“When you hit 18, you’re out of my house and on your own.” Such is the typical approach that parents take with their coming-of-age children. Is that mindset sinful or wrong? Not necessarily, though it’s likely misguided on some level. If parents are under the impression that as soon as their child makes his exodus, the job of parenting has terminated, Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick correct that misunderstanding in their book You Never Stop Being a Parent. If, however, the parents believe it’s their children’s duty to serve and obey them for as long as there is life in the parents, this thinking also is proven wrong. How can parents glorify God in their relationship with their “twixters,” those “adults who are still living at home and who remain in-between adulthood and childhood” (10-11)? That is the fundamental question Newheiser and Fitzpatrick address, and they do so with gospel-saturated, Christ-exalting wisdom and compassion.
There are many commendable highlights of the book, but three stand out: its wisdom, its cross-centered focus, and its practical application resources. When the reader picks up the book and peruses the Table of Contents, he gains clear idea of what Newheiser and Fitzpatrick undertake. Thankfully, major topics are addressed, such as: the phase of departure, parting words from the parents, pushing out of the nest any stubborn but ready birdies, managing the adult children in the home under new guidelines, considering (or not) your home as a halfway house, giving away (or not) money, thinking about marriage, and welcoming familial add-ons. For such a short book, the authors manage the many topics wisely. Readers who need biblical parenting wisdom for their adult children will not be disappointed by Newheiser and Fitzpatrick.
The authors are careful not to propose a one-size-fits-all approach, and parents with more than one child will appreciate this point. Newheiser and Fitzpatrick systematically bring together what the Bible has to say and offer biblical principles and personal recommendations depending on the parents’ own circumstances. This is not relativism but sound practical theology and counseling. One principle, for instance, is that the parents’ relationship with their adult children has changed (22-25). Newheiser and Fitzpatrick hammer this point home throughout the book, because so much poor parenting is a result of the unbiblical perspective that adult children are always dependent on and required to obey their parents. The authors do well to remind the reader that childhood is brief and divinely designed to be so (18).
The second highlight should be neither a surprise nor a thing taken for granted: the authors’ cross-centered focus. It’s not a surprise, because Newheiser and Fitzpatrick are biblical counselors offering wisdom from the Bible. Biblical counselors worth their salt bleed the gospel and write with the words of Christ in their hearts and on their pages. It’s not a thing to be taken for granted, because too often what passes as godly counsel is gospel-less, cross-less counsel. Therefore, it’s worthy of commendation to see the gospel spoken of explicitly and applied directly in every chapter. The authors do an excellent job highlighting the grace of Christ in all that they write. For example, if you’re a parent struggling with impatience and holding your tongue when what your child says or does is not the way you’d say or do it, they remind you: “We can fight our impatience by remembering how willingly Jesus listens to us, and how foolish, weak, and sinful we would seem to him if it were not for his love” (23).
The third highlight is not the main focus of the book, but without it, the reader may feel hungry still: practical application. As solid biblical counselors who do not speak only in theoreticals and generalities but also at the personal level, Newheiser and Fitzpatrick conclude each chapter with thought-provoking questions. There are also four Appendixes that help the reader to put the book’s principles into practice. Personally, I found these sections most helpful as I consider how to relate to my children, one of whom is nearing the “twixter” phase. I encourage you to read the book, give it to your counselees, friends, and family members. You may even want to put it in a common area in your church for people to see.
“Our goal is not to make you feel bad. Our goal is to encourage you that it’s never too late to say it. Maybe you’ve said it a hundred or a hundred thousand times. Say it again. ‘Jesus Christ died for sinners!’ This is your primary calling” (32).
“Before we tell our adult children something, we should ask ourselves, ‘Does she already know what I think?’… Nagging will always damage a relationship because it is not the fruit of humble respect. It is the fruit of pride and impatience” (88).
“Instead of looking for the ways in which our kids fail, we need to become grace detectives. We need to look for evidences (even faint glimmers) of God’s grace in their lives and be quick to point them out to ourselves and to them” (97-98).
“If you do not have your child’s heart, you will have little influence in her choice of a spouse, regardless of your understanding of your authority or the promises she made when young” (140).
“Although it might seem that the marriage of our child strips us of relationships, in reality it usually doubles or even triples them” (149).