Book Review: Hot Buttons

Nicole O’Dell wants to encourage parents to be proactive when it comes to things like dating and the internet. She wants us to discuss issues before they arise, rather than reacting to situations as they come. She also wants parents to arm their pre-teens and teens with wisdom and real strategies for dealing with difficult decisions.

This desire was the impetus for the “Hot Button” series. The Dating Edition and Internet Edition are already available. The Drug Edition and Sexuality Edition will be released in the fall.

I was sent the dating and internet editions to preview. The beginning of the books discusses why dealing with issues before they arise is important. She then makes her case for the threats and pitfalls associated with each subject. The opening pages of the two books are nearly identical, which makes sense. The books are designed to stand alone, and the reasons for being proactive won’t change with the subject.

In the chapters discussing potential pitfalls, Nicole uses statistics and personal anecdotes to illustrate the potential problems teens may encounter if parents don’t remain vigilant. I can’t say that I found any of the information new, but it’s inclusion is important for parents who may not be aware of what’s out there. This would be especially true in the Internet Edition for parents who may not be computer savvy.

Part Three, Pressing the Hot Buttons, is the heart of the book. First it walks parents through Ephesians 6:11-17. Chapter 11 then gives parents scenarios they can talk through with their teens. The books close with a study guide parents and teens can work through together. The books also give a web address where extra copies of the study guides can be printed off.

The strategic scenarios (which are found in chapter 11 of both books), are the strength of the books. Each scenario was thought-provoking, and some of them dealt with situations I hadn’t given much thought before.

The discussion of Ephesians 6:11-17, however, gave me pause. Nicole walks the reader through each verse, giving example prayers that you can pray in response. The example prayers are well done and helpful, but she often instructs you to do things like “lay your hands” on your family’s computer or your child’s bedroom door as you pray and to “Raise your arm as though you hold a shield and wave it in front of you. Imagine your kids standing before you, and wave it in front of them also.” (page 106 in Dating and page 105 in Internet).

I’m not aware of anyone besides the Old Testament priests who were instructed to lay their hands on an inanimate object to pray (and researching this issue is slowing down this review considerably). The instructions to do this are matter-of-fact, so I’m not sure why she felt these actions were important. I’m not saying you would be wrong to do so, and I still recommend the books, but I think the pantomimes are more distracting than helpful.

Most teaching aimed at helping teens make wise choices tries to scare them into doing the right thing. This is often spectacularly ineffective–it’s pretty easy for a determined teen to convince himself that all those horrible things won’t happen to him. The Hot Buttons series seems to avoid this trap. It wants parents to emphasize that making good choices is really God’s best for them. I also appreciate her emphasis on how the gospel cleanses us, both teens and parents, when we do fall short (and we will).

I wish, though, that she had placed a little more emphasis on how the gospel enables us to live holy lives and gives us shelter in times of testing. It was there to some degree, but I think it could have been brought out a bit more. Since the books are designed to be short, easy reads, I would imagine that succinctness won out over thoroughness.

All in all, these books are good tools. I recommend them for any parent who wants to initiate a dialogue with their pre-teens and teens about these subjects, especially if they find the idea intimidating.

Many thanks to Kregal Publications for providing these review copies. This review reflects my honest opinion.

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