Preparing for the Traps of the Teen Years
About the Guest
Adolescence is loaded with traps that threaten to sidetrack your teen. On today's broadcast, family champions Dennis and Barbara Rainey and their adult children, Rebecca and Samuel, talk about the pitfalls that lure unsuspecting teens.
Adolescence is loaded with traps that threaten to sidetrack your teen.
Rebecca: One of my friends had spent the night, and I compared myself to a caged bird. I was crying to her and telling her how awful it was, and "I'm a caged bird," and she was, like, "Rebecca, you just need to tell your parents to just give you the key and just let you out, and you can throw the key away." It was this dramatic thing, and it was so funny.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, June 19th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine, and today is the day many parents have waited for – it's the day the caged bird sings.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. Dennis knows what this is – you know what this is, right? This right here?
Dennis: I do. That's a relic from the past of FamilyLife Today. It goes all the way back to, what, 1993, '94, Bob?
Bob: I think that's right. What I have here is a broken pencil and the name "Ashley Rainey," is written right below it, and can you recognize that's Ashley's handwriting there?
Samuel: Yes, that's Ashley's handwriting.
Bob: We have in the studio with us, in addition to our host, Dennis Rainey, Dennis's wife Barbara, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: And Samuel and Rebecca Rainey are also in the studio with us. Do either of you have any idea why we have a broken pencil with your sister's name framed and hung in our studio?
Rebecca: Not a clue.
Samuel: No idea.
Bob: No idea whatsoever. Would you have any idea what broke this pencil in half?
Rebecca: She probably did.
Bob: You think she got mad and ripped that thing, huh?
Rebecca: Yeah, probably.
Bob: Does she have a pretty wild temper?
Rebecca: Ashley? No.
Bob: Okay, so I don't think – she did not rip it in half.
Rebecca: She's pretty low key.
Samuel: I'm guessing my dad broke that.
Bob: You think your dad broke it? Does he have a pretty wild temper?
Samuel: Oh, it's fierce.
Bob: This was not broken by any person. This was broken by a trap.
Bob: Yeah, it's all coming clear to you now, right?
Rebecca: It's all coming back to me now.
Bob: This pencil was placed inside some kind of a varmint trap that your dad had brought into the studio and was snapped in two as we talked for the first time on FamilyLife Today about some of the traps facing teenagers, and Ashley was right in the middle of it in 1993, and the illustration of having a live animal trap in the studio was designed to let teenagers know that there is danger out there, right?
Dennis: Yes, and I use those animal traps with my sixth grade Sunday school class to illustrate all kinds of traps that are going to be set before them in their teenage years, and it's why they need parents. They need parents to help them walk around these traps and make it to adulthood without losing a toe or a foot or a leg or a hand. The traps are dangerous and, in some cases, they could cost you your life.
Bob: Rebecca, let me ask you, as you moved through the teenage years was there a particular trap that you kind of tiptoed up next to and thought, "This probably isn't that dangerous. It will probably be okay if I stepped in this one."
Rebecca: Well, I don't know if this is a trap, but I've got – I think boys played a major part in – well, the opposite sex, whatever – they were – I think that was one. And another, I think, would be just peer pressure, in general, with school – like cheating.
Bob: You watched friends …
Rebecca: Yeah, mm-hm.
Bob: Or the pressure to get good grades.
Rebecca: It wasn't really the pressure to get good grades, it was just the pressure from other kids wanting me to cheat, and …
Dennis: In fact, yesterday we closed the broadcast by me telling our listeners to stay tuned to tomorrow's broadcast because they needed to get their Kleenexes out for a very, very sad story. Rebecca really was in the midst of peer pressure, and she was so surrounded that on more than one occasion she would come to us in tears, and she could compare herself to what, Rebecca?
Rebecca: [laughing] It's so cheesy now.
Dennis: It is cheesy, but, but, it was …
Rebecca: But it fit perfectly.
Dennis: It did, and it was so real at the time. I mean, I felt her pain, Bob.
Bob: This would have been when you were 15 or 16?
Dennis: About 14, 15, 16.
Bob: Fourteen, 15 …
Dennis: … and 16, 17.
Rebecca: Yeah, I compared myself to a caged bird.
Bob: A caged bird trapped, imprisoned.
Rebecca: And they had thrown the key away or whatever. I have a funny story. One of my friends, growing up, was – I was at her house, and I had spent the night, and I was crying to her and telling her how awful it was and "I'm a caged bird," or "I'm a caged animal," or whatever, and she was, like, "Rebecca, you just need to tell your parents to just give you the key and just let you out. You just need to throw the key away." It was this dramatic thing, and it was so funny.
Barbara: It's so funny now.
Rebecca: It's funny now.
Barbara: Because you thought it was a great idea.
Rebecca: I was passionate about it, and I was just, like, "Yes, I need to go to my parents" and, you know.
Dennis: And so we heard that speech, Bob.
Bob: The "Caged Bird" speech?
Dennis: Actually, it wasn't a speech. It was a dramatic monologue, and it was dramatic. I mean, bless Rebecca's heart. She would have these times she would come to, and we're laughing now, but it was not – truthfully, there were a couple of times that Rebecca was so dramatic in her tears and feeling like a caged bird that both Barbara and I could not allow one another to get eye contact, because if we would have looked at each other …
Rebecca: Dad, I can't believe you guys. Thanks a lot.
Dennis: Well, you need to understand.
Rebecca: You don't sympathize.
Dennis: After you've heard that – that …
Bob: The "Caged Bird" monolog?
Dennis: Yeah, it's like, "I just feel trapped. All my friends are free, and I just can't do anything."
Bob: And this was child number four who had given you the same routine.
Dennis: Oh, yeah, you begin to hear the same story, but she had refined it to a new level.
Bob: Barbara, weren't there moments when Rebecca was giving you that monolog that you thought, "Well, maybe we are being too tough."
Barbara: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
Dennis: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Rebecca: I was that good, huh?
Bob: "Maybe we need to loosen up a little bit, maybe we're – I mean here she is, the poor thing, she's going to be traumatized for life."
Barbara: Well, no, I didn't think she was traumatized for life.
Rebecca: No, I think I turned out all right.
Barbara: I didn't get that convinced but, there were – yes, I was the one who had doubts, and I would be sitting there thinking, "Oh, maybe we are being too hard. Maybe we do need to loosen up just a little bit." But I'll tell you, that is the value of parenting together, because, as a team, you can be objective, and one-on-one it's much harder to remain objective.
Dennis: What you can't do is you cannot drop your guard in front of the preteen or the teenager and let them know that you're rethinking your standards or rethinking your boundaries. If you're going to do that, that has to be done offline, out of sight, and out of ear of the teenager. Because if they hear you or they see any crack in the door, I mean, the intensity of the drama is going to go up, and you, as a parent – I think we've got to pull back at this point and say, "You know, that's why God gives children to parents, and He calls us, as a couple, to hold forth our standards. And to that single mom or single dad who are raising young people alone, you need a good friend in the church that you call.
We have a single mom who calls us, who e-mails us, all the time, and I'm going to tell you something – that has to be one of the most difficult assignments any human being has because a teenager who is really emotional can hammer on a parent who is by himself or herself – they can hammer on them pretty hard.
Bob: Rebecca, you mentioned boys as one of those traps that you maybe got too close to during your teenage years.
Bob: Were you a little boy crazy during your teenage years?
Rebecca: Yeah, still am.
Bob: Is that right?
Rebecca: I admit it, I am not going to lie to you.
Bob: Here's what I want to know …
Rebecca: But it's under control now, see?
Bob: Well, that's what I want to know. You're twenty …
Bob: Twenty-one years old. How is your approach to the opposite sex different today at 21? How is being boy crazy different now than it was when you were 15?
Rebecca: It's more objective. I think I have a bit better of an idea what needs to happen, and it also helps with what kind of guy you're getting involved with and what they are coming with. And if I’m the only one with the boundaries and saying, "We need to do this, and we need to do that, and these are the rules we need to set," it's just going to go out the window. It's not going to go anywhere if the guy is not willing to do it, too.
Bob: When you were 15, you were trying to evaluate who are the real spiritually mature guys around school and who are the guys who have a good head on their shoulders? That was what was on your heart and mind, wasn't it?
Rebecca: Right, right. I thought "spiritually mature" was whether or not you went to church.
Bob: Oh, you thought that was it, huh?
Rebecca: Yeah, well, because I'd always – I was not going to ever date someone that wasn't a Christian, and I remember telling a guy, "I'm not going to date you unless you're a Christian," and he wrote me this note, something, like, "Well, I go to this church in whatever city and whatever, so we can date, right?" And I was, like, "Oh, sweet, okay." But I had no idea when he'd become a Christian, if he was, so, yeah.
Bob: Samuel, as you moved through the teenage years, was there a trap that your parents said, "Stay away from that," and you thought, "That's not that dangerous. You've got this limit here that's way far back from the edge. It's safer to move a little closer on that one."
Samuel: Well, you know, I can remember – vividly remember traps that my parents would outline for the kids, and that was movies and television shows and things that our eyes looked at. And I can remember this one evening that I think Ashley and Benjamin had some friends over, and they were going to watch a movie, and it was a PG-13 movie, and I believe I was 14 at the time.
I remember walking down the hallway to go watch the movie, and my dad intercepted me before I got into the room to watch the movie, and he said, "I'm not going to let you watch this," and I can remember that as being just a warning to be careful what comes in your mind, and your parents, you have a strong grip on your kids now, and it's up to you to set their path straight.
Bob: Dennis, let me ask you, in this case, there was a movie that the older kids – you had said it's okay for them, but it's not okay for you as a 14-year-old. There are some things that our kids just aren't ready for at younger ages, right?
Dennis: That's right. In the case of the older children, they were about to graduate or perhaps one of them was already in college, and be off on their own, and they're going to be making their own choices, anyway, and so as we approach the age, 17, 18, we would give our senior in high school not complete latitude, because we weren't going to show R-rated movies, period, in our home. But we would give a little greater latitude with – still with some questions – as to what they watched and what they brought into our home.
They're going to be off on their own at some point, and so you have to begin to release the bird from the cage and allow them to fly and, at some points, make some mistakes that – well, can it be harmful? Yes. Could they be sorry about it? Absolutely. But you can't keep the bird or the child caged up for the rest of their lives. They have to make their own choices and have to learn, as we have learned, the hard way.
Bob: Barbara, that letting-go process for parents, especially when there's danger involved, and there is, if they're going to get closer to these traps, there's danger out there. For a mom, that's real tough, isn't it?
Barbara: Yes, it is real hard, and I think that's why you just have to stick with your guns, though, because, you know, in this illustration that Samuel was talking about, about the movies, the easiest thing would be to say, "Oh, yeah, go ahead and watch it, the other kids are watching it." But I think it's important to forestall that as long as you can and let your kids ease out into those things. And then when they are seniors in high school, and they go off to college, hopefully the patterns that you've built and the standards that you've set are going to guide them when they go. But I'm a big advocate for doing it slowly and doing it by degrees.
Bob: Samuel, as you look back now, would you say that your parents in this area of media and movies and television and what you watch, were the standards – they may have been stricter than a lot of your friends had.
Bob: Were they appropriate?
Samuel: At the time, I would have said, "No, they weren't appropriate," but I think, as most parents can probably attest, that teenagers are out for themselves, and they're not out for the betterment of their life. Now, being on the other end of it, I would definitely say that those standards could possibly have been even stricter. I don't think you can set the bar too high for kids.
Dennis: It's interesting, Samuel, to hear you say that, because every one of our six teenagers at the time has battled the standard. They've all felt like Rebecca expressed. They've all felt like a bird caged up, and the reason we had those boundaries, those cages, was to protect them from the traps. While we were protecting them from the traps, we were, hopefully, through our biblical instruction, our modeling, and guiding them around the choices they had to make, they would hopefully get enough wisdom and skill in living so that as they moved through their teenage years they'd begin to make the right choices.
One of the things that we're doing in a book we've written for young people who are about to become a teenager, a 10-, 11-, 12-year-old, is we've written a book to help a preteen begin to anticipate some of those traps, and Samuel tells a story about a pair of boys and some trouble that it looks like they're about to get off into.
Bob: You wrote the story about Josh and Alan, and you tell about the boys running across a creek and up a hill, stopping at a fence that surrounded an abandoned house. Josh, you say, was a little slower than the others, and he arrived last, catching his breath, Josh said, "Come on, guys, why are we here? Alan's mom has told us to stay away from this place, and I don't think we ought to be here."
The other three boys who were there laughed and said, "Come on, it's broad daylight, and what are you scared of? We've been waiting for a chance to explore the inside of this house, and now is the time." And Alan says to Josh, "Yeah, my mom doesn't know what she's talking about. Josh, you're always the one holding us back. There isn't anything wrong with going in this old house. Besides, who knows what we might find in there, or what we might be able to break for fun. No one will know. It's our little secret. Come on, lighten up."
Now Josh was feeling stupid, but he also wondered what he would do if the other boys actually entered the house. Alan's mom had warned them that the house was rotten and could be dangerous. Josh was thinking about that choice when the other boys jumped the fence and started running toward the house. Josh hesitated, then he jumped the fence, too, and quickly caught up with the others just as they pushed open the front door.
Dennis: Now, what's Josh going to do? What do you think Josh is going to do? He's already made the choice. He's jumped the fence. The interesting thing is in raising six teenagers, and I will not tell you which one – this story could have been about one of our teenagers who went to an abandoned house, a house that no one was living in apparently, a house that was off the road, a house that was full of old clothes, and a house that a group of teenagers, in their wisdom, thought they could just enter into and just have a lot of fun.
Now, no one caught them. They didn't run into any trouble, nothing bad happened, but think of what could have happened.
Bob: You know, I've talked to my kids about what could happen in situations like that, and you know what they say, Barbara.
Barbara: Oh, but, Mom, it didn't happen and, in this case, it was "We had so much fun. You should have seen how cool it was."
Dennis: "And we're going back, we're going back tonight." And I said, "No, you're not." I mean, this is a crazy culture we live in today.
Barbara: Because they don't want to look at the facts, they don't want to look at the truth. They want to look at what's fun, and they want to live for the moment. And so what could have happened is irrelevant.
Bob: As you wrote that story in the book, "So You Want to be a Teenager," Samuel, you're trying to help a preteen, a young teenager, understand the tension between peer pressure and the wisdom of your parents as they guide you through these years of your life, right?
Samuel: Yeah, definitely. When I came up with this story, I was trying to think of something that typified the essence of peer pressure and how strong that is. I can remember many times when I would be over at my friend's house, that we would be tempted to do something against the will of my parents or of my friend's parents, and at the time you don't think it's that big a deal, and you don't see the peer pressure actually taking place until you've already succumbed to that peer pressure, and it's at that moment that the parents find out if what they've taught their children has begun to sink in or if it's been met with resistance.
Dennis: What we're trying to do in "So You Want to be a Teenager," is enter the mind of a 10-, 11-, 12-year-old, even a 13-year-old young person and help them begin to anticipate the traps before they face them, before they have peers taunting them to jump the fence and to go into the old house.
They need to know, number one, that they're going to face traps. Number two, that some of the traps are dangerous and, number three, how they handle the traps is going to determine whether their lives are characterized by good choices based upon God's Word or by bad choices based upon the wisdom of the world.
And this is where we, as parents, I think need every available resource, asset, weapon in our artillery to help come alongside a young person today because as we've raised our six, one of the things we've said in the past five years, it has become increasingly difficult to raise teenagers.
Bob: Yeah, and I'll tell you, one of the benefits this book has had for us in our home as we've used it is that Samuel and Rebecca are saying things to my children that if I said it, my kids would go, "That doesn't make any sense." But when another person says it, when it's a teenager who says it, my kids will go, "Well, maybe that makes some sense, after all."
Of course, we've got copies of the book, "So You're About to be a Teenager" in our FamilyLife Resource Center. I realize we've been calling it by its original name. It was first titled, "So You Want to be a Teenager." It's been changed now to "So You're About to be a Teenager," and we've got copies in our FamilyLife Resource Center.
You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and if you click the red button that says "Go," right in the center of the home page, you'll get more information on how you can get a copy of this book. In fact, we're encouraging you to get a copy of this book along with the Passport to Purity resource that our team has put together. This is where a parent and a preteen can get away for a weekend together where you can address a lot of the issues we're talking about this week with your son or with your daughter before the turbulence of the teenage years are upon you.
And then we've got the book that the two of you wrote, Dennis and Barbara, the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," which is like a guidebook for parents of teenagers to know how to be ready for the issues you're going to face as you go through the teenage years.
Our listeners may want to go and get copies of all of those resources. Again, you'll find them on our website at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329. Someone on our team can let you know how you can get all of these resources sent directly to you.
By the way, while we're on this subject, the book that you've just written, Dennis, for parents of teenage daughters called "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," had a lot of our listeners contact us to request a copy of that book and this month we'd like to make a copy of that book available as a way of saying thank you to any of our FamilyLife Today listeners who will make a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We're listener-supported, so those donations are critical for the ongoing work of this ministry. We appreciate those of you who, from time to time, make a donation to support FamilyLife Today, and, again, this month when you make that donation, you can request a copy of Dennis Rainey's new book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," and we'll send it to you as a thank you gift in appreciation of your financial support.
If you're donating online, when you get to the keycode box on the donation form, just write the word "date" in there, and we'll know to send you a copy of the book. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, you can make a donation over the phone and mention that you'd like Dennis's new book called "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," and we'll send it to you, again, as our way of saying thanks for partnering with us here at the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Well, tomorrow we're going to continue to look at some of the traps, some of the choices and challenges that are ahead for those who are about to be teenagers and for their parents as well.
Dennis: Actually, what I want to look at tomorrow is we conclude the book with a list of 12 extreme life promises. We actually gave this book to be reviewed by a number of young people who are about to become teenagers, and one of the things they liked the most was this chapter – a chapter that talked about standards and boundaries for their teenage years. So we're going to look at that tomorrow and maybe challenge some parents to think through what their convictions and boundaries are around some of the issues like dating and sex and dress and curfews, movies, magazines, lots of issues for parents to make decisions about to help their young person grow up.
Bob: Well, I hope you can join us for that. I want to thank our engineer today, Luke Stevens, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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