Book Review: Reaching the Heart of Your Teen by Gary Ezzo

Reaching the Heart of Your Teen by Gary Ezzo is a great tool to raise a teen. Too many focus on the behavior of their teen when they really need to reach the heart of their teen. Too many in the world want to hit the fast forward button when a child hits 15 and release the button when the child turns 18.  That would be a terrible loss of three precious years from the young person’s life. No one wins in that scenario. The young person and the parents would miss out on God’s transforming process of reaching the heart of the teen.

Ezzo establishes a biblical foundation and leads the reader to understand important issues in dealing with a teen in what many call “tumultuous years.”  Ezzo writes those teen years do not have to be tumultuous if the parent can reach the heart and help bring the teen on the family team. 

Unfortunately, too many of us were not taught by our parents how to be spiritual parents and in our fractured society, we often live too far apart to have a reasonable influence. There is often agonizing pain from conflict, but that can be overshadowed by tremendous joy when parents learn how to reach the heart of their teen.  His 40 question test in chapter one reveals all to clearly the reality of the parent/teen relationship (pp. 24-28).

Ezzo explains why there is rebellion in the heart of the teen. Ezzo wisely writes that secular wisdom highlights self-esteem, whereas Scripture calls a person to “esteem others better than himself.” (p. 38)  He also wisely deals with the “Myth of Adolescence” by asking the question, “Does your child become an adult when he matures, or does he mature when he becomes an adult.” (p. 47) The reality is conflict will be present or absent based on the relationship.

Some families will emphasize the Dos and the Don’ts, but Ezzo writes that relationship is the key.  He does not mean it does not matter what the teen does, but how the relationship is built and shared will greatly determine what values are shared for building a strong family (pp. 62-63).

Ezzo believes in strong authority, however with teens authority may push teens away and the power of influence is a greater factor to instill shared values.  I love his sixth chapter on “Starting Over” because by the time conflict has risen to World War level, parents feel overwhelmed and throw in the towel. In the “rugged individualism” of America, independence has caused great havoc.  In chapter seven, he defines and describes the difference between “interdependence” and independence.” In chapter eight he applies the five love languages so that parents might understand their teen in a greater way.  Love languages are a tool and can be helpful to reaching a person’s heart in the process of leading him to sanctification and godliness.  However, some people can use them as an excuse by saying, “My love language is [encouraging words] or [acts of service], so you must love me that way.” They won’t accept love in the other languages or won’t love others in the other languages.

Ezzo spends two chapters on communication. How should a parent communicate in a way to get the teen to understand instructions and comply from the heart?   Then he includes with two chapters on encouragement of right behavior and correction of wrong behavior. What is the right amount and when? His thoughts and suggestions will greatly aid parents in the midst of teen conflict.

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