Rooted Recommends: Parenting Ahead: Preparing Now for the Teen Years by Kristen Hatton

“Growing up can be a little scary and weird,” says Kayla Day, the main character of Bo Burnham’s wonderful film Eighth GradeFor parents of maturing children, helping them grow up can be more than a little scary and a whole lot of weird. Thanks be to God we have the truths of his Word and the hope of the gospel to steady and instruct us.

And now we have a valuable resource from longtime Rooted friend Kristen Hatton to help parents connect those gospel truths to their parenting in practical and encouraging ways. Hatton’s new book, Parenting Ahead: Preparing Now for the Teen Years, offers moms and dads instruction in what she calls “redemptive parenting.” 

Hatton begins with a “persevering perspective,” reminding parents that we are playing a long game when raising kids. In fact, that’s the premise of the entire book: the gracious, relational foundation we lay for our children when they are young will become their anchor when hormones, increasing independence, and cultural pressures exert new influence as they age. Hatton writes, “What we do, or don’t do in the early years, and all along the way, will affect how the teen years go.”

But don’t for a moment hear Hatton saying that parents have to do everything “right,” or else their children will rebel and struggle through the teen years and beyond. She is far too grounded in the gospel to lay a burden of performance on either parents or children. She writes,

…I want you to be filled with hope. Hope in the reality that, though we still sin and deal with the daily struggles of this broken world, we can live trusting and believing that God delights in us because of Jesus’ work and worth. What this means is that when you mess up, even for the millionth time in the same way, your standing before God does not change. Remember, the Christian life (and your parenting) is not about what you do for God, it is about the finished work for you which means you’re free from trying to be your own savior… Because this is true even when we fail, we don’t have to fear his punishment, rejection, or the withholding of blessing.

Pg. 24

This thread of hope in Jesus is woven through every page of Parenting Ahead. Readers will be convicted by their sin, but never without encouragement or support that is solidly biblical and practical. 

The middle section of the book addresses some of the obstacles parents face in believing and living out the truths of the gospel in their families. Hatton identifies idolatry, the temptation to listen to cultural narratives, and a poor understanding of suffering as pitfalls parents will want to look out for. Both overparenting (characterized by too much control and involvement) and underparenting (overly permissive and lacking discipline) stem from a poor understanding both of God’s character, and our own role in our children’s lives. To help parents identify their personal temptations, Hatton provides a diagnostic questionnaire. She then turns our attention to the hope we have in God’s sovereignty and goodness, seen clearly in the cross of Jesus.

In the final section of the book, A Redemptive Plan, Hatton writes, “To live redemptively is to live compelled by grace and mercy. It means owning up to our sin. Instead of hiding sin, dismissing sin, or justifying sin, we honestly confess to one another. It also means accepting one’s confession and extending forgiveness instead of holding sin over one another” (p.60). 

She then demonstrates what this looks like within the family as we walk out the pattern of confession, repentance, forgiveness, extending grace, and restoration (see p. 61). While none of this is simple, clear-cut, or easy, at least in the context of busy families, this is the pattern of the Christian life. Over time and by God’s grace, redemptive parenting will make a deep impression on our children. 

I live in a neighborhood full of younger moms, many with kids in early elementary school. I will share this book with them, recommending it alongside some of Paul David Tripp’s classics for parents. Hatton lays out foundational truths about how to live out God’s gracious plan to redeem us, even in the context of flawed and messy family relationships. Here she gives us practical tools for loving our children well and reminds us of our hope in Jesus. Even if you are in the middle of the teenage years, it is never too late to walk with your children in the grace of God. 

Anna is a single mom of three young adult sons. She is the Senior Director of Content at Rooted, co-host of the Rooted Parent podcast, a member of Church of the Cross in Birmingham, AL, and the author of God's Grace for Every Family: Biblical Encouragement for Single Parent Families and the Churches That Seek to Love Them Well (Zondervan, 2024). She also wrote Fresh Faith: Topical Devotions and Scripture-Based Prayers for College Students. In her free time, Anna enjoys gardening, great books, running, hiking, hammocks, and ice cream. She wants to live by a mountain stream in Idaho someday.

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