gentleness, kindness, etc. and continue to show them the gospel in deeds instead of merely words.
Identify: (my favorite part of the entire book) Hebrews 2:10 says that Christ was not ashamed to call us brothers and we should not be ashamed to call our teens, brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be able to identify with them in their sin. We should not be ones who would ever say, "I can't believe you would do that, I would never have done that." If this statement is actually true, the parent is not a sinner saved by grace, but a Pharisee who sees themselves as greater than others by their works. To identify with the teen will show them that you too struggle with sin, and you can show them who you go to for comfort and forgiveness in that sin: Christ Jesus our Saviour. Without the reminder that we too are sinners, the teen will believe that you cannot relate and will run away from you during their struggles instead of running to you.
Enter: As Christ entered our world and culture for 33 years, so we too should enter the world that our teenager lives in. This means seeking them out, even if it is uncomfortable. Asking them questions and listening to what drives them, what discourages them, what excites them, what they struggle with and the temptations that they face every day. When we seek them out to find out where they are coming from, we show them that we truly have an interest in who they are and what they face instead of trying to just pigeon hole them into whoever we think that they should be and what they should be facing. It shows that we truly have interest and value them.
I truly enjoyed this book and believe it is of great help to any who have teens now or who will be having teens soon. Dr. Tripp continues to humble the parent and drive them to the greatest desire: to parent for the glory of Christ, not for the glory of the parent. Highly Recommended.