Tough Parenting Questions
About the Guest
Our culture is increasingly complex and some issues are hard to manage. Dennis and Barbara Rainey team up with David Robbins, president of FamilyLife, and his wife, Meg, to answer questions from listeners such as: How do I encourage my teens to make good decisions? How do I handle sibling rivalry? How do we relate to a cousin with same-sex parents?
David and Meg RobbinsAs 17-year veterans of Cru, David and Meg Robbins have served in a variety of capacities, beginning as ﬁeld staff at their Alma Mater, the University of Mississippi. In 2003, they moved to Pisa, Italy, to serve as overseas team leaders for Cru. It was during that time they fell in love with ﬁnding ways to relate and communicate with a secular, pluralistic culture. They trained to serve overseas long-term until God surprisingly led them back to the U.S.
Dennis and Barbara RaineyDennis and Barbara Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Their 43+ years of leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries. Together they have spoken at over 150 Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways and authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples, Staying Close, A Symphony in the Dark, and Barbara’s most recent, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife...more
Dennis and Barbara Rainey team up with David Robbins and his wife, Meg, to answer questions from listeners such as: How do I encourage my teens to make good decisions? How do I handle sibling rivalry?
Tough Parenting Questions
Bob: This is a complex culture we’re living in; and for parents, that means hard questions and no easy answers.
Sammie: I’m wondering, now that Ihave teenagers, how can I force [Laughter] them to do things—especially the perfectionist—to do things like trying out the things that are new?
Steve: We are struggling with how to physically love my wife’s sister. She lives in Washington, DC, with her wife, who she is married to.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 27th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today, we’ll interact with FamilyLife Today listeners and Legacy Partners and talk about some of the challenges they’re facing, as moms and dads, in the midst of raising the next generation. We’re talking about parenting. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You know, back, as the year was beginning, we kind of knew what our focus was going to be this year—we were going to spend a lot of time talking about parenting. We had a movie that came out in May called Like Arrows; we launched The Art of Parenting™ video series over the summer. You and Barbara released your Art of Parenting book back in September.
Bob: We’ve talked a lot about parenting, because this is on the hearts of a lot of our listeners. This is a critical moment in history for moms and dads to be actively engaged in raising the next generation.
Dennis: It is, Bob. I think the real battleground today for future generations is currently in the homes of today’s moms and dads. It’s a question of: “Are you going to raise your children according to the biblical blueprints?” and “Are you going to pull your arrows out of the quiver and introduce them to Jesus Christ?—and how He brings life to them?—and how He is the one that can be trusted for their entire lives?”
Bob: Yes; then point them in the right direction, and pull back the bow, and let them go; right?
Dennis: You let them go on a mission. We need children today who know why they’re here and what God’s purpose is for them.
Bob: We had the opportunity to interact with some of our Legacy Partners. Legacy Partners are those folks who, each month, help support the ministry of FamilyLife®—help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program.
We had an evening, where we got together in a huge kind of a phone conference room with a couple hundred Legacy Partners, and invited interaction and dialogue and questions and answers around parenting. We had the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, and his wife Meg joining you and Barbara and me for that conversation. It was just a great opportunity, not only to interact about parenting, but to say, “Thank you,” to some folks who are critical to the work of this ministry.
Dennis: Legacy Partners don’t cover the entire cost.
We are tremendously grateful for them; but we still need, here at yearend, Bob—we need more donors/stakeholders, who want to stand with FamilyLife Today and keep this broadcast on air and keep it coming strong across the nation.
Bob: As we head toward yearend, we still have money available in our matching-gift fund. We are hoping to be able to take full advantage of that matching gift. That’s all going to depend on how listeners respond over the next few days. If you are a regular listener—if it’s been a while since you’ve made a donation/if you’ve never made a donation—
Dennis: —in fact, if you haven’t given a donation in 2018, make a generous commitment right now. It’s going to be a part of the match so your dollars are going to be doubled.
Bob: And we’re going to send you, as a thank-you gift for your donation, a copy of the Like Arrows DVD. You’ll get a chance to see the movie with your family. It’s not available yet for sale, but we have a limited supply this month that we’re making available to friends of the ministry who can help with a donation.
In addition to your dollars being doubled, you’ll get a copy of the Like Arrows DVD when you go online and make a donation at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call to donate at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life and then the word, “TODAY,”—1-800-358-6329.
What we want to do today is take you into the conversation that we had with some of our Legacy Partners and let you hear the questions and answers as we interacted with these folks around parenting.
You’ve [Dennis] had a chance to interact with moms and dads since the book has come out. Has there been a particular question or theme that has emerged as the number-one thing parents are itching on these days?
Dennis: Well, we just got a text message and a video of a mom, who pointed over to her four kids, ages—looked like six and seven and under. She started weeping—she said: “Thank you for creating something to help me raise my crew. I need hope; I need help!”
Most moms need all the help and hope they can get.
Barbara: Yes; I think that’s the common theme, and it has been for generations. We all, as parents, are rookies. We all start out not knowing, at all, what we’re doing—every parent has always been that way. We face all kinds of different things at different ages and different stages of life. We just need someone to look to, who’s been there, who can say: “Try this. Here’s a way that you might want to try with your child.”
Bob: I know that one of the issues we’ve been hearing about from folks is the issue of technology—more and more. This was something you guys [David and Meg] need to know—we were just on the cutting edges of technology when our kids were growing up. The question for us was, “How much IM time?”—do you remember Instant Messenger?
Barbara: Yes. [Laughter]
Bob: “How much time do they get on IM?” or “How much time do they get going into chat rooms?” This was all brand-new territory for us, as parents.
Today, technology is almost a part of the genetic makeup of kids as they’re growing up. You’re oldest is—is it ten, Meg?
Meg: He just turned twelve.
Bob: And what does his online-life look like?
Meg: Well, the interesting thing is that, this year in school, they’re issued a Crown Book—a computer. He’s required to do homework on the computer, which—
Bob: Sixth grade?
Meg: Seventh grade.
Bob: Seventh grade.
Meg: Seventh grade—this is the first year. That’s even hard to wrestle with—because they have great fire walls set up and things like that—but you still have to be proactive; because at home, it’s actually different. Those fire walls are active at school, but not at home.
Dave: We were just speaking at a parenting conference, a few weekends ago, and using the grid that’s in the Art of Parenting. By far, the session on technology was the one that you saw so many parents, just going: “I just don’t know where to start. I always feel behind.” You know people [children] aren’t digital pioneers anymore—they’re natives—
—and we’re the ones trying to catch up, as parents.
Bob: Yes; you talk about technology in the book. In fact, this is an area you knew was going to be significant and you addressed it.
Dennis: I did. I called David Eaton, who is president of Axis in Colorado Springs. He has 20- and 30-somethings working on this, fulltime, to help parents. I said: “Get me some uranium. [Laughter] I want this book to be radioactive around this issue.”
I want to share with you some of the things he said: “These are tough conversations you need to have with your child. You need to talk about pornography. You need to talk about sexting, because that’s happening even before couples start dating,”—they’re sharing pictures they ought not to be doing. He talks about sneaky apps and how parents are being fooled by their kids, because they have ways around spyware.
Dennis: Fake social media accounts and friend’s phones—
—all of those are all traps that parents can easily walk by and not realize what’s happening below the waterline in this whole digital world. David Eaton and his team have done a great job, and this chapter is radioactive.
Bob: Part of the challenge is—our kids are smarter on this stuff than we are! They know more about how to manage technology than we do. One of the things we’re trying to do, here, at FamilyLife is be able to help parents know—at least, be in the game with them; right? We may not be able to know better than they do about technology, but maybe we can keep you in the game.
David: One of the things that is in that chapter that frames up well is: “How do we do screen discipleship and smartphone discipleship?” It is one of the most formative things in their lives; and if we aren’t viewing that as a discipleship and disciple-making avenue, it’s going to be in their lives. It is connected to part of their identity the older they get.
So how do we—and that’s one of the things that we are seeking to, really, engage in is “How do we help parents have those constant conversations?”—because it’s not one conversation.
It’s going to be an ongoing ever-going conversation of, “How do you build those incremental trust elements in, where you give more and more freedom?”—because the goal is: “They are self-regulated adults.”
I have trouble self-regulating sometimes, and so why give the world to your ten-year-old or thirteen-year-old? How do you build trust over time and give them more trust over time?
Bob: We’re going to dive in and start interacting with some of the folks, who are calling in. I’m going to go to our friend, Sammie, who is in Nashville, who I think should be live and with us. Sammie, are you there?
Sammie: I am! Can you hear me?
Bob: I can hear you.
Barbara: Hey! [Laughter]
Bob: It’s good to connect with you.
Sammie: Hi, friends.
Bob: What’s your question, Sammie?
Sammie: I’m wondering, now that I have teenagers, how can I—and I use this term loosely—force [Laughter] them to do things—especially the perfectionist firstborn—to do things like trying out the things that are new—going to practices, that they’re fearful of. Now, that they’re bigger than me, I can’t just buckle them in a car seat and make them go. [Laughter] Then, a few days later when they don’t go, they regret it.
I’m having trouble finding that line between not wanting to guilt or shame or just punish if they don’t do something but realizing that rationalizing, in an irrational moment, doesn’t always work with this age group.
Barbara: Part of what you’re dealing with is wanting to help them succeed and help them make good choices. A part of growing up is making poor choices or thinking, “I’m not going to go to that,” and then regretting it. I think it’s that evaluating how to make a decision that is a whole part of this process. It’s less about the particular situation, or circumstance, or the particular opportunity; and it’s more about helping them understand how to make good decisions—and what to do, on the backside of the decision, if they regret the decision they made—and teaching them how to pray and how to hear from God—all of that works together. It’s not an easy one conversation. It’s an ongoing situation that you’re teaching.
Dennis: I’ll tell you a story, here, in a second; but I would just say take a look at Ephesians 2:10—it says, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Sammie, I think God’s got good works for your children to perform and participate in. Your assignment is to help them discover how they are God’s work of art—where their gifts are/their strengths are. Make that a matter of prayer.
I’ll tell you a story: A good friend of mine had his 18-year-old grandson—was talking about quitting basketball. My friend said: “You know what you need to do? Before you quit basketball, you need to go have an encounter—a quiet, personal, private encounter with Christ and ask Him, ‘What does He want you to do?’ Get in God’s face and say: ‘God, You made me. What do You want me to do?’ Two weeks later, the grandson came back, saying, ‘Grandpa, I’m going to play basketball.’”
I think there are opportunities here to help your children experience God. That’s the overall assignment—that your faith becomes their faith on their own. In many ways, the word, force, I would probably hit the delete button on that word for a teenager.
Barbara: Even for the way you’re thinking about it, too; because you really don’t have that option much anymore.
Sammie: Yes; exactly.
Barbara: Yes, exactly; because they are bigger than you and you can’t. It is more about training and coaching and—
Bob: You need to start reorienting yourself, as a parent.
Bob: You are not the cop anymore. Now, you are the coach. You’re moving toward being a consultant.
Bob: So you have to pull back and go: “Okay; they’re going to start making choices that aren’t the choices I would make,” and “I’ve got to learn to be okay with that and let them make some mistakes and fail.”
Barbara: It’s good for them to make some mistakes and fail when they’re at home.
Bob: That’s right.
Barbara: You don’t want them to wait until they go off.
David: Sammie, I love your desire to help your kid take risks. I do think that’s one of those developmental themes in teenage years—to be willing to put yourself out there—because, really, risks are steps of faith.
David: It is some of those micro-moments in building faith into their character.
Bob: Kathy is on the line with us form Akron, Ohio. Kathy, welcome. Thanks for being with us.
Kathy: Hello there.
Bob: Glad to have you joining us tonight. What’s your question?
Kathy: I have six relatively-adult children, 21 to 37. They’re all wanting our attention—especially the younger ones of the group are always saying: “You don’t treat us the same. You don’t treat me like you treated the other ones. You treat them better,” and “You like them better.” What I tell them is, “I don’t have a favorite child; but at the moment that a child needs me the most, they’re my favorite.”
Bob: That’s a good answer.
Barbara: That is a good answer.
Dennis: That’s a great answer.
Kathy: If I’ve got a sick child, that’s the one that’s my favorite at the time.
Bob: Okay; let me go to the parent of six kids here, because they were laughing and nodding as you were asking the question.
Dennis: Just tell them this: “Read my lips. Fair is what comes to each town once a year in October.” [Laughter]
Bob: “There’s no such thing as fair.” [Laughter]
Dennis: “There is no such thing as fair.” You know, it’s not all going to be equal. We have been accused with unfairness by all of our kids, pointing their fingers at their other siblings.
Barbara: One of the things that I would encourage you to do is to realize that you can’t make them happy, and you can’t help them understand what fair really is. I mean, they’re never going to totally understand your heart—that you do love them all and you do love them equally—until they are parents. I want to encourage you to let go of feeling the need to explain it and help them all understand how you feel. It’s really not as unfair as they may perceive it is. Obviously, it’s not perfectly fair; because none of us are perfect. Sometimes, I think we parents own more than we should own, especially when they’re 21 and up.
Bob: I want to tell you guys that, when our kids were little, I did this all the time—whenever I got them alone, I would say, “Don’t tell your brothers and sisters, but you’re my favorite.”
[Laughter] I would do that with each of the kids; right?
Meg: That’s hilarious.
Bob: So they grew up—all of them—kind of like it’s between us, just this little secret between us that “I’m the favorite.” And, of course, when they got in their teenage years, they knew I was telling everybody; but there is something, even today as adult kids, they will smile and say, “I was always your favorite; wasn’t I?” [Bob speaking in a hushed voice] “Of course, you were. Don’t tell your siblings.”
Meg: Sweet! That’s great! [Laughter]
Bob: Have you dealt with any of this sibling—
Meg: Well, from the reverse side. I’m actually the youngest of five—different phases of life—there were times where I felt like, you know, I got slighted or didn’t have things; and then there were times where my siblings looked at me and were like: “That’s so not fair! She gets to do that. You would never have let us do that!” I think now—I don’t know if your children have children yet or not, Kathy, but for us—
Kathy: Three of them do.
Meg: Okay; there you go. For me, I think, even now, having children and as they grow up, I see this reality. It’s just something I couldn’t see at other stages of my life that I see now that—like you said—
—there are certain times in my kids’ lives where they need me more or I havemore capabilities; or we have a child who’s younger and will see movies that the older ones maybe didn’t get to see at that age or whatever it may be—it may be a small thing; it may be a big thing.
David: We have one with special needs that obviously can get more attention than the others sometimes. That can be hurled at us. It is one of those things to be honest about. We have to have those honest conversations sometimes because, yes, he does get our attention sometimes more than the others.
Bob: Kathy, we appreciate you being with us; and thanks for being a Legacy Partner.
Dennis: Kathy, I would encourage you to get the kit and maybe lead a group of parents through the Art of Parenting. Session eight is on the power of family. Bob interviewed all of our kids; and they ratted on the youngest child, saying, “She was the favorite.” [Laughter]
Bob: Well, I asked them all—I had them, one on one—I said, “Was one of you guys the favorite?” They all go, “Oh, yes; one of us was the favorite.” They all picked out who was the favorite; and the favorite said, “Yes; I was the favorite.” [Laughter]
It was real clear, in the Rainey household, who the favorite child was.
Dennis: Yes, yes; of course.
Bob: Thank you, again, for joining us tonight; and thanks for being a Legacy Partner.
Kathy: You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure.
Bob: We’ve got Steve, who is on the line with us from Florida. I can’t say this—it looks like Velcro. Steve, you there?
Steve: Del Rico.
Bob: Okay; well, thanks for being with us tonight. What’s your question?
Steve: Yes; we have, I guess, maybe becoming less of a unique situation these days. My wife’s sister/my sister-in-law—she lives in Washington, DC, with her wife, who she’s married to. They now had a baby together. They want their child to have a relationship with my and my wife’s children. My kids are almost nine, six, and two.
We are struggling with how to biblically love [my] sister-in-law but, also, shield or keep it—I guess for lack of a better word—from our nine, six and two-year-old; because it’s not biblical—the way they are living.
But how to not be fake, in front of our kids, that we’re loving them but tell them then, when we hang up the phone—go, “By the way, what they’re doing is not right,” but we act like it’s okay when we talk to them.
Bob: You know what? This is becoming an issue for more and more families. Dave and Meg, you lived in Manhattan for how long?—for seven years/ten years? How long were you there?
David: Only five.
Bob: Five years, but you were in the middle of a culture where biblical norms were not the norm; and you were raising kids in the middle of that.
David: That was on display often; yes.
Bob: How did you deal with that with your kids?
Meg: I think for us—we even had, you know, kids in our kids’ class, whose parents were the same sex—things like that. We just really encouraged them to love on those kids and be friends with them and didn’t cut off any relationships in that sense.
But I do think it did require honest conversations, from a really young age, with our kids—
—and talking about: “You know, we love them. We’re friends with them,”—treating them just like we would anyone else—but also pointing our kids to the biblical design for marriage and talking about the way God intends for it.
We didn’t want our children to treat those people differently because they are choosing something different; but yet, we did feel it is important to reinforce what we believe is God’s design and how He’s created men and women. You know, there’s a lot more to that conversation, obviously.
David: As we shared truth, there was always that question of: “What will our kid say to that other kid?—or to those parents at the park?” or what not; because we did want to be very clear on what God’s design is.
I think one of the angles we went, though, was to say, “This child of theirs is God’s image.” As they have this newborn baby, it’s an opportunity to, actually, move toward them in a unique way; because this baby is made in God’s image and you’re able to love them uniquely.
It gives you an opportunity to love them uniquely.
Obviously, you’re going to have different conversations with nine- and eight-year-olds than you would a two-year-old that you have; but yet, this is going to be something they face. To avoid it and to not use the opportunity to speak truth and discern, you know, with your own spouse, “How do you want to do it?” is really—you’re shielding them in a way. Once they get to certain ages, it actually is an opportunity to communicate about God’s design; but yet, how to still be in a relationship with people that are making decisions.
Dennis: Steve, I would say you’ve got a great opportunity here to prepare your kids to know how to embrace their convictions and what they believe in a culture that doesn’t believe that way.
We’ve got a friend, who lives on the East Coast. A couple moved in next door to him—two women, who were married and had a child. What my friend did and his family—is they just loved on that little boy that was next door, so much so that the two mothers sent him to camp—
—a summer camp. He ended up coming to faith in Christ all because they loved on him.
I think we’re in a much larger picture today, teaching our kids knowing how to love people, who don’t think or believe like they do. I’ll tell you—I think you’ve got a great opportunity, here, to make a big point with your kids. I know it’s difficult, because it’s also a family member—that’s a tough one—but I’d make it a matter of prayer and move forward.
Bob: I will always come back here, Steve, to John 1:14, which is where Jesus is described as being “the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” It’s not 50/50—it’s full of both. What we have to figure out is: “How we can be full of truth? How can we raise our kids to be full of truth?” and “How can we be, as equally, full of grace in the way we relate to and interact with those around us?”
The pattern of Jesus was to embrace and to love the sinner—the unlovable. At the same time, when confronted, He said to the woman in adultery: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” That’s the grace and truth paradox. Admittedly, it’s easier to talk about than it is to live out.
I understand the challenges of how you go through this; but I think we have to ask the question: “Where do we lean? Do you lean in the truth direction or in the grace direction?” Whichever way you naturally lean, you should probably just kind of nudge yourself back in the other direction a bit more. [Laughter]
Anything else you want to do to follow up on that, Steve?
Steve: No; I think you’ve pretty much answered it—to obviously pray for my kids that they can see the truth, because we’re planting it in them; and praying for them, regardless of what they’re seeing somewhere else within the family.
Bob: Well, again, we’ve been listening to a conversation we had recently with a group of FamilyLife Today Legacy Partners—folks who, every month, make a donation.
Really, these are the folks who make it possible for you to tune in and hear FamilyLife Today. When you tune in and you enjoy this program, it’s our Legacy Partners you have to thank, at least, in part.
Dennis: I’m glad you said that, Bob; because we’re still looking, here at yearend, for some more stakeholders to step up and say, “We want you guys to finish this year strong and be able to keep coming to our home, our community, our state and across the nation with biblical blueprints,” for how you raise a family and make your marriage go the distance.
Bob: Well, this is a great time for you to make a yearend donation. You can do it, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We still have matching funds available in our matching fund that has been put together by some friends of this ministry. It started with a total of $3 million. We’ve seen some of that released already, but we’re hoping to take full advantage of it. Would you make a yearend donation, right now, and help us take full advantage of that matching-gift opportunity?
As I mentioned, when you make a donation today, we’re going to send you the DVD, Like Arrows, the movie that FamilyLife created earlier this year. It’s our gift to you as you help support us, here at yearend. Thanks, in advance, for being as generous as you can be as you make a yearend donation.
We hope you can join us back, again, tomorrow when we’re going to take more phone calls from listeners about parenting. Dennis and Barbara Rainey will be here. David and Meg Robbins will be here as well. We hope you can tune in.
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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