Everyday Talk by Jay Younts.
Because a wise man studies his speech (Prov. 15:28), parents and teachers of children would do well to consider Jay Younts’s book Everyday Talk, studying with him how to apply Deuteronomy 6:6-7 to their lives and talking about God’s Word “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (v. 7). Similar to Lou Priolo’s book Teach Them Diligently, Everyday Talk focuses on just one aspect of discipleship rather than several. The similarity is not surprising, considering that Priolo gives much credit to Younts on the acknowledgment page of his book (Teach Them Diligently, p.iv).
Readers looking for scripts of conversations to help children obey, be respectful, and behave will be disappointed; however, practical suggestions and good study questions at the end of each chapter help parents apply the given principles to their specific situations. For this reason, Everyday Talk would be an excellent tool and guide in a discussion class. The study questions are perhaps the most valuable component of the book.
The book is not organized by discussion topic; rather it follows a progression of ideas about communication: from examining one’s own walk with God to effective listening, to directing and responding when children disobey those commands, and finally to understanding how our responses to disobedience reflect our priorities. The book concludes with several loosely related chapters. Younts explains how parents should adjust everyday talk based on the child’s age. (One shouldn’t give commands to or correct a four-year-old the same way one would a fourteen-year-old.) He argues that the teaching of wisdom extends the protection of the home when children are young. Two chapters address talking about sex and music. Several others highlight more general topics such as talking about the deceptiveness of the world, communication between husband and wife, and swearing.
Key thoughts that make this a valuable book for parents include the discussion on teaching children to pray. Some seem reluctant to tell children exactly what to say when they talk to God. Younts reminds the reader that Jesus gave specific words to His disciples when He taught them to pray; he encourages parents to do the same. In this way children have the building blocks to make their own spontaneous prayers.
In Chapter Three, Younts addresses the common practice of lecturing instead of engaging in true give-and-take conversation. Talking without listening is a sure method for speaking unhelpful or unedifying words. This key discussion provides a helpful pattern for parents to follow as they speak with their children.
Chapter Four is about giving directions children must obey. Significantly, Younts provides a good explanation of biblical authority as it relates to discipline. That explanation is important as a response to the teachings of Christians who deny the legitimacy of using parental authority. At the same time, Younts recommends lucidity in lieu of unbiblical harshness when exercising that authority. Here is how he explains it:
God does not want your children to obey you simply because you are bigger than they are and can physically control them. Obedience is more than giving in to coaxing or threats. God wants your children to obey you because it pleases Him and blesses them. (p. 44)
The next chapter follows up with a discussion about responses when our children disobey our instructions. Using the example of Moses and his relationship with rebellious Israel, Younts challenges the reader to respond in an extraordinary, God-centered way.
If you make the matter primarily a personal offense against yourself and respond in anger and frustration, you will do what any ordinary parent might do. . . . In Numbers 20, Moses’ anger got in the way of the real problem. The people were not trusting God to provide water for them. They got mad at Moses. Moses responded as if the problem were only between himself and the people. Yes, the people were ungrateful, forgetful and disrespectful to Moses. But Moses forgot he was not the main figure. The central figure was God. (pp. 63-64)
At several points, I wished for more discussion of ideas that seemed confusing or vague. Most significantly, in Chapter Two, “Your Children and the Gospel,” Younts emphasizes how the gospel touches every area of our lives. What he says is excellent, but I wished for more development. He does not discuss how to explain difficult concepts to young children. He does, however, discuss how a parent can use a child’s inability to obey (pre-salvation) to present the necessity of salvation, but he is unclear in exactly how asking God (pre-salvation) for help to obey leads to asking God for salvation. Younts does not indicate any difference between the child’s response or the parent’s instruction before or after salvation. I wish he had clarified this part more. Still, I don’t intend these observations to negate the book’s value.
Younts’s strengths are using biblical examples to illustrate parenting truths and carefully challenging without discouraging parents. He is authoritarian without being harsh. Everyday Talk offers something new in the discussion of published child-rearing resources. The book is biblically sound, encouraging, and worth the time to read and consider.
Read chapter one here.
Read Jay Younts’s blog here.