Woman #1: Probably the thing that I wish I could do over would be more consistent. We had good communication and I probably let her be a little bit too much of a friend, rather than always being the mom and not being as consistent as I should have been.
Man #1: I wish I would’ve encouraged my son more instead of finding areas where he could’ve improved, understanding that he could have, but rather just encouraged him more and to let him make the mistakes.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Well, maybe you’ve been there as a parent. You’re trying to do everything right in your family, but some days, oh, you feel like a failure and you wonder if your parenting mistakes are gonna permanently damage those kids. Well, if that describes you, hold on. I’m John Fuller and on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly, we have some hope and practical help for ya.
Jim Daly: John, I think every parent, Jean and I do it, as well, we think of that perfect family and we aim for that and when it doesn’t happen, we get discouraged and we feel guilty and we think, “Okay, what have we done wrong?” I’m lookin’ forward to today’s program, because anyone who’s a parent will be helped by our guest today, Kathi Lipp.
John: Hm, yeah, Kathi has been here before. She’s always a popular guest and she often brings a lot of laughter. I think there’s gonna be a lot of good insights about some of those frustrating points that we feel as parents, whether it’s a small think, like a child in the grocery store with the temper tantrum, embarrassing you or …
Jim: Never happened to me, ever, not once. (Laughter)
John: Only a few times to me. (Laughter) And then there are, of course, more serious problems where you wonder about your child’s moral fiber and well-being. Are they gonna make a decision toward drugs or alcohol or premarital sex? Those are the kinds of things we’re gonna tackle on today’s program and Kathi has written a number of books. She’s a popular speaker. She’s a mom and stepmom of four young adults and it’s good to have her back here, Jim.
Jim: Kathi, welcome back to “Focus on the Family.”
Kathi Lipp: Thanks so much for having me, guys. I love—
Jim: It’s so good.
Kathi: –love it here. Yeah.
Jim: Your energy and your smile always brightens the room here for us.
Kathi: Well, you guys give me a lot to smile about. We have a good time here. (Laughter)
Jim: Well, we’re talkin’ today about your book, I Need Some Help Here! I love that title. (Laughter) And it’s really about how parents need to, you know, lay down those expectations as we have talked about them in the introduction here. Let’s start there, why do we have these expectations that somehow we’re perfect people, giving birth to perfect people? I think Jesus said, no, no, no, no, no. You’re sinners saved by grace, My grace.
Kathi: And nothing proves that more than becoming a parent (Laughter), does it? Well, and I think you gave us a great reason right up front, because we see that perfect family in our church or maybe in our school or our neighbors. And we think, okay, if I could just have kids like theirs. If I could just be a family like theirs, then this is all going to work out.
And most families, we don’t get invited past the front porch. (Laughter) You know we get served coffee on the front porch. We get the community on the front porch. But every family has that back room where they’re the ones who are also saying, “Why is my kid doing this?” And the more I talk to parents, the more authentic we can get with each other, the more moms especially, can get together and say, “This is what I’m going through.” You’d hear a lot more “me, too’s,” instead of “Really? That never happened to me.” We have these confessionals and people are saying, “I’m so glad somebody else is feeling that way.” You never wish harm on somebody else’s kid, but you’re thinking, I’m glad I’m not the only parent.
Jim: Well, in fact, in your book, you mentioned something that caught my attention. You can correct me here, but it’s almost that we compare our worst day with their best day.
Kathi: It’s so true. And I remember when my kids were little, my grocery store had a policy for me. If they found an abandoned cart, they put it aside for a half an hour, ’cause they were pretty sure it was mine.
John: Oh, my.
Kathi: Because my kids were melting down in the middle of the grocery store and they’re like, “Oh, that’s just Kathi’s cart,” and I felt like, why are all these other women able to walk through Target without a major meltdown. But you really start to go and look and you realize, there’s a meltdown on every aisle.
Everybody’s melting down. Every kid has some kind of issue. And we compare that day where our child is melting down, but we go to school and we see the child running up to their mom, “Mommy, I missed you today.” And you’re thinking, that’s their reality and you’re comparing it to your reality. Really you’re comparing their best day to your worst.
Jim: Now it is true that some children’s temperaments are different.
Jim: And we’ve got that in our own family, where you have, you know, two wide ranges, the child who says, “Hey, I’m done taking out the trash. Anything else I could do?”
Jim: And then the other one said, “Oh, you told me last week to take out the trash. I’m gonna wait another week.”
Kathi: Exactly. Well, you have to do the trash every week? Are you—
Kathi: –kidding me? Yeah. And we have four kids with four very distinct personalities. If you do the personality test they’re in four vastly different quadrants. And so, we had more compliant children and we had our tough children.
But I have to say, there were challenges with each in different stages of life, where I had a compliant child. I talk about this in the book, who in second grade, she was the only kid to not get a bumper sticker that said, “Star Student” of this school. She was the only kid in class. And when I talked to the teacher on the last day, she said, “Well, Kimberly didn’t need it. She didn’t need any incentive.” You know, Kimberly carried that around for years and years.
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Kathi: Well, on her 22nd birthday because so many people asked me about that in the book, we got her a bumper sticker that said, “My child is a star student just because she rocks.” (Laughter)
Kathi: And so, we’re tryin’ to make up for 17 years of angst. But every child, it doesn’t matter what their temperament is, there are going to be issues. But yes, there are some who are easier in public than others.
Jim: Let’s talk about some of those specifics. You mentioned in your book I Need Some Help Here, again a great title, that we as parents often want to save our kids.
Jim: Yeah, it’s almost in our nature to—
Jim: –do that. Why is that a bad idea?
Kathi: Well, I think that there are certainly times that we need to be an advocate for our child. I mean, no parent wants to see their child hurt or injured and that’s not what I’m advocating at all. But not letting our children suffer natural consequences for some bad decisions, I think really hindered me as a parent. Never …
Jim: Give me some examples of the things that are okay to let ’em suffer and other things you might not want to let them suffer–
Jim: –and you need to engage.
Kathi: I think if we know that there’s going to be physical harm, we try to do everything we can to make sure that, that doesn’t happen, like …
Jim: Including climbing a tree?
Kathi: Including climb … well, you know what? I think that every parent knows their child and knows what those boundaries are. Now I had a very accident prone child and I had to, on occasion, do a time out, because I knew that not only would he injure himself, he might injure other kids.
Jim: In fact, you wrote in the book, you stood under the monkey bars, waiting—
Jim: –to catch him.
Kathi: –right, right. Well, we needed to catch him (Laughter), because he really was, every time he touched the ground we were at the emergency room. (Laughter) It was so frustrating. But you know, there are some things where you say, kids need to be kids. But then I know parents who are still at college, trying to intervene with their children’s teachers, saying why did you give him a B+, when uh … they’re doing A work. We need to step back and college is too late. We need to be stepping back and letting our kids see, you don’t do the work, you don’t get the grade from a very early age.
Jim: Some have said, it’s good for your kids to fail early, so they succeed later.
Kathi: Early and often, I really believe that. There’s a lot of controversy over, do you get a ribbon for participation? I understand that and they want to make sure that every kid feels valued. But we also need to let kids know that you’re valued for hard work. You’re valued because of who you are, but then if you want to be able to do fun things in life, you want to be able to do the kind of career you want, you need to be able to put some hard work into it and it’s not all going to be handed to you.
Jim: In fact, Kathi, you use Scripture that kind of pull[s] this real-life story together for us and it’s out of Exodus 17, I think, where Joshua’s fighting the Amalekites. How did you make this analogy?
Kathi: Okay, so, we’ve all heard this story hundreds of times where Moses goes down and stands on the hilltop and he’s got the staff of God in his hand. And every time he holds it above his head, his team is winning. And anytime he lowers it, his team is losing.
And so, we have a great picture of community there. And I talk about this with parenting, that you need those other moms, those other parents around you to really support you. So, we see Aaron and Hur coming alongside Moses, standing there on the mountaintop. And Aaron’s got one hand and Hur’s got the other and they do two things. Not only do they support his arms to keep that staff of God above his head, but they also put a rock underneath him, so they’re giving him strength and comfort in this parenting battle. And we can relate that to our parenting battle. We need those people around us.
And so, I love that picture of community and obedience. God says, “Go stand on the hill.” And so, as parents, we can be obedient and we can get our people around us. But the thing I was missing in that story for so long was, that the battle was God’s. God was the victor in that battle. It’s because of Him that they were able to defeat their foes.
Kathi: And I think about that in my own parenting. Sometimes I think that my parenting is all up to me. If I do everything right, my kids will turn out right. If I do anything wrong, my kids are going to fail.
But you know what? Our kids belong to God and that’s where we need to keep putting them. The fight for their lives, for their hearts, for their mind belongs to God. And God cares more about our kids than we even do, which is shocking and mind-blowing, especially I think to moms, that God cares more for them than we do. And that we can do everything that we’re called to do, but the battle for them is God’s.
Jim: Well, and I think a couple of ways to address that, I mean I think that God’s heart in that way, that mama bear instinct, is a reflection of God’s heart for us.
Jim: I think He’s got that for His children.
Jim: He’ll pursue us.
Kathi: And He loves us and He’s desperate to make sure that, you know, we have a relationship with Him, just like we moms are with our kids.
Jim: Yeah. Uh … it’s important to say it again though, that moms feel guilty. I’ve noticed that with Jean. I mean, there is this inclination for us to think that A plus B plus C equals D.
Jim: And in parenting you can’t do that to yourself, because there’s so many variables. Your kid has his own personality and temperament and he’s got his disposition.
Jim: And he’s gonna play that out and the Lord has a journey for that child to walk into as an adult and all that’s happening in his childhood is gonna play into that.
Kathi: Yeah, that stinkin’ free will, it gets us parents every single time. (Laughter)
Jim: We don’t like it!
Kathi: Oh, my goodness, it’s so frustrating. And then it gives you a picture of what you did to your parents and you think, oh, my. You know, what my parents had to go through and what they prayed about.
The thing that helps me and comforts me as I’ve had these struggles with my own kids, is I look at the mentors in my life. I look at the people who have really spoken into my life about my relationship with God. And you know what? There’s a messed-up person who has been divorced twice, but still speaks into my life as somebody who loves God and has changed their entire life since those mistakes.
Jim: They’ve learned.
Kathi: They’re learned and they’ve made changes. Then I think about the person who ran away from home at 17 and was living a life … we’re talking the prodigal daughter and this is one of the biggest mentors in my life. And I think about, God did not give up on them. God pursued them over and over. And you think about the testimonies of the people who are speaking into your own life and you think, God had a plan for them and God has a plan for my child.
Jim: Well, and I think so often as parents, we forget what we were (Laughing) as teenagers! (Laughter)
Jim: I mean, the thoughts that we had, perhaps even the ways that we acted. It’s scary.
Jim: You know, we think, uh-oh, is my teenager gonna do that? And we want to see them do better.
Jim: I think it’s particularly difficult on those teens that have Christian parents particularly, ’cause they went through it. They learned the wisdom.
Jim: And how we’re expecting them to act like an adult as a 14-, 15-, 16-year-old.
Jim: That’s a lot of pressure.
Kathi: Just because we learned it, doesn’t mean that our children have learned it. And we would love to save them the same mistakes we went through. But you know, my story is very well-known. I was pregnant before my first marriage and my mom thought my life was completely over. It was the most devastating day of her life. And she looks back at that now, that was 24 years ago and you know, my life has totally changed. My life has turned around because of God’s pursuing of me.
Jim: Can I ask you though—
Jim: –in that, how did that make you feel, that your mom felt that desperate and that incapable—
Jim: –of getting you on a better path. How did that make you feel as the daughter, the prodigal daughter?
Kathi: I felt guilty. I felt so much guilt at that point, because I thought so little about my own life and thought about what I was putting my parents through. And I have to say, my parents were great after the initial shock. And they did their best and they got me the help that I needed and they could not love my son, Justin any more than they do. They can count him among the biggest blessings of their life.
But I have to say, it was hard. It was very hard. I had to really say, do I believe what I believe about God’s Word? And my parents had to … there was shame at our church. I know that they were very embarrassed by what had gone on. But the next Sunday they were saying, “Are we going to church?” And I got up and I went to church and even though everybody knew, my parents cared about me and cared about my relationship with God.
Jim: So, they didn’t ostracize you—
Jim: –in that way. You talk in your book about the bad moms’ club.
Kathi: (Laughing) Yes.
Jim: This sounds like the right place to bring this up.
Kathi: Yes, oh!
Jim: Hey, I think every woman just leaned into the radio, every mom. What is the Bad Moms’ Club and what traps a mom in that thinking pattern?
Kathi: Right. Well, I was having a bad mom day, where I had found out something about one of my kids, the behavior. And of course, I didn’t think anything about their bad choices. I thought about every bad choice I had made as a mom.
And I felt like I was really brave that day. I reached out to two moms who I knew were great moms. They had great kids. Everything was going great. And said, “Guys, it’s not going great for me. Things are really tough.” And as soon as I sent that e-mail to both of them, they both said to me, “I feel like such a bad mom today.” And they told me their stories of what was going on with their kids that they hadn’t shared with anybody else.
Kathi: And it’s amazing when God gives you cohorts in the pit together, when you can all sit in the pit and say, “Me, too, me, too.” And so, we started this Bad Moms Club, because we all felt like bad moms at the same time. And we just go on Facebook and when we’re havin’ a bad day, when we’re feelin’ like a bad mom, we post something there. And these other moms pray for us. And I can honestly say, I have never prayed for anybody’s children more than my own, than in this club. Because when something pops up, I know that mom’s heart. I know how hard they’ve tried and how much they’ve loved and how much they want their child to have the life that they can have when they follow Jesus Christ.
And so, we pray together. We encourage each other. We encourage each other with boundaries. And I think something else that’s been important to me, if I can just say something to the stepmoms out there. When I’ve been frustrated with my stepkids, I have a safe place to have somebody love and pray, where I’m not always tellin’ my husband how much his kids are drivin’ me crazy!
Kathi: And I think that, that has been such a relief because I don’t gossip about my stepkids. I ask for prayer. And it’s changed my relationship, not just with these other moms, but with my kids, as well.
John: Well, we’re listening to Kathi Lipp on today’s “Focus on the Family,” some great insights from her, as captured in her book, I Need Some Help Here! Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. And that’s going to be something that every parent identifies with at some point in time or another. None of us produces perfect kids. We have details about the book and how you can get a copy at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Kathi, let me ask you about that guilt trip that—
Jim: –families have and we tend to have it because we set up that expectation that—
Jim: –we talked about—perfection, what the perfect Christian family should act like, be like. We should all be 100 percent in the fruit of the Spirit, blessing each other, joyful. Can you take out the garbage? How quickly, father?
Kathi: Yes. (Laughter) Mother, may I? Yes!
Jim: And life just isn’t like that. Now why are we afraid to be real and why do we paint a façade, again, particularly in the Christian community?
And I say this for myself, too. I want my family to reflect God’s character. Maybe that’s it and it’s not a bad thing. But how do we also get real so people that don’t know the Lord can say, “Okay, they’re not so different and I can attach to that.” They struggle. Is it better to show those cracks so that people can go, “Wow, they’re just like me.”
Kathi: I think showing the cracks is one of the most merciful thing[s] we can do for each other. When we show up and we say, hey, this is not going well in my life; I need prayer; I need support, it gives people an opportunity to say, “Me, too.” Which I feel in parenting are two of the most powerful words you can say and you can hear.
Kathi: I talk about it in the book one of my friends from church, who this was the perfect Christian family and they were not trying to be the perfect Christian family. They were not trying to put on a façade. They’ve got awesome kids. But the day that her son made some bad decisions, she came running to me. And she told me, “Kathi, please put this in the book. The reason I came to you is because you have told me again and again, you are not the perfect mom and you do not have the perfect kids. But you love them desperately.” And she goes, “For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out how to love my kid, but not love what they were doing.”
Kathi: And I think so many Christians struggle with that. And it almost seems like, if I love that child without reservation, it looks like I’m condoning what they’re doing.
And so, having a conversation where you say, “I love you and nothing is going to change that, but I love you enough I want to make sure that I continue to have the right to speak into your life, because what you’re doing is not honoring to God and I love you so much, I want you to have the best life that God wants you to have. And right now, you’re robbing yourself of that.”
Jim: So, it’s not running from it and putting your head in the sand.
Jim: In fact, you talked a moment ago about your mistake that you—
Jim: –had a child out of wedlock—
Jim: –as a teenager—
Jim: –the pain that caused your mom and dad.
Jim: But that in turn, your stepdaughter, I think did something very similar.
Kathi: Oh! You know, I love getting onto, you know, worldwide radio and talking about (Laughter) all of our mistakes. But I have my kids’ permission to talk about all of this. My stepdaughter loves God and her boyfriend loves God. So, the day that she told me, “I’m moving in with Sean;” I’m going through the mental Rolodex. What girlfriend do you have that’s Sean? Shawna? I didn’t know. No, it was her boyfriend. And of course, we were devastated because we’re thinking, you know, we love Sean. We love Amanda, but they’re making choices that we feel are keeping them from God’s best in their lives.
And so, we had an honest conversation with them. We said, nothing’s gonna change how we love for you guys, but we understand we have no control over this situation. But because we still have a great relationship with them, we have influence over the situation, so we get to talk to them about this over and over and over again.
Jim: So, not control, but influence.
Kathi: And as parents, we have to realize that from the time they are a newborn control starts to slip away and influence is that we need to work on in our relationship with our kids.
John: Well, you’re talkin’ about something, Kathi that I think is a real pain point for a lot of parents, both within the Christian community and just at large. When my child makes what seems to be a life-altering decision that I don’t agree with, how do I handle that?
John: You know, do I support them when they choose to go down the path you just described? Do I support then when they say, “I’m living a different lifestyle?”
John: And we all know parents who say, the line is drawn. You know that’s wrong. That’s so offensive to me.
John: How do you keep your cool, what are your bearings at that moment that allows you to say, “No, but the relationship,” that what they’re asking is, “But you’re condoning. How do you do that?
Kathi: Right, right. And our kids know where we stand. This has been a continual conversation as they’ve grown up. But the other conversation that we’ve had is, we love you. We love you. We love you desperately. And we believe that God loves Amanda and Sean and desperately wants to see them living a life honoring to Him. But right now they’re making other choices and we’re going to love them without condoning it.
Jim: The balancing factor this though as a parent is, how do you set good standards—
Jim: –biblical standards—
Jim: –that allow your children to look up, rather than look down?
Jim: And that’s a challenge, because you don’t want to set the bar to the point where you have to be perfect. And a lot of children, I think, again out of Christian homes, feel that need for perfection and performance.
Jim: And they end up crashing when they go off to college.
Kathi: It …
Jim: They end up in the fraternities and sororities, and they walk away from the faith. Researchers are showing how many kids are walkin’ away.
Kathi: Because every decision has been made for them. They’ve never been in a place where they’ve needed to make a decision, because their parents have made every decision for them. And I understand that desire to control. I understand it desperately. But if we don’t recognize from an early age that control is fleeting, you know, yes, you have that baby in your arms and you control where they go and you control what food. But eventually, decisions have to be made and that’s why we need to make sure that our kids are in safe places where they can fail in small ways, so that those decisions when they have to make the bigger decisions, they can do that.
Jim: You know what’s fascinating to me as you look at it and you go through life. I mean, I’m 53 now and when I’m looking at that, I think it becomes more simplistic, I think what the Lord is trying to show us. What I mean by that, you think of His heart for us. I mean, I’ve said it before. It’s like He has a bunch of teenagers.
Kathi: Yes. (Laughing)
Jim: We’re like that.
Jim: And we’re full of selfishness. We don’t do the things that He asks us to do. We don’t take out the garbage.
Jim: And His heart breaks for us. But what’s so amazing in my mind about the way the Lord treats us as our heavenly Father, the Scriptures like in the Old Testament: “Come, let’s reason together.”
Jim: “This day I put before you life and death; choose …” what you want to live for.
Jim: I mean, it’s a loving Father’s attitude. He’s not trying to create robots.
Jim: He gave us free will.
Jim: And as a parent, we have to equip a child, like God tries to equip us, I think, to give us wisdom to choose correctly. But in the end, you own it.
Jim: You’ve gotta make that decision.
Kathi: Well, and realizing that God wants His best for us. He’s not doing this because He wants, like you said, robots. We get to have the choice of how we live our lives.
Kathi: But in every way God’s law is not only honoring to Him, but it’s the best life that we can choose. And it’s the same with our kids. We want them to make the best choices, not because we want them to be “mini-me’s.” I want better for my children. But I want them to see a loving God and see what a life with a loving God can look like.
Jim: And that is so true. I mean, that’s what our No. 1 job is as parents, to connect our kids to God and to give them a good picture of what our Father in heaven is like. And that’s both through success and failure. And you have expressed that so well today, Kathi.
I do have some additional questions though, so let’s keep rollin’, talking about your book, I Need Some Help Here!, love that, subtitle, Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. Now I don’t know about you, but um … that describes our household at times. (Laughing) And if you need help in this area, John, tell ’em how to get a copy of the book.
John: Sure, we have it available at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or you can call us for details. Our number here in Colorado Springs is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459. And what we didn’t mention in today’s conversation is how Kathi’s book offers a lot of Scripture and prayer points for quite a range of situations. And it may be that your child is feeling left out from the popular group or they’re dealing with sickness or a debilitating injury or maybe they’re running away from God. Now no matter what your family is facing, you’ll find encouragement and practical parenting advice, just like you’ve heard today from Kathi, in the book. And that’s why we want to recommend that you follow up with this resource or you might get it and give it to a parent who’s at a point of pain with their child. They’re going through some rough waters.
You know, we really appreciate having a network of friends like you who help us get the word out to other families who are seeking answers for their parenting journey. And we hear from those moms and dads all the time. In fact, in the past 12 months, more than a half million parents have contacted us directly about a crisis in th