First things first.
God bless Eugene Peterson for all he did for Christendom by writing The Message (among many other things), but his publishers need to repent for coming up with a horrible title for an excellent book. It’s even worse when you are verbalizing it to people. “Like… Do… What?”
It originates from the scripture “From the womb of the morning, like dew your youth will come to you.” (Psalm 110:3) If you think long and hard about it, you may eventually be able to read between the lines. Still, not every Bible verse is book title material. (And we won’t even mention the cover…)
Redeemably, there is a subtitle and it gives a much better idea of what the book is actually about: Growing Up With Your Teenager.
It was recommended to me years ago by my DC pastor and his wife whom I respect very much because they gave our family 8 years of solid biblical wisdom and loving personal support and have raised six amazing children into adulthood. So I put it on my mental wish list for down the road…
More recently there was a great discussion on our homeschool moms email listserve about parenting teenagers, so our book club decided to read it together.
Despite my oldest child being 8 years old, I am thankful to have read it ahead of the teenage years. Much applies to parents of younger kids and we need to start practicing many of these ways of thinking and relating before our kids get to the adolescent stage.
My favorite thing about this book, is that it takes teenagers seriously and views the adolescent years with hope instead of fear. There is no eye-rolling or snide remarks about how it’s just a phase and they are so unreasonable, yada, yada, yada… He understands and explains well all that adolescents are going through and how this new season is meant to be a valuable sanctification process for parents who are willing to see it that way.
Finally, one way you know you have come across an excellent book is when you are consistently underlining and starring and circling things in the middle of the paragraphs. You will really miss some of the meat if you skim.
Oh! And don’t overlook the wonderfully insightful questions at the end of each chapter as well as the directions on how to start a Parent Coalition group to develop mutual support through these critical years.
BTW, if I want to heed sage advice from anyone about some of the most intimidating years in all of parenting, it would be from an 80-year-old retired minister/theology professor who has published over 30 books on spirituality, raised 3 children to adulthood and lives in Montana with his first wife.
Okay. So now I’m officially done talking about how great this book is and we will turn it over to Eugene to let him speak for himself:
“My purpose is to block any approach that reduces adolescence to a problem that must be solved and insist that it is an experience to be entered into by the middle-aged as well as by the young as a means for growing up. But there is a difference: what the young are forced to go through by virtue of their biology, the middle-aged willingly embrace by virtue of their faith (or willfully refuse in their unbelief.)”
“Adolescence is also a gift, God’s gift, to the parent in middle-age (when the juices of life dry up.) God then brings into our lives a challenge to grow, testing our love, chastening our hope, pushing our faith…demanding response and requiring participation.”
“Adolescence is not exempt [from grace.]”
Understanding the Process of Adolescence
“Adolescence is, by definition, maladjustment. And getting adjusted is a strenuous and often noisy process. It is…various and energetic…wild and wonderful.”
“At no other time in life does a person experience more insecurity than during adolescence. The adolescent is erratic and inconsistent. Character is in the process of being formed but it is far from finished.”
“Adolescence is the time when we become ourselves...youths often practice defining themselves by demonstrating what they are not.”
“Every choice a youth makes – even the seemingly insubstantial ones – is part of a process in which he is learning to make choices that will make him what he will be in Christ.”
“There comes a time when…the “no” imposed from the outside needs to become the “no” embraced from the inside.”
“Adolescents need to observe, imitate, and make mistakes in the context of care and faith.”
“When children become adolescents they are no longer primary ‘learners’; they now become more and more ‘deciders‘.”
“Doubt and questioning and rebellion is evidence that something deeply significant is taking place in the personality of the adolescent.”
“When a child grows into adolescence, other needs are added – the need to express oneself, the need to “be myself,” the need to make personal decisions, the need to exercise willpower.”
“Adolescents are, as a class, moralists and idealists.”
“They only learn to be trustworthy by being trusted.”
“The adolescent body is surprising its occupant with all sorts of new capacities and sensations, and the adolescent spirit is also undergoing rapid and unprecedented development.”
“The test of maturity is the forgiveness of one’s elders.” (Murray Kempton)
Understanding the Tendency of Parents
“Parents feel so responsible and at the same time so helpless, so out of control.“
“There are ways to dismiss or avoid the adolescent and still keep up the appearances of being a parent.”
“Not infrequently, parents are heard to complain about it. Many stoically stick it out, assured that adolescence is self-curing and will be over in 7 or 8 years. They never open the gift; they never enter the laboratory.”
“Parents do not improve family life at this juncture by doing more vehemently the same things they have been doing all along.”
“If there is a deformation to which middle-aged Christian disciples are subject, it is the assumption that, because they have completed their growth biologically and have certification of their growth educationally and professionally, there is no more growing to be done. They develop a blind spot concerning personal growth.”
“Some parents remove themselves from the processes of growth and only preside over the growth of their child.”
“If parents let conflict dominate the relationship, youths will conclude that the parents are not concerned with the deeper developments stirring beneath the surface, but only with what others are going to think or say.
“If parents refuse to listen to the sounds of rebellion and the stuttering of doubt they will only cut themselves off from being in on the very interesting process by which a person learns how to make the decisions of faith.”
“Defensive responses are usually considered additional evidence to document the accusation of hypocrisy.”
“Condoning is the way of the sentimental humanist…they refuse to take seriously the integrity of the other person, by refusing them the opportunity to discover that they are strong enough to survive sin and choose righteousness.”
“Condemning is the way of the revengeful barbarians, people who cannot bear to face themselves and who want to make everything all right by getting rid of the offense.”
“Condoning and condemning both refuse to take seriously the promises of God; to believe that God is capable of bringing good out of evil, healing out of suffering, peace out of disorder…”
Understanding the Purpose for Parents
“To live is to change.”
“With a modest amount of good will and good humor, things proceed fairly well [most of the time].”
“Parents who seem to b doing a good job of living the Christian faith in relation to their children….engage in vigorous Christian growth on their own and permit their children to look over their shoulders while they do it.”
“A parent’s main job is not to be a parent, but to be a person.”
“Christian parents do better to take a role that is both modest and effective: instead of meddling with adolescents, either in zeal or in hope, they will, like Eli did with Samuel, refer them to God.”
“They can be parents who are prayerful and interested, observing with intelligent sympathy and praying with knowledgeable confidence.”
“Youths find it difficult to express what they feel and think…The experience of misunderstanding needs to be faced by parents with careful attention.”
“Parents are forced to examine the base of their authority and to evaluate the ways in which they choose to exercise it. Not ‘How do I get my child to obey me?’ but, ‘How can I properly and wisely exercise my authority?’”
“Authority must be courteous…Look at our children not as our creations, but as our guests, people who enter the world by our invitation…”
“Authority is not coercive...God is not a bully…He does not make us do anything.”
“Develop the true inner superiority which is naturally persuasive.”
“There is a breaking out of parent-child molds and a model of flexibility that is aware of new reality from the point of view of both parent and youth.”
“The younger and older generations have special contributions to make to each other…refuse to contribute to popular gossip on the ‘generation gap’.”
“Accept the generation differences as an opportunity for lively conversational exchanges of affection, admiration, wisdom, excitement, dreams and visions, knowledge, and victories.”
“The parent generation, simply by doing a good job of caring, puts the younger generation into a position of care-apprenticeship.”
“God’s way of establishing and developing trust in His children is to make the first move, to give a demonstration of what He means by it. That continues to be the best model for Christian parent who want to build trust in their family.”
“Agape love sees the nature of the other person and acts freely to do those things which suit that nature.”
“Christian hope provides the best environment in which to work through these issues.”
“Catastrophe can be a means of grace…More new life springs from acts of forgiveness than anything else…Forgiveness provides the opening for the Holy Spirit to take episodes of adolescent sin and make them into stories of mature love.”
Eugene Peterson encouraged parents in his church to gather together to discover ways in which they can function as priests to one another…to bear one another’s burdens and become more skilled in love and practiced in pardon.
“In Scripture…there are no exemplary families…but a series of broken relationships in need of redemption…What is there is a promise of new community which experiences life as the household of faith, a family in Christ. Life together consists of relationships that are created not by blood (at least not by our blood) but by grace. We get along not because we are good but because we are forgiven.”
I hope, for your sake and the sake the adolescent(s) that you love, that you are someday able to read this deeply insightful book. I will be pulling my marked up copy out for a review in a few years myself!
What are your recommendations for parental resources for the adolescent years?