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Guiding Your Teen Into Adulthood (Part 2 of 2)

Guiding Your Teen Into Adulthood (Part 2 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 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: March 19, 2021

John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, why finding the perfect formula for parenting your kids is not a good goal.

Excerpt:

Dr. Ken Wilgus: Parenting is not like math, it is like sailing. You- you know where your goal is and you kinda have to tack left and right. There’s lots of things you’re gonna do wrong and much things that you shoulda 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.

End of Excerpt

John: That’s Dr. Ken Wilgus, who specializes in helping parents and teens navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood with greater success. He’s written a book called Feeding the Mouth That Bites You, in which he describes a novel approach to parenting, something he calls planned emancipation. Dr. Wilgus is a psychologist, author, and podcast host, and he’s back with us today. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Uh, John, we had a marvelous conversation last time with Ken and his two, uh, cohost moms, Jessica and Ashley, uh, describing some better ways to interact with your teens. And I just wanna say, Jean and I, uh, when we read the book a couple of years ago, it really changed how we parented and- and I would gladly endorse this and say this is one of the best parenting books that parents can get their hands on. And we’ve put it into play, and it made a dramatic change in the way the boys related to us.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And the whole construct of emancipating these teenagers, giving them more responsibility, trusting them to do what they wanna do with it is really tough. In fact, I’ll give you an example. We had, you know, the senior year, Dr. Ken said you gotta really let your teenager decide if they’re gonna go to church with you. And we were like, “What, are you insane?” And, uh, we said that to Trent and, uh, it shocked him at first, and- but I would say it really turned him more toward us than running from us (laughs), which is really the-

John: You gave him room-

Jim: The proof-

John: To make the-

Jim: Yeah.

John: Choice.

Jim: The proof in the pudding-

John: Yeah.

Jim: And so, I- I really wanna encourage you to lean in and listen today and then get a copy of this great book, Feeding the Mouth That Bites You. And we’ll give you all the details in a minute.

John: Well, I’ll give it to you right now. In fact, it’s focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or 800 the letter A, and the word FAMILY. And, uh, you’ll also find a link to the previous conversation, the first part of this conversation, which is invaluable, we really do recommend that you, uh, look for that. And, uh, Dr. Wilgus is a psychologist, author, and speaker and he’s joined by his, uh, two colleagues who cohost the podcast with him, Jessica Pfeiffer and Ashley Parrish.

Jim: Well, Ken, Ashley, Jessica, thank you for being with us.

Jessica Pfeiffer: Thank you for-

Dr. Wilgus: Thanks.

Jessica: Having us.

Jim: We- we covered a lot of ground yesterday and if- folks, if you missed that program, go ahead and get the smartphone app or go to the website and you can hear yesterday’s program. But let’s kick it off, uh, today where I’d like to start with some of the common parenting mistakes that you’ve seen, Ken, and what we should be doing, instead of what we are doing? And maybe you could just start there? Why do we parent probably the way we were parented, even if it didn’t work well? Why don’t we stop and ask ourselves that question?

Dr. Wilgus: Well, you know-

Jim: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: It- in- especially since most of us, um, didn’t love our adolescence, um, growing up, uh, so it is funny that we don’t actually think of it more often. Like, hey, do I wanna keep doing that? But what are the alternatives? So, the- the families that I work with are involved, caring families. Uh, you know, it takes some time and money to come see me. And so, the most parenting mistake of those parents, and ver- probably many that are listening, is trying to still use childhood parenting techniques with teenagers. That’s basically what happens most of the time. “We have always done this. He never liked cleaning his room. We used to have to remind him couple, three times. But he’d get up and he’d go do it. But Dr. Wilgus, now he’s 13, he has a hearing loss. I- I don’t know.”

Jim: (laughs)-

Jessica: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: We- we yell, we keep saying it and he just ignor- … What is this? Well, it’s called adolescence and it is common for parents not to recognize that that is a distinct stage of development that is at the early part of adulthood, not the later part of childhood. So that’s the most common-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Wilgus: Mistake I see.

Jim: And it just leans toward where I wanted to go, which is the have-tos versus the advice. And sometime-

Dr. Wilgus: Yes.

Jim: As parent- I- I’m guilty of this. My advice is really a must-do.

Jessica: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: (laughs)-

Jim: But I say it in a way-

John: (laughs)-

Jim: That’s a strong recommendation.

Dr. Wilgus: You’re making speeches, aren’t you-?

Jim: So, I-

Dr. Wilgus: Jim?

Jim: Yeah, basically-

Dr. Wilgus: Yes. Yes, you are.

Jim: I’m very confusing for my teenager to understand. What is it you want me to do, dad? Just say it.

Dr. Wilgus: Well, you know, it’s- it’s worth thinking about. Almost everything that comes out of your mouth, a teenager is gonna be kinda trying put it in one of two categories. Is this something that is advice or is this a have-to or about to become a have-to? And that’s a lot of why you get the defensiveness. So it’s really important to get good at communicating that the thing that I’m about to tell you is advice or the thing I’m about to tell you is a have-to, as in, if you don’t do it, there’ll be this consequence. But the bulk of what I think parents are really trying to talk about is actually advice, but they wanna put it in firm-

Jim: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: I’ve lived a while tones that they think will help … remember but, you know, the thing that I always remember is that one of the episodes of the podcast, I interviewed my children. They’re like 32, 30 and-

Jim: Oh, that’s-

Dr. Wilgus: 25.

Jim: Gutsy.

Dr. Wilgus: So (laughs)-

Jessica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Wilgus: It was.

Jessica: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: And I said to them, “So, as you know, I recommend to parents: Do not make speeches. Did I make speeches?”

Jim: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: All three of them went, “Oh yeah, you made speeches.” So, grasping

John: Talked about speeches.

Jim: Hold it, hold it, what were you-

Dr. Wilgus: Grasping at straws.

Jim: Expecting to hear?

Dr. Wilgus: Okay, I- I- I- you’re right. I- it was a softball.

John: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: I didn’t know. I was hoping something better. So, I’ve- I reached for the last thing, which was, “Well, do you think my speeches helped you?”

Jim: (laughs)-

Ashley Parrish: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: And one of my children, my middle, sweet one, the good one-

John: (laughs)-

Ashley: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: You know, said this-

Jim: Most lovable one.

Dr. Wilgus: Yeah, y- you know what I mean? She said, “Well, daddy, I remember that you made speeches. I don’t remember anything you said in your speeches.”

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: So, I’ve always kept that in mind that parents love to quote themselves in these communications that are really advice, but remember that those kinda things, they don’t remember it. But if you give it as advice, if you start by saying, “Listen, can I just tell you this is your friend and, you know, you’re old enough, you- you choose your own friends. But- and maybe this is just me, but I just think, you know, since they got into cheerleading and you didn’t, I just feel like they don’t treat you with respect like before, but that’s up to you and maybe you should ignore that.” That’s actually a better way for them to hear it than to try to go the hard route, which is, “Listen, I know a few things, and that lecture stuff gets turned right off because you can’t make me. And so, it’s much more effective to talk like that.”

Jim: You- you use an analogy, just to get back, ’cause I think, again, we need to underline this about our speeches as parents. I’ve tried to refrain from that. I try to do the advice thing.

John: Do the best you can.

Jim: I do the best I can.

Ashley: (laughs)-

Jim: When I get a hold of that-

John: (laughs)-

Jim: That nerve into my-

Dr. Wilgus: Oh yeah.

Jim: Tongue there.

Dr. Wilgus: Yeah.

Jim: But, uh, you mentioned the raft analogy. Uh, I think we as adults need something to hang onto. What’s the raft analogy?

Dr. Wilgus: Well, I’ve- you know, I’ve told many parents that are doing, again, often what they think is God’s work of I am continuing to teach, teach, teach, and- and my favorite is, “Well, what did- what did she say after you finished saying that?” “Um, nothing, but- but you could tell.” And I’m like, “No.” What- what’s happening is that you are, uh, basically on a raft, way out on the ocean, just about-

Jim: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: To cross over the horizon and they can barely hear this blah-blah that you’ve been saying now for the last 17 years and your- your chance of being heard at all is just about gone-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: If you keep doing this childish technique of teaching, demanding, controlling. If- if- if you want to be effective, you have to rethink how you communicate with them if you want them to hear them.

Jim: Nah, it’s so true. Jessica, I wanna bring you into this discussion. You described how you were indulging your kids, maybe too much. Even to the, uh, detriment of your marriage.

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Explain the circumstances if you will and I think a lot of women, particularly, are gonna connect with this. So, ho- how were you sacrificing marital time for teen time?

Jessica: Well, I think that parents of four kids can relate, or even two. One or two. You start filling your time with, you know, the kids wanna be involved in a sport, the kids wanna be involved in this leadership opportunity at school, the kids wanna do something with youth group. All of a sudden, you look at your calendar and it is completely filled with activities of all the family members and there is absolutely no time for you or your husband to be together, there’s no time to connect with your family over the dinner table. You know, you’ve let it all go.

Jessica: And I think especially this year, with COVID and a lot of staying at home, people have kinda regrouped and said, “Uh-uh, no more. We’re not doing this anymore. We’re slowing things down. We’re gonna shut down some of these- these options here.” Because we- we need that. Uh, but it- it definitely- being overindulgent really sacrificed my marriage time, but it also put a lot of tension between my husband and I, because we didn’t agree on how many activities the kids should do, we didn’t agree on what they should be a part of. I was wanting them to do everything, he was pulling back and saying, “No, this isn’t good for our family.”

Jim: And- and how did you come to agreement?

John: Hmm.

Jim: Did you just lay down?

Jessica: No.

Jim: No, I mean, seriously-

Jessica: (laughs)-

Jim: I mean, some wives would feel like, “Well, he’s just having me capitulate.” But did-

Jessica: I-

Jim: You want to say, “Okay, I get it”?

Jessica: No. I think at times, I was exhausted, and I saw his point and then other times I was, “No, I can do it. I’ll just pull myself up by my bootstraps and we’ll make it happen. I’ll figure out another way.”

Jim: ‘Cause you’re Supermom.

Jessica: I- ’cause I want- I want the kids to do all these things. These are good things. Uh, but I think at the end of the day, I had to, and I still struggle with this, this is not- this is an ever-present problem, but, uh, I had to say, “Okay, look, this is a- this relationship with my spouse is gonna keep going when these kids move out and I’ve gotta prioritize his needs and our family time together more than I do my kids’ agendas.”

Jim: And this is- you know, this is all in that area of entitlement that we talked about last time. Again, if you missed it, get the download. John will give those details in a minute. Um, Ashley, ley me turn to you. Y- you mentioned a strategy for countering that entitlement by serving others. I think that was something that you’ve talked about on the podcast. So, ho- why is that important to get your teens to think about other people? I mean, are you serious? Do you know my teenagers?

Ashley: (laughs)-

Jim: All they can do is think about themselves.

Ashley Parrish: Well, I think that’s always been something on my heart. I was raised by my grandparents and my grandfather was disabled-

Jim: Oh man.

Ashley: And so from the time I was little, I was constantly helping my grandparents do daily activities, helping my grandfather get to the rest room, helping my grandmother in the kitchen and serve him and so I always had eyes that were looking out towards others and it always filled me with such joy to bless others. And so, becoming a mother and having seven children, I am with them and I serve them and I am nurturing to them. And we have a mom and a dad living in a home, raising these seven children. And so, they don’t have the same experience I did. And so, it won’t come natural to them like it did to me, because it was an everyday thing in my life. So, I have got to be intentional about creating opportunities for them to look outside theirself and serve others and we do that in all sorts of ways. But it’s always a top priority for me.

Jim: Yeah, let me- let me ask you that, because one of the things, uh, and I’m sure saying this in front of Dr. Ken will get me in trouble here-

Dr. Wilgus: (laughs)-

Jim: But, you know, one of the things I had a rough childhood, as well.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Orphan kid, all that. So, I thought, you know, my kids are not gonna have to suffer those things.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: So, I’m sure that I’ve overindulged them.

Ashley: (laughs)-

Jim: I’m looking at Ken now- He’s giving me that eye.

Ashley: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: So much trouble.

Jim: You know, for example, I didn’t get a chance to go to Disneyland.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: So how many times you think my boys have gone to Disneyland?

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: 20-something.

John: (laughs)-

Jim: And they’re 20. (laughs)-

Ashley: Right.

Jim: So, uh, you know, that’s part of it, too. We can- especially with our backgrounds, we can over-correct.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And what’s the danger of that? It- it sounds good to me, Dr. Ken.

Dr. Wilgus: Well, you know-

Ashley: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: It’s like so many things. It feels like this is gonna be good for my kids, but actually it was good for you back when you couldn’t have it, but it may not be good for your kids. So, this- it’s not always wrong.

Jim: Right.

Dr. Wilgus: But you have to be careful about are we really serving our kids. And, like Ashley mentioned, you know, it was an important thing for her to know that serving others actually brings joy, but if you take all of that on and I’m going to serve my kids and not give them the chance to serve others and/or even me, then you’re kinda hoarding all that joy. You have to, uh, really meet your kids where they are. And in your case, for example, the reason you’re in trouble is because you wanna be careful that, it’s very tempting, but the idea of I’m gonna give them what I should’ve had often isn’t really what they needed at the time, because, you know, your kids were raised better than you were.

John: Hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: You’ve giv- they’ve been given a different experience-

Jim: No, I so- Appreciate that, but- That- that is one of the traps we can fall into. We justify-

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That overindulging-

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And we say, “Well, you know, it’s- it’s my love for them.”

Dr. Wilgus: Ex- it’s exactly right.

Jim: You’ve got-

Dr. Wilgus: Just my love.

Jim: I’ve got all the words.

Dr. Wilgus: And Disneyland.

Jim: And Disneyland.

Ashley: Can I share- can I share a story about- how I teach my children to take their eyes off and how I do it with a teenager?

Dr. Wilgus: Yeah, yeah.

Ashley: So, we recently, a year and a half ago, moved to a small town. And in our small town, there are some needs of children that attend school with my children. And I’m passionate about serving those needs for those children, because I remember with my- growing up with my grandparents that I would look at the other children and what they had and I go- would get second hand things. And I was thankful for them.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Ashley: And so, as a grown adult, um, you know, we have, and so I want to serve the others that need. And so recently, we had a coat drive for children in our neighborhood and our community, and we had bought our children a lemonade stand. We had it made for them. And the purpose of the lemonade stand was never for them to make a profit, but to find ways to serve other people in our community. And it was funny because my oldest son, um, mentioned, “I need to use that lemonade stand.” (laughs). “I want to make some money ’cause there are things that I wanna buy.” And my six-year-old, one of my six year old twin girls, said, “That’s not what we do with that lemonade stand. Mom makes us use it for charity.” (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: Cool example (laughs)-

Jim: It’s good.

Ashley: So, we had a coat drive where we made hot chocolate. And so, if you brought a used- a gently used coat, or a new, if you would like, then you would get hot chocolate for free. And so we set up our stand, we decorated it, it was really sweet, and I told my teenager, I said, “Hey, listen,” she asked if she could go somewhere, I said, “Hey, listen, you can- you can go there. Remember, that’s the day that we’re having the hot chocolate stand.” Um, I said, “But you’re a teen, you don’t have to be involved-”

Dr. Wilgus: That’s good.

Ashley: “If you don’t want to.” And she missed out on her event that she wanted to go to with her event so that she could stay home with ut.

Jim: Oh-

Ashley: And serve.

Jim: Wow, that’s great.

Dr. Wilgus: See, that’s exactly right. If you’d done the same thing with, “No, this is coat drive day, remember-”

Ashley: Right.

Dr. Wilgus: “Since you were eight,” then you invite a kind of pushback-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: But respecting that, listen, at your age, and the younger kids will hear this-

Jim: Right.

Dr. Wilgus: Then you can make your own choice, that h- handed her self-respect. That’s perfect.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Wilgus: Exactly right.

John: Hmm.

Jim: It’s your choice.

Dr. Wilgus: Exactly.

Ashley: Yeah.

John: Our guests today on Focus on the Family are, uh, Ashley Parrish and Jessica Pfeiffer and Dr. Ken Wilgus and we’ve got Dr. Wilgus’ book, Feeding the Mouth That Bites You on our website. Just stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

Jim: Let me go back to something we often address, and that’s building your teenager’s faith. I mean, we believe the measurement of faith is how often do you go to church. (laughs)- Not so much how do I read the Word and put the Word into play, right? Which is really the goal, understanding, embracing the Word. And I think many, uh, parents are terrified that their- you know, their good, Christian kids, all this investment for 13, 14, 15 years and going to Bible study and doing all the right things, all the sudden they’re gonna not do those things if they’re given a choice, Dr. Ken.

Dr. Wilgus: That’s right.

Jim: So, I mean, wow, let’s just keep going with what’s brought us to the dance here.

Dr. Wilgus: They haven’t said anything, let’s-

Jim: (laughs)-

Dr. Wilgus: Just hope they don’t notice.

Jim: Right.

Dr. Wilgus: Keep doing it.

Jim: And so often, what we hear at Focus on the Family from parents is that our kids were generally good, now they’ve gone off the rails. They were doing everything so well. What happened to them? And that can happen at 17, 18, or soon as they get those freedoms, maybe when they go to college-

Dr. Wilgus: Right.

Jim: Their-

Dr. Wilgus: Right.

Jim: First year in college-

Dr. Wilgus: Right.

Jim: Ends up being a disaster because they’ve gone from, uh, a really clean living environment, and I mean that spiritually, to a dorm room at some school that all things are happening around them and they get sucked into that.

Dr. Wilgus: And they’re not prepared to-

Jim: And they’re not-

Dr. Wilgus: Stand for-

Jim: Prepared.

Dr. Wilgus: Themselves.

Jim: So, address that. That’s a broad question but address that approach and how do we- how do we help kids own their faith before they leave the house.

Dr. Wilgus: Yeah, it’s probably the pinnacle method or- or reason that planned emancipation is there, is that that’s where things can be the worst, is that as parents, Christian parents, the idea of saying, “Hey, you don’t- it’s between you and God now, whether you go to church,” seems wrong. I am here to s- I’m- in my family, we’re going to go to church. That just seems like the thing you hold onto. But depending upon the research that you look at, 60 to 80 percent of high school-involved Christian church kids completely fall off the spiritual map after they leave home. Many of them will come back. But why do they leave? Well, there’s various reasons, and the faith is not an ideology, it’s not what you teach, the spirit has to give it to you, so that’s a- important to keep in mind. However, the teenagers and young adults I’ve talked to, many of them, when they no longer participate in the faith after they leave home, it’s not even because they’ve got some big rebellious streak, it’s like, yeah, what happened to you in church? Huh? Oh, no, yeah, ma, I do wanna come home. But it like never occurred to them that this is not a thing that your parents do now, it’s yours. So it’s very critical that at the very least, the spring of your senior year, if not senior year, it’s really important that they hear that in this house, you’ve grown up, and this is between you and God. And as we always say, giving that freedom then should open up the ability to actually communicate about it, so that a month later when, “Still not going with us? Okay, dude.” Uh, you can take ’em aside and say, “So does this bother you at all? ‘Cause, you know, seems weird, we thought you were a Christian.” “What do you mean, of course I’m a Christian.” “Um, I don’t know. You- you can’t really say you’re in the Dallas Cowboys team if you don’t go to practice, you never show up to the games.” I’m not sure if that- you know, that’s much more jolting than, “Get up, go to chur-” it’s- it’s a real discussion of, “Well, what is your faith then? Because what you’re showing looks like ma- maybe you don’t really have it.” That’s way more effective than check the box, I did the parenting thing, I made my kids go and we were always there at church and we looked really good.

Jim: Wow, that’s interesting. Now as mother practitioners, let me go to-

Dr. Wilgus: Yeah.

Jim: Jessica-

Ashley: (laughs)-

Jim: And Ashley to get their experience with that. Uh, Jessica, you have older children too.

Jessica: I do.

Jim: So how has that journey been, the faith journey, as you’ve let go and let them own it?

Jessica: Well, I think that the real problem with parents is the pride gets in the way. You really want your kids to turn out and they reflect poorly on you if they’re not going to church or if they’ve fallen away or they’re living in a way that is unwholesome and, uh, unholy. And so, I think as a parent, I’ve had to drop that pride and say, “I- I- I value authenticity. I want my kid to be honest with me. I don’t want them lying to me when they go off to college and say, oh, yeah, yeah, mom, I’m going to college, I’m in a Bible study, and not- not really being their- their true walk.” I wanna be praying for them. And my husband and I have had some experiences with my oldest that were heartbreaking and hard, particularly his freshman year of college. Um, and my husband said to me, “We- we know a lot. He tells us everything.” And I said, “I’d rather not, I’d rather be naïve.”

Dr. Wilgus: (laughs)-

Jessica: (laughs). And he said-

Dr. Wilgus: (laughs)-

Jessica: He said, “No, you know what, you don’t wanna be naïve, ’cause then you wouldn’t know what to pray for.”

Jim: Huh.

Jessica: And I think that’s really as a parent where we- we wanna have our eyes wide open and that only happens when you’re not trying to control the situation, when you’re letting them have the discussion with you that may be exact opposite of your faith and your beliefs- You know, but- but still opening the conversation and loving them through that and continuing to pray for them.

Jim: That’s so good. Ashley, how about you? Have you experienced those, uh, transitions yet with faith and-

Ashley: Well, my oldest is 14 and so she can’t drive and so she still has to attend church with us as a family. But my own experience as an adolescent really gave me the confidence and faith in the Lord that we say that our children are God’s all the time. You know? Whether we’re like, “Oh, well, our kids are God’s first.” But we have really got to put the rubber to the road when they become adolescents and remind ourselves that and that God is a better father than we could ever be as a parent. You know, like he’s a better parent to our teenagers than we could ever be. And there’s got to come a time where we believe what we’re saying-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: And what we’ve been saying, and that God is so much bigger and he’s with them-

Dr. Wilgus: And you’ve already had faith discussions with your oldest that were specifically trying not to be over-controlling and teach-y, isn’t that right?

Ashley: Right, right. Right. Um, as a 14 year old, you know, we recently had a faith discussion and she was pretty upset about something and I kinda talked to her and reminded her, I said, “You’re God’s first. Remember?” And I just kind of reminded her when she was younger, she got this- this T-shirt and said, “God’s girl.” And she wore that T-shirt out.

Jim: (laughs)-

Ashley: I mean (laughs) I could barely get it off of her to wash it. But just to remind her of that now as a 14-year-old facing trials and- and issues with her friends in junior high, it kinda just reminded her of, that’s right. That’s who I am.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: That’s who I belong to. And that was so much more impactful than anything else I could’ve come up with.

Jim: Yeah. And Ken, I- I’m mindful, we’re coming down to the end of day two here, and, uh, kinda the wrap up moment. And I’m thinking of those parents … this has been good, we’ve talked a lot about letting go, but I’m thinking of those parents that had to let go because they never really had control at 15, 16, 17-

Dr. Wilgus: Right.

Jim: It’s been a difficult path. And it’s harder than what we’ve been describing here. They’re maybe 20-something now is walked away. And, you know, there’s lots of reasons for that. One is self-determination, right?

Dr. Wilgus: That’s right.

Jim: That person has a free will. God gave your child free will.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: And they can exercise that and hopefully God will use all those experiences to bring that child back and that’s something you mentioned a moment ago, Ken, that a lot of the research, yeah, 60 to 80 percent of that 18, 19 year old group will walk away from the faith, but about 50% by 30, 35 will actually come back.

Dr. Wilgus: That’s right.

Jim: And that’s great news. But, um, it’s still hard, you know? You’re- there’s still suffering that they have that 20-something now who isn’t talking about god, that is a prodigal.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jessica: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And let’s face it, there’s a lot of things in the culture that can pull on our adult children, on our teen children, to get them away from a God-centered life, you know, whether that’s sexual or drugs or whatever it might be. And I- I think the right place to end here, Ken, is with that word of hope for that parent and maybe what advice you would have for that parent and just imagine that 20-something prodigal son or daughter. What do you say to them?

Dr. Wilgus: You know, I talk to a lot of parents who are aware that, you know, adolescence, for their children, is an important spiritual journey. But it’s really important for parents to be aware that that stage of parenting is a spiritual journey- journey for parents, as well. So, we tell our children that we trust in God and that our confidence in our relationship with the one true God is through Jesus. And yet we flip out over stuff and often, uh, what happens with a- a kid that is sort of off-track but also doesn’t wanna talk to us as parents, that it- it can be very powerful and a big part of your faith to come to that 20 year old and say something like, “Listen, you know, I talk to you all about my faith and I know you get tired of that. But I gotta let you know, I think there are times I have not shown that. And- and I’ve been all scared and really a lot of times, uh, we’ve talked to you in a way that we were trying to be helpful but I think we were disrespectful and we sounded like we thought you were still a child. And we’re really sorry about that. And- and if that seems that we don’t respect you as an adult, we wanna take all that back, especially since, and again, I know you don’t believe all this, but our belief in God tells us that, you know, you’re- you’re in His hands. And so, we really wanna make sure that we’ve been clear with you.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Wilgus: That kind of humility, and- and- and truthful statement, you have to first pray that through, uh, uh, I think it’s important for parents to know, the window doesn’t close on that.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Wilgus: That you can start wherever you are right now a- and- and kind of start to reconnect through real humble and- and repentance from- again, from a- an adult’s viewpoint can look like I know you were trying to help, but you really made me feel disrespected. And you can take ownership of that as a parent and it can many times, very powerful.

Jim: Man, this has been so good. Thank you for being with us again and thank you-

Ashley: Thank you-

Jim: For what you’re doing-

Ashley: Thank you so much.

Jim: Man, raising 11 kids, the two of you-

Jessica: (laughs)-

Jim: I just think of that, what a wonderful thing. Biggest smile I’ve ever seen on my boys’ faces, is to say, “Man, I just wish we would’ve had more of you.”

Jessica: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Jim: And they put it- they get the biggest smile. They go, “Really?” Absolutely. And I’m so proud of you for what you do each and every day as a mom and all the moms listening right now. Thank you.

Jessica: Thank you.

Ashley: Thank you.

John: And we’ll encourage you to get a copy of Dr. Wilgus’ book, Feeding the Mouth That Bites You, and, uh, certainly if there are other ways that we can help, give us a call. Our number’s 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY or visit focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And, uh, I might make mention of our free online parenting assessment. Uh, many, many parents have benefited from this short little survey of- kind of an inventory of where you’re at and, uh, it’ll help you better understand your parenting strengths and maybe an area or two of weakness. So, look for that online, as well.

Jim: You know, I said this last time, John, uh, Jean and I believe in this book so much and what Dr. Ken has, uh, formulated over the years through experience and through counseling lots of parents. Uh, that if you need this resource, Feeding the Mouth That Bites You, really how to emancipate your teenagers into adulthood, it’s a brilliant, brilliant approach to parenting, and I think very godly. Uh, get in touch with us. If you can make a gift of any amount, we’ll send the book as our way of saying thank you. If you can’t afford it, we’ll send it to you. Just let us know. We’re gonna trust others will cover the expense of that.

Jim: But the point is, uh, if you’re struggling in your parenting journey or if you’re in that space where your kids are 8, 9, 10, this is a perfect time to study this, because you’re on the precipice of, uh, really some exciting parenting times and we want you to do it well.

John: Donate today as you can and get a copy of this book. Again, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.  I’m John Fuller and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. Be sure to join us next time as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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