Book Review: First Ask Why

“We are not here simply to take up space in the world,
but we are here to make a difference for eternity.”

These words from Shelly Wildman have stuck with me. Shelly’s new parenting book First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship (Kregel, 2018) is being released TODAY, and I am thrilled to recommend it to you—not simply because Shelly is a friend, but because it is filled with truth and encouragment for the path of parenting.

I’m reminded through Shelly’s quote above that all of our lives have purpose. Because of this, our parenting requires intentionality. What is our vision for our family and our children? How do we intentionally disciple them toward what matters, toward their purpose? If our #1 priority is, as Shelly notes in the book, pointing our children toward life in Jesus, teaching them to follow Jesus throughout their lives, then how do we cast that vision and move toward our goals within our family’s unique personality? And how does our family then point the world to Christ?

First Ask Why looks at these questions by first getting at the “why” behind what we do, rather than the “how” which is so often the focus in parenting. Why discipline our children (and what is that anyway)? Why pray? Why worship? Why be truthful? Why show kindness? Why serve? Why give of our time and resources? Even, why travel? And yes, why let go? Shelly addresses these kinds of questions in both practical and biblical ways. The wise advice in this book will help parents from the time they bring a baby home from the hospital to the time they launch their grown child out into the world (a process Shelly says we should consider right from the start). The book serves as a guide to help shepherd and disciple our children along every step of the path.

Shelly has a degree in English literature from Wheaton College and a master’s degree in English Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has taught writing at Wheaton College off and on for about 23 years. This background, along with her love of reading and writing, serves her well as an author. Her book is not made up of loose ideas thrown onto the page, but is well-written, full of good illustrations, well-organized, easy to follow, and enjoyable to read. Throughout the book, she offers tangible ways to begin taking small steps to put things into practice. Best of all, it’s something she has lived and practiced. Because she has three grown children, she is speaking from experience and knowledge gained by parenting intentionally over the last 26 years. I’m so thankful to benefit from it.

This is a resource I wish I had had during the early years of parenting, and yet, there is truth that inspires and directs me even now as I near an empty nest! It is challenging and convicting, yet reassuring and hopeful. I highly recommend First Ask Why to you. To learn more about Shelly, you can visit her website,, or find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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