Mrs. Nina Roesner: I had a situation with my son. He was just not filling out his college applications and it was driving me nuts. And he says to me, he’s like, “Mom, you just need to know that the more you talk to me about this, the less I want to do it.”
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Navigating how you’re gonna approach issues with your teen is difficult and that’s Nina Roesner. She’s one of our guests today on “Focus on the Family.” Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, being a parent of teens is tough. I think both of us can speak from experience. But especially when they challenge those boundaries and make poor choices and act disrespectfully toward us, the parents, right?
John: Those are the most trying times.
Jim: I mean that is what sets us off as moms and dads. And today we’re going to help you understand a vital need of your teen, and that is to receive–that’s what I said–receive respect from you, the parent. And this may sound counterintuitive. Maybe you want respect from your teen, but I think you’ll be intrigued by some of the insights our guests are going to share today.
John: And if at any time during our conversation you’re thinking, I need that book, or I want to hear that again well, you could always continue to listen.
Jim: I’m desperate for that book, whatever it might be.
John: Or you could pop over to http://focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or call us, 1-800-A-FAMILY and you’ll find a variety of resources there, including a CD or download of this program. The book we’re talking about today is With All Due Respect. And as I said, our guests include Nina Roesner and also Debbie Hitchcock, who have together written this book. They work together at Greater Impact Ministries, and relevant to the discussion, Nina has three children and Debbie has four. They have walked this talk here, Jim.
Jim: That’s right. Welcome to the program.
Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock: It’s great to be here. Thank you.
Nina, you still have teenagers, and Debbie, yours are in their 20s, so you guys are experienced parents. That’s the point, right?
Jim: You’ve lived it. You’ve lived it.
Nina: We’re living it now.
Jim: You’re not childless, talking about parenting.
Nina and Debbie: No, not really. Yeah.
Jim: You are pros, but speak to that moment when your sweet adolescent is now becoming a teenager.
Nina: Yeah, you know for me it was just this defining moment of this isn’t working. The way we were doing things works with little kids, but it doesn’t work with people who are trying to become adults and separate in a healthy way. And my husband actually had the insight where I was about to kill my oldest son, but I had thoughts that were probably not super-holy about him. He was making me crazy, right? So I was talking to my husband, and Jim says to me, “You know what? He needs respect. He’s trying to become a man and you’re treating him like he’s still 8-years-old.”
Jim: And that made sense to you for some reason.
Nina: Yeah, I could get that. Yeah, you know.
Jim: Some moms it bounces off of them, and some dads. I mean I don’t want to say just moms, but parents, that kind of statement from the other observing spouse may not go down well. How do you open yourself up to that kind of reflection that maybe we’re not doing what we need to do?
Nina: Ideally you both are on the same page and you have the same value system where you’re making similar decisions, you know, so if mom says something, dad would say the same things, so you get the same ideals there. And then if you collaborate on a decision, then both of you support it, no matter how much push-back the kid’s giving you, you are aligned together, and you have to be, because I can’t even think of a more stressful time than parenting teenagers than your marriage gets, you know, just hammered.
Jim: That’s true. That’s all the pillow talk. [For] Jean and I that’s true. I mean, you know, I think the other areas of our marriage are in a great place, but when it comes to how do we approach this with our teenagers, that’s usually where you’re thinking maybe you’re gonna say goodnight and get some sleep and it’s, “I’ve got somethin’ I need to tell you about the kids.” And you’re, “No! Don’t do that!” Debbie, how did you find that doable with four teenagers? They’re now in their 20s, but you must have, at that time, had tweens and teens all at the same time.
Debbie: Oh, we did. And I think the thing for us was the fact that we thought we were on the same page, you know? We had this great marriage going in, and then all of a sudden you realize, “Wait a minute. You have a totally different idea of how this thing should be handled than I do.” And it was how do we pull it together? And that’s when the marriage stress really just starts coming in.
Jim: Interesting and in that regard, how do you suggest, when the one spouse is observing things that could go a little better if we did it this way, but the other spouse just doesn’t want to hear it? I mean, you know, you’re not seeing it. But I don’t know; what does that look like for the parents who are struggling but they can’t talk it out? What do you do?
Debbie: Well, it’s interesting, ’cause what we’ve found is that a lot of times parents don’t realize how much their childhood plays into their parenting. So we don’t get this manual that says, “Here’s what you need to do with that kid,” and it ends up happening is you just react rather than actually doing what it is, you know, you should be thinking about doing. And so what we found is that, at least for my husband and I, we came from totally different childhood experiences, and for me it was, I was the one that was a little more hesitant and, you know, “Oh, that’s the rule. We really need to push it.” And my husband traveled a lot, so for him, he wants to come home, you know, on the weekends, and have fun with the kids.
Debbie: And I’ve been dealing with all the stuff, and it’s like, okay, we need to deal with this, but, you know, he doesn’t want to.
Jim: Did you ever say, “Okay, Mr. Fun Guy?” (Laughter) Or maybe that’s just my own experience. (Laughter) But it’s so true.
John: Recently haven’t you?
Jim: And that’s so typical of husbands who travel quite a bit. I mean that, to me, is a common [situation] and yes, Jean and I have had that conversation. I remember talking to Gary Chapman. He had a great recommendation for marriage. He said, “Go home and ask your spouse what’s one thing you can do, not your spouse, one thing you can do to improve your marriage.” And I went home and did that with Jean, and she said, “I’ve got two.” I thought, “Wow, so fast? How long have you had these?”
But the first one was related to the kids, which is you’re so spontaneous, you kind of, you’ll come home and say, “Hey, let’s take the kids to Disneyland this weekend,” but you’ve said it in front of them, and I’ve got to be the downer and say, “You know, we can’t logistically pull that off.” And she said, “It makes me feel like I’m the bad parent.” So we have to be mindful of that. I’ve done a lot better, John, I want you to know.
John: You haven’t gone to Disney for a long time.
Jim: And thankfully, we can’t remember, either one of us, what the second thing was, so hopefully I’ve improved in that area. But it’s true; you have to be on that same page, or you can really do damage to the kids too.
Debbie: Well, and the other thing that we found in our parenting is that, you know, it’s the bedroom talk, you know, it’s, “Okay, this is what’s going on with this kid,” and as we did that, my husband and I would not be on the same page, but what I would do is I would say, “you know, I really think this would be helpful if you would handle it this way.” And at times he was like, “No, I’m just gonna to fix the problem.” So the next morning we would get up; he would have time to sleep on it; so overnight he would kind of change his tune. And we’d go in the next morning; he liked to be the dad, when he was home, of getting up and fixing breakfast for the kids.
Jim: What’s your husband’s name?
Debbie: Oh yeah, Dave was great about that.
Jim: This is my same thing, every Saturday cooking breakfast.
Debbie: Oh yeah, he would get up, fix breakfast for the kids, and that was their time, because he was busy traveling and would get home late while the kids were off doing their activities. And so for him, it was one of those things where, you know, he’d get up and he’d go, “You know, your mom and I talked about …” duh, duh, duh, duh, whatever it was, “last night, and here’s how we’re gonna handle it. And so then I would come in later; he’s at work; and I would say to the kids, “You know, your dad and I talked about this, and I’m really sorry,” and they would go, “Well, dad already said,” and it was like, okay, wait a minute. We don’t know what we’re doing here. And so, he’s fixing it. He thinks he’s doing what I want him to do and yet, we just weren’t on the same page.
Jim: Well, and that’s so typical being on that same page. Now in one way, and this may sound odd, but for the single parent, we don’t want to exclude those folks, because many listen to the program and they’re improving their parenting ability, those kinds of things, but they’re there as well and I want to acknowledge that. How do they have a different kind of challenge? I mean they’re on the same page, because it’s only one page, but in that context, how do they stay consistent and maintain that healthy relationship with their kids?
Nina: Yeah, you know, when you look at what are you doing, are you taking care of yourself, because it’s exhausting to be the only person handling all of those things.
Jim: It really is a two-person job.
Nina: It is a two-person job, and God was right about that. That’s why He created it that way. And so if you’re not surrounding yourself with other people and having people link arms with you while you’re doing it, and if you’re not taking care of yourself in some way, especially during the tween and teen years, it just fries you.
Jim: Do you, as a single parent, would you look for that support, that help maybe within your church?
Jim: I mean I’m thinking of the mom, and I know there’s single, more single-parent dads than ever before, but the point of that is, particularly for that single-parent mom, you have a son or sons and you’re looking for that person. Should I turn to the church and say, “Where can I find help for, you know, teaching him [because] I don’t know how to throw a baseball,” or whatever it might be?
Nina: Absolutely and you know, my husband has been great about being that dad for others.
Jim: That’s good.
Nina: And you know, we had a mom in our church that she had a teenage boy that just happened to be on the same baseball team with my son and he needed geometry help, and so my husband was at McDonald’s with him, you know, one morning a week, doing geometry.
Jim: Would that work for you, John? Would you be able to [do that]?
John: I can’t do geometry.
Jim: I wouldn’t do the geometry, but that’s okay, but that’s a wonderful example of being involved in other people’s lives and your kids reacted well to that?
Nina: Oh, absolutely and you know, we let them know, hey, this is important.
Jim: You’re listening to “Focus on the Family.” Today we have our two special guests, Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock, who have written a book, With All Due Respect, and we’re going to offer that resource for a gift of any amount here at Focus on the Family. We are, at the core, a parenting organization, and this kind of topic and this kind of tool is a resource that all of us need.
John: I think it is, Jim and you can make your donation and get a copy of the book and take a free parenting assessment from Focus on the Family. It’ll help you determine just who you are as a mom or a dad. You’ll find these at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Nina, I would think—and I’ll throw this one to you and certainly Debbie jump in—but I would think one of the high-rated teen/tween issues is this area of disrespect, and, you know, first of all, let’s speak to the why. Is it normal? Is it healthy or unhealthy? And I’m sure you can define those lines for us. But then how do we help our tweens and teens get ahold of this? How do you go about identifying it and then addressing it with your child?
Nina: Well, if you’re very rules-based and you know, perfectionistic about everything being done a certain way, you’re gonna have a lot more conflict. And we have to realize that these people are becoming adults and are trying to figure out who they are.
Jim: Set that environment, though. Why particularly, if you’re bent in that direction, you know, you’re a black-and-white person, high regard for rules, you know that fits many Christian households because we’re trying to follow the Lord, we’re trying to live up to His commandments, we’re trying to live life in such a way, yet it is a crippling factor when you’re trying to parent these people that are trying to do it their own way! (Laughter) So somebody once said to me, “You know, God is a God of teenagers.” All of us are teenagers in God’s view. We’re all trying to control our own lives and do things differently than He would like us to do them. I think it’s a great perspective to think of our Heavenly Father in that way. How much of a teenager are you to Him? And then when you look at it, but speak to that. What is normal and what becomes unhealthy?
Nina: So we should expect conflict during these years. We should expect some push-back. It’s very normal. And they’re gonna do it disrespectfully sometimes because they’re hormonal and that’s not their fault.
Jim: So that’s not just an excuse.
Nina: Right and their brain doesn’t work right when they’re hormonal. It just doesn’t. And they’re not getting sleep and they’re emotional over friend stuff. So they’re aliens, okay? They’re not that cute little 6-year-old anymore. So we have to have a lot of grace for that, and then we have to understand that, first of all, the part of their brain that is common sense is not developed yet until they’re like 25-years-old. So they’re not going to think through things; they’re not going to be logical. So we have to have a lot of grace, first of all. And then we have to model respectful behavior for them, even when they are behaving badly.
Jim: Yeah, that’s what caught me in the book, that idea that they need to see respect in order to know how to be respectful. And you’ve got to, again, put an exclamation point around that, ’cause most parents will say, “What? Just do as I say, not necessarily what I do.”
Nina: And if we do that, then what we’re saying is that I’m in charge of you, and what I really want is an independent individual that has his own set of values and makes his own decisions, and he has to navigate choices and fail sometimes so that he can figure that out. And if I’m making all of his choices for him, when he goes to college, he’s gonna go haywire. Or when he gets out from under my thumb, he’s going to go figure it out in unhealthy ways.
Jim: Debbie, how do we as a parent, how do we measure whether we’re being respectful to our teens or bite my lip or not, if we’re being disrespectful? How do we take an inventory of our attitude toward them that may be actually contributing significantly to their disrespect?
Debbie: Well, I think it’s seeing what our kids are doing. You know, if our kids are being disrespectful to us, it’s time for us to stop and go, “Okay, is there something that I’m doing that’s being disrespectful to them, to my spouse, to other people?
Jim: Now that’s not a natural thing for a parent to do.
Debbie: No, it isn’t. It’s very, very difficult and what I have discovered is that sometimes, you know, it’s not until you have this explosion that takes place that you go, “Oh, wait a minute. What’s going on here?” And we step back, hopefully, and say, “Okay, what do we need to be doing differently?” We forget the relationship piece. We forget that we need to be looking at them and taking these conflict situations and going, “Oh, opportunity to teach.” We forget that.
Jim: Well, and you’re both moms, and again I don’t want to generalize, but speak to the parent, whether they’re the dad or the mom, that has that high regard for the rules, that if we slip up here, they’re gonna learn such poor habits that we’re going to lose control of this child. They’ll be a prodigal child, and there can be such fear that grips a parent because their teenager is not turning in their homework all the time.
Jim: And we leapfrog to the fact that that’s going to put them on a path of high-risk behavior, and you know, you start imagining these things, and then you start amping up the shrillness of your parenting, and it’s a dead-end road, isn’t it?
Nina: Oh yeah and it pushes them the other direction.
Jim: You get the opposite response than you’re hoping for.
Nina: Exactly, yeah, we push them the other direction, because they need to figure out who they are separate from us as adults, and that’s when they’re starting that. And if we are heavy-handed in that and I had a situation with my son. He was just not filling out his college applications and it was driving me nuts.
John: You probably reminded him about that a few times.
Nina: Maybe, maybe a few, yeah.
Jim: A day. (Laughter)
Nina: You know, and he says to me, he’s like, “Mom, you just need to know that the more you talk to me about this, the less I want to do it.”
Jim: Okay, explain that, ’cause I see that with my kids. The more I’m into them with the issue I want clarified or them to act on, there is a tendency for them to go deaf. In order to show you that I’m not listening to you, I’m not gonna do what you’re asking me to do. Why does that mechanism exist? I mean why can’t they just do what we’ve asked them to do, ’cause that’s what a good kid will do?
Debbie: I think that is from birth. You know a 2-year-old, what’s the first thing they learn to say? “No.” and in some ways, it is self-preservation. And so we need to remember that as they become teenagers that that “no” says, “I need to be my own self. I need to be separate from you.” And we need to respect that “no” at times and be able to pull back and go, “Okay, what’s really under the surface and what’s going
John: Yeah, but in the example that Debbie just gave about college applications, we’ve been there, and I’ve thought, well, you have to apply for scholarships; you need to apply for scholarships. Oh, you want to go to school with no scholarships? So there’s a real tension point here for parents.
Nina: Well, and you have to keep the goal in mind. So do I have to have this done this second, or can I work through this relationally and get off the timetable that I had because it was scheduled for Thursday and this isn’t done yet and I’m panicking and I want to stop thinking about it? But really what I need to do is figure out what’s really going on here? And with my son, we had this conversation. I said, “So what’s really keeping you from doing this? What’s pushing you in the other direction?” And it ended up being a conversation about how he was nervous about going to college and we had the best, most wonderful moment that would not have happened if I had kept nagging and fussing at him, and it would have caused anger and more conflict.
Nina: Yeah, yeah, absolutely and he’s already stressed out because his life is changing. And so, instead, I was just able to put my agenda aside and sit down and say, “What’s really goin’ on here?”
Nina: And you know, when we detach from the emotion and breathe and remember it’s not about the college application; it’s not about the grades; those are symptoms.
Jim: It’s hard to hear, though.
Nina: It is.
Jim: It’s hard to hear.
John: Well, and I appreciate that. I still want to know, though, did he apply for college?
Nina: Yeah, he did.
Nina: He applied for a scholarship.
Jim: And that was on his terms and he did it his way?
Nina: I asked him, “So what can we do that’s win/win here, because we really need you to do this.”
Jim: So asking questions.
Nina: Yeah, yeah and letting him control the process in a way that was comfortable for him. And he says, “Well, I’d like to do it this way,” and he came up with a little plan. And I said, “Okay, so how can I support you in that?” Because I’m worrying about it actually happening.
Jim: That’s perfect. I’m smiling ’cause that’s a good thing.
Nina: And I was honest with him. I said, “I’m worrying about this even happening, so how can I ask you?” And so he gave me words to say, when to say them, and you know, I checked in with him and it was really well done, beautiful in fact.
Jim: In your book, what I love, you’ve structured it around these “dares” toward the parent, you know, these 40 dares, I think, right?
Jim: And we’ll touch on those. We’re coming to the end of the program today, but let me hit one of them that we can talk about, which I think is the most important one, Dare No. 3, and there it’s how do we focus on God’s vision for our child? And you know often, John, we’re talking here at Focus on the Family about having that big picture in mind so that every incident doesn’t direct you as the parent of taking the leapfrog that I described a moment ago if they are not doing their homework appropriately or turning it in, it doesn’t mean that they’re gonna be in jail.
Jim: But you know, sometimes you begin to project that as a parent. If you’re here, then you know, people, the experts say your at-risk behavior is going to go up by X amount, and you start to panic. How do we keep the big picture in mind, and the fact that God will take us and our children through valleys at times in order to challenge those things that we believe, perhaps our strong-willed nature as a teenager, that there’s a purpose in all of that, and that we can trust God’s hand is in it? How do you keep that big picture of God’s plan in mind for your kid when maybe your desire is different from what God’s desire is?
Nina: Oh, absolutely and the thing is, is you know we all have these expectations of our kids.
Jim: No, I have none. (Laughter)
Nina: We just think that we know what they’re gonna be done the road, and everything, you know we go into this parenting thing like everything is going to be rosy. Oh, such cute little babies and we love ’em, and then they get to be teenagers and they start having their own minds, but we don’t think about what is it we really want? What’s the end goal?
Nina: And you know, as parents, I think all of us, we’re hoping that our kids respect us. We’re hoping that our kids will come to us and that we can still influence them.
Jim: And that’s more important than any grade.
Nina: Absolutely, and we forget to look at what’s down the road. When they’re adults, what do we want? We want that relationship. We want them to come seek us out. We hope they’ll come visit sometime.
Jim: You know sometimes that’s a little vague when you look at it, and maybe it may be too personal, so I don’t want to push you into a corner, but when you think of your own children—and Debbie your kids are all in their 20s now—when you say, “What am I hoping for,” relationship is obvious. What are those character attributes that you’re hoping for? What do you hope your 20-something adult child now is going to express spiritually, emotionally?
Debbie: Well, there’s lot of pieces. Hopefully they’ll have a job. That’s, you know, that’s always in the back of everybody’s mind is, oh, we’ve got to have these college scholarships, we want this job out there. But it’s about relationship; it’s about their relationship with God.
Jim: First and foremost.
Debbie: Absolutely. And we can do everything that we possibly can hoping that they’ll have that relationship with God if we model well, but then we have to also look at the fact that, you know, we aren’t in control of all things, and we have to, at some point, let that child go and say, “Okay, Lord, this child is yours. I’ve done the best I can, and my prayer is that I will continue to be on my knees and for each and every one of my kids, and regardless of what their choices are, and that, you know, we can continue to have relationship.” And you know we all want them to come back and say, “Oh you know, I’m really struggling with whatever it is. What would you do?”
Jim: Well, did you want to add to that, Nina? I see you’re kind of coming out of your chair.
Nina: Yeah, yeah, you know I just, I don’t want them living in my basement when they’re 25. (Laughter) There’s that whole thing. But really I think the key is remembering they’re not ours. The voice of the world is so loud, and we forget that these people do not belong to us. They’re His. And so, the parenting experience is a context through which we walk alongside someone else who is learning about God and working out his faith or her faith in daily interactions with other people, themselves, and us, and so if we can have a godly perspective, because our relationship with God is solid, or as solid as it can be, and we’re continuing to grow, it changes everything.
Jim: But you know, Nina, when you say that, those of us that are in the middle of it right now are going, “That sounds good, but I’m kind of worried.” And I think what we need to do is come back next time, talk about, practically, how we engage that child on the respect issue and other things, to help give them the best platform for launch. I’d love to talk about delayed maturity and how prolonged adolescence may be as much a parent issue as it is a kid issue, and so much more. So can we come back next time and cover some of those themes as well?
Debbie: Love to.
Jim: Let’s do that.
John: Well, be with us next time, and between now and then be sure to stop by our website or give us a call and ask for a copy of the book by Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock, With All Due Respect. The subtitle is 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens. And I’d encourage you to get a CD or download of this and listen to it with your spouse or a friend. [There are] good conversation starters for you as a parent.
Our website is http://focusonthefamily.com/radio. You can reach us by phone, 1-800 the letter A and the word FAMILY. 1-800-232-6459.
Jim: And John, let me jump in and mention to moms and dads that Brio magazine is back.
John: Oh yes!
Jim: And that’s for teen girls particularly, and I would encourage you to get a subscription to that when you go to the website. That is back because of popular demand. We heard from so many moms particularly who said, “Oh, I’m sorry you discontinued that magazine because it was so much help in conversation starters with my daughter,” and that magazine, Brio, is available now. The first issue re-launched just recently, and you can subscribe for that for your teen daughter particularly.
John: Yeah, it’s a great resource for teen girls. Some super articles and biblical values. You’ll find it online, along with the book and the CD of today’s program. Again, that’s at http://focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: I would want to add, too, that last year—we do research to see how the program and how Focus is impacting married couples and parents, literally hundreds of thousands of them, and last year alone, 870,000 parents said that Focus was instrumental in helping them build stronger, healthier, more God-honoring families, and it’s very much because of programs like this one and guests like the ones you’ve heard from. They speak into that tender area of your parenting, and maybe that closet that you keep closed. And this is a way for you to do the assessment, get the resource, and actually build your parenting skills.
Folks, guess what? We’re not born expert parents. You probably have recognized that already and you need help. I need help and we all need help in doing this in the best God-honoring ways possible. So that’s why we exist. If you can help us financially to keep moving forward in this ministry, hopefully to touch another 870,000 parents this year, we would appreciate it.
John: And when you make a generous financial contribution today, we’ll send the book by our guests to you as a way of saying “thank you” and making sure you have this excellent resource in your hands. You can call with that donation, 800-232-6459.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time, as we continue the conversation about respecting your teen and once again help you and your family thrive.