With All Due Respect: 40 Days To A More Fulfilling Relationship With Your Teens & Tweens, by Nina Ruesner & Debbie Hitchcock
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
If you have watched the movie Fireproof  or read the book that inspired it, The Respect Dare, you likely have at least some grasp of what this book is attempting to accomplish. The authors (one of whom wrote The Respect Dare) are seeking to provide the same sort of 40-day devotional account, taking a little more than 200 pages, to encourage mothers in treating their tween and teen children with respect as a way of overcoming the generational gaps that often exist within families. If the Respect Dare was about the need for wives to respect and honor their husbands, this book is about honoring children who are growing into adulthood and facing the difficulties of learning how to live with the responsibilities that adulthood entails. It should be noted that like many of the books in my reading collection dealing with interpersonal difficulties , this book is written by women for women and largely about mothers and not fathers, as the authors of this book work under the assumption that women are more empathetic and more interested in personal communication. Although I have no children myself, and so this book is not necessarily immediately practical, the advice this book gives on treating others with respect is generally applicable to any sort of uneven power relationship where it is tempting on one side to withhold respect to those considered as lesser or subordinate beings under one’s authority. Clearly, the material in this book are of interest to men even if few are intended or likely to read it.
Within the 40 dares for mothers of children between about 10 and 17, there are a lot of serious issues dealt with. The book begins with an assessment for the mother to take about how well she does in various aspects of parenting that the rest of the dares deal with as well: being a disciple of Jesus Christ, being a discipler that helps others to follow Him, being a good communicator, being a confident and assured parent, and being a skilled family relationship architect. Clearly a lot of women (to say nothing of men) could stand to improve in such matters, and this book minces no words, addressing parents struggling with gossip about their children, about the interpersonal conflicts within their families (including the threat of divorce), and wrestling with the sins of their children like pornography, promiscuity, materialism (including theft), and other related sins. Over and over again the authors urge a consistent approach to dealing with older children that respects their growing autonomy, encourages them to deal with the consequences of their actions, provides support and encouragement for their success, listens to their concerns, and asks questions rather than providing angry lectures. Over and over again, the authors demonstrate through various setups and examples mothers learning how to behave with respect and learning how to communicate that respect to the rest of their family, and controlling their own tempers so that they do not respond to the challenges of their children with anger and contempt.
There is a deep irony embedded within this title. The words that follow “with all due respect” in conversation usually involve a great deal of disrespect, as we will seldom respect others if our focus is on the respect that they are due based on our interpretation or conception or their conduct . Yet this book reminds the reader, and such a reminder is likely to be necessary, that respect is due to other people by virtue of being created in the image and likeness of God. By pointing our attention on the purpose of parenting in raising godly children who are able to live both freely and responsibly, something many children struggle with long into adulthood, the authors tenaciously refuse to give in to the tendency to use the power of authority to short-circuit the process of developing maturity among young people, while also demonstrating the importance that family members can offer in supporting and encouraging each other. While the stories told in this book, as is common in its genre, come off a bit too pat or convenient, each chapter includes questions for the reader to pointedly answer about their own lives and their own situations. This is a practical book that, if followed, would likely improve many families in areas where we all struggle–in treating others with respect and in communicating openly and kindly.
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