Gist: The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids

Gist: The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids

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Gist offers a fresh look at parenting that’s effective, efficient, and enjoyable. The focus is on instilling “life readiness” in age-appropriate ways at any stage of child-rearing. Parents who read this book will understand why their previous parenting efforts may have been frustrating and futile, and they’ll learn how to prepare “life-ready” kids with less drama and more joy. This is the latest edition with updated content.

Gist is a potent dose of advice from a pediatrician and a child psychologist, both of whom have witnessed the unfortunate results that come when parents try to protect, prevent, and control at every turn instead of preparing their kids for life. Combining the expertise of their respective professions with very practical tips, this is a how-to manual for any parent who wants to prepare their kids to thrive as adults.” —Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of students, Stanford University

Gist is a powerful book that reviews and examines what the journey to adulthood entails, along with a clear look at those parenting efforts that over the years have been proven not to work. The book looks at many aspects of life that wouldn’t typically be associated with parenting. Its focus on life readiness offers parents a new lens through which to see their parenting interactions and translates to an approach that eliminates many of the power struggles and ineffective patterns that can rob families of much of their joy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781589975866
Publisher: Focus on the Family
Publication date: 10/08/2019
Edition description: Enlarged ed.
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 52,300
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt



We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.


A family was out driving and saw a dead adult female red fox lying in the road. In the weeds nearby they spied a baby fox. The little guy was clearly terrified and did not know whether to run or stay. About six weeks old, he was strong and agile, but without his mother he wouldn't be able to survive in the wild.

The family brought the fox home and built a wonderful and comfortable kennel for him. They named him Hank and fed him grain-free food from the pet store. He had a dozen toys in his kennel and enjoyed a wonderful life. Soon there was a mutual trust, and Hank became a much-loved pet. The family planned to raise the fox until he was fully grown. When he was ready to fend for himself, they would release him back into the wild near the spot where he was found.

Hank was a perfect specimen of a red fox. He was 10 percent bigger than most wild foxes, and his beautiful red coat glistened in the sunshine pouring through the living room window. This was the only sunshine Hank saw, with the exception of brief, leashed potty breaks. The family knew he would surely run away if unleashed, and he was in no way ready to survive on his own in the wild.

Soon the family celebrated Hank's fourth birthday. By then they had switched from their two-year plan to a four-year plan, fearing that Hank would more likely become prey than be able to find food on his own. For years, the family had told their friends they were raising Hank with the goal of setting him free. Now, four years into Hank's life, people were starting to ask why Hank was still lying on the couch and wasn't out in the woods. The family wanted to keep their commitment to release Hank, but they knew he had no skills for survival in the wild. Strong and beautiful as he was, after six hours in the woods Hank would have been looking for a bag that read "Science Diet." Hank's family reflected on how they got into this mess.

This family had brought Hank home four years earlier, intending to protect him and prepare him for life in the wild. They hadn't realized that love must evolve, and had failed to prepare Hank to live free and on his own.

A first child is born. Strong emotions fill us as the miracle of birth happens before our eyes. Impassioned, we reach down to touch tiny fingers and smell the unique newborn fragrance. We listen with wonder to cries, grunts, and cute infant squeaks. This child seemingly comes out of nowhere, yet contains our DNA. She holds our inheritance within her, along with a world of possibilities. We are captured and fall completely in love with this tiny, vulnerable child.

Along with this love, we face an endeavor of greater magnitude, potential, and pitfalls than any we've previously known. Instinctively jolted, at least temporarily, out of self-centeredness, we step into a new level of existence. With an acute sense of the task's importance, we realize that we have entered into legacy for the first time in our lives. This precious child before us is the enduring part of us that we will pass down.

When we break down the elements of this love, we are aware that this child:

&149; came from us

&149; needs our protection

&149; is our legacy

&149; has immense potential

&149; is a miracle

&149; is totally accepted

&149; is completely vulnerable and precious

The pure love we experience in that first week of life is so uncomplicated. Not easy, but certainly uncomplicated. Many parents find that first week to be perfection — a perfect child embraced in perfect love. Eventually this love will need to evolve into something different. In every relationship and aspect of life, love must evolve to survive. Bringing this child home must evolve into sending that

child into the world. Potential must evolve into limitation. Hope must evolve into disappointment. Perfection must evolve into reality and failure.

Because love always emerges as something other than what we hoped for and something different from how it started, it follows that our love as parents must evolve. It might even need to evolve from a "would never hurt" love into a "need to allow hurt" love. This little miracle may evolve into a bad dream.

When does the simple love during infancy need to start changing?

It Starts with a Will

The journey for parents to a new love is launched when a child exhibits a will. The caring and protecting mode changes into managing differences between the child's will and the parent's will. Bedtime is no longer driven by a primal need for sleep; now it is driven by a child's personal desire to stay up. We start on the road to adulthood with the onset of joys and disappointments, give and take, negotiation and compromise.

Both joys and disappointments are initiated when a child begins to have opinions. This exertion of demands or will is traditionally followed by wants, followed by opposing opinions, followed by conflict, leading to a relationship that is completely different from the one that began at the birthing center.

A new environment emerges from will and personal opinion. This environment includes such principles as authority, discipline, disappointment, relationship, and achievement. While this is not an exhaustive list, it captures a lot of the challenges facing parents. In its simplest terms, the essence of loving our children is about moving our vulnerable and beautiful child from infancy to adulthood. An understanding of authority, discipline, disappointment, relationship, and achievement will all be needed for the child to reach maturity. Any person without a significant understanding of these essentials has not developed and is not ready for adulthood.

This is why many parents reach out to get help. We hear, "My child has a problem with authority" or "My child has a problem with discipline" or "My child has a problem with relationships." Perhaps the most common is, "My child has a problem with disappointment."

Too many kids become adults who are underdeveloped or not developed at all in one or more of these areas. It is not surprising these children are underprepared for life. Their parents' love did not evolve over time and they did not learn the necessary lessons. This isn't to say the parents lacked love, only that it did not evolve.

Authority and hierarchy require a child to lay aside his or her will. This is a foundational truth for families and any society. Everyone has to answer to someone. All must comply with laws and authority that may differ from what they want or think is fair at that moment. Without a respect for this truth, one can't be adult. To correctly love our children we must teach them that this is the nature of life. It's not love if we're not preparing them for this reality. This is far more loving than giving presents, trophies, and encouragement.

Another aspect of this evolution involves oppositional bonding — practicing a love that stays constant or grows, despite differing opinions. In an unhealthy family, conflict or opposition can negatively affect relationships. Kids in these families can grow up to believe that harmony is an essential part of bonding. However, healthy families allow for oppositional positions; in these families, family members can disagree without having that conflict diminish the relationship. If this ability isn't developed, conflict can feel like abandonment.

Know Where You're Headed

We won't be afraid of or disillusioned by this parenting journey if we understand where the journey is to take us. It starts with a child who is adored and protected, but it must give way over the course of twenty years to a child who is free and equipped. That is our destination.

How does this evolution happen? The steps that lead to maturing transitions must be taken intentionally and skillfully. Except for the few truly "natural" parents who do this instinctively, most parents need to be deliberate about leading their child to a place of self-governance and being equipped for life. In our era and particularly in our Western culture, many parents have become sidetracked with performance and other urgencies, while the process of ensuring that their child becomes an equipped, independent, and responsible adult suffers due to lack of focus.

What if this process doesn't happen? The consequence will be a twenty-year-old with the maturity level of a fourteen-year-old. There's nothing wrong with a fourteen-year-old maturity level. It just looks awkward in someone who's twenty-something. If you wonder whether this is an exaggeration, just look around and see how many twenty-year-olds are living without direction, accountability, independence, and a sense of responsibility. Much of this can be traced back to a child who was deeply loved, but with a love that didn't evolve.

Age-Appropriate Development

Knowing when and how to transition to a different kind of love is a talent that parents need to develop. It is as problematic for a two-year-old to be given freedom and responsibility as it is for a twenty-year-old to be only adored and protected. In many families we can see both of these errors of focus. Some start too early in their zeal to be good parents, pushing their children to excel in their accomplishments beyond what's age-appropriate. This type of rushing is all too common and occasionally even reaches the news.

Several years ago a seven-year-old girl crashed a small plane in the western United States as she attempted to become the youngest person to fly across the country. She needed more protection and less self-sufficiency for this mission. In our opinion, her parents' love was not age-appropriate.

It is a wonderful thing for a child to develop in normal, healthy, and age-appropriate ways. Here are a few examples of expected tasks for a typical three-year-old:

&149; learning the language that allows the child to express ideas and thoughts related to his or her environment

&149; counting from three to five objects in a group to determine how many objects are in the group (rational counting)

&149; classifying objects into categories (size, shape, color, etc.), ordering objects and identifying shapes such as squares, circles, triangles, and rectangles

&149; recognizing characteristics of different seasons and weather

&149; beginning to observe, explore, and describe a wide variety of live animals and where they live

You get the idea. These are wonderful and amazing things for a three-year-old to learn. There is a corresponding list of wonderful and amazing things for an eighteen-year-old to learn. Expected skills for an eighteen-year-old include:

&149; listening to and evaluating the viewpoints of others

&149; delaying gratification (ability to put off what he or she wants to do now because there are more important things to do or because there is a better time to do it)

&149; accepting the fact that he or she can't always win, and learning from mistakes instead of being demoralized by the outcome

&149; differentiating between rational decision-making and emotional impulse

&149; separating true love from transitory infatuation

&149; taking ownership and responsibility for personal actions

These are just some of the developmental qualities a seventeen- or eighteen-year-old should be exhibiting.

Customizing Your Love

When you pay close attention to your child, it's not that difficult to know how your parental love needs to change next. A book — even ours — may not help with this process. Evolving love is a universal issue. Whether it's our relationship with an aging parent, an ex-spouse, a sibling, or a partner, if we're evolving, our love for the other must evolve too.

Without knowing you or your child, we can't tell you how this evolving love has to take place. But it must take place. We can't tell you how much to protect or push your eighth-grade child. Some children need to be held in and some need to be pushed out. Endeavoring to know this is what an evolving love is about.

The GIST of It

&149; It's very important for parents to recall the joy and pleasure they experienced at the birth or adoption of each of their children. Remember those precious times, full of hope and anticipation. When times get tough, it's easy to forget all the good — and great — times and focus on the negatives.

&149; If you love your child the same way for four years, your love is not evolving. Watch your child closely in daily life and you will figure out where and how your love needs to evolve.

&149; How we love our kids needs to change along the way. We cannot nurture them, compliment them, protect them, or adore them into becoming mature, life-ready young adults. It just won't happen that way. Our job is to train our children, prepare them, and in them leave a legacy. Training them for adulthood means freeing and equipping them. This is our primary role.


Excerpted from "GIST"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Michael W. Anderson, L.P. and Timothy D. Johanson, M.D..
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, xi,
Part I: Foundational Principles of Life,
1. Love Must Evolve, 3,
2. Learning and Anti-Learning, 13,
3. The Nature of Life, 25,
4. The Difference between Fun and Joy, 49,
5. Checklist for Adulthood, 61,
6. The Eagle Story, 71,
Par t II: Core Development,
7. The Easy Way Out, 77,
8. Just Shut Up!, 97,
9. Self-Protection, 107,
10. Because It Works, 123,
11. Case Study: Jenna, 137,
12. The Two Things, 143,
13. Case Study: Kyle, 161,
14. Tell the Truth, 167,
15. The Origins of Self-Esteem, 181,
16. Shame, 203,
17. Overparenting, 217,
Part III: Unintended Parenting,
18. Be Careful What You Say, 229,
19. The Black Hole of Technology, 247,
20. Overloaded, 267,
21. Learned Helplessness, 275,
22. The Impact of Stress, 297,
Final Words, 309,
Acknowledgments, 313,
Notes, 315,
About the Authors, 319,

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