Pam Farrel: So I started praying and there in my quiet time and thinking of the healthy families, and so I wrote down all the traits and skills and leadership qualities that were in the healthy kids. And I showed it to Bill when he came home and the list is in 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make. It’s like 100 things long. That day I was very overwhelmed. And I’m like, “Look at all this stuff!”
Bill Farrel: Which is – isn’t that how a lot of us feel as parents?
Jim Daly: Oh, yeah!
Bill: We’re just overwhelmed. We – we look at all that needs to be done in these kids’ lives and we just – like how am I ever gonna get it done? Why did God trust me with this? Uh, like it’s impossible.
John Fuller: That’s a comment made on the last Focus on the Family broadcast about parenting and how you can really lean into some of those challenges and how you can decide to do some things proactively to help your child really succeed in life. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Jim, Bill and Pam Farrel are back with us. They – they have such great insights and a lot of energy, too.
Jim: Absolutely and the thing that I love is the wisdom that they possess. I mean, putting it to Scripture, of course, Bill’s background, both Bill and Pam working with kids in church, as youth leaders and speaking as they’ve done, the 40 books that they’ve written. I mean, it – they’ve got a lot of wisdom, so I am anxious to get back to the discussion.
But let me speak to you. If you have a child, cradle to college, this discussion’s for you. It’s really about how to do a good job, not a perfect job, but how to do a good job parenting your child to get them ready to launch. Um, and you’re right there with Jean and me and with John and Dena. Uh, you know, we’ve got kids at home, as you do. And uh, this program is really for you. And if you’re a grandparent, man think about what we’re talkin’ about today. Get the CD. Give it to your kids and say, “You need to know this stuff ‘cause we want our grandkids to be as healthy as…” No, you may want to not shout that out there.
Maybe do it over a cup of coffee and, you know, as grandparents do.
John: A little more casually.
Jim: I would know that, yet but uh, first of all, let me welcome both Bill and Pam Farrel back to the program.
Pam: Thank you so much. Hey, we are grandparents now.
Jim: I know. So, how do you go about doin’ that as a grandparent?
Pam: You know, the wonderful thing is, um, our son and daughter-in-law invited us out to coffee. And uh, thanked us for parenting and asked us to be a part of their parenting team.
Pam: How wonderfully proactive.
Jim: Well, that is great. Now there…
Pam: It is.
Jim: …might be some coffee chats that go a little differently like, “Mom and Dad, we need you to get out of the way.”
Pam: Exact – and you know what? We need to receive and hear that, as well. To be a good partner, um, as a grandparent, we need to say, what is my best role? And have that role defined. And offer some alternatives and offer some options and see what our grown kids are comfortable with. Because you know what? This is the time to enjoy the fruit! We don’t have to do everything now. We get to do the fun stuff, hopefully.
Jim: And it’s good to ask, isn’t it? I like…
Jim: …that idea. Ask them what you can do to help support them in raising their children. I mean, that’s awesome.
Bill: And I would say…
Jim: I like that.
Bill: …to anybody who’s gonna ask the question, accept the answer.
Jim: Now that’s a little harder for grandparents.
Bill: That’s way harder, ‘cause we want to argue with it or correct it. “Well, if they would just listen to our wisdom…” And – and we need to leave all that at home and just say, “Thank you for sharing.”
Jim: I love that old adage that goes, you know, “Why do grandparents and grandkids love each other so much? It’s because they have a common enemy.”
Think about it if you don’t get it right off. Uh, it’s the kids and the parent. But uh, you guys, we talked last time about so much good stuff. We talked about character development. I want to start there again, because especially in Christian homes, that’s so much of the discussion, after the kids are down in bed and mom and dad go to bed. It’s the pillow talk. And it usually goes somethin’ like this. “Honey,” speaking from the wife to the husband, “I need more of your help in the spiritual development of the kids. I know you’re busy, but they need their father to talk to them about the Lord.” How do we begin to create a plan – and that sounds exhausting. Create a plan for our kids’ spiritual development? Ugh! Can’t we just do it kind of off the end of a napkin here and write it down? Does it have to be a plan?
Pam: It does work better as a plan. I mean, that’s kinda how it came out in our life is, Bill was a youth pastor and I showed him a list of 100 character qualities I thought needed to be in our kids’ lives. And I said, “This is a lot of stuff. How do we do it?” And Bill said …
Bill: Um, well there’s three categories that that trait falls in. They – we want ‘em to learners, leaders, who love God. And what I would say to you, Jim, about your opener is we do want to have a plan, but we want to simplify it. One of the mistakes we see parents make is they get too complicated with their approach to parenting. It overwhelms them and it certainly overwhelms their kids. Because kids are pretty simple in the way they approach life.
And so, we put together this plan for developing character in our kids’ lives, which I would say to parents, that really is your primary goal. ‘Cause like, there’s a lot of stuff you could get involved in with your kids, but the primary goal is to give them the character to develop their own lives as they grow up. And – and so, if you can figure out a simple plan for doing that, it’ll make parenting easier on you. And it’ll make it more effective in the kids’ lives.
Pam: And so, learner, leader, love God. Those are the three main traits that we wanted in our kids’ lives. And so I thought what would, you know, honey, what would make it fun, ‘cause I don’t want our things to think they’re born into like Farrel boot camp. Um, so what would make it fun? Well, presents, yeah, like Christmas or birthdays. So, we have a Learner-Leader day once a year, right before school starts, where we negotiate privileges and responsibilities. We have a Learner and Leader chart that people can download at LoveWise, and we’ll put it on your website if you’d like. And um, where you negotiate privileges and responsibilities. And there’s a list of what kids can do at different ages and stages. Like “Mom, you’re not the maid. Dad, you are not…”
Jim: You’re not the butler.
Pam: That’s right. Our kids need to be like earning their own way in learning some of these skills and they can do a lot more than you think. And we want them – my goal was to have my daughter-in-laws love me some day because I raised – had raised good husbands, yeah. And um, so learner, leaders that love God. And we choose one character trait off of that list, um…
Bill: Which is the key to this, is you choose one character trait at a time.
Pam: Per year, per kid.
Jim: Per – one per year?
Bill: So, for instance…
Jim: That sounds simple.
Bill: …this year, we’re working on initiative. And as a parent, you can tie everything you want to work on with your kid to initiative. Next year we’re workin’ on honesty. And if you choose one, everybody knows what the target is and nobody’s overwhelmed by it. And I would say to parents if you develop one character trait in your kid’s life this year, it’s like a magnet. It will draw others to it. And they will develop other character traits, just by the process of working on this one.
Pam: And so we – then we would choose the character quality that we thought that child needed after much prayer. You know, we would pray together uh, what we thought, growth and development needed to happen in that child in that year. And then um, we would take them to like BibleGateway.com or Logos Bible software, and we would encourage them to choose a verse that…
Bill: For the year.
Pam: …for the year that they wanted mom and dad to pray over them. And we posted that verse on everything they owned that year, so they would see it often. And um, that became the focus for that child for that year. I’ll give you a little example. One of our kids was kind of rough around the edges. You know, used his shirt for a napkin, you know, a sleeve for a Kleenex and we’re like, “Aah! No woman ever’s gonna marry you!” So we…
Jim: Just the sleeve. That’s pretty good. Not the arm and the hand as the Kleenex.
Jim: That’s where we’re at.
Pam: So, his trait that year was “Be a gentleman”. And so, I did – I exactly – be a gentleman. And so, I did – so I did all of the Miss Manners kind of things um, with him all year and table manners – which fork to use and all that and…
John: Did that all work, by the way?
Pam: Yeah, it took a while. Okay, so here’s the outcome: so, you know, Zach, you walk on the outside so the car hits you, not the girl, you know, that kind of stuff that um, you teach your kids.
Jim: The car kits you and not the girl.
John: That’s a gentlemanly thing.
Pam: You know, chivalry.
Jim: Now most boys are going, why…
Jim: …do we do that?
Bill: And – and – and I would say to you, during that year, there – there wasn’t an enthusiastic buy-in, like “Oh, yeah, thanks so much for teaching me. This is awesome!”
Pam: Right, right. It didn’t…
Bill: They – they just reluct – he reluctantly worked his…
Jim: So, don’t give up.
Bill: …way through all of it.
Pam: But we had a science fair coming up and he’s like, “Mom, you hate it when I burp and I’m supposed to be a gentleman this year. So, what if my science fair project is on what makes you burp? And then I’ll quit doing it.” I’m like, “Great call.” And so, he won the whole school science fair with that project that year. And after the science fair, there was a party for like a birthday party. So, my two older boys went to this birthday party. Well, there weren’t enough chairs for the moms, but Zach remembered, “Oh, yeah. You’re supposed to stand up and give the moms your chairs.” So, he elbows the older brother and my boys stand up to offer their chair. Well, my friend, Tammy, she didn’t take the chair. She ran straight to her cell phone and she’s like, “Pam! I think there’s hope. Zach might get married someday.”
So, it takes a while, but eventually, they catch on.
John: Oh, my.
Bill: And again, developing character, it’s uh, it’s a challenging process. Like kids don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I want to become stronger today. I want to become better today. I want to become a better person.” No, you – you have to work this into their life. And so, staying diligent with it and staying at it for a period of time, gives them the message that, “You know what? My parents are gonna – they’re serious about this. They’re stayin’ at this until I learn.”
Pam: And we wanted to celebrate them on Learner-Leader Day, so we chose a gift, a Learner-Leader gift, that applauded the uniqueness that we saw God building into their life. For example, one of our boys early on we figured out he’s great at sports. So, some of his Learner-Leader gifts – we wanted our Learner-Leader gift to be three things. We wanted it to be personal. I thought of you, child. We want it to be practical – something we would buy anyway, not a big cost to your family.
Bill: So, don’t add to the family budget.
Pam: And we wanted to be prophetic or speak to the promise of potential of that child. So, he’s great at sports, so you know, a gym bag with a verse on it, like “Excel still more.” Or maybe Sports Spectrum, which is kind of like Sports Illustrated, but without the swimsuit edition! You know, those kind of poster of a Christian athlete that’d been signed to him.
And um, he um, comes to us and he says, “Mom and dad, I – like the kids at my school, they – they like have dreams on their hearts, but they don’t have the self-discipline to get there. And um, I’m thinkin’ that maybe they just need Jesus. And so, what if we had some pizza parties for the kids?” And so, at our house, we invited all those teams over one at a time and at the end of those three pizza parties, over 34 of his friends had come to know Jesus in a personal way.
John: That’s tremendous.
Pam: And Brock and some of his friends founded Fellowship of Christian Athletes um, on that campus which grew to be about 200 strong. And um, at the end of Brock’s high school career, he was given an award called Knight of the Year, which is above Valedictorian. And he was given Athlete of the Year award. And he ended up with a scholarship to Liberty University to be their quarterback. And now, Brock is a coach at a high school, teaching how to become leaders. Developing character in the next generation.
Jim: How do you though – how do you um, you know, maybe your student or your child isn’t athletic in that way. Hopefully, they have some academic ability, but maybe they’re just average kids. Um, did you have one of those?
Pam: Oh, yeah.
Jim: Okay, talk about that, as well.
Bill: And – and we share that story, because some people who are listening are raising natural leaders. And you need to harness their leadership ability. But if you have more than one child, I guarantee you, you have at least one that was difficult to raise.
Pam: Spirited, that’s what I like to call it!
Bill: Yeah, but we had one kid that – love to death, but he had the ability to get under my skin and irritate me at the – like he seldom made sense to me.
Jim: And you’ve…
Bill: And he would…
Jim: …got his permission to talk about this, I’m sure.
Pam: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah.
Bill: He’s actually told us, you – you tell my story and tell parents don’t give up on your dif – difficult kids. ‘Cause this is the kid that like – like all of us have that day in parenting that we pray our kids don’t remember. And mine was with our middle son, Zachary. I – I still – I don’t even remember what he did, but I was so upset at him that I – he was actually on his bed. I was over him and – and I was about to go out of control. And I saw the terror in his eyes and I stopped.
Pam: He – Bill said, “He’s yours, Pam. I’m walkin’ away.”
Bill: And I just had to walk out. Like I had no parenting skills left at that point for this kid. I just had to walk away. And that was kinda normal with him. He was always doin’ stuff that was irritating and frustrating and was unnecessary.
Pam: And so, he was – he was our child that is ADD, ADHD um, so he struggled with school. We were doin’ the whole Learner-Leader thing and he was coming right along until he was about 8, he started spiraling down. Bad attitudes, bad grades, just really negative. And so, um, I began – both Bill and I began to pray: what do we do with this kid? We’ve tried like everything. We’ve done all the cool little star charts and like all the positive reinforcement. We did everything we’ve ever heard on Focus on the family, we’re like, “I can’t do this!”
Bill: And it’s not working!
Pam: It’s not working. And so one day, Zach, I mean, he wasn’t very verbal and he had a medical issue that he couldn’t control. And so, he had this underlying anger. And one day I walked in and he was beating up his brothers again. And I’m like, “Zachary, honey, this is inappropriate. You need to go upstairs. Mama come talk to you.” Well, he ran upstairs. He knocked all the pictures off the wall. He slammed the door. He picked up a baseball, put it through the door – a hole in the door – as I walk in.
John: Oh, my.
Pam: And I’m like, “Zachary, honey, you cannot do this. If you’re upset, you’ve got to learn to use words.” ‘Cause I’m thinkin’ in my mind, “No woman in her right mind’s ever gonna marry you! You’ll live with me forever! Use your words!”