Monday, April 30, 2012

"Engaging Today's Prodigal" (Carol Barnier)

This review was first published in Panorama of a Book Saint here

TITLE: Engaging Today's Prodigal: Clear Thinking, New Approaches, and Reasons for Hope
AUTHOR: Carol Barnier
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012, (176 pages).

This book acknowledges that parenting is tough. It is getting more difficult as children grow into teens and subsequently into young adults who do not readily share parents' values as readily as hoped. What the author tries to do is to clear up 7 myths about parental guilt over their parenting. It lays out 12 tips of dos and dont's to guide parents on how to relate to their children constructively. Writing from her personal spiritual struggles, from faith to atheism to faith again, Barnier hopes that parents of this modern age will be able to adopt clear thinking, learn new approaches, and to maintain reasons for hope.

The 7 myths parents need to avoid are:
  1. Thinking that perfect parenting will automatically mean perfect children;
  2. Blaming oneself as if the Bible said so;
  3. Thinking that parents are able to rescue their children;
  4. Assuming that kids deliberately want to irritate their parents;
  5. Thinking that perfect words can correct the kids;
  6. Thinking that if kids feel parents' pain sufficiently, they will listen and turn back from their ways;
  7. Assuming that one's scars will damage children's lives forever.
Along with these myths, there are gems of wise advice dispensed. Such as:
  • differentiate between 'influence' and 'control';
  • Not to be too willing to accept responsibility instead of helping kids learn their responsibility;
  • To be balanced and that the leash should not be held too tightly or too loosely;
  • Kids can still make bad choices despite the best parenting efforts;
  • Reading the intention of Proverbs as truth sayings instead of absolute promises;
  • That one cannot save those who refuse to be saved;
  • to learn to save our energies for battles that we can actually win, instead of expecting children to feel something that they can never understand;
  • God can make something beautiful through our best/worst efforts.
I appreciate the 12 points in learning how to engage the new prodigals. 
  1. That parents learn not to badger their kids to submission, but advise them by the side;
  2. Learning to focus on boundaries instead of criticizing behaviours;
  3. Creating common places to connect;
  4. Learning to avoid quoting Bible as if kids accept its authority;
  5. Learning to sit down and listen;
  6. Recognizing courage in our kids;
  7. Loving our prodigals;
  8. Creating support system in our parenting efforts, with the help of a community;
  9. Remember our non-prodigals even as we are concerned for the prodigals;
  10. Learning to care for prodigals who are not our own children;
  11. Avoiding putting up a list of expectations when prodigals return;
  12. Not to lose ourselves or our sense of worth during the trying times.
While the first two parts deal with remedial efforts, Part Three looks toward preventative measures, that gazes at the future beginning now. Barnier urges readers to hold on to faith and hope. Using her own story, she tells of how she searches for God in all the wrong places, finally returning to God, after realizing that atheism is a dead end. Finally, she maintains that God is an artist who is able to weave all things together for good. 

Closing Thoughts

Barnier has a lot of good advice to give us. She gently dispels the myths that often pile up guilt, instead of releasing us in grace. This is important because many parents have a tendency to place wrong expectations on themselves and their children. She encourages readers to adopt new creative ways to communicate affirmatively with their children. Learning to say 'no' firmly and to say 'yes' openly. She boldly points us toward hope that everyone can look forward to. It can be a good reminder for parents who are tearing their hair out over their children who are no longer the same. It reminds us again that we need to learn when to hang on and when to let go. Only through wisdom and discernment, and gentle reflection on what has happened, can readers walk the fine balance of 'light and tight' parenting. This book gives us the balancing rod as we walk the tightrope.

As one who is constantly on a lookout for good materials to bridge the generational divide, this book is certainly an important resource for parents in this increasingly complex world.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Moody Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All views expressed are mine unless otherwise stated.

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