Messengers in Denim

Of the many talents that Dr. Donahue displays in writing this most engaging and useful book, the two most important are story-telling and listening. He tells entertaining tales that highlight the wisdom that can come from the mouths of teens. He manages to do so in a way that also includes a wide range of references to medical studies and both classical and popular sources, as well as references to his own experiences and insights gained through his decades of practicing adolescent medicine. His topics range from family meals, pets, T.V. viewing, A.D.D., and obesity, through peer pressure and changing attitudes and habits, all the way to sex, porn, religion, trust, and role-modeling. It is a book about sound medical advice — but even more so, in the biggest of pictures, it’s about how to live a healthy life. The good doctor proves time and again that the deepest wisdom and the most practical common sense often go hand-in-hand.

Dennis M. Doyle, Ph.D.
Professor of Religious Studies
University of Dayton


I finished Parnell Donahue’s book while I sat captive on a plane headed for parts of Indiana and Ohio by way of snowy Minneapolis and Detroit, and will attempt to encapsulate in text what moved me about Messengers in Denim. His stories were captivating — they took me through an array of emotions and back again. I’m sure the passengers next to me thought I was a bit touched as I laughed out loud then, seconds later, silently wiped tears from my eyes. Most striking was seeing myself simultaneously as a teenager and a father through his stories.

Each evening my wife and I talk about what we can do to be the parents our children deserve. Messengers in Denim inspired us and reinforces the notion that we are the magic wand we seek, to not only reinforce our belief that we can be the parents we want to be, but also our belief that we can guide our children to be the adults we pray they’ll become.

Thank you Parnell for your wisdom and profundity. Your book stirred memories of my own teenage years, memories of the countless kids (and their families) I was honored to help, and underscored the challenges of my own fatherhood. After my wife reads Messengers, I’ll be reading it again — this time with a highlighter!

Messengers in Denim should be required reading for every professional who works with teens or their parents. As I reflect back upon my years in graduate school and my years as a practicing therapist, the unique needs of the teen patient are sadly absent in theory as well as practice. Dr. Donahue’s book has at long last provided a very comforting and heartwarming glimpse into our future by highlighting the remarkable young people currently preparing for adulthood.

Chris Eickman, M.A.
Marriage, Family & Child Counselor


Having raised four children with his wife Mary, and drawing upon decades of experience as a pediatric doctor, Parnell Donahue draws on a myriad of examples and stories from his interaction with adolescents to describe how to be a parent today. The book is both interesting and easy to read. Dr. Donahue doesn’t hesitate to talk about how health and religious practices work together, nor about practices beyond smoking that harm adolescents. Readers may not agree with all of his recommendations, but they will find them thoughtfully and compassionately presented. It is the only book of its kind that I know of, and am happy to recommend it not only to parents, but to teens as well.

Fr. James L. Heft, S.M.
Alton Brooks Professor of Religion
President of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies
University of Southern California


There are countless books on how to parent teenagers, so why should you read this one? Just as teenagers exchange “cheat” codes to improve their performance on video games, Dr. Donahue uses the wisdom and life lessons learned by the teens in this book to share with you the code to become a better parent. Dr. Donahue’s forty years of clinical experience coupled with his old school wisdom and careful research will make this a well-worn addition to your parenting library!

Mark H. Deis, M.D.
General Pediatrician

Pediatric Associates, PSC
Crestview Hills, KY


Today’s parents desperately need to understand what being a teenager in these tumultuous times is all about, and Dr. Donahue offers them that understanding straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth. Chock-full of illuminating, helpful insights.

John Rosemond


It was a joy reading Dr. Donahue’s book, Messengers in Denim. As a father, grandfather and great grandfather it is heart warming to know the old-fashioned ways my wife and I believed in and used to raise our children are still being promoted today. I recommend this book very highly to all parents.

Don Lage
New Ulm, MN


Dr. Parnell Donahue has been my much admired personal friend for nearly 50 years. His most outstanding personality feature is his “positive mental attitude” which is so evident in this, his latest and best book.

The reader will quickly find that Dr. Donahue in his contact with teenagers assumes the best in them. This enables him to listen carefully to their problems, their hopes, and their fears. He is able to see through a crisis to help the teen to find the good in it, and to work with the teen to find a solution or course of action.

Dr. Donahue has a unique technique to get a teenager to speak about embarrassing but important personal problems. He will ask, “What is going on with the other kids at school?” or “with your friends?” The door is then opened to the teen’s own problem without the embarrassment.

Dr. Donahue’s techniques and attitude can be learned by adults who read this book as he applies them to most of the problems that teenagers face as they become adults, including too much television, how to handle finances, substance abuse and teen age sexual problems. Underlying it all is Dr. Donahue’s strong personal morality and his religious faith.

Wend Schaefer, M.D.
2009 Humanitarian Award

Marquette Medical College, WI



Messengers in Denim is much more than a guide to listening and connecting effectively with teenagers. It models a way of living in integrity and provides a framework for positive interaction in all our relationships. This is a serious book full of important information written by a very wise physician with exceptional insight and a healthy sense of humor.

Edward S. Gallagher, M.D.
Medical Consultant/Pediatrician
Oakland, CA



I have had the privilege of knowing Dr Donahue since our medical school days. I’ve watched our families grow as we shared many Thanksgiving Day meals. He is a man of integrity, honesty, and he has a gift for working with children. Messengers in Denim covers years of his Pediatric experience and is a necessary book for every parent. For many reasons, today.s Pediatricians and Primary Care Providers rarely have the time to develop close, personal relationships with their patients. But, as children grow, it is essential that doctors hear what they have to say. Without the benefit of Dr. Donahue’s book, physicians may only hear the parent’s concerns while the child’s message may be different and unheard. There are many methods of parenting, but some things remain the same, and what our children need most is our time, love, support, and trust. Parents and doctors can rely on Messengers in Denim for the insight they need.

Thomas Kowalski M.D

Medical College of Wisconsin Class of 1963
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics (retired)
Pediatrician and Neonatologist (retired)
Former President, Medical Society of Milwaukee County



It was my privilege to work side-by-side with Dr. Par Donahue and see, firsthand, many of the stories he tells in Messengers in Denim unfold. I guarantee that he remembers every patient cited in this book together with their parents, the names of their pets, and other special information about each of them. Par usually ran behind with his office schedule, but each of his families knew that they would receive the same attention to their every need. He was indeed a gifted healer!

That level of attention to detail and love for his patients, in addition to his years of exceptional medical knowledge, laid the foundation for writing Messengers in Denim, a book which de-mystifies the teenage years.

The book challenges us all (parents, aunts, uncles, doctors) to pay attention to the teens in our lives and respectfully allow them to be our teachers. Adolescent medicine continues to evolve and the complexities facing teenagers create even greater urgency for those who care for them to understand them and guide them.

This book is a must-read for anyone looking for a deeper understanding of the psychology of teens and the importance of family in their lives. These precious (and sometimes turbulent) years are in fact so formative, and actually launch the adult years where they really begin to act like us, their parents! I will always keep a copy of Messengers in Denim in my medical library and personally recommend it to anyone who has children in their lives.

Daniel Salinas, M.D.
Senior Vice President
Chief Medical Officer
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta



Dr. Donahue draws on forty years experience to equip parents, coaches, and pastors to work with the unique challenges of today’s teens. From faith and family to sexuality and self-image, Messengers in Denim allows teenagers to speak for themselves and shows us grown ups how these kids want—and need—to be led.

Dave Ramsey
New York Times best-selling author

host of The Dave Ramsey Show



Dr. Donahue writes with the poise and grace of a seasoned physician and the insight and sensitivity of a brilliant but humble man. Every parent should read Messengers in Denim to gain a peek into the world our kids know.

Meg Meeker, M.D.
author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: Ten Secrets Every Father Should Know



As a Pediatrician who is also a parent I enjoyed reading Messengers in Denim by Dr Parnell Donahue. This book contains a message of hope for parents of teenagers while gently reminding us that “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree”.

Elizabeth Lynn Wells, M.D.



I enjoyed reading Messengers in Demin by Dr. Donahue. His insight into teen behavior and use of their stories to highlight important lessons parents should know when raising their children are a welcome addition to my parenting library. I highly recommend this book to parents with children of any age.

Tommy Thompson
Former Secretary
U.S. Health and Human Services



I know that when my children reach their adolescent years, my wife and I will … be pulling [Dr. Donahue’s] book off our shelf for a few lessons from a wise man who spent his entire life studying, mending, and truly listening to these young men and women.

Matthew D. Eberly, M.D.



I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and learning how teens think. The wisdom displayed by many of these teens assure me that our country will be left in good hands. All new parents should read this book to learn how children should be loved and respected, and to learn how a parent’s behavior plays a major role in a teen’s life and the adult they will become. Parents should frequently re-read the book, listen to their teenagers, and enjoy watching their teens become adults. Likewise, it is a book to be read by teens. I will remember the example of Eric, who explained his positive and optimistic attitude by saying, “You will become the man you pretend to be.”

Jacqueline A. Noonan, M.D.

Professor Emeriti of Pediatrics
University of Kentucky



Sometime after the magic of a baby’s birth has faded and the fatigue of 24/7 infant care has firmly taken hold of their lives and around the time the temperament of a two year old evolves, parents confront a startling thought — “We are going to spend years raising this child and if these toddler times are challenging us, what will the teen years bring!! How are we going to handle all of this?”

Welcome Dr. Donahue and thank you for Messengers in Denim — The Amazing Things Parents Can Learn From Teens, in which he elucidates why some children become competent and empathetic teenagers and others do not. From the crucible of his experience exemplified in insightful vignettes and enhanced by summations of medical studies and surveys, Dr. Donahue deduces into “parenting tips” the key components of how to be a parent. Implement these and how to parent will follow.

To the parents of toddlers confronting the startling question above, I recommend they not be dissuaded by the word “teen” in the title, but read Messengers in Denim — The Amazing Things Parents Can Learn From Teens now and refer to it as needed during the next 10–15 years. By so doing you will provide your child the roots they need to take their wings in due time.

Bill Dukart, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Lewisburg, West Virginia



Dr. Parnell Donahue has been one of my physician mentors for nearly 20 years. The lessons I have learned from him go well beyond evaluation and diagnosis of medical problems—he has taught me how to be a more caring and compassionate physician and a physician who cares for the person, not just the medical condition.

I am not at all surprised to see how wonderful this book is, and I’m thankful to be learning even more lessons from Dr. Donahue. As a physician and a first-time new parent, I realize raising a child in these complex times is scary and difficult. I’m both anxious and excited to see my young son grow and mature, and Dr. Donahue’s book will serve as a valuable resource in the challenging and rewarding task of parenting.

I am a better person and physician knowing Dr. Donahue, and I know I will be a better parent because of his book. It is my hope as many parents as possible read this book. It will make the world a better place for all of our children.

Fred Reifsteck MD
Head Team Physician
University of Georgia



Dr. Donahue is a master of the pediatric and adolescent landscape. His book is an emotionally powerful parenting resource and is compassionately written. It is, indeed, tender and touching and unfolds like a lush Southern garden with its blooming Doctor/patient/parent bonds. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this excellent parenting resource.

Julie R. Martin, MSN, CPNP

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