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Tough Guys and Drama Queens by Mark Gregston

I may not be a parent of a teen (I will be in fourteen years, though!), but as a youth minister I’m working with teens every day, so I gave Mark Gregston’s new book, Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How Not to Get Blindsided by Your Child’s Teen Years, a read. As his title suggests, Gregston’s goal is to give parents helpful hints in raising their teenagers well. From his knowledge of present issues and first-hand experience of raising two children of his own and helping sixty teens at a time through his ministry, Gregston tells parents to show their teens grace and gradually release control as their teens become independent adults. For the most part, Gregston succeeds in his aim; however, there were some concerns that I had as I read this new book.

I couldn’t agree more with Gregston in his discussion of how devastating parents’ demands of perfection in their teens can be. He sheds illuminating insight into teens’ thought processes when he explains how relationships can trump beliefs in their lives. His insistence upon being who teens need you to be rather than doing all the activities that are out there was also helpful. He’s right that parents should be honest and, at times, humble with their kids, even asking for genuine forgiveness when necessary.

His book shines regarding grace, but I found it lacking regarding discipline. He offers this central argument in his book’s last section: “Authority can’t be forced” (73). “Don’t force them to have to choose to follow your authority,” he explains; “instead, lead them to an understanding of your authority through the healthy, loving relationship you established with them” (77-78). Relationships are important, don’t get me wrong, but the Bible consistently defines the parent-child relationship in terms of authority, both inherent and exercised. Yes, authority should be exercised lovingly, but it must be exercised, even if a teen refuses to obey it, which he or she very well may even if he or she has a “healthy, loving relationship” with parents.

Similarly, although I agree that successful parenting of teens gradually increases their independence and gradually allows them to make their own decisions, I believe Gregston goes too far in this freedom he suggests:

When they’re seventeen years old and come downstairs on Sunday morning and say, “I don’t want to go to church today,” don’t shame them or make them feel second-class for not choosing what you want. Instead, let them know, “Sure … why don’t you meet us for lunch so we can spend some time together?” You must give your older teens the opportunity to exercise their freedom to choose and trust what you have taught them about the need for spiritual nourishment. (142-143)

Fathers are to raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), which includes holding their children accountable to “not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:25), which most churches observe on Sundays. It’s the Christian parent’s responsibility to ensure their children are churched and thus instructed in the Lord, and this responsibility doesn’t end until children have become adults. (Even then, parents can encourage their grown children to be involved in church!)

As a whole, this book was a helpful read. I agreed with many of Gregston’s principles, but I disagreed with him almost twice as much on his specific applications as I agreed with them. Consequently, I do not recommend this book. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

I thank BookSneeze for providing me a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

  1. Steven Atwood
    July 17, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Reblogged this on Steve Atwood's Blog.

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