This is excellent.
Don’t be put off by the naff cover, this really is a very helpful book. Helpful, and also poignant, funny and insightful. As my own children begin the transition to adolescence I am eager to obtain wise advice to help me in my parenting, and would see reading good books as a key component of that. When I was in my mid-20s I spoke at parenting seminars and could do so with the memories of my own teen years still being fresh and real. The sad reality now is that I am nearly as close to retirement age as I am to my teens, and it becomes increasingly difficult to remember accurately what it felt like to be a teenager! Insightful authors like Tripp can help with this inevitable amnesia.
Raising kids is not really that complicated. We often think its terribly difficult, but lots of other people have done it before us – its not like we are pioneering new territory. But parenting is an activity that can generate a lot of stress and anxiety, and where there can be a lot of conflicting advice from those other parents who have gone before us. If we are to navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of parenting we need a clear biblically informed strategy for doing so, and Tripp helps provide this.
There are several pitfalls that (Christian) parents often stumble into. One that greatly aggravates me is low expectations – the assumption that all teens have to rebel, get bored with church and backslide. Other mistakes we can make are to think the goal of parenting is simply to raise children who will be reasonably socially acceptable adults, rather than seeing our role as being to raise disciples of Jesus. We can make the mistake of giving our children too much freedom, in things that are not helpful for them; or, we can make the mistake of being too controlling, and not allowing our children to grow and mature as they should. Tripp addresses all these kinds of parenting pitfalls, and in a way that is full of grace and wise counsel.
Tripp is very clear in how our parenting stands or falls on the attitudes of our hearts. We need to see our teens have hearts that follow after God and not simply try to regulate behaviour. But we also need to ensure that we – as parents – have hearts that delight in God. This means we will have to constantly assess our own motivations and actions – checking that no idols are replacing Jesus at the centre of our worship and distorting the way we parent, and being quick ourselves to offer apology and ask for forgiveness when we sin against our children.
This focus on the heart means that Age of Opportunity is a very challenging book, and it will be uncomfortable reading for some parents. The good news is that by the grace of God it is never too late to step-up the effectiveness of our parenting. I would recommend this book to those parents whose children are young, as many of the principles discussed apply equally as well to five year-olds as 15 year-olds; also it is good to prepare early for what is inevitable. But I would also recommend it to those with older teens as it will help you think about how you are parenting and maybe sharpen up in some areas.