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Focus on the Family Broadcast

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Guiding Your Teen Into Adulthood (Part 1 of 2)

Guiding Your Teen Into Adulthood (Part 1 of 2)

Dr. Kenneth Wilgus, Jessica Pfeiffer, and Ashley Parrish, who together host a podcast about parenting teens, offer practical guidance for preparing teen children for adulthood. Our panel addresses topics including "planned emancipation," appropriate boundaries, control vs. influence, teen entitlement, and much more. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: March 18, 2021

Excerpt:

Dr. Ken Wilgus: Now, with freedom, always comes responsibility, so by letting go of one thing, you also leave them to their own consequences of the things that they’re, uh, doing. My favorite is always the, the easy one is music, that you can give a teenager, um, “You now have the freedom … it’s up to you to make your own decision about music. What you listen to, that’s between you and God. However, if your little sister is caught on your phone listening to some of that stuff, then you’re going to lose your phone for a day. You need to make sure …” That’s just true of any adult. You have to be held responsible for your own behavior.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Insight from Dr. Ken Wilgus, describing a process of parenting teenagers that he calls planned emancipation, and, uh, in other words, Mom and Dad, that’s learning to let go, and I wonder if you’re ready for that. Well, today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, we’ll explore what the end goal for your parenting should be and how you and your teen can get to that point, uh, successfully. Thanks for joining us today. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Uh, John, we hear so often from parents who are surprised by the teen years, right?

John: They are, yes.

Jim: Didn’t expect it to be quite like that. Suddenly, they’re facing issues they never expected, uh, where their sweet, compassionate little child has transformed into this moody, one syllable response mechanism (laughing) and, uh, man, you’re going, “What happened to that wonderful little ch-child I had (laughing)?”

John: Mm-hmm. Somebody exchanged them.

Jim: Right, and, uh, then other parents, uh, face those years with maybe more severe dread because it’s not only that but it’s rebellion and some other things. I think, for Jean and I, we were somewhere in between. We have gre-, two wonderful sons, really, but they’re very normal, and I’m happy to say that, normal meaning they go through their moody moments. They do have one-word grunt answers at times. Get your homework done? “Yeah.” How was your day at school? “Good.”

John: Fine.

Jim: You know that routine (laughs). And, uh, today we’re going to cover some, uh, ground that’s going to help empower you to empower them to be the adults they’re going to need to be.

John: Yeah, the teen years aren’t to be feared (laughing). I, I really have appreciated our kids when they went through the teen years, especially now that they’re through the teen years, for the most part.

Jim: Yeah, right (laughs).

John: Um, our guests do have a little different perspective on how to get through the years successfully and I really appreciate, uh, their insights. I think a lot of listeners will be encouraged and maybe even pleasantly surprised by what they have to share with us.

Jim: Well, I’m so glad to have Dr. Ken Wilgus back with us today. Uh, he’s a psychologist who specializes in working with teens and their families, I like that, not families and their teens (laughing). And, frankly, he was quite instrumental in helping Jean and I. I think we called you, Dr. Wilgus, and asked you a couple of very important questions.

Dr. Wilgus: They were good questions (laughing).

Jim: Oh, good, thank you, thank you. Uh, so we can speak from that experience that, uh, Dr. Wilgus helped us get through a little bumpy patch. He’s written a great book called Feeding the Mouth That Bites You, yes, that’s right, Feeding the Mouth (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: The Mouth That Bites You.

Jim:That Bites You, (laughs) I love that title, A Complete Guide to Parenting Adolescents and Launching Them Into the World. And, uh, he also has launched a weekly podcast with, uh, his two associates, and they’re here with us today.

John: They are. Uh, we have Ashley Parrish and Jessica Pfeiffer with us. They are two moms who are actively raising kids. They speak and know firsthand what the teen issues are that we’ve, uh, alluded to.

Jim: I thought you were going to say they speak the teen language (laughs).

John: Oh, they do that too, of course. They’re teen whisperers (laughing).

Jim: That’s it, man (laughing). Well, to both of you, welcome to Focus.

Jessica Pfeiffer: Thank you.

Ashley Parrish: Thank you.

Jessica: Thanks for having us.

Jim: Now let’s, uh, let’s define that experience for the listener and the viewer on YouTube, so, uh, describe your kids.

Jessica: So, my youngest is 10. My oldest is 19. I have four kids. I have one in elementary, one in middle school, one in high school, and one in college, so I sort of spread myself thin over all the grade levels right now (laughing).

Jim: That’s good. That makes you an expert, by the way.

John: Yeah.

Ashley: I have seven children. My oldest is a teenager, she just turned 14. Then I have an 11-year-old who’s coming up on those pre-teen years, a nine-year-old, twin six-year-olds, and twin four-year-olds.

Jim: So, man, you have how many kids (laughing)?

Ashley: Seven, seven total.

Jim: Seven and four, 11. Why are you here, Dr. Wilgus (laughing)? We’re just going to talk with them (laughing). And you, of course, have-

Dr. Wilgus: Three-

Jim: Three, okay, so good.

Dr. Wilgus: … and six grandchildren.

Jim: And six grand- …

John: Oh, wow.

Jim: So, you are well qualified, uh, and I think we’re off to the races. Let’s start with a quick review of what, uh, planned emancipation is and how it works.

Dr. Wilgus: Well, so Feeding the Mouth That Bites You started as a parent training that’s really now become almost a crusade, (laughing) uh, to really get across the, uh, necessity of finding an endpoint to your parenting. And if you really want to be effective with teenagers, that’s what they want to know is, “When is this going to be over? When will you say it’s time for me to make my, my own decisions about this thing?” Planned emancipation is simply an orderly, uh, giving over of freedom rather than it being wrested out of your cold dead hands, (laughing) uh, that, that they will get that freedom, but it is super important for teenagers to hear that, “These people who know me are saying, ‘Hey, we are now saying it’s time for you to make that decision yourself.’” So planned emancipation is essentially the pattern, from roughly 13 until you finish high school, that we, as your parents, are saying, “This is the steps that you will take, the things that you will now be in charge of more and more as we recede from taking charge of these things in your life.”

Jim: Now I just want to make a pitch for Jean Daly, my wife, ’cause she’s probably given away 50 of your books, and I, I kind of want that super buyer discount ’cause I’m going broke (laughing).

Dr. Wilgus: I’ve always liked Jean, yes, and she does she qualifies for a stet of, set of steak knives, (laughing) but-

Jim: Good. Send those, will you?

Dr. Wilgus: Yes.

Jim: I’m waiting.

Dr. Wilgus: It’s very important (laughing).

Jim: But you ha-, you have a word picture that kind of illustrates how teenagers see our authority as parents. Describe that word picture (laughs).

Dr. Wilgus: Well, you know, it ca-, it’s really like foreign, uh, relations really. If you think about it, a teenager really begins to see themselves as their own person. Well, if that’s the way they see it, then if you can picture your teenager like this nation-state divided into different sort of sub-states of different things they have to handle, schoolwork, uh, relation-, friendships, money, uh, all of these things. Uh, the hard part about this analogy is that, if that’s your teenager, then you are occupying troops in their territory. That’s how teenagers feel.

John: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: So, if you think about their reaction, like, “How was school?” “Fine” all that, (laughing) uh, that’s the, the response of a, an occupied nation is what this, this feels like to many teenagers. And they really want to know, “When are you going to be out of this part of my life?”, so the school management thing, uh, you know, “When are you going to stop asking me and recognize that this is up to me?”, all those things. And so, the, the goal of planned emancipation, essentially, is to begin to announce right off that we are in fact occupying these states (laughs) of your life, but we are on our way out. So, we are moving out of this part and this part and we are committed to leaving this sort of nation-state that you are as a young adult, which is what teenagers are. We’re committed to being completely out of your life, and you managing this pretty much by the end of high school,

Jim: Well, the proof is in the pudding. So, Ashley and Jessica, as you’ve applied Dr. Wilgus’ approach, how has it worked (laughs)? Jessica let’s start with you.

Jessica: Okay. Well, I have young, a young teenager, you know, and so I think we might’ve mentioned earlier about the music thing, where she is able to pick whatever music she wants, but I will have to…

Jim: Wait, wait, wait, wait, you’ve got to be kidding me.

Jessica: I know, I know. And it’s hard because I’ve raised her to listen to almost exclusively Christian music.

Jim: To Amy Grant.

Jessica: Yes, absolutely (laughing). We were talking about it this morning. Uh, so you know, uh, to be able to hand the reins over to her and allow her to choose is hard, but I have told her … she has a younger sister, she’s not allowed to hear anything that’s inappropriate and ungodly.

Jim: Yeah.

Jessica: You know, I don’t want to hear that in my home. And so, she can put it on her earbuds or whatever else, but I’m not going to listen to it. She needs to have the responsibility and take the responsibility herself. Then I have older teens though, and I’ve completely let go of a lot of areas. He’s 19. He’s in college. You know, I don’t have really much control at all in his life. And I think that there’s stages along the way that are intermediate, of course, too.

Jim: Yeah. Okay.

Jessica: So, it’s, it’s hard though, as a parent who really wants to be involved and likes, uh, a sense of control, this is a hard way to parent (laughs).

Jim: I’m going to come back to that in just a second, but, Ashley, what, what’s been your experience deploying the, uh, get-out-of-Dodge strategy?

Ashley: Well, it works. And so (laughs) I think, whenever you continue to use these strategies that Dr. Ken talks about, then you see the results and you see that your relationship isn’t hindered but it’s growing, and there’s a trust that your teenager is, you know, your, your teenager is having a trust in you because you’re recognizing them as a young adult.

Jim: Right.

Ashley: And so, it, it’s just worked so well. Um, the music was the first one for us as well, but there comes a time when we, as parents, need to realize that either we can hand over the reins in these areas or they’re just going to do it behind our backs anyways.

Dr. Wilgus: That’s right.

Ashley: And it just goes so much better if we, as their parents, hand over that and they feel respected-

Jim: Yes.

Ashley: … versus them, you know, like listening to it at their friend’s house or, you know-

Jim: Right. That’s the only place that they can do that.

Ashley: … and then it, they’re hiding it, you know, and then that just creates conflict.

Jim: Well, that’s right, and now back to you, Dr. Ken. So, you, you have, uh, counseled thousands of parents.

Dr. Wilgus: Yeah.

Jim: You’ve seen this in play in a variety of temperaments, as Jessica was mentioning. Uh, why do we fall into that trap? What … and you use the term, actually unexamined parenting.

John: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: Yes.

Jim: What do you mean by that and how do we examine ourselves better to be more effective at the very job that we want to do?

Dr. Wilgus: Well, in a lot of parents’ defense, you know, this … we’ve had a cultural confusion for about a hundred years, like the modern sense of adolescence is a new concept. So, a lot of times, we don’t rethink how we, uh, parent our kids because that’s how we were parented. So, uh, current parents don’t know that childhood comes to a natural end by about 13 and they just carry on with what they were doing before. I’ve had … I can’t tell you how many parents are like, “Well, you know, I did the same thing my dad did, and I don’t know why I should do any different.” I said, “Did you like your dad when you were 15 (laughing)?” “No, I didn’t like my dad at all.” I’m like, “Yeah, so why would you keep doing it?” So some of that is just ignorance, but the other part is, especially among Christian families, uh, a sense of, “Well, but we’re serious about this, so we, aren’t going to just be lax and let the worldly influences come in. We’re going to do a better job.” It feels like even a more righteous approach. So, what, what’s so great, when I listen to Ashley and Jessica, these are strong moms and hearing them get it-

Jim: Uh-huh.

Dr. Wilgus: … and know that this is actively the thing we should do, develop self-respect in our teenagers, is just so exciting for me to hear that, you know, this isn’t a passivity and this certainly isn’t a giving up on, uh, godliness for our kids. It is, in fact, the opposite, increasing the effectiveness of parenting with teenagers.

Jim: I think one thing you just said, Ken, that’s so shocking is that, basically, they’re young adults at 13. I just heard a bunch of people go, “What?”.

Ashley: Yeah.

Jim: “You got to be kidding me (laughing).” “Do you know my 13-year-old?”

Ashley: Yeah.

Jim: “There’s no way, they can’t even tie their shoe, Ken. What are you talking about? I mean, come on, they can’t cook. They can’t do laundry.”

Dr. Wilgus: Come on, Jim, they can tie their shoe dude, seriously (laughing). They-

Jim: Okay, because of Velcro (laughing). But, uh, let me just would say that that is the first eye-popping thing that we tend-

Dr. Wilgus: Yeah.

Jim: … as parents, to underestimate what our 13, 14, 17-year-olds can handle, right?

Dr. Wilgus: Yeah, it’s foundational, and it’s, you know, I mention it in the book and we talk about it in the podcast, that one of the things that just struck me, when I first started studying adolescence, is that how recent our idea of adolescence were. And, if you look through history, including Jesus’ little tension with his mother, at his, at 12, and, uh, Paul’s mention in Galatians 4 about the time set by the father, all through history and all around the world, everyone knew that around 13 was the end of childhood. We are the only generation, about a hundred years ago, that forgot that. And after World War II, which is, by the way, when the wor-, the term teenager was invented, we snapped adolescence on the end of childhood and have wondered, “Wh- what’s the problem? How come these, they don’t seem to like this?” Well, they, somewhere in their gut, know that they are a young adult and that’s patronizing.

Jim: Well, that, yeah, and I think that reframing just helps you, as a parent, hopefully to let go a little bit. Uh, Ken, before we get into more of the book, I do want to ask you about formulaic parenting because I think, especially in Christian circles, we have done a lot of formula parenting that-

Dr. Wilgus: Yeah.

Jim: … uh, uh, we do approach it like a math equation, if we add A plus B, we get C. And for those temperaments, uh, that can be very difficult to wake up someday to their 15-yeah- old telling them some terrible news-

Dr. Wilgus: Yes.

Jim: … and, wait a minute, the formula didn’t work. Why not? Well, because it’s not a formula.

Dr. Wilgus: It never was (laughing).

Jim: That’s the point.

Dr. Wilgus: And I feel bad for parents, like Jessica and Ashley’s generation, that parenting … you know, like my parents did a good job. I don’t think they ever thought about their parenting. They were raising kids, you know, like raising livestock, you’d get them and go and just sell them off (laughing). It was never this, this intense focus of how am I doing?

Jim: Right.

Dr. Wilgus: And it makes it much tougher. And you’re right, uh, you, I have parents that have read so many things, but parenting is not like math. It is like sailing. You, you know where your goal is and you kind of have to tack left and right. There’s lots of things you’re going to do wrong and much things that you should have done that you didn’t do, but all of us are that way, and what you’re aiming for is good enough and, especially as Christians, it has to include recognizing that, thank God, this is not my job primarily. Jesus is with your teenager even more than you are.

Jim: Yeah.

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: And, and, and he’s, he’s doing okay.

Jim: That’s hard to absorb actually (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: Well, it’s … yeah.

Jim: … ’cause we feel so responsible for them. But you say it’s more like sailing than that math problem.

Dr. Wilgus: Exactly.

Jim: I love that analogy. It gives you a little-

Dr. Wilgus: Parents beat themselves up over-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Wilgus: … little things that it’s, it’s, it’s (laughing) going to be fine if you’re headed the right direction.

Jim: I’m laughing ’cause when our now 20-year-old left the house for school and Troy, our now 18-year-old, was 17, I remember, (laughs) the first day, he looked at us and said, “Now don’t over-parent me (laughing) just because Trent’s gone.” That’s pretty good. (laughing).

Dr. Wilgus: Using the same language right back at you. That’s good.

Jessica: That’s funny.

Jim: That’s good. He’s smarter-

Dr. Wilgus: He’s a smart boy (laughing).

Jim: It’s funny. Um, Ashley and Jessica, let me ask you, describe where the emancipation process has been most difficult for you. Ashley let’s start with you.

Ashley: I think Jessica and I can both agree (laughing)-

Jim: Okay. Wow.

Ashley: … because we have similar personalities and expectations in the way that we raise our family. Um, the biggest struggle has been letting go of how they keep their room (laughing). Uh, we are both neat and tidy moms and we keep, you know, a neat and tidy house, and so to give over the reins to our teenagers when they turn 13, because it’s one of their first freedoms, on how they keep their room, or if they keep their room clean at all. But, um, she enjoys the freedom and, when it gets really bad, she’ll clean it, but I’ve got to let go. And it’s, it’s hard. It’s a struggle. I mean, I’ve sent pictures to Jessica, (laughing) and she has sent me pictures, “Look at this,” and we just encourage each other. You know, we’ve given that freedom-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: … and it’s not a privilege, it’s a freedom, and so, once you give a freedom, you don’t take it back.

Dr. Wilgus: That is so right.

Jim: Dr. Ken, yeah, speak to that.

Dr. Wilgus: And I should mention that, in all honesty, there is still a rumor that goes around my family that my sweet wife, who’s had to be married to this mad scientist, going through all this stuff, did a very, she’s here, (laughing) did actually, uh, bribe one of our children, who shall not be named, “Would you please clean your room, but don’t tell your dad (laughing)?” So that’s what we mean by not math-

Jim: Yeah (laughing).

Dr. Wilgus: … like that’s so many levels of wrong, like you can’t trust to tell me, all that stuff.

Jim: But it did get cleaned once.

Dr. Wilgus: And, and I think … once, I think that’s about it. And what’s so great is when Ashley has already said, “Look, this is your place.”

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Wilgus: Then you’re free to say, “Whew, this is gross,” without the defensiveness of, “Okay, I’ll clean it up.” You’re not a cop about to SWAT team in, you’re just commenting on this.

Jim: Well, and it is, uh, uh, erosive to their sense of self-worth, right?

Dr. Wilgus: That’s right.

Jim: And I, I think one of the problems, let me speak for fathers, (laughing) it seems like, if we don’t get this right, we’re mis-training- … them, that if they can’t keep their room clean, they’re never going to keep a job. You know that connection, right, Dr. Ken?

Jessica: Right.

Dr. Wilgus: It comes up a lot (laughing). Yeah, people will say that.

Jim: Right. And so how, how do we teach them the right things with this approach of emancipation and they’re not seeming to get this? Now, your child, your son’s 16 and the room isn’t clean and you’re going, “He’s never going to make it at Chick-fil-A.

Jessica: Mm-hmm. (laughing).

Dr. Wilgus: Good jump (laughing). Yeah, that’s logical.

Jim: Or you know, the neuroscientist that he hopes to be. But I mean, what are those cautions?

Dr. Wilgus: Well, the thing to think about is that you did all that teaching up until twel- … and I’m all about, if you’re, uh, they’re under 13-year-old, do it, you know, the whole chart, clean your room, uh, do it again, it’s not right. I’m fine with teaching all that for children. But now that they’re young adults, the, the thing is for them to be trained, to have practiced- … in, in handling their own room and, in that regard, it’s almost better to think about what do they do when they stay with friends, and they’re very (laughs) often quite different. Some parents are even annoyed to hear, “I get so tired of people saying, ‘Your son is so gracious,’” and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s a good thing actually,” (laughs) but they don’t see it as much at home.

Jim: We totally had that experience. One of Jean’s girlfriends said, “Man, it was so awesome having your son over and spending the night ’cause he did all the dishes,” (laughing) and she was like, “What? Who (laughing)? Are you sure you got that name right?”

Dr. Wilgus: Exactly.

Jim: But isn’t that funny?

Dr. Wilgus: That’s exactly right.

Jim: And, and I was trying to encourage Jean, “That’s a great sign”-

Dr. Wilgus: That’s exactly right.

Jim: … even if he maybe is not willing to do it at home as much (laughs).

John: Well, I hope, uh, our listeners and viewers are catching a little bit of, uh, encouragement from this conversation and, uh, certainly a more lighthearted approach to some of the challenging, uh, things that can come up with with, with teenagers. Our guests are Dr. Ken Wilgus, along with Jessica Pfeiffer and Ashley Parrish, and uh, Dr. Wilgus’s book is available. We’ve got that at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And, again, that title is Feeding the Mouth That Bites You. And I don’t want to drive like too hard on this cleaning the room thing, (laughing) but is there room, is there space for a parent to say, “You can keep your room as messy as you want, but when we have ants crawling across the floor-”

Jessica: Yes.

Ashley: Yes (laughing).

John: … we’re going to do something about this?”

Ashley: Absolutely.

Jim: That’s a little late in my book, but (laughing) go ahead.

John: Well, I mean, seriously, is there room for boundaries here or is it just totally a no man zone, whatever?

Jessica: Well, I, that is what I would have to say is the hardest part about parenting this way is watching the consequences fall. You know, when your kid doesn’t keep a clean room and they can’t find their uniform for the game tonight and it’s minutes before you have to leave the house, it is very stressful to just stand there and watch them scramble and freak out in front of you. You want to jump in and help. Uh, and you have to, you have to set some consequences and boundaries and, yes, if they have ants in the room, “The exterminator’s a couple hundred dollars, babe, you’re going to have to pony up, you know (laughs).”

John: That, that was not a hypothetical, by the way. That happened. We came home from vacation one time and my daughter had left a whole bunch of candy in the room and there was like a 10-foot line of ants-

Dr. Wilgus: Right.

John: … finding the candy.

Jessica: Yes.

John: And I’m thinking, “Got to, got to draw the line somewhere on this thing.”

Ashley: Right. Right.

Jessica: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: So, as we say, with freedom always comes responsibility.

John: Yeah.

Jessica: Absolutely.

Dr. Wilgus: So, handling your own stuff, we want to respect that, but if your management of your stuff affects us, that’s different.

John: Okay.

Dr. Wilgus: So, it’s almost like being a landlord and you’re, you have a room that we let you live in. So you can have food in your room as soon as you can afford an exterminator, but since you probably can’t, it’s going to cost you a buck or 50 cents every time there’s a cup, plate, or candy bar-

John: Yeah.

Dr. Wilgus: … in your room. And most teenagers get that. They don’t balk at … you know, it’s a big, different message between, “Hey, you’re messing with us,” versus, “Cleanliness is next to godliness and I’m trying to teach you this thing.” So those kind of boundaries, uh, uh, that, those are really responsibilities. You, the other one that obviously goes with it is, “You don’t want us coming in your room messing with putting clean clothes away, so there’s the washer, there’s the dryer. You do your own laundry.”

John: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: So that falls under all of the, uh, boundaries, not so much that we’re trying to teach you but that we have the right not … for your decisions to not mess with us.

Jim: And that kind of moves into teen entitlement, which you address, and the idea that they’re, they need to learn that responsibility.

Dr. Wilgus: That’s right.

Jim: And that’s kind of what we’re getting at here, right?

Dr. Wilgus: That’s right.

Jim: Is there more to say about that, the teen entitlement and how we overplay that today?

Dr. Wilgus: Yeah, it’s different from what you might think, ’cause it’s what Ashley mentioned about, um, uh, explaining the difference between, uh, we’re not giving over privilege, we’re giving over freedom. So part of the way to help your children to not be entitled is to, uh, make them responsible for … you know, “We’re not going to let you … if you’re going to have a dog, you have to feed it and all that stuff,” and then we threaten that we’ll give it away, and we never do, (laughing) but those are the things that you try to do. But, with teenagers, that’s different, that pulling out of their, uh, life isn’t so much as giving them a shot at it as long as they handle it, it is deliberately leaving them alone. Like Ashley, I mean, Jessica mentioned, it’s hard to stand by and go, “Wow, what are you going to do since you can’t find your uniform?” and not step in.

John: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: That kind of thing, uh, helps them to, uh, uh, kind of be responsible. What helps more, though, is when you have those mixed issues, like, I think, Ashley, you had one where, uh, you … like, what do you do when your daughter didn’t have something she needed at school?

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: And, and what was the thing you told her?

Ashley: She had left her homework at home. And so she called me from school and I told her, I said, “I will bring it to you this one time,” and I said, “and from here on out, it will stay at home and you will get a zero.” She’s got to be prepared, and that’s our job as parents-

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Ashley: … is to prepare these children in training, and then, once they’re teenagers, to give them the freedoms so that, when they’re 18 and they graduate from high school, that they’re on their own because I surely don’t want to be running up folders-

Dr. Wilgus: Mm-hmm.

Ashley: … so to speak, when they’re at their job and they’re 24 years old.

Jim: Okay, this is critical. This may be the point of the program because I think, uh, parents so often bail out their kids continuously and, especially, I think Christian parents-

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: I agree.

Jim: … because you want to, we want them to succeed and we’re going to do their homework if that’s necessary.

Dr. Wilgus: That’s right.

Ashley: Right.

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That’s absolutely the wrong thing to do, right?

Dr. Wilgus: Well, it leaves self-respect out, and you can be creative. You can also, like we would say, “Okay, uh, if you forget something, we’ll bring it to you. It’s a taxi fee of $2 or $5,” so your call.

Jim: That’s good.

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I like that.

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Ashley: Yeah.

Jim: Charge a little money.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jessica: Right (laughing).

Dr. Wilgus: That’s good. Yes.

Jessica: Right.

Jim: But it, it is kind of the issue, isn’t it? Um, and we think we’re doing them a service or we’re being good parents because it reflects well upon us that we’re bailing them out, look how good we are.

Dr. Wilgus: Yes.

Jim: And we’ll get that science project done. That volcano is going to erupt-

Jessica: Yes.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: … one time. You know, I, that was one thing, I think, Jean and I did well was the science projects (laughing). We never bailed them out.

Jessica: Yes.

Jim: I mean, we made them do that on their own, and we’re in, uh, a town and we’re at a school where some of the parents are astronauts and-

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … physicists-

John: Wow.

John: And they’re very involved in those projects, aren’t they?

Jim: … ’cause they’re connected, they’re connected to-

Dr. Wilgus: Wow (laughing).

Jim: Well, yeah, they’re connected to the Air Force Academy, right?

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: Of course.

Jim: And, so, man, you get these rocket ships that actually fly (laughing) and you’re going, “That wasn’t in the rule book,” and here’s our little- … soapbox thing, you know, this little …

Dr. Wilgus: … but when you have a teenager, for example, that wants to do two sports. And you’re trying to say, “That’s not a good idea.” And this teenager is like, “Well, you don’t know. I can do whatever.” Well, what options can you do to give them self-respect? Uh, Jessica, what would you do in that spot (laughing)?

Jessica: Well, this happened very recently in my home. My daughter wanted to do two sports. They were concurrent and their practice times were exactly the same, so she would have to miss half the practices of each sport. And I said, you know, “This is a lot. You’re, you’re …” She’s upper, uh, high school age. She’s needing to get ready for college. She needs to make good grades the next couple of years. So, I said, “This is an important time for you to be buttoning down on your schoolwork and everything else. I don’t know how you’re going to balance all this.” Uh, she was determined to do it. So, I said, “Okay. Well, you know, if you want to do this, that’s up to you. You can manage your own time, you’re old enough to handle this, plus you can drive yourself to practice, I don’t have to manage that part, but I am not paying for two sports. You’re going to have to come up with the money. I’ll pay for one sport. It can be the most expensive sport, because I would have paid for a sport anyway, uh, but the other one, you’re going to have to cover.” So, man, she was doing yard work and babysitting and everything else to make it happen. She did it. It’s tough. It’s not been working out very well (laughs).

Jim: Yeah.

Jessica: It’s a lot of time, but, uh, it’s, it, it is a lesson to be learned. She, she might not do this again (laughing).

Jim: And I think, I, I think we’re getting to the point that I really want to make and that I think has been such a help to us, uh, Dr. Ken, and again, Jean has become an apologist for your great book, (laughing) uh, Feeding the Mouth That Bites You. And, uh, the point is this, that it, it feels contrary to hold the kids accountable in that way, it feels like we’re being mean, but, in fact, we’re being what they need-

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … because they need to learn that responsibility, and that’s what’s so, um, absent today in parenting, don’t you think?

Dr. Wilgus: It’s really true. And it, and it’s the kind of thing that, you know, there, there’ll be parents that will pick up the book and they’re like, “Oh, yeah, we already kind of get this. We hadn’t used the words you’re doing, but we kind of get it.” And then, uh, but there are some that, really, it, it almost hits them as the wrong way to do it, and that’s why it’s so important. I love the podcast, where we have two strong moms that are very nurturing because, to a nurturing mom, leaving, like Jessica mentioned, her daughter to have to pay for this and not bailing her out, that feels worse than not, uh … it feels unloving.

Jim: Right.

Dr. Wilgus: But the, the thing you have to think about is, well, but, but to bail them out is to be disrespectful, and to give your young adults self-respect, you have to pull back and leave these things more to their own decision-making. So it, it’s one or the other, you can’t, uh, think about it as, well, but I’m going to always go for being loving and bailing them out, uh, without thinking about, yeah, but what are you going to do to help them build self-respect?

Jim: Yeah. There’s so much to cover, so let’s, uh, let’s hold over. Let’s go another day and we’ll cover some more territory out of, uh, the great book and your great experiences. Can we do that?

Jessica: Yeah, sure.

Ashley: Sure, it sounds great.

Jim: All right, let’s do it.

John: Well, and in the meantime, make sure you contact us here at Focus on the Family, to get a copy of Dr. Wilgus’s book, Feeding the Mouth That Bites You. Uh, we’ve got copies of that. We also have a free parenting assessment that takes just a few minutes. Um, it’s online and it’ll help you see where you’re strong in your parenting and maybe some areas to work on and maybe even let go of. Uh, again, uh, our phone number is 800-A-FAMILY. Online, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: John, let me also mention we’ll link to the podcast so folks can find that. And then also, uh, boy, if you can make a gift of any amount, we believe in the content that Dr. Ken Wilgus has in this book, Feeding the Mouth That Bites You. We’ll get it out for a gift of any amount. We’ll just say thank you and send that to you. If you can’t afford it, we’ll send it to you if you need it and trust that others will cover the cost of that, so just get in touch with us. And if you can, uh, join us in the ministry here at Focus on the Family.

John: And you can donate and find resources, once more, at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we continue the conversation and, once more, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

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Feeding the Mouth That Bites You

Receive Dr. Kenneth Wilgus' book Feeding the Mouth That Bites You for your donation of any amount! And when you give today, your support will be DOUBLED to Give Families Hope!

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Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

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Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

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Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

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Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you! 

Focus on the Family

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