Dr. Emerson Eggerichs: I just received an email from a woman who said “God lied to me.” Because she thinks, Proverbs 22 for instance, “Bring up a child in the way they should go and when they’re older, they’ll, you know, not depart.” And so she said, “God promised.” And I said, this is a principle. This is not a promise. But now she’s concluded God lied to her. And it’s very important, because I believe parents are not understanding what the Bible is saying. And here’s the radical point I’m making: you can parent God’s way even though your child rejects Jesus Christ and rejects you.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well, those insights come from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs on our last Focus on the Family broadcast, describing how love and respect can really change your family dynamic. He’s back with us again today and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, Emerson’s work in marriage particularly, when it comes to love and respect, is well-known and has brought great comfort to many, many couples and has opened up the pathway for them to share a better relationship.
And that’s what it’s about. I love the idea that we’re all working uh … in concert in the Christian community to strengthen marriages, to strengthen a parent’s ability to raise a child that is healthy, spiritually, emotionally, physically. And uh … today, we’re gonna talk again with Dr. Eggerichs about his book,Love & Respect in the Family. And I think this is one of the great dynamics of what Emerson has touched on with love and respect, not just for marriage, but it also applies to the family. If you didn’t hear the last program, go ahead and download it or get a copy of the CD. You can call us and John, you’ll give those details later.
Jim: But um … I think it was a very insightful discussion. Emerson pulls from the New Testament. He looks at Ephesians and Corinthians, those great Scriptures that provide insight on human relationship, not just in marriages, but also within the family.
Jim: Itis a pleasure to welcome you back, Emerson.
Emerson: Thank you.
Jim: Good to have you.
Emerson: Oh, I’m excited to be here.
Jim: (Laughing)You know, just uh … if we can recap last time, you talked about that ah-ha moment, what sounded like an ah-ha moment, as you’ve worked for the last over a decade in applying that idea of love and respect to marriages. But then seeing that in families, that same principle applies. Give us that quick recap of why you had that moment to say, wow. All of human relationship, tends to spin around love and respect.
Emerson: Yeah, well, and it was an ah-ha moment and it was revolutionary in my thinking. I mean, it was just absolutely stunning. I remember calling Sarah in, my wife, to hear what I just saw in Scripture. But the love and respect in marriage was based on Ephesians 5:33, where a husband is to love, a wife is to respect. And of course, there’s real controversy on the second part of that verse about respecting a man. But every man serves and dies for honor. We’ve made that case in theLove & Respectbook on marriage.
But as I was going through Scripture, I realized children are to honor father and mother. It’s one of the Ten Commandments. Jesus quotes it. Um … Paul quotes it. And then as I pointed out, Titus 2, the parents are to love their children. But parents are not commanded to honor uh … their kids. It doesn’t mean you can dishonor them. They’re just not commanded to do that. And children are not commanded to love parents. And I suddenly realized, whoa! Here again is an insight. And then I saw the correlation, the connection.
When a child feels unloved, yep, that child reacts in ways that feels disrespectful to mom (Chuckling) and dad. And when mom and dad feel disrespected, and we don’trarelyfeel unloved, you know. It’s … it’s your just not payin’ attention. You’re disregarding. I’m feeling you’re disobedience as … as disrespect and I’m feeling offended. But then we react to that negatively in a way that ends up feeling unloving to the child. And this thing can spin very quickly. And I experienced it as a boy, experienced it even as a parent toward my kids.
Jim: But you know what, I appreciate that uh … for you and Sarah, is your willingness to be vulnerable. I think in the Christian community, Emerson, one of the mistakes that we have made, especially in leadership is our inability to speak candidly about our own shortcomings.
Jim: And the difficulty is a world that’s looking. They don’t know how to hook onto perfection, ‘cause they look at themselves and say, “I can’t be that; I can’t do that. I’m imperfect. I struggle with my kids. I yell at my kids. I get angry at my kids.”
Jim: And the reality is, we do, too.
Jim: And how do we talk through it and learn to do it better? And that’s why I so appreciate your book, Love & Respect in the Family, ‘cause you’re giving us the tools to do that. Let’s pick up where we left off last time and uh … we started to talk about this acronym GUIDES that you use in your book. Uh … give us the quick recap. We coveredGpretty well.
Jim: But let’s pick it up withU. Go ahead.
Emerson: Right. Well, GUIDES is based on the biblical passages to parents about parenting. And we’re taking the position that you can parent God’s way, even if your children don’t respond. And God is calling me to apply what I put in this acronym, GUIDES. I’m to be a giving parent, an understanding parent, instructing parent.
Jim: Physical needs.
Jim: It’s physical.
Emerson: Well, the … the giving is the physical needs. Understanding basically is the emotional needs. A father’s not to provoke his child to anger.
Jim: Boy, that’s tough though, Emerson (Chuckling). I mean, uh … you know, we have to bridle ourselves to do that, because again, we’re all so human, living in a fallen world. Uh … what tool does a father have or a mother have to bridle that natural instinct to respond when you’re angry, when something has not been done or when the child’s talked back to you?
Emerson: That’s right.
Jim: What … what trigger do you use?
Emerson: –the … yeah, well, from a biblical standpoint, Ephesians 6:2, Paul tells children and he’s writing to the children, “Honor your father and mother.” But then he goes on in 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.”
Emerson: Okay. In Colossians 3:20, he says, “Children, obey your parents.” But then in 3:21 he says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children so they lose heart.” There’s an indirect point that Paul’s making and to parents. Your child is not gonna honor you perfectly. And you’re gonna get angry. And then you’re gonna provoke them to anger.
The same thing, your children are not gonna obey you perfectly. And then you’re gonna get exasperated and you’re gonna have a tendency to exasperate them so they lose heart. And if they lose heart, you’re probably gonna lose their heart.
So, here’s one of the points Paul is making. There is a line that we’re not to step over as parents. There’s a line of provoking my child to the point that they are so angry that I … I provoke them to anger. There’s a line that I’m not to step over. I’m not to exasperate my children so they lose heart. There’s a line.
And every parent has to figure that out. And on any given day, we are sinful people as parents. But if there’s a pattern, a pattern, like my dad had a pattern. He didn’t have a buffer zone. Uh … I would want to play with him and then he would just explode. There wasn’t any warning, okay. I’m the victim of that. I understand the pain of that.
One time we had a swimming pool and I wanted to … you know, he got in. He rarely got in because I irritated him. I was about 8, ‘cause I wanted to play.
Emerson: And I was all over him and he got … it was okay and then suddenly, he just pushes me under. And–
Emerson: –I’m thinking he’s still playing. I … I knew he was angry, ‘causes … “Leave me alone.” And then I went under. He pushed me under. He’s 6’2”, 240 pounds. And now I’m under there. I’m thinking he’s still kind of teasing me and playing. And I could hold my breath for a long time. So, about a minute, I’m … I’m gonna try to prove to him, I can hold it a long time. And now I’m ready for air. So, I’m … I try to get up and he doesn’t let me up.
Emerson: And I’m trying to get up and he is just standing on me. And I’m thinking, I’m gonna inhale water here. I’m gonna drown. This is dangerous. I’m gonna die and then he let me up. And I remember coming up and getting that air and I’m looking at him as I’m kind of falling back in the water a little bit. A daddy shouldn’t do that to his boy. And I realized my dad was out of control. I realized, this is not how a parent oughta be. My dad lost my heart. He exasperated me to the point that, I closed off my heart. I lost our … do not exasperate your children so theylose heart. He lost my heart because he exasperated me.
Emerson: And so, one of the things I feel deeply in writing this book is, I know what that feels like. I am one who recalls, as you do, these vivid stories, okay. And so, I’m strong on this point. Parents, we all are sinners. We’re gonna blow it, but if there is ahugeblowup, or if there’s a pattern of always stepping over on the edge of that line, this is your issue. This is not your child’s issue. This is your issue and I appeal to you, that this is really something God’s using in your life more than He’s using you in your child’s life.
Emerson: And it is crucial that you step back and realize. And I tell you, you’re not the enemy here. You’re probably the victim of the thing. You probably had an old man like Jim, you and I had these issues. But we had to come to a point where we realize, you know what? I’m carrying into this parenting things that maybe I’m uh … wounded from. And so, I’m … there’s gonna be a ton of empathy. We’re gonna give grace upon grace, but there comes a point when [an] adult says, it’s now a time for me to grow up here. And if I’m provoking my children to anger, if I’m not understanding them, their age, their stage, I need help. And I need to get that help. And I think Focus on the Family ispar excellent[sic].
Emerson: And there is insight in this organization that there’s no excuse not to get. And whatever the issue is, I appeal to that parent to turn to Focus on the Family for that insight. They are ready and they’re gonna respond. But you know what? I don’t know if my dad was willing to be honest with himself.
Jim: Hm. That’s a big first step.
Emerson: And so, the appeal here is, that if you’re in that camp, don’t ruin your children. And here’s the deal. You … they’re gonna grow up and I want you to envision Thanksgiving and Christmas as adults. You want to keep their hearts open, because when you get to be 64 and they’re coming home with the grandkids, there’s no greater joy. These are little people that you’re raising to be big people. Don’t lose their heart. Be understanding and do what you need to do in order to accomplish that, please.
Jim: Well, that’s well-said. In fact, the way that I like to express that, Emerson, is you need to maintain that tether of love. I mean, if that gets severed, you’re in trouble–
Jim: –as a parent.
Jim: And you’ve got to at all costs, even biting your lip, even kind of succumbing [sic] to your own desires, you’ve gotta maintain that tether of love. As you move down the understanding principle, let’s just hit those real quick. Understanding–
Emerson: –Paul … well, that’s the understanding where you don’t provoke your child to anger.
Emerson: You don’t exasperate them. So, you know that line. You understand their age and stage. And there’s so much insight out there. Iis instruction. Bring your children up in theinstructionof the Lord. And what I’ve found, Jim, we’ve surveyed people and this was the one that parents found that they wanted the most insight on, which surprised me. I thought maybe some … discipline would be No. 1. But parents really do want to instruct their children and we talk about that in the book.
TheDis, bring them up in the discipline of the Lord and what is discipline? TheE, of course, is that encouragement. Paul said, I came to you as a father among his children who encouraged. I encouraged you as afather. And then the supplication, all the children that were brought to Jesus for prayer and so, Jesus blessed them. And as parents, we need to bring our children before Christ and ask Him to guide them, to bless them. If … it’s been surprising. Sarah has talked with mothers who have said, “I don’t think I’ve ever prayed for my children.”
Emerson: And so, we need to challenge that parent out there, that uh … don’t neglect that last one on praying, supplicating for your child and asking God to do something in their life. There’s no guarantee, but uh … James says, “You have not because you ask not.”
Jim: Hm. And I think for a child to see that is good, too. I just know driving my boys to school in the morning, that’s one of things I’ll try to do every morning, is to pray with them and to let them know and to intercede on their behalf. But they can hear that, too.
Emerson: That’s right. And we talk about the fact that Jesus says, you need to pray in the closet, right? And so, you don’t go on the public squares and say, I’m prayin’; I’m praying. But one of the things that I do encourage is, your children should know you’re in the closet.
Emerson: And it’s okay for your kids to know if you’re in the closet. They need to know that there’s an authenticity to your dependency on Christ.
Jim: That’s a good point.
Emerson: And that more than anything else is what ultimately is gonna win their heart.
Jim: Well, we’ll post the GUIDES principle online, John.
Jim: Let’s do that–
John: Good idea.
Jim: –and people can go and take a look at that. Uh … let’s move to your negotiable and non-negotiables. Uh …
Emerson: Onto the discipline category.
Jim: Yeah, onto the discipline category.
Jim: You talk about those two distinctions. I think at times, it’s hard for parents to understand where that line is. Uh … for some parents, especially those who are wired in a black and white orientation, they might be those scientists and those others–
Jim: –uh … everything is non-negotiable–
Emerson: Yes, right.
Jim: –simply because you’re a child–
Jim: –and I’m a parent. And–
Emerson: Right, right, yeah.
Jim: –I’m totally over you and in control. Um … but there should be some big stuff and some small stuff. And parents need to know what are the small things? Give us a guideline of–
Jim: –what you’ve learned over the years. What are the two camps?
Emerson: Right. Well, I … I … I … I say it this way. We’ve gotta distinguish a moral issue from a preference issue. And what do I mean by that? A moral issue would be, you know, for instance, we’re not gonna lie, steal and cheat. You know, we’re not going to murder somebody, so to speak. I mean, there’s certain moral issues that we have to adhere to, that there’s no negotiation on this, you know.
Jim: The hammer comes down on these things.
Emerson: Well, the culture itself, you … there’s certain things you just don’t … you don’t cheat in school. What teacher, even if they’re the most liberal progressive person on the planet, still is going, “You don’t cheat.”
Jim: Right, kinda linking to the Ten Commandments.
Emerson: That’s … well, exactly. And you don’t lie