Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Engaging Today's Prodigal by Carol Barnier

Title:  Engaging Today's Prodigal: Clear Thinking, New Approaches, and Reasons For Hope
Author: Carol Barnier
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Format:  Softcover
ISBN:  978-0-8024-0557-9
Pages:  173
Price:  $12.99

I have loved Carol Barnier's homeschooling books for years.  I've been blessed by her workshops at homeschool conferences.  I've been encouraged by her magazine articles.  I have recommended her to anyone struggling with teaching distractible or active children.  I have learned so much from her over the past ten years. This book is no exception.

Engaging Today's Prodigal blessed me, encouraged me, and educated me. I'll be perfectly honest and admit that I don't have a prodigal child at the moment.  But becoming the mother of 3 teens has shown me that there is no guarantee I won't have a prodigal child at some point.  Homeschooling was not the magic pill to remove all teenage angst or teen-parent friction, and there isn't a magic pill that turns out perfect little Christians either.

In fact, that is one of the myths of parenting and prodigals that Carol debunks in the first portion of her book. There is no secret potion or formula for turning out perfect children -- each child has to make their own decisions regarding faith and the direction of their lives, and sometimes they completely reject the beliefs of their parents, no matter how well they were raised.  That is only one of the myths she discusses, but it is one of the most prevalent myths facing Christian families, especially homeschooling families.

In the second portion of the book, Carol discusses the dos and don'ts of communicating with our prodigal children.  However, I believe these same dos and don'ts apply in relating to our older teens, as well.  I've had my share of arguments with my daughters as they test out boundaries, question our beliefs, and slowly try to figure out their own belief system. I have repeatedly reminded myself not to make every discussion a lecture, and not to take the things they say personally.  I repeatedly fail.  Carol's guidelines are definitely ones that my husband and I will be referring to in the future as we continue to raise our 8 children.

Carol's third section provides hope for the hurting parents of prodigals.  She shares more of her own personal walk away from Christianity into atheism, and her eventual return to her own Christian faith. She places a parent's focus back on God, who can take a prodigal's life, draw them back to Him, and make something beautiful of whatever mess they've made in their own life. Lastly, Carol addresses what churches and fellow Christians need to change in the way they handle prodigals, as well as their parents. She also challenges churches to help prevent the problem by properly handling the questions of children, teens, and young adults.

I've already stated that I don't have a prodigal child at this time, but I've lost the feeling of pride I once had; it's been replaced with a sense of vulnerability. I realize that I can't save my children and assure that they'll make the right decisions in their life.  I can teach, I can guide, I can set an example, and they can still choose something vastly different.

Parenting is difficult, and I truly believe that every parent should read this book when their first child turns thirteen.  I also think every parent should read the dos and don'ts each year, as a reminder of how to communicate with their teens in a way that doesn't build walls between their hearts.  And if your child (or mine) does walk away from God, or make decisions that don't align with our values, Engaging Today's Prodigal will provide comfort, encouragement, guidance, and hope. It is a well-written book on a sensitive subject that needed to be addressed.

Thank you, Carol Barnier, for writing straight from your heart for prodigals and their families.

This book was provided to me, free of charge, in exchange for an honest review.  The views in this post are entirely  my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

April E.

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