How Do You Help Your Children Deal With “Hot Button” Issues?

As a parent and a pastor, I am always looking for resources that will help me and those I seek to lead grow to be more godly and effective parents. Kregel Publishers has now provided two great new resources to help toward that end. These new resources are two books authored by Nicole O’Dell – author, radio talk-show host and mom. The books, entitled Hot Buttons – Dating Edition and Hot Buttons – Internet Editionare the first two parts of a four-part Hot Buttons series by O’Dell.

O’Dell describes a “hot button” as “any emotional or controversial issue that has the potential to trigger intense reaction.” She says that the books in this series are “designed to serve as manuals for those tough, preemptive discussions you need to have with your children.” The idea behind the series is this: your kids are going to get information about the “hot button” issues they face – i.e. sexuality, dating, internet use, and drugs. The question is, do you want them to get their information from their friends, television/movies, the internet, etc.? Or, do you want them to get Bible-based answers to those questions from you, as their parent? Helping children navigate these issues in a biblical way is the responsibility of the Christian parent. O’Dell reminds her readers, “Ultimately, God is in control, but you are His ambassador in your home.”

In these books, the standard is held high. Lame excuses for why you could not/should not deal with these difficult issues are quickly shot down. The challenge is straightforward and clear – be the Christian parent God has called you to be. There is, however, a great tone of hope and encouragement for those parents who feel like they have already blown it – perhaps  their kids are already grown, or are at least already older teenagers. The author’s admonition is to start where you are, confess your short-comings as a parent to God and ask Him to give you what you need to live and to parent in a way that glorifies Him. She encourages parents: “You don’t need to get through these [teenage] years; you need to power through them.” She then sets out give parents practical biblical help for achieving that goal.

Each of the books begins with a biblical/theological foundation for why parents must engage their children in conversation about these life issues. O’Dell also offers practical advice on when to talk with your kids about these issues, how to talk to them, and what ages should be included in the discussions. Furthermore, it was refreshing to read as O’Dell reminded parents that these books are limited in terms of the ultimate impact they can have. Describing the most important factors for seeing long-term change in the lives of your kids, O’Dell says, “nothing is more important than prayer and communication.” Throughout the book, O’Dell also points her readers to the Bible as their primary source for seeking God’s wisdom and direction about these issues.

In the next section of the books, O’Dell deals with specific topics related to each issue. In Hot Buttons – Dating Edition, she deals with issues such as early/young dating, whether or not to date, “missionary” dating, and violence/abuse, including date rape. In Hot Buttons – Internet Edition, O’Dell discusses internet supervision, social networking, file sharing (stealing/piracy), internet pornography, etc. She gives statistics that describe teenagers’ involvement in these issues. She then challenges parents not only to be aware of what their own teens know about these issues, but to also be proactive in discussing these issues from a biblical perspective. While O’Dell’s treatment of these issues is frank and straightforward, it is also discussed in a sensitive way.

In the third section of the books, parents are given practical steps to take to be proactive in these areas. Perhaps the most unique contribution O’Dell makes to this whole process is offering her “strategic scenarios.” These scenarios were shared out of her own practice as a mom, wherein she would share hypothetical scenarios with her children, asking them to select one of four possible ways they could respond to the scenario. Based on their response, she would help her kids see how their particular response either did, or did not, align with the truth of God’s Word. This way, her kids were learning how to make the right choices in these situations in a safe environment – often around the dinner table – rather than in a real-life situation where they were having to make the decision for themselves without their mom’s guidance and with the potential for disastrous consequences. Each book has many of these scenarios and possible answers that parents can go over with their own children.

Finally, O’Dell includes a “parent-teen study guide” for the parent and teen to walk through together. This section is designed to be proactive, when possible (keeping kids from making wrong decisions), and restorative, when necessary (acknowledging that sinful actions may have already been taken requiring repentance and forgiveness).

As both a parent and pastor, I am not only excited about using these resources myself, but also about recommending them to other parents as well. While some parts of the book may not exactly fit the personality of certain parents or teens (i.e. some of the specific suggestions in the parent-teen study guide), the material would be tremendously helpful both to parents with teens, and to parents with younger children. Parents who have young children can use these books to be better prepared when the time for these discussions come with their children. I hope parents with children of all ages will use these very helpful books to challenge their kids to walk in godliness, perhaps preventing incredible heartache that could come if parents are not proactive in talking with their kids about these issues from a biblical perspective.

(FTC Disclaimer – I received copies of these books for free from the publisher in exchange for writing this review.)

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