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Weekend Reading: For Parents Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice

November 18, 2011

The Book: This is the third installment in a three-part series. Last week I took a look at Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn’s For Men Only. Today I will offer a few thoughts on another book in this series. For Parents Only (2007, Multnomah Books) aims to help parents, especially of teenagers, to get “inside the head of your kid”. As a parent of three sons, one of which is a teenager and the others zeroing in on that age, I found this to be the most realistic and helpful of the three books in the series that I have read.

Like the other two books, this one relied heavily on professional research. There was a professionally conducted survey of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen year-olds. These teens included all major racial groups, belief systems, and socioeconomic strata. This is in addition to multiple personal and group interviews. All told, more than twelve hundred young people were involved in this research.

The authors’ (Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice) research revealed six major findings. Like the other books in this series, the research and its results determine the direction of the book.

The Point: As they start the book, the authors take the time to emphasize a few points that should be taken into consideration as you read the book. This was helpful and likely prevented some of the findings from being misunderstood. This is a brief summary of those points:

  1. We are not endorsing the behavior or excusing the poor choices described by some kids in these pages. They are simply reporting the results of the research. This does not mean they condone it.

  2. Our findings are nationally representative, but we personally approach parenting from a Christian worldview.

  3. This book is not just for parents of teenagers. While most of the data is reflective of the teen years, the information should be helpful for parents of younger children as well.

  4. There are exceptions to every rule. When they say that most kids appear to think a certain way, realize that most means exactly that—most, not all.

  5. This book is not intended as a comprehensive overview of parenting principles. The goal is to make blissfully unaware parents more aware of what is likely going on inside their child.  (List summarized from pages 9-11.)

The book is organized around six major findings (outlined below) from the research. The findings are not particularly surprising at first glance. It is when they moved past what we think is happening to what is really happening inside our kids that some surprises surface. After listing these in the first chapter, they write a chapter for each of the findings to further unpack the meaning and help us apply the truth.

When They Hit the Teen Years

Here’s What We Think Is Happening

Here’s What’s Really Happening

Peer pressure pushes kids to rebel and behave in reckless ways without thinking through the consequences. The intoxicating nature of freedom—and the fear of losing it—can lead even good kids to make choices that look like recklessness and rebellion, but directly addressing their craving for independence will help them build responsibility.


Teens seem to reject parents and their values, no longer caring much what their parents think. Separating themselves from their parents’ identity is one of the only ways healthy teenagers can develop their own; but even as they seem to push us away, our children still secretly want to know our values and need our affirmation of who they are becoming.


Teens don’t want rules or discipline. Although our teens test our authority and argue with rules, they secretly want us to stand firm as parents and will lose respect for us if we don’t.


When kids make mistakes, they disregard their parents’ opinions or criticism. Although they may not look like it, kids want the security of knowing we are making the effort to understand them and will be there for them regardless of their mistakes—but kids will emotionally shut out a parent they see as judgmental.


Kids say parents don’t listen. Kids tend to stop talking because they perceive parents as rotten listeners but will open up when we prove we’re safe and calmly acknowledge their feelings before addressing a problem.


Teens give in easily to negative attitudes—afflicting their families with sullenness, anger, or back talk—over what seem to be minor issues. What looks like an attitude problem may actually be a sign of insecurity, but actively countering our children’s fears can build their confidence and help them become more respectful of parents and others.


(Information in table taken from pages 6-7.)

The Result: Of the three For (Whoever) Only books I have read in this series, this one appeared to be the most helpful for me. While no marriage is perfect, I generally feel pretty good about the relationship between She Who Must Be Obeyed and me. I feel far more inadequate as a father. This book holds some potential to help me with that.

One of my biggest critiques of this book as well as the others is that they are very formulaic. Of course, this is the danger of any series of non-fiction books designed to help improve a particular area of our lives. This happens regularly. An author writes a good book that many people find helpful. They have established their brand. Then they build on that brand, and there is no more originality. This brand includes:

  • For Women Only

  • For Men Only

  • For Parents Only

  • For Women Only in the Workplace

  • For Young Women Only

  • For Young Men Only

  • For Couples Only (this is a re-packaging of For Men Only and For Women Only into a boxed set)

There may be more, but I became bored with searching.

The authors maintain a website related to the book ( There are also a number of associated products such as a members only area, a copy of the survey they conducted, and responses from teenagers.

I would generally recommend For Parents Only for most parents and church leaders, especially those who work with pre-teens or teenagers.



From → Book Reviews, Family

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