Parenting as a Child of the King
About the Guest
You want your teens to respect you. But do you respect them? Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock, both mothers who work for Greater Impact Ministries, talk about the importance of appropriately communicating with your teen. Debbie opens up about the challenge she faced raising her strong-willed child, and tells how the struggles intensified when that child turned 16. Through the ups and downs, Debbie tells how she eventually learned that, as a daughter of the King, she could lean on Christ for wisdom to parent.
Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock talk about the importance of communicating respectfully with your teen.
Bob: Do you have a teenager in your life, who is a challenge / hard to parent? Debbie Hitchcock remembers a season like that in her family.
Debbie: My husband was travelling a lot at the time. So, he would be away for the week. Every week that he ended up going out of town, we would have a major meltdown because the child would want to be in control of the situation: “Let me manipulate Mom.” I will admit that it was the most difficult situation that I had ever encountered as a parent.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Parenting teens can be a tough assignment. We’re going to talk today about how important respect is in that equation. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. When you think about teenagers and respect in the home, you typically think that—at least, I think—it’s a one-way street. The teens need to learn how to respect Mom and Dad. I don’t know that I’ve ever stopped and thought to myself, “Mom and Dad need to learn how to respect their teen,” but that’s really part of the equation.
Dennis: It really is. In fact, Barbara and I have had these conversations as we raised six teenagers. It’s a challenge to, sometimes, be drug into the emotional mud puddle by your teenager and still be speaking with respect.
And we have a couple of authors with us today who have written a book called With All Due Respect; subtitled 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens. Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock join us on FamilyLife Today. Debbie / Nina, welcome to the broadcast.
Nina: It’s great to be here.
Debbie: Thank you.
Dennis: And I almost said to you, Nina, “Welcome back,” because you’ve been here before with your other book, The Respect Dare. So, this is in the same line of communication that we’ve talked about before, except that book really talks more about respecting your husband.
Dennis: Why did you decide to write a book that is about respecting your child?
Nina: Well, I have—Jim and I have benefited tremendously, as a family, as a result of Debbie Hitchcock’s experiences. We are about a little over a decade behind her and her husband Dave in their parenting experience. We’ve learned a lot from them. So, when God prompted our hearts, we started this journey—having been on the receiving end of their wisdom, and seeing that show up in her family, and it’s shown up in ours. So, our relationships are directly related to what she’s been through.
Dennis: You and Jim have three children.
Nina: Yes; we do.
Dennis: And Debbie, you and your husband Dave have four. So—
Dennis: —you’ve been in the warzone of the teenage years. They are challenging years; aren’t they?
Debbie: There is no doubt about it.
Dennis: And this is all about your story of how you learned the process of speaking with respect / operating out of respect for your teens.
Debbie: It’s all about the way you communicate with them and trying to understand things from their perspective—you know: “What are we modeling for our kids?”
Bob: You, as a parent, had an experience with one of your four kids that took you into a parenting place that you had not expected you would go when you guys first got married / when you started having children. At what point, with this child, did you start to realize, “This is going to require more of me than I had imagined”?
Debbie: Well, I will admit that this is the child that was the difficult child from birth. It was one of those—you know, the first one sleeps and they do all the right things.
You just kind of—
Debbie: —go along with the process. And this one didn’t sleep. So, it started, early on—but I thought I had it kind of under control until—when the child turned 16—it was like a switch flipped. All of a sudden, this child had no interest in listening to anything that my husband and I had to say. It was a situation where they had arrived / they were an adult in their mind.
Bob: And our listeners will realize we’re protecting this child’s identity by referring to him or her as this child throughout this conversation. Was there a turning point event when the child hit 16, where you said, “Okay; now, what do we do?”
Debbie: Well, we were struggling for quite a while. We had put this child in counseling; and finally, it was when that child started sharing what was going on in their world with a younger sibling that I went:
“Oh, my goodness! We can’t go there.” At the time, my youngest was an 11-year-old.
Dennis: So, they were finding out things they ought not to be finding out about.
Debbie: Absolutely. And—
Bob: What kinds of things were going on in your 16-year-old’s world?
Debbie: Well, it had to do with friendships.
Debbie: It had to do with a relationship with a member of the opposite sex.
Debbie: It had to do with anything that was edgy. I would expect the child to be in a certain place at a certain time—they weren’t there. So, the trust factor was something that had been severed.
Bob: Any boundaries you were setting up had been completely ignored. The child is doing whatever he or she wants to do at that point and starting to make some decisions that you are becoming aware of that are unhealthy decisions / bad decisions related to relationships / related to peer group stuff—
—all of that; right?
Dennis: And it ultimately reached the point of a crisis that demanded a true line in the sand that’s different than a two- or three-year-old.
Debbie: Oh, absolutely. And I will admit that it was the most difficult situation that I had ever encountered as a parent. We’re talking with the counselors. The moment that we had found out that everything that was going on was being shared with the younger child, the counselors—we had three of them that had been involved in the process—those three counselors got together, and looked at us and said, “We really think you need to remove this child from your home.” My husband and I were devastated. It was like, “Oh, my goodness; we really can’t control this.”
Dennis: Now, we’re talking about a 16-year-old now.
Dennis: Legally, you have the ability to place a child in another spot. After they get 18, you don’t have the same legal control.
Debbie: Right. It was like—you know, we kind of jokingly said it was like a Hail Mary play—we were desperate. If we didn’t do it, it was going to—it was already impacting the rest of the family; but if we did do it, what was it going to do to the relationship? You know, we had to weigh the odds. The relationship was not very healthy.
Dennis: You had to be talking about destructive behavior at this point that was damaging to the other children in the family—not only to that child / himself or herself—but to your extended family at that point.
Debbie: Oh, absolutely. And the volume kept rising in the house, which is typical.
Debbie: When you feel like you have no control—and I mean, I did what every other parent typically does—and that is: “Okay; what can I control in this situation?”
Bob: So, there is anger, there is shouting, there’s slamming of doors. There’s: “You can’t tell me what to do! I’ll do whatever I want. I’m leaving. I’m taking the car. Try and stop me.” There is that kind of behavior going on.
Debbie: Oh, yes; for sure.
Bob: And as a parent, I’m thinking—in that situation, you think: “Okay; rewards or punishment? So, what can we take away? How do we ground the child, or how do we remove privileges so that the child feels some pain for their choices?” I’m sure you did that.
Bob: And that didn’t work?
Debbie: They didn’t.
Dennis: Generally, Bob, by the time the parent gets to where Debbie was with her husband, you’ve exhausted all of those options. It’s reached such a point of crisis—in terms of emotional meltdowns, distrust, and destructive behavior—
—that the parents either have to move to protect the child from himself or herself in terms of really, maybe, saving their lives or you’re going to have something happen that’s going to be permanent.
Bob: So, when you talk about putting a child out of the home, at age 16, you can’t just say, “Pack your suitcase and hit the road,” or can you? Is that what you did?
Debbie: Well, we ended up working with the counselors. We found a boarding school that had a therapist there, and we just—we had the child removed.
Bob: Now, when you went to this child and said, “This isn’t working—the anger / the disobedience—all of this,” you didn’t do a “If you don’t shape up, we’re sending you to boarding school”? Or did you use that as a threat, or did you just say, “This is where you’re going, and it’s non-negotiable”?
Debbie: Well, what we ended up doing is—we tried to let them know that: “Things are not going well.
“We may have to do something drastic if things don’t change here.” One of the things we talked about was sending that child somewhere else to live. The response, quite honestly, was “Sounds better than here!”
Dennis: It’s basically an intervention—I mean, where you go to the child and say: “Here’s what is about to happen. We’re going to X-place. You’re going to be there for this length of time, and you’re going to be under their care, with our complete permission in that situation. And the hope is that this can help you even out and, hopefully”—you may not say it to the child like this—“finish the process of growing up and beginning to deal with life as a mature, young adult.”
Bob: Were you thinking that six months at boarding school would, maybe, be the turn-around / that would be the wakeup call that this child would go, “I now see where I’ve been acting out,” and come back and say:
“Thank you for sending me to boarding school. I appreciate it.” Is that what you were hoping might happen?
Debbie: Well, we can all hope for those things.
Debbie: I was a little more realistic than that and knew that it wasn’t going to totally change; but I’ll be honest with you—it was something, for me, that I was like: “Okay; is this me?”
Debbie: “What’s going on here? Who’s really running this show?” In that process, you start questioning yourself, plus you have people around you that are kind of pointing fingers and going, “Well, you’re just not doing it right.” So, for me, I just felt like, if I didn’t do something—I had three counselors, who were saying, “You need to go make this happen, or you’re going to lose your family.” I knew that it would, at least, give us perspective on: “Is this our problem? Is this the child’s problem?
“Where are we at?”
Dennis: Here is what I just want to applaud in this situation—your decision with your husband to go seek outside help and allow some wiser, more balanced voices to speak into your lives—was probably, not only what saved the life of your child, but perhaps, your marriage and your family because a child like this can become the center of the universe. It’s like—instead of all the planets revolving around the sun, they all start revolving around Pluto; and the child is in a power play. They don’t even know how powerful they are; but they are manipulating / they are controlling. The parent ends up evaluating his or her own parenting style and either blames each other, as parents, or blames herself or himself. As a result, the child, in the meantime, is still in control—
Dennis: —and you’re not taking the action you need to take in that situation to bring hope and healing to the child.
Bob: So, the good news is you reached outside yourself—you got some help / you had some other people speaking into this. You didn’t just isolate and pretend like everything is fine here and try to deal with it only in your family. Was this having an impact on your marriage?
Debbie: It was in the sense that my husband was travelling a lot at the time. So, he would be away for the week. Every week that he ended up going out of town, we would have a major meltdown because the child would want to be in control of the situation: “Let me manipulate Mom.”
Dennis: This child had your number.
Debbie: Oh, absolutely. Our family moved for this child—so we tried that as the first step.
Bob: You went to a different community.
Debbie: We went to a different school system.
Bob: You tried to change the environment to see if the environment change would cause your child to go, “Oh, I see where I’ve been wrong.”
Bob: That didn’t work. You guys finally decide on sending the child to boarding school.
Did you see any change in your child’s temperament or personality as a result of the boarding school?
Debbie: Most of the change happened in my family at home. What really helped was—it allowed my husband and me to sit and talk and be on the same page because the conflict was not in our face every day. It allowed us to sit down with the other children and say, “You know, we’ve taken this step.” What was interesting about it was that two of the kids came back to us and said, “It’s about time.” That spoke volumes to us.
Bob: I’ve talked to parents in this situation, who have said to me: “We almost feel guilty, but we really like not having this child around.
“We have peace that wasn’t there before.” And there’s this ambivalence / this guilt that’s like, “It sure is nice not to have the child around.” You feel like you’re being disloyal or you’re not loving your child to express that; but a child can so affect the atmosphere that to have those moments of peace again, it’s like, “Okay; there can be a normal here.”
Dennis: So, for your children to come and say: “Good choice. Way to go, Mom/Dad. Thanks for stepping up in this situation,”—I think they’re pointing out something I can’t tell you how strongly I feel about this—parents of children—when they go through situations like this, they not only move houses / move schools—they will move mountains for that child because a parent’s heart is a child walking around outside their body; okay?
A parent is trying to protect the child from experiencing all this harm and damage.
They are set up to be enablers. That’s why you go the second mile, the third mile, the fourth mile, the twentieth mile. Finally, to have a child come to you—two of your children—and say, “Finally,”—you made the tough choice, you drew the line in the sand, created boundaries, and you stuck to it.
Bob: But I’ve still got to know—at the end of boarding school / six months of boarding school—you go pick up your child from boarding school with, maybe, some hope. I guess there had been communication. Had there been letters, phone calls—any of that?
Debbie: There were letters, and we would end up talking to the child with the counselor on a weekly basis.
Debbie: So, the communication was happening. We were also talking, you know, with a counselor on the side, which helped us in terms of, “Do we have hope?”
Bob: Yes; did you have hope at the end of six months that maybe some progress had been made and you could live together under the same roof?
Debbie: Well, we knew we had made some progress—the relationship was still intact. When we went and got the child, we ended up going away to a dude ranch for about four days afterwards just because—one, we knew the child would really enjoy it; but we knew we needed to reconnect on a different level.
Dennis: Would you say the child had repented at that point and was seeking reconciliation with you?
Debbie: No; I don’t believe that was the case—I wish it was. The child came home—was able to find a job. Things started moving forward. While things were still rocky, we knew that it was important for us to make sure that the other kids were protected as the child came home.
Dennis: How did you do that?
Debbie: Well, I think the biggest thing that we did was we would always—whenever the other kids had difficulties interacting with this child, we would make sure that: “I understand we have an issue. Let’s go talk about it.” We would do that in private.
Dennis: And I think it’s worth pointing out—after the child has been out of the home for a while—in this case, a year?
Dennis: The smoke has kind of cleared at that point. You’re emotionally back on an even keel, as parents, and you’re thinking squarely. You’re thinking straight, and you’re back in control of your family rather than being in a place to be manipulated.
Debbie: Right. And I had the confidence at that point. You know, we wrap ourselves so much in identity in our kids that we forget whose we are. Instead of a horrible parent, I’m a child of the King.
Debbie: Instead of being someone who just doesn’t get it right, I can be brave in making sure that—if my relationship with God is right and I really work on connecting with other people—
Debbie: —then I can do what God has asked me to do.
Bob: And what you’re identifying here—and Dennis, you speak to this often—our human relationships are a mirror / a reflection of what kind of relationship we have with God.
Bob: That how we are doing, one on one—with our spouse, with our kids, with our extended family—gives us insight into the condition of our soul and what our walk with God is like.
Dennis: And what Debbie pointed out here is something that’s going to sound like a trite verse to quote in the midst of such chaos; but Romans 8:28 is really true in this situation:
“All things [do] work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” You can end up growing. You can end up, as far as it is possible with you, being at peace with all men. You may not be able to control the child / that child has to grow up.
But what I want to remind parents of—before we tell them how to get a copy of your book—this can happen to the best of families. This is not necessarily a deficiency in the parents that produce a prodigal. I’m telling you—you’re not raising a robot. You can do everything as right as you know how to do it before God—you can follow the Bible / you can pray for the child—they have to get it. They have to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and finish the process of growing from childhood, through adolescence, into adulthood and become an adult follower of Jesus Christ.
Bob: It’s always been helpful for me to remember that the story of the prodigal son in Luke, Chapter 15—and thought to myself, “Okay; if God, who is pictured here as the father of the prodigal—if God can have prodigals and, certainly, He has had prodigals / I’m one of them—then, I guess we can have prodigals as parents as well.” Yet, we still want to make sure we’re doing all we can do to help our children grow in wisdom, in character, and help get them pointed in the right direction.
I think you ladies have helped us think about that, especially around the subject of respect, in the book that you’ve written called With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens. It’s a book that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us when you go online to FamilyLifeToday.com. The website, again—FamilyLifeToday.com.
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, a couple of couples we want to acknowledge today, who are celebrating anniversaries—Jonathon and Jocelynn Hubbard of Rockville, Maryland—celebrating seven years together as a couple. Then, Paul and Lauran Van Der Eems of Lower Waterford, Vermont, are celebrating their 26th wedding anniversary today. We just want to say” “Happy Anniversary! Congratulations! We hope it’s a great day.”
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk more about how important it is to cultivate a healthy relationship with your son or your daughter before the teen years hit and how to maintain and press into that relationship even during the teen years. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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