Mrs. Nina Roesner: Well, I wasn’t actually going 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.”
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Respect, it’s a vital component of your relationship with your teen and you’ll hear more about that from Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock on “Focus on the Family.” Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we started a fabulous conversation last time about being a parent of tweens and teens and if you’re livin’ in that space, you need some input; I can guarantee it. Probably only a small percentage of parents are probably managing that phase of parenting in a really healthy way I would think. I know you’re out there and certainly let us hear from you. Maybe we need to do a book with you, I don’t know. (Laughing)
But for those, the other 98 percent of us that have those moments where we’re struggling, this program is for you. If you missed last time, get the download. Download the app on your Smartphone whatever you need. I thought it was a great conversation.
We’re gonna continue today to talk about those parenting tools that you need to gravitate toward in order to not guarantee, but place you in the best possible position, first and foremost for your teen to launch well and for them to hopefully, be close to God and exhibiting those attitudes and those gifts that are rooted in the Holy Spirit, rather than the world. And that’s no easy task in today’s work and that’s what we’re gonna discuss today.
John: Yeah, there’s a crucial element for teens though that we often miss and it’s called “respect” and it really forms the basis for today’s conversation. It was all throughout the thread of the discussion last time. Our guests are Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock as I said and they’ve written a book together called With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens. As Jim said, we’ve got resources and that book at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Nina and Debbie, welcome back to triage, Teen Triage 101. We’re so glad you’re here. Help us. (Laughter) We did start that discussion last time with that respect thread. Let’s do a little recap so those that didn’t catch it can get caught up with us. For parents who have disrespectful teens, why, and what are some things that you could do to turn that? Because that’s the premise of your tool, your book, is how to, in 40 days, how to be in a better place than you are today.
Mrs. Debbie Hitchcock: Absolutely, I think the biggest thing for parents is to really stop and look at our own behavior. And you know it’s real easy to see what our kids are doing, and you know they say things, they do things, they stomp up the stairs, they slam doors, “Whatever!” And you get to that point where it’s like, “Oh gosh, what’s going on with that kid?” But the bottom line is, is our behavior sometimes triggers their behavior, and we forget that. So stepping back and looking at ourselves and seeing how respectful we are in our communication goes a long way.
Jim: Debbie, I can tell you’re a mom of four now 20 somethings, but you were the mom of four teenagers who use the, “whatever” word, “Whatever.” You know, they find this new vocabulary in their teen years. It’s “pfft,” “tss,” “whatever.” I mean those are kind of the expressions you get from some kids. Nina, you talked out of your experience last time. You’ve had some tough stuff, and you’ve had a lot of people speak into your life—probably some invited, others not so much.
Nina: That happens when you run a ministry. You know that.
Jim: Talk about that, the I guess I would say it this way, but there’s purpose in it, the dark side, the feeling of I guess just, wow, where is this going? Where is my kid gonna end up? Speak to that parent who’s in that place right now that they don’t see hope, they don’t see how this tough stuff in their teens’ behavior is actually possible for the Lord to use as building blocks in their character as 20-somethings.
Nina: So much of it is our identity being wrapped up in their behavior, and we have to just remember it’s a context.
Jim: How do we know, as parents, that we are wrapping ourselves around their behavior?
Nina: How emotional are we? You know, if they’re coming home late or if their bad grades are making me emotional, there’s something wrong there. I mean yeah, it’s okay to go, “Gosh, I wish and I want better for them,” but the Scripture that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old he will not depart from it,” I mean I don’t know what “old” is, but it might be 65 and I may be dead by then, right? So it’s a process that we have to go through. And I think Debbie could speak to the whole give them hope thing a lot better, because I’ve got great relationships with my kids because of a lot of the advice that Debbie gave me as she struggled through some things herself.
Jim: Well, Debbie, the platform is yours. What was the situation? What happened that you gained this kind of wisdom from?
Debbie: Well, it’s been a journey. You know a lot of times we parent out of fear. We see our kids do things or not do things and, you know, we have these expectations of what they’re supposed to accomplish, and they don’t do them, or they act disrespectful. We had a situation. We had four children, four teenagers under the roof and one of them was bound and determined that they were not going to follow the rules.
Jim: What were some of those attributes in that particular child that you saw that you were kind of concerned about, just to help us identify that with our own teens?
Debbie: Right, I think the biggest thing was the fact that the world seemed to have to revolve around that child. They knew what the rules were; they knew what our character needed to be. We, you know, attended church.
Jim: So you weren’t neglectful.
Debbie: Yeah, I was very involved in my kids’ lives. My husband and I went through eight years of infertility, so, you know, we had four kids and it was like, oh wow, I mean I just knew I was gonna be the best mom on the planet, right?
And then suddenly you get these teenagers, and you’re going, “Oh my. They have minds of their own.” And it can sometimes be scary to encounter that, and as moms, at least what I did in my situation is I was sitting there going, “Oh my. I’m a terrible mother.” And I started taking on all the blame, and what most parents do is they try to control the situation because you are getting feedback. I was getting feedback from Christian parents going, “Did you know that your child did (blank)?”
Jim: Fill in the blank.
Debbie: Yeah and it was very, very difficult to navigate that, because I had all these outside voices affirming that I was a bad parent. And in that situation, my husband and I were trying very hard to get on the same page and sometimes that was difficult.
Jim: Let me put some adjectives out there, “mortified?”
Debbie: Oh, mortified by behavior.
Jim: Did you cringe?
Jim: You got scared.
Debbie: Just terrified.
Debbie: Oh, the shame factor was huge, because somehow I believed the lie that the behavior of my child was based on my parenting. And as parents, you know, I can listen to the news. I can hear of these terrible stories of things that, you know, 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds have done, and I heard a news reporter one day say, “Where were the parents?” So I think we have that in the back of our mind that we are in charge of our kids to the point that we need to be able to help them do the right thing at all times.
Jim: And it’s easy to move in that direction. I’m thinking of a, you know, a story that I recall where a friend, the mom had some difficulty; dad comes home. The first thing she said was, “We’re horrible parents.” It’s a natural place to gravitate toward, because we attach our parenting capability to the behavioral expression of the child. It seems kind of right, formulaically, that if we do A, B, and C correctly, then our child will never do that. They’ll never do Y. But they do.
First of all, speak to us as parents as to why that occurs. Why isn’t it more formulaic? If we’re putting in the parenting duties, when why don’t we get the perfect package? And then secondly, when it happens, what’s the right response rather than what 95 percent of us as parents do, which is the wrong response? So can you address those three things?
Debbie: Well, I think the big thing is we have to remember that they are human, that they are just as fallen.
Jim: But they are our humans. (Laughter)
Debbie: Yes, they’re just as fallen as we are. You know, they sin; we sin, you know. And so, we think if we do all the right things, they’re gonna turn out okay, but they’ve got their own mind. They’re formulating their own ideas. They are trying to break away from us and sometimes if they see us in a way that they don’t particularly care for, then they’re gonna look outside.
Jim: So when that happens, what is a healthier way to respond, in your mind? You can add the external way of responding, but what should be happening in your mind and in your heart and then your outward expression in that scene that is causing you shame, causing you embarrassment, causing you cringe-factor. What’s the healthy way to do it?
Debbie: Well, I think the biggest thing is to think about where your mind is, because if you’re thinking those negative thoughts, I’m a bad parent. I’m not doing things right. What’s going on? It must be me, we need to go back and look at our identity in Christ. It’s not about us. God is weaving a testimony in our children.
Jim: That’s hard to hear.
Debbie: We forget that.
Jim: It’s true.
Debbie: It is, but it’s so hard to hear, because we don’t want them to go through any pain.
Jim: And we don’t want to go through pain.
Nina: We shy away from conflict and I would like to just add that the conflict is actually great opportunity. We had a situation.
Jim: The Bible’s full of it.
Nina: Oh yeah, tons of it. I mean how do you go through a day without it? One of my kids was kind of having this girlfriend thing going on, and he was calling her way too much and she wasn’t getting her homework done and they were staying up way too late talking and texting and all this stuff. And he’s 16-years-old, and the mom calls me. She asked to intervene and talk with him.
I said, “You know, I would love to do that for you, and if he was like 6-, 8-years-old, I probably would. What I would love to see is your daughter have a strong ‘No.’ She’s gonna go off to college, and she needs to be able to stand on her own two feet, and if he’s being disrespectful to her, I would love to get involved at that level, but from what you’re told me, she hasn’t even told him that this is a problem. So I’d love to encourage you to have her talk to him and say, ‘Here’s some boundaries, and this needs to stop.’”
Jim: What a great teaching moment.
Nina: Yeah, it was and she was like, “What are you talking about? You need to control him.” “Um, I don’t want to control him. I want him to control himself.”
Jim: Well, and some of what you’re saying, that can be the factor, because we’re hearing a lot about letting go and let God be God and that’s all true, but there is a parenting responsibility. Let me ask you this. Dare 15 caught my attention, because my mom was wonderful with humor, and although I only had her for nine years, that humor sustained me as an orphan kid through an a lot of hard times. And I think, in part, I hopefully caught some of that sense of humor. And talk about humor and its role toward resiliency and creating an attitude that can get you through some difficulty and why it’s important, raising teens, to have a sense of humor.
Debbie: Oh absolutely. The whole humor piece is something that my husband and I have really just honed in on. In fact, we have a little thing that goes on when there’s conflict in the house and the, you know, volume starts creeping up. We just happen to have a house that you can hear everything. It almost echoes and so the other person, whoever’s not in the room, makes a point of coming downstairs and we laugh. We’re from Cincinnati, so we go, “Wonder what the Reds are doing today?” And all of a sudden it’s this unhook moment, because we all know what it means. We all laugh about it and it’s just our own little catch phrase.
Jim: Letting tension out.
Debbie: Yeah, let the tension go. And I love Dare 15, because Nina and I both experienced that situation where our kids have been entangled with someone from the opposite sex on the, you know, family room couch or in the basement or wherever, and, you know, as a parent, everything’s going through your mind. Oh my gosh, this kid’s, you know, um.
Jim: Nina, you do have a story in that regard. You put it under the humor category. So how do keep that atmosphere funny, but with principle?
Nina: Well first, I don’t take it personally that my child is doing something that they’ve decided to do that really shouldn’t be happening, you know, and they shouldn’t be doing. So it’s not my thing; it’s his thing, right? And this actually, you know, happened a couple of times. The first time, I’ll be honest: I didn’t handle it well. I was like, “Um, excuse me!” I was, oh my word.
Jim: And you’re describing what? Them kissing?
Nina: I walked in, well, and yeah, they were engaged, okay, so I’ll cut them some slack, but, you know, I walk in, I’m living with kids that are and I’ve got an 8-year-old in the house. I don’t want her to walk in on my son and his fiancée. So they were just kissing, sitting next to each other on the couch, and I came in and I read them the Riot Act the first time.
And then the second time I caught them, I came in and I said, “Oh my! It’s hot in here!” And they just looked up and they both apologized. And I said, “Okay, just so you know, so-and-so is coming downstairs and, you know, just keep it G-rated, please. You know, just a reminder.” And these guys were great. I mean when they were dating, 90 percent of the time they would call us if we were not home and they came by the house, and they’d wait outside, because they didn’t want the temptation of being alone in the house.
Jim: Sure, well, and something you said there catches my attention. That is, a little more explanation, especially for older, in that case, in don’t know how old those kids were at that time, but to give a little fuller explanation, to say what’s motivating your anxiety? “Hey Mom, we’re engaged! Come on! Kissing, I mean that’s, you know, that’s a good thing. I mean, we could be doing far worse.” But in that context, you’re saying, “Well, but the younger kids are gonna be around and you’re modeling for them.” So I like that idea of explanation, especially for older young adults to better understand, you know, what are we doing here? Remember you’re projecting something. So I like that.
Jim: you know one of the themes in your book, With All Due Respect, and I love the way you constructed it with these dares, these 40 dares, one was Dare 31, which I caught, “Deal with the person before the issue.” And that’s something I try to lean into. I don’t know, you know, Jean also is trying, but it’s so easy for us to go to the problem, the behavior, and skip the personhood. I think I understand what you mean in that dare, “Deal with the person before the issue.” Give me the practical tips on how you do that. Let’s say the curfew, okay, we set the curfew at 10 o’clock and we have a bandito who continues to violate that curfew. Has that ever happened to you, John?
Jim: You were the one breaking the curfew. But how do you deal with the person before dealing with the behavioral issue of you are constantly breaking the curfew? Come on.
Debbie: Well, and I think the thing that we fail to realize is that in the moment of them breaking the curfew, we’re usually upset because we’ve been waiting. And so, we’re madder than hornets and we’re just ready to give it to them, and so what happens is we think that, you know, saying, “You better never do this again” and “I’m gonna ground you” is gonna solve the problem.
Jim: Because they get that; there [are] consequences.
Debbie: Because they get that, of course, yeah. And so, that’s our natural reaction. Sometimes what happens, and maybe not if the curfew’s at 10, but if it’s at midnight, we’re tired. We’re used to going to bed at 10 o’clock, so for us it’s like, you know, we’re laying in bed, we’re not getting any sleep. We’re frustrated; we’re worried because our minds just start going in all these directions of oh my gosh, what’s happened? And as a result, again, it’s that we’re gonna lash out.
So one of the things that we teach parents is, you know, when they come in late, go down, let ’em in the door if you want to do that. “Glad you’re home.” And that’s it. “Go to bed. We’ll talk in the morning.”
Jim: Don’t deal with it. Okay. That’s a good example, especially with groggy eyes.
Debbie: Don’t deal with it right now, absolutely and then the other piece that goes with that is, you do need to address it, but it’s having the relationship. You know, we have a problem to solve. It’s not the parent’s problem; it’s not the kid’s problem; it’s a family issue. So how do we solve that problem together? And getting the kids’ ideas in terms of, okay, what can I do? I’m trying to help you become an adult.
Jim: That’s the big picture.
Debbie: That’s the big picture. I need you to be thinking about, you know, if you aren’t at school on time, you get detention. If you don’t show up for work, you lose your job. So getting your kids thinking futuristically, “I want to help you become an adult,” helps you solve the problem.
Jim: Let’s camp on that spot for a minute, because we hear a lot of sociologists today and there’s articles in just about every newspaper and online regarding delayed adolescence and this idea that young people today are launching far later than they did in our early years when we were all teenagers. Why is that happening? Is that parenting issues much or maybe more so than a teen issue.
Debbie: It’s an identity issue. Our identity is wrapped up in our kids that says we want our kids to be successful. We want them to do, achieve, as much as we did or we think they have to do it the way we did, and unfortunately, I think a lot of times we’re so busy with activities in the tween and teen years that we forget that we need to let them go a little bit.
Jim: Debbie, let me come back to the end of your story. You talked about earlier about the difficulty with your child situation, one of your four kids and how did that end? How is that relationship now that they’re in their 20s? Have they grown? Are they in a good place? How’s your relationship with them?
Debbie: The relationship with that child is very good. You know, we took some drastic steps. We actually removed that child from our home for a short period of time.
Jim: That’s a big step.
Debbie: That was a huge step. It was not done lightly. My husband and I, we had been working with a Christian counseling group at the time, had three counselors involved in the process, and you know, we were just told, “We don’t think you’re gonna get from here to there,” and so they thought there needed to be just something drastic that happened that, you know, kind of got the kid’s attention.
Jim: Kind of a reset.
Debbie: Yeah, a total reset. It was good for us. It was scary. But it was good for us in that our kids that were home still, we were able to kind of reset things at home, showing that, hey, we love you. Our home is no longer going to revolve around this child. And we are going to work very, very hard on the relationships. And it’s amazing what our relationships have become as a result of that difficult situation.
Jim: How do you go through the assessment on that? Because you have the feeling that this isn’t in the right place, but you don’t know that [if] it would be a healthy move to do that drastic a thing, to have your child go to another environment where they can be supported differently, challenged differently, coached differently than they would be in the home. That’s a big step. How did you and your husband go through that assessment that it’s time for this time of draconian measure?
Debbie: Well, for us, you know, it had been difficult for a couple of years, but usually there’s this one significant moment that is like off the charts that you go, okay, we don’t have a choice here. You know, we felt like at the time we were going, okay, we’ve got these kids that are getting ready to roll out of the house, and if we don’t do something now, we may lose all the kids in the process. So, you know, my recommendation, I think that is an absolute last resort that you take. You do everything in your power, working with professionals that can help you in the process. Had they not have suggested it, I would have never thought of that on my own. It wasn’t even in my, you know [thinking].
Jim: So you need to be open to input from people who are professionals that can help you kind of find the center of gravity.
Jim: Because I would think in that kind of a storm, you’re not even sure what’s real and am I thinking this through correctly? Am I seeing it right? Am I feeling it right? Am I being too harsh, too lenient? All those questions run through your head.
Debbie: Oh yeah. And you pendulum-swing, You get in that moment where, you know, you’re going, “Okay, maybe I’m being too rule-oriented. Let’s back off a little bit. Maybe we should give them more grace.” And then, you know, you give them grace and they take a mile and you go, “Okay, time to pull it back.” And so, as a parent, it’s very, very difficult to know what is center, what is normal, what is effective.
Jim: Effective, uh-hm and that’s amazing to think of a child pushing back in that way, but it’s not unusual. I mean this is what part of the separation is all about, but that’s kind of the extraordinary story. I mean that’s one in four, in your case, of your kids. But it is helpful to get perspective. And John, that’s one of the reasons we have a counseling department here at Focus on the Family. You might be in that spot right now as you’re listening, saying, “I think I’ve got that teenager, and what do I do? That teen is 17, maybe 18, finishing high school, and I’m worried.” Call us. We’ll be able to give you some perspective, at least. You know no one’s gonna force you to do one thing or the other, but this is a great time to get that kind of input that Debbie and Nina have been talking about, and we’re here for you.
And we’re grateful to the donors that have supported Focus on the Family in such a way that we can have a counseling team and other experts speak into that area of your life. So, I would encourage you to get ahold of us and to take that next step in strengthening your relationship with your teenager.
John: And our counselors are a phone call away. Sometimes due to volume they’ve got to take your name and number and give you a call back, but it would be a privilege to serve you by connecting you with them. Or if you’d just like more information about resources, including the book by Nina and Debbie called With All Due Respect, or a CD or a download of this program, give us a call. Our number is 1-800 the letter A and the word FAMILY. 1-800-232-6459.
Jim: And John, again, this is core to who Focus is, equipping parents to be the best parents they can be. Here’s the straight scoop: You’re not going to be a perfect parent, so we’re not promising that, but we can help you be a better parent. That’s the goal, and with that big picture in mind about what God wants. And it reminds me of one of the dares in the book, which is you gotta let go and let God be God. That is so tough for us as parents, but if you can make a gift of any amount. I’m telling you, if you can’t afford the resource, just get ahold of us. We’ll find a way to get it into your hands. The book, With All Due Respect, from Nina and Debbie, it is filled with ideas–40 in fact–on how to get the ship moving in a healthier direction.
As we end today, can you leave us with a thought, back to that prodigal, maybe that 19-, 20-, 21-year-old, where the relationship has been strained; the parent wasn’t able, for all kinds of reasons—their attitude, the young adult’s attitude—they weren’t able to keep that connection. What can they do now to make that phone call or write that letter? How should they state the pain that they’re feeling because the relationship is so bad?
Debbie: I’m glad you asked that question, because the biggest thing that I realized is that a relationship and a conflict between two people means that both of you have a piece of that. And the apology is the place to start. Regardless of whether or not you feel that it was your fault, there has to be a piece that didn’t make the connection, so that’s where I started with my child is, “I’m so sorry for what happened. I’m sorry that we made the decision we did. How can we rebuild this relationship? I love you. I want to be with you. I want to be connected. And I want us to be friends. You’re now an adult. What can I do to help in that process?”
Jim: Well, a strong biblical principle: humble yourself. It’s been so good to have you with us. Thanks so much.
Debbie: Thank you.
Nina: Thank you.
John: And once again, get a copy of the book by Nina and Debbie, and take that free parenting assessment. It’s a great little tool to help you get a handle on just how you’re approaching your parenting journey and make a generous donation to this family ministry at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Next time, Stuart and Jill Briscoe join us to talk about improving with age.
Mrs. Jill Briscoe: I know it, but the growing younger and younger and younger till glory appears, is so possible that you don’t internally, spiritually feel old.
End of Excerpt
John: I’m John Fuller and on behalf of Focus president, Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. Join us again next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.