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Focus on the Family Broadcast

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Embracing Your Imperfections as a Parent

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Embracing Your Imperfections as a Parent

In a discussion based on their book Parenting With Heart, counselors Stephen James and Chip Dodd encourage parents to let go of perfectionism and to give themselves grace when they make mistakes.
Original Air Date: February 12, 2020

Today's Guests

Episode Summary

In a discussion based on their book Parenting With Heart, counselors Stephen James and Chip Dodd encourage parents to let go of perfectionism and to give themselves grace when they make mistakes.
Original Air Date: February 12, 2020

Episode Transcript

Excerpt:

Stephen James: The number one thing they need us to do is keep growing as people, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. We need to keep growing as parents. And when we have struggles in our family, that is the invitation for us to keep growing as people.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Stephen James, and he’s with us today on Focus on the Family along with his co-author, Chip Dodd. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, most people don’t want to admit it, but I think parenting is messy. I mean, there might be that parent out there that has 14 compliant children.

John: (Laughter) Yeah.

Jim: And they think they are the best parents that God ever created.

John: And we’ll be talking with them tomorrow.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: And that’s a good thing. But when you have those children that may try your patience – they may push your buttons, all those things – you quickly realize you’re not such a perfect parent and things are going wrong. In fact, I wrote a book called When Parenting Isn’t Perfect, and somebody I know said, “Why’d you use the word when?” I mean…

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: Parenting isn’t perfect. And I think that’s the point. I know there are good parents out there. But being perfect can drive us to extremes. I think the goal is to be a good parent, and I think God will honor that.

John: Well, here at Focus, we want to help you be the best parent you can be, whether that’s perfect or not so perfect. Um…

Jim: And I want to meet you if you’re perfect.

(LAUGHTER)

John: Yes. We do have Stephen James and Chip Dodd joining us today. They’re both dads, and they’ve seen their share of messy parenting. And, uh, Stephen…

Stephen: We’ve perfected the art of messy parenting.

(LAUGHTER)

John: There you go. Stephen is the founder and executive director of Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, Tenn. Chip is also a counselor and founder of Sage Hill, which is a social impact organization. And between them, they have six children.

Jim: Welcome to the program.

Chip Dodd: Thank you.

Stephen: Thank you guys so much.

Jim: All right. Now, this isn’t kind of – some kind of, you know, intervention on behalf of John and I.

(LAUGHTER)

Stephen: It actually is – the reason we’re here today.

Jim: I just want to start right there and say, “You’re not here…”

Chip: Actually, it’s an intervention on all of us…

Jim: (Laughter).

Chip: …To be perfectly honest, you know?

Jim: I think the producers are up to something here, John.

John: Could be.

Jim: Uh, Stephen, right out the gate, uh, you have a wonderful story that describes parenting, I think, at its best. Uh, tell us about the dispute your boys had over – I think it was a stuffed animal where you applied the, uh…

Stephen: The art of biblical parenting.

Jim: (Laughter) The art of biblical parenting.

Stephen: Yeah. We had – at this point in our family, we had three – we had four kids, but three young boys, 5 and 3 and 3. We have – our youngest two are twins. Heather had gone out of the house for a sanity break for a little while, right? And she…

Jim: (Laughter) Mom has to relieve, uh…

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: …Herself from that.

Stephen: And so, she left Einstein here at home to watch the inmates.

Jim: (Laughter).

Stephen: And boys were being boys. And one boy grabbed the stuffed dog of the other boy and said, “It’s mine.” And the other boy said, “It’s mine.” And – and then they ran to me and said, “He’s got my stuffed animal.”

Jim: Yes.

Stephen: And I said, “Well, whose is it?” And they both said, in sync, “Mine,” right? And so, I started thinking back on, what can I do? And I thought of King Solomon, and I knew exactly what to do. I’m gonna apply biblical parenting. So, I said, “Well, give me the stuffed animal.” And they gave it to me. And I did the worst thing. The whole story is, I pointed to the younger twin brother, and I said, “You go get some scissors.” So, I’ve – and scripted (ph) the third child in this whole drama.

Jim: (Laughter) Yeah, right.

Stephen: He went and got some scissors.

Jim: How old was that child, by the way?

Stephen: Like, 3, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

Stephen: This is terrible.

Jim: That was wrong right from the get-go.

Stephen: It’s so bad.

John: “Get the sharpest thing you can find.”

Stephen: The whole thing’s bad.

John: What can go wrong?

Jim: “And bring it to me.”

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: OK.

Stephen: Right? It’s…

(LAUGHTER)

Stephen: This is a bad moment.

Jim: Let’s just start there.

Stephen: Yes. So, I mean, the dog is barking. Children are crying. And I’m holding the stuffed animal. And I said, “If you don’t tell me who it is, I’m going to cut it in half,” thinking…

Chip: Solomon wisdom.

Stephen: Solomon wisdom, right? So, they’re – “It’s mine.” “Whose is it?” “It’s mine.” I look at the third child. And he’s like, “I don’t know whose it is.”

Jim: (Laughter).

Stephen: “Leave me out of this.”

Jim: But here’s the scissors (laughter).

Stephen: So, I wanted to be consistent. I wanted to follow through on my actions. I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t, uh, like, that kind of dad. So, I took the scissors, and I cut the puppy in half.

Chip: Oh.

Stephen: And as the…

Jim: The stuffed puppy.

Stephen: The stuffed puppy.

Jim: Let’s make sure people understand that.

Stephen: The stuff – yeah, the stuffed puppy. Uh, and as the bottom half of the puppy begin to fall away and the stuffing fell out, Heather walked through the door.

Jim: (Laughter).

John: Oh, my goodness.

Stephen: It was – the spirit of God blew through the house, and…

John: (Laughter).

Jim: Can you state her first words?

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: The stare…

Stephen: “What’s happening here?”

Jim: “What’s happening?”

Stephen: I can tell you what her face looked like, but – but, um…

Jim: “Dad has lost control.”

Stephen: The boys were crying. And she said, “What is going on?” And I said, “Biblical parenting.”

Chip: Yeah (laughter).

Stephen: And then she said, “Solomon never cut the baby in half.”

Jim: (Laughter).

Stephen: And I said, “Oh, yeah.” Uh…

Jim: Yes.

Stephen: And I’ve got a million of those stories – right? – of times where I really was trying to be the parent I wanted to be, trying to engage my children in a place where I was beyond wits, you know, and really hoping to do a good job – ended up being a buffoon in it, right? And now, every year, at some point in the year, they’ll bring out that stuffed puppy who’s not been fixed. He’s still in a bag. I call it the bag of shame.

John: Oh.

Stephen: They call it the bag of remembrance. And they will bring it out. “Dad, remember when you…”

Jim: Here’s your wisdom.

Stephen: Here’s your wisdom.

Jim: (Laughter).

Stephen: And I think it’s actually a real gift. It’s – over time, it’s become a gift to our whole family of, they’re OK with a dad that’s not perfect.

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: Like, they’re OK – we’ll be able to repair those relationships. Those moments are such a part of our life that…

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: …I don’t believe I have to get it right every time in order to be their father.

Jim: You may have overestimated their emotional attachment…

(LAUGHTER)

Stephen: I – I – no…

Jim: …Which is different from the story (laughter).

Stephen: Yeah. No. We have some attachment issues, sure.

Jim: Well, Chip, you’ve got your own story. I think you and your wife, Sonya, were, uh, talking about, um, having children early in your marriage.

Chip: Oh, gosh, yes.

Jim: And you said, uh, you only wanted girls.

Chip: Yes.

Jim: Now, I’ve not typically heard that because, you know, girls can be a handful, too.

Chip: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: But what was driving you?

Chip: But I’m from – I’m from a world of males, so the brothers, and then – I remember we were lying in bed. And, uh, she was within a month of delivery. And, uh, I was just picturing me and my son pitching baseball, and I dropped the ball, or I don’t throw it hard enough or something along those lines, and I’m thinking, “I’m going to fail this son as soon as he finds out imperfection is part of me.” And, uh, I remember saying to her, “I think we – I just want to have girls.” And she told the most beautiful story as a schoolteacher. She was teaching third grade at the time. And she said, “Chip, listen to me. I’ve seen dads come into our classroom after – at the end of the day. And honestly, if it were my child, I wouldn’t let ’em go with ’em” – that kind of thing (laughter). “But every one of these children say, ‘Dad, like, you’re here. Let’s go home. Let’s be together. I’m hungry to be with you.’” She said, “You’ll be great. Just be truthful. Just be honest. Just be yourself.”

Jim: Well, that’s good.

Chip: “Just be who you’re made to be”

Jim: Well, in fact, uh…

Stephen: It’s a beautiful story, and it was really helpful (ph).

Jim: You did have boys.

Chip: Yes, two sons.

Jim: Tennyson is one of them.

Chip: Yeah.

Jim: And you had this little, I think, uh…

Chip: (Laughter).

Jim: …Reaction when you were trying to show him how macho you were.

Chip: (Laughter) Oh, yeah.

Jim: …By tossing a log or something.

Chip: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: What was that all about?

Chip: We were still in Texas at the time before we moved to Tennessee. And, uh, he was on a little soccer team, a little 5-year-old soccer team. And, uh, they’d just finished up a game. And then one of the dads on the team played for a very famous Big 10 football team. And, uh – but they also had the one of the longest losing streaks of ever in the history of NCAA football. So, he’s a big, super huge, muscular guy.

And at the admiration of all of us dads, we just kind of all stood around and stared at him, you know? But anyway, so after the game one day, we were out just walking behind the house, going through a trail in some woods. And I saw this log that I knew was rotten. I mean, I knew that it had lost its heaviness, you know?

Jim: (Laughter).

Chip: But it was nice and long and big. So, I got ahead of Tennyson, reached out, picked up the log, acted like the Hercules thing, you know, the fake Hercules and grunted loudly and shoved it away from me. And (laughter) I looked at him like, “Yeah. You know this right?” Like, “You see me? You see?” He literally said, “Dad, Brock’s father’s stronger than that,” who was the big football player.

(LAUGHTER)

Chip: And I wanted to say, “Don’t you know he’s been on the longest losing streak of all college foot…”

(LAUGHTER)

Chip: Eh. But it was – it was quite a lesson (laughter) that they – our children see the comparisons. They know when somebody has something or doesn’t have something. But who they really want is us. I mean, children are born wanting to, made to, simply love the one that brought them there.

Jim: Yeah.

Chip: And it’s just an amazing attachment. It comes with birth. It’s not going to change unless we end up, you know, forcing the change.

Jim: Well, I’ve always said that. It’s one of the things – even though I had a alcoholic father, my love for him was pretty strong…

Stephen: Yeah.

Chip: Yeah.

Jim: …Even with all the imperfections. And I think you see that. You see an amazing love for – from children toward their parents.

Jim: So, what’s the heart-centric parenting approach? That’s your book, Parenting With Heart. So, what is it?

Stephen: That’s a big question. I’ll try to make that an easy answer. But often, parents fall on one side of the line or the other, where it’s a parent-centric home – right? – where the parent is the authority; uh, what the parent says goes, you know? If I say jump, how high? Don’t ask questions unless spoken to – like, all those…

Jim: Sounding pretty good so far.

Stephen: Yeah, makes my life easier.

Jim: (Laughter).

Stephen: And then there’s this – you know, more and more families are doing child-centric homes, where if Johnny and Janie and little Susie don’t get all their needs met, it’s a mess, so we’re gonna helicopter parent – or the new phrase, the lawnmower parent. We’re gonna hover so low and we’re going to pave a way for them. And we have things, like, uh, grade emails that pop in every day on how our children are doing.

Jim: Yes.

Stephen: And is my child up to speed in class – right? – and really to feed parental anxiety. But – so the reality is we have these two family dynamics that are in our culture. One is the parent-centric home and the child-centric home. But we believe that God has created the family to be a relationship-centric home, where the parent is called to be in relationship with the child first, and the child is made to be in relationship with the parent. And if you put relationship first and heart first, then you’re really – the picture’s of raising a good 50-year-old, not a good 5-year-old. It takes some of the anxiety out of the short term out of the parent. And you’re really parenting towards the long-term outcome, who the child’s made to be.

Jim: Yeah.

Chip: And, you know, a lot of times, what Stephen’s talking about – heart-centric – really – really, in a lot of ways, we have the – you know, the helicopter parent today, which is protecting the child from having to feel anything. And there was a – the old days was, I tell – “You do this because I said so” and, you know, get your best holt and go. Just, you’re on your own early on.

Jim: Right.

Chip: And what we’re saying is that, uh, neither one of those approaches is the right approach, but the right approach is the true approach. As a person thinks in their heart, so is the person. So, if we’re not helping children deal with life’s realities, which means having sadness, and hurt, and loneliness, and fear, and anger, and shame, and guilt and joy – if we’re not helping them elevate the expression of what the voice of the heart, then we’re not raising them to live in reality. We’re protecting them from it or throwing them into it.

Jim: Right.

Chip: So, we’re creating a survival mentality on one hand and a pampered mentality on the other.

Stephen: Performance identity.

Chip: Yeah. And they’re not able to tolerate what we call the four realities of life, which may – we may get into. But if a person can’t tolerate the four realities of life, they can’t live it fully or thrive in it.

Jim: Well, name ’em. Go for it.

Chip: Well, here they are. The – No. 1 is the best we ever get is clumsy, that we’re gonna live in this life imperfectly.

Stephen: We wanted to name the title of the book…

Chip: Yeah.

Stephen: …Giraffes On Ice.

Chip: Giraffes On Ice.

Stephen: The publisher didn’t like that.

Chip: Yeah.

Jim: Giraffes on ice.

Stephen: We called it Giraffes On Ice because the best we ever get as parents is like giraffes running on ice.

Chip: Yeah, clumsy.

Stephen: …Just clumsy, out of control, gangly, like…

Chip: Which is a great picture, ’cause it’s…

Stephen: It’s a great picture.

Chip: And then the second thing is that, uh, we have to live life on life’s terms. There’s a guy named Samuel Beckett, said that, “You’re on Earth and there’s no cure for that.” The first two chapters of Genesis are wonderful, the last two are great, and everything in between is struggle. So, life on life’s terms.

The third thing is that everything really and truly is practice. I mean, parents are practicing. Doctors are practicing. Lawyers are practicing. We’re all practicing, so mercy and grace and humility and needing to learn throughout our lives is vital.

And then the last one is that it takes a lifetime to learn how to live.

Jim: Yeah.

Chip: So those four realities are very important. Most parents don’t want to have to face that this is how life works. We want to run from it, protect from it, over comment. But there’s no cure from it unless we’re able to live as relational creatures connected to ourselves…

Jim: Well, let’s get in and talk about some of those. Clumsy, that isn’t an inspiring term.

Stephen: (Laughing) No, it isn’t.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: I mean, I don’t know that my highest aspirational goal is to become a clumsy parent.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: I mean, I’d rather be a figure skater on that ice when it comes to the metaphor of being a good parent. So that either says I’m prideful or I can’t embrace what’s real. So, give me a little more hope for being clumsy.

Stephen: We – we had our first two children, and my wife and I are both counselors, and we were doing pretty good, actually. We had it down, like…

Jim: You were skating.

Stephen: …We were skating. We were, you know, doing that Hamill thing where you spin around, and we’re holding people above our head. We were doing a really good job as parenting. And as we talked, we said, “You know, a lot of people shouldn’t have more than two children, but we can,” which is so arrogant – right? – so arrogant.

So, a few months later, we found out we were pregnant. And we went to the doctor at the 20-week mark because, “We’ve done this before, so third kid, we’ll just wait.” And we go to get the sonogram. And the tech said – this quizzical look on her face – and she said, “Is this the first ultrasound you’ve had this pregnancy?” – which, and your heart drops…

Jim: Right.

Stephen: …Right, ’cause you’re thinking, “Oh, no.” Like, “Oh, no.” And she said, “Well, you’re having twins.” And I fainted. I fell backwards into the wall.

(LAUGHTER)

Stephen: …Like fainted-fainted. Heather went into shock.

Chip: Like real-story fainted, literally fainted.

Stephen: Like, real story, not – not hyperbolic faint. Like, I fainted.

Jim: So, God has a sense of humor is what you’re saying.

Stephen: God has – at that moment…

Jim: “You want more kids?” Boom.

Stephen: …Yeah. And, you know, Heather went into shock. And it took us some moments to kind of wrap our head – took us years to wrap our heads around we have twins, we have four children. But really, the humility that came through, “We don’t have this,” you know, that God always gives us more than we can handle, always.

Jim: Right.

Stephen: Because if we don’t get more than we can handle, we don’t need God. And so, I also believe he doesn’t crush the tender weed. He doesn’t, you know, harm us. But he’s always giving us more than we can ask or imagine. And twins for us was this freedom of stepping into this clumsy way of we can’t get it right, so – we took the wrong baby to the doctor for a pediatrician appointment.

(LAUGHTER)

Stephen: Right, ’cause we’re so sleep deprived. We show up, and the doctor said, “So where’s Teddy?” We’re like, “This is Teddy.” He’s like, “No, this is Henry.”  And so, you know, God gave us way more than we can handle. But in that we met a living God that was so engaged with us in the overwhelmness, right?

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: And that’s where I think the gift of being clumsy is this kind of picture of wandering, of flailing, of – like a child. You know, we as parents are still God’s children, and we’re still clumsy. The minute we have it buttoned up is the minute we don’t need God.

Jim: Yeah.

Chip: And when we talk about clumsiness, we’re really talking about the reality of imperfection. We’re talking about, uh, that we don’t have all the answers and those sorts of things. And I remember – I didn’t know it at the time – but my mother was teaching me something – oh, a thousand years ago now – that is instrumental now that I’m an older man.

And I remember I was saying something really mean to her. I was, like, third grade and really just testing whether or not she could take it. And can you take this and not fold and leave me or abandon me or attack me? Can I scream my struggle out about living in front of you and you handle it? And I remember her saying – and it was mean. I think I was saying something like, “I hate you; I hate you,” just something awful. And I remember her saying to me, “Chip, this is my first time as a parent. It’s my first time to do this. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how to do it perfectly.”

And I remember – I didn’t actually think at time, well, I have an older sister, how come you haven’t already gotten this? You know, I couldn’t come up with that one. But I do remember my hands sort of dropping. And my heart registered something as a third grader. “She doesn’t have all the answers. She’s human, too.” And what was amazing was that elicited in me – I think by God’s message in so many ways – a cooperative spirit with her. Like, oh, this is your first time through life, too. Oh, we’re all in this together. And I think that’s what clumsiness and our tolerance for imperfection helps teach. And my sons have learned a great deal from I hurt too. I’m sad too. I feel fear too.

It’s just like from Andy Griffith. I remember Opie staring at Andy when Andy confessed, “I’m scared too.” And Opie like, “Oh, Pa, you get scared too?” And that’s kind of what we’re referring to clumsiness. We’re not talking about being clowns as much as having to be human, you know?

Stephen: It’s having a learning posture, a posture of learning.

John: Well, there really is some great inspiration here from Stephen James and Chip Dodd. And we’ll encourage you to stop by and get a copy of their book, Parenting With Heart: How Imperfect Parents Can Raise Resilient, Loving And Wise-Hearted Kids.

We’ve got it at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

Jim: Let’s spend a moment on this idea of perfectionism because I believe, especially in the Christian community, this is a real problem.

Chip: I do too.

Jim: And it’s probably our No. 1 parenting issue…

Chip: I think so.

Jim: … is that we figure there is a formula that we can apply. Um, and if we apply it accurately and judiciously, then we’ll get the right outcome. It misses one really critical point. Same one the Lord built into Adam and Eve. You have free will, even as a 2, 3-year-old. And it doesn’t always go according to the formula. There’re some parents listening right now who have broken hearts because their 20-somethings, maybe 30, 40-somethings, have fallen away. And address that issue of perfectionism in the context of formula and how we can’t – we can’t expect a perfect outcome because like the Lord, we have imperfect children. And we’re imperfect people.

Stephen: I think if we go back even further, a lot of us, as parents, parent out of our fear and our shame, not out of what our child really needs. And so a lot of those books that have kind of a paint not – by numbers approach to parenting – you do this, you do that, you do this – are really advertised, marketed towards parents who want to do the right thing, who love their child, but are really afraid of messing their child up. Well, here’s the good news. You’re going to mess your child up. There’s no parent that’s ever parented that’s not harmed their child.

John: And that’s good news because?

Stephen: That’s good news (laughter) because it sets them up to be in relationship with you and a relationship with God.

Chip: And seek forgiveness and seek mercy…

Stephen: And seek – yeah, mercy. And so when we think about moving from a perfect parent model, where I’m trying to get everything right all the time so that I can feel good about myself, and move towards a more relational model where it’s my job to help this child grow in the image that they’re made to be, they reflect a unique image of God. And how do I study my child well enough to kind of grow them up how they’re made to walk, right? I’ve got four kids. They all are really different. I have twins. How they go through life is so different. I have one who – we homeschool our children – and one of our twins does biology on Friday, math on Saturday, literature on Sunday because they have class on Tuesday, right? His twin brother does everything on Monday night. They’re both top – like, academically top performers. They’re really, really bright. But it’s so much easier for me to parent the one who does it the right way versus the one who does it the way I actually do it, which is wait till the last minute, hustle, get it done, right? And I want to cure him of my problems.

Jim: Or you might have – maybe you don’t have – but somebody has the kid that doesn’t turn it in…

Stephen: Oh, I have that…

Jim: …On Tuesday.

Stephen: …Yes, doesn’t turn it in at all on Tuesday, right? Yeah.

Jim: That’s a whole ‘nother issue.

Stephen: So, letting my children’s grades be their grades, not marks on my performance as a parent.

Jim: Chip, when Tennyson was born – and I think he was your firstborn, correct?

Chip: Yeah.

Jim: So, the night you held him – I think all of us as dads remember that.

Chip: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, holding your firstborn child. And everybody has probably similar but different conversations, hopefully as believers, with the Lord, you know, your commitment to this child as you’re holding this child, freaking out, like, I’m not good enough to be a dad. What did you go through with Tennyson?

Chip: You know, I remember because when Tennyson was born he was born in fetal distress. And Sonya, likewise, was into shock, I mean, excessive bleeding. And I remember actually looking through the nursery window and seeing him in the little incubator bed. And I remember standing there. And I didn’t realize at the time, but tears were just – just streaming down my face. And – and I could not hold him yet, you know? I could not touch him yet. And I remember promising, uh, I will never let harm come to you. I will always stick with you no matter what it takes. I mean, I went down the list of perfection. A list that – you know, I didn’t have all the words – but a list so long we’d never get to the end of it anyway.

Jim: What were those questions you asked?

Chip: Yeah, those questions I asked was really statements I promised, in terms of I will always be there. I will never, you know, miss a thing. You will never come to pain. I will never let harm come to you.

Jim: Was this you or God talking?

Chip: Oh, this was me talking.

Jim: (Laughter) On behalf of God.

Chip: Yeah, oh, I am absolutely going to make that happen, perfectionism. And, really – because if you have pain, I failed, is what I was saying to him, instead of saying, you know, we’re gonna go through life together. But before we got home, I mean, literally within three days, I had probably broken most of those promises. What are we doing having this child? What were we thinking, how difficult this gonna be. I don’t know how to be a dad.

Stephen: I prayed for a girl.

(LAUGHTER)

Chip: No, I know – actually, I was – I loved the idea of sons by the end, you know? But – and I found sons to be incredible just, you know, you found, you know, girls to be incredible too. But, yeah, the promises are going to be broken. There’s our need again.

Jim: Well one of the main points in your book Parenting With Heart is you say not to ask how am I doing as a parent, but to ask why am I doing it. Speak to the wisdom of that question.

Stephen: Yeah, there’s even a third deeper question I’ll come to in that too. So, a lot of times we’re caught up in our anxiety and shame. And so how am I doing? How am I doing? Am I doing right by my child? Am I doing right by my value system? Am I producing a child that is going to look respectable, that I can admire, right? And children are really good at not being admirable.

Jim: Can I add that also people admire me for my child?

(LAUGHTER)

Stephen: Yeah, well, that’s really what it is.

Jim: (Laughter) Can I just add that one?

Stephen: I remember showing up at church one Sunday – I’ll come back to this – we were in the minivan, we’re heading to church, and we realized about at the time we’re pulling in that one of our kids didn’t have shoes on, right? He’s probably 7 or 8. And they were dressed, like, not really great anyway, and they didn’t have shoes on. And there’s a lot of families that get in fights on Sunday mornings on the way to church. It’s like the No. 1 time to get in a fight because of our expectations about, how do we look, right? And how do we come across? And am I good enough? Do I have what it takes? – all those questions. And as we’re rolling in and – and our church does – we practice communion every Sunday. So, we’re going down the aisle for communion, and I had forgotten he wasn’t wearing shoes. And like, there’s another James kid dressed like that, like, go barefoot. And it’s such a moment to kind of go not, “How am I doing?,” but, “What am I doing? Why am I doing what I’m doing? Like, where’s my heart in relationship with my child?” Because God surely doesn’t care if my kid’s wearing shoes on a Sunday morning.

Jim: Um, the final thought here, and before we close, is really for the parent that maybe has the 15, 16, 17-year-old. They’ve been on the perfectionistic end of that continuum between letting them do anything to the other end of more perfectionistic demanding behavior. What do you say to them when they are listening to this saying, “OK, maybe this is our core problem. Maybe we’ve aimed so high that we’re damaging our children”? You’ve counseled these parents. You know…

Stephen: I am that parent. I am in that run right now…

Jim: …So think of that. What – and, you know, Jean and I too. I mean, we had to go through this. And I’m so proud of Jean, um, because it’s really been a journey for her to let go. But it’s been these moments, these inflection points, talking to somebody who really knows what they’re talking about that has helped her. What do you see as the revelation, the point at which people go aha, I get it now?

Stephen: I think one of the things I keep coming back to personally and when I’m in my office talking with people is I tend to have the most difficulty with my children at the ages I had the most difficulty.

Jim: Interesting.

Stephen: So, to always remember that my biggest problem with my parenting is me, not my child. And – and to take a long-term view of – as we said earlier – who is this child going to be in 25 years? Like, that’s what I’m parenting towards.

Jim: Yes, I agree.

Stephen: And there’s no test that they’re going to take in math or science, there’s no team they’re going to make or not going to make that’s going to predict who they’re going to become. But what is a greater prediction is do you re-attune as a parent? Do you reconnect? Do you re-engage? Do you stay committed, even when they’re not committed – when the child’s not come into the relationship? Do you stay committed to the relationship of helping that child become who God’s made them to be, not necessarily who you want them to be?

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: The No. 1 thing they need us to do is keep growing as people, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. We need to keep growing as parents. And when we have struggles in our family, that is the invitation for us to keep growing.

Chip: And I’m a lot better parent now than I was then growing as a parent, yeah.

Stephen: Oh, I can – I could kick some parenting butt parenting 5-year-olds right now. I’ve totally got 5-year-olds down.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: You got 5-year-olds down.

John: Careful. The Lord might bring a 5-year-old your way.

Jim: Wait till 15 arrives.

Stephen: Oh, thanks a lot.

Jim: Well, listen, this has been great, but we’re out of time…

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: … so we, uh, I mean, obviously, people need to get the book. It’s a great book, Parenting With Heart. And, you know, it really expresses something I believe in, which is that you’re not perfect – there’s the neon sign – and that we need to learn relationship over perfection.

And I think this is the No. 1 issue for Christian parents particularly. So, I want to remind you, we’re here for you as Focus on the Family. We talked about that at top of the show. But we have counselors. We have resources, like Stephen and Chip’s book, and much, much more right here for you.

And I’m grateful to the donors who have made that possible. And one of the ways you can help partner with us in ministry is to send a donation of any amount, a one-time gift or a monthly gift. Become part of the team and we’ll send you a copy of Stephen and Chip’s great book, Parenting With Heart, as our way of saying thank you.

John: Yeah, become a sustaining member and make a monthly pledge if you can. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or online we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

When you’re at our website, by the way, be sure to check out our 7 Traits of Effective Parenting assessment! It’s free! It takes just a few minutes to fill out. And you’ll see your areas of strength as a mom or a dad, and maybe an area to work on, as well. It’s a quick little quiz. It’s absolutely free. And it’s there online.

Plan to join us again tomorrow as we have Milan and Kay Yerkovich. They’re gonna help you explore problems with intimacy in marriage.

Teaser:

Kay Yerkovich: We often ask how many people in the audience feel that they had a good sex education from their parents. And it’s, like, 1 percent. (Jim: One percent.) One percent… (Jim: That’s terrible.) … of the people. It’s terrible!

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