Book Excerpt: It Takes a Parent

I would love to magically fix all the negative aspects of our culture—but I can't. I would love to eradicate pornography from the web, get rid of gratuitous violence in the media and popular music, and restore images of virtue and strong family lives in film and television.

But I can't do all those things. I can't change the externals in the neighborhood or in the popular culture, at least not to my satisfaction. I couldn't even wave a magic wand to put my family back together, although I would have loved to. The thing I can do as a parent is to try to think and act rightly when it comes to parenting my own kids—to persevere in what I'm called to do—and trust that that will have an impact.

That's why this book is more about parents than kids.

There's good news, too. I often hear via e mail and letters from great kids, teenagers in particular, who remind me that many terrific kids out there are as appalled at some of the behavior of their peers as I am. I'm not saying there is such a thing as the "perfect teenager" and what, exactly, would that be anyway? But I am talking about kids who openly love and honor their parents, who even think their parents are pretty cool. Kids who are intent on doing the right things in their lives and not giving in to the culture around them. Kids who give of themselves to others, who make a difference, who are examples to their friends. I am proud to say I know many such young people.

These young people have something in common: parents (or sometimes another loving adult in their lives) who are challenging the culture when it comes to raising their children. These parents are doing an awesome job. Such parents and other caring adults don't get the media play troubled parents or parents of troubled kids do, but they are noble. Their stories, whether I know them personally or learn of them through readers of my column, are an incredible encouragement to me and should be an incredible encouragement to all of us. They are making a difference in their children's lives and in their community's life.

I hope this book will encourage them, too.

These parents are persevering—and that's what the next chapter is about. Perseverance in reaching and shaping and rescuing the hearts of our children. Our duty is to persevere as parents, no matter what discouraging stories we hear, no matter what is going on around us, to persevere with a great hope that if we "train up a child in the way he should go...when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

Parenting Check

You probably breathed a sigh of relief knowing that your child would never kick a teacher. But what about the child at gymnastics class ignoring his mother's instructions? Did you see yourself there? What about the questions parents wrote to the parenting magazine? Are questions like those too often your questions, too?

Some of this happens in all of our homes—mine, too. The questions are: Are we aware of the power struggles our children attempt and are we actively engaged in responding appropriately? Or are their struggles, and our capitulation to them, so common that it's become the new normal?

What about the heart issue? Is this the first time you've thought that it might be possible to get the right behavior but not be rightly training or encouraging the heart of your child?

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