Where the world comes to study the Bible

10. Book Review -- How Children Raise Parents

Book Title: How Children Raise Parents

Author: Dan B. Allender, Ph.D.

Year of Publication: 2003

Publisher: WaterBook Press

Pages: 217

Author’s Website:

Full book available in: English

You should read this book if you…

Feel like good parenting is impossible or if you desire to break ineffective parenting patterns.

In a nutshell…

Our children will grow us up as we grow them up.

Key ideas…

Parents put their confidence in rules and principles and apply themselves to doing everything right. But methods will not give your children what they most desire: to know they are unique, deeply loved, and delighted in by you and by God.

Action steps…

Acknowledge that your children will actually teach you more than you will them.Be grateful for your children and the maturity you will gain. Embrace this time, accept your own inadequacy, and truly listen to your children’s voices.

Instead of always seeking to apply rules to our children, navigate difficult areas by reading your child. Each of your children will require your flexibility as you address their unique struggles.

Maturity cannot happen without trial. Understanding that our suffering will be a guiding factor in life, we can teach our kids by honestly demonstrating our struggles. Beware of the drive to produce counterfeit joy as a way to success or passing on the belief that the highest values in life are happiness and productivity.

We cannot cling to the false idea that the right influences will ensure positive results. We must instead engage our children at a level that gives them a glimpse of God’s character, especially his mercy and his strength.

All children inherently ask two questions: “Am I loved?” and “Can I get my own way?” We cannot answer appropriately without the knowledge of the answers for ourselves. If you look to God, He answers, “Yes, you are loved more than you can ever fathom” and “No, you can’t have your way. But as you pursue my way, you will find the deepest satisfaction your heart can ever know.” (Many of our children’s fits and rages have one of these questions at its core and we must shed all distractions and listen.)

The author links our children’s two core questions, “Can I get my own way?” and “Am I loved?”, with the most common parent responses. These responses include being dangerous and demeaning, rule-bound and dull, indulgent and distant, or showing strength and delight. Mr. Allender emphasizes that showing a strength and delight response will most benefit your child.

Drowning out the voices of our children, are other well meaning voices of our parents, media, school, church and friends. Many conjure up our own unresolved hurts as well as darken gratitude and joy. We must engage our children without feeling pressured to repair our past.

We cannot always apply quick fix rules to parenting. We must find a way to accept the mystery of opposing forces as demonstrated by God: intimacy and individualism, strength and mercy. Even in our imminent failure to live out God’s character, we encounter His tenderness and therefore model our only hope as turning all eyes to the only One who can love us perfectly.

By dwelling in the deeper reality of God’s grace, His character begins to provide the framework of safety and freedom. It is in this true security that our children will have the ability to rest boldly and play restfully.

Playing with your children gives them the skills, character, and context for living out their God-given calling. The process of playing well together is more important than the task or the outcome.


“One problem is that we are too child driven. We spend too much money and time on child-oriented things that compete with the simple and profound appreciation we should feel for our child. In turn, the money and time we spend dragging kids to [various activities] and a legion of other devilish opportunities fuels a child’s sense of entitlement and a parent’s feelings that his child is an excessive drain on energy, time, and money.” Pg 7

“We need to create something entirely new from the raw materials our parents gave us. Our children live in a different world, and we have to listen to their voice if we are to learn how to parent them well.” Pg 69


While the author does not offer step by step solutions, he shared that his parental default mode is to state the obvious. For example, his teenage daughter was crying and he knocked on her door, “I heard tears. The door was closed. You are now not crying, but frowning. I know privacy is more important to you than food. You are now grimacing, and your lower lip is jutting out farther than your nose.” This ultimately turned the tide. I have tried this with my 4 year old son and it usually ends up with him smiling and being more receptive.

How this has changed my parenting…

Dan’s honesty regarding his own failures is rattling and refreshing. It compels me to humbly seek God’s help as I learn so much more about His love and mercy for me. There are many more stories and anecdotes in the book.

© 2011 The Family Project

Related Topics: Book Review, Children, Parent Resources, Christian Home, Fathers, Men's Articles, Mothers, Parenting, Women's Articles

Report Inappropriate Ad