I found this book immensely difficult to assess. On one hand it is a very easy and enjoyable read, and contains plenty of wise and helpful practical advice on the immensely demanding business of parenting teenagers. On the other hand, although it comes from a ‘Christian stable’, it is almost totally devoid of references to God, the Bible or the most vital issues of life and eternity.
The book is divided into three basic sections. The first aims to reassure struggling parents that it is normal to find the task of parenting teens incredibly demanding and emotionally draining. It contains some interesting material about both hormones and the development of the brain, which together help explain why teenagers can be so bad at evaluating the consequences of their actions.
The second section deals with a range of key practical issues that face teenagers and their parents – school, bullying, sex, the internet, drugs and self-esteem. Here, as everywhere, Rob Parsons is sane, thoughtful and immensely practical in all he says.
The final part of the book is called, somewhat mysteriously, ‘answering the greatest question’, and deals with unconditional love and acceptance, communication, and letting our youngsters go as they grow older. All the material was helpful, and I found the section on the tendency to try to control an older teen specially perceptive.
Yet for all that is really helpful here, I simply could not recognise it as a Christian treatment of the subject. Rob Parsons works for ‘Care for the Family’, an organisation with the strap-line ‘a Christian response to a world of need’. Yet the first mention of God in the book appears on page 136, and there are only three further (generally obscure) references to God, Christ and spirituality in the whole book!
It might fairly be argued that many of the ideas in the book are derived from (or at least compatible with) Bible principles, and that its aim is to get the wisdom of God’s word into otherwise prejudiced minds – to benefit society by stealth!
Yet this book gives the impression, wrongly I’m sure, that the author believes that Bible has nothing important to say on the vital matter of training up children, at least not in their teenage years. Worse still is its failure to say anything at all about our need of God’s grace, help and forgiveness in parenting.
The desire to write books on practical subjects that speak beyond the Christian community is surely laudable. And no one with a modicum of wisdom would pretend it is easy to do effectively. Yet such books serve little purpose if, like this one, they completely hide the distinctives of biblical wisdom and the astonishing grace of God.
Surely the great goal of all parenting is to seek to train up our children – by instruction, example, ethos, church involvement and prayer – to walk with God. To set our eyes anywhere else is a recipe for disaster, however attractive our adult sons and daughters may appear to the watching world.