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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Practical Advice for Parenting Strong-Willed Children (Part 2 of 2)

Practical Advice for Parenting Strong-Willed Children (Part 2 of 2)

Educator and author Cynthia Tobias offers encouragement and practical advice for the difficult scenarios faced by frustrated parents of strong-willed children, ranging from very young to adult. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: October 9, 2012

Preview:

Cynthia Tobias: I was pretty easy to get along with. Didn’t fight you confrontationally till you point your bony finger in my face and you back me into the corner and you say, “Do it or else.” And then I’ll just else ’cause I know there’s nothing I really have to do except die, which I’m willing to do. If I’m willing to die and you’re not, I win. Okay, I’m dead but I win. I don’t care if I have to die to do it, do you understand? I don’t care if I have to die to do it.

End of Preview

John Fuller: Well, a strong statement from a strong-willed individual, Cynthia Tobias. And, uh, you’ll hear more from her today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Uh, Cynthia is good at nailing down how the strong-willed child, uh, thinks and acts. And, of course, being one, a self-proclaimed one, as she does, uh, she knows exactly how they think and act. And then she offers us guidance as a parent, as a teacher, as a former police officer on, uh, how to handle it as a parent. Uh, if you didn’t hear the program last time, you gotta download it or get the CD because it’s relevant, um, right where you’re at as a parent with that strong-willed child. Uh, Cynthia has lots of great tips and every parent is gonna benefit, and if you’re a grandparent, uh, this is the one you wanna pass along to your adult children who’re raising those grandkids for you. Uh, we said it last time, this is one of our most popular programs, which is why we wanted to come back to it and, uh, it got a huge response. In fact, let me read a comment we received from a parent named Deborah, who shared this. She said: “I heard your two-day broadcast with Cynthia Tobias and it was an answer to my prayers. I’ve been changed and there has been peace in my home for a month. Since I heard the broadcast, you gave me so much insight into the way my almost 14-year-old strong-willed daughter thinks. I’ve applied some of the strategies you spoke of and there is peace. I can’t thank the Lord enough for using you to bless me so much.” Um, John, that touches my heart. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do each and every day here at Focus on the Family. And I wanna say thanks to those of you who have supported the ministry. If you haven’t supported Focus on the Family in a while, may I ask you to, uh, participate with us in blessing others and helping them have a healthier, more God-centric home. That’s what we’re up to each and every day.

John: Yeah, we really do wanna help and, uh, your partnership is vital. You can donate, uh, get the download or CD of this presentation and more at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter, A, and the word, FAMILY. And the conversation is based on Cynthia’s book, You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded)-

Jim: (laughs).

John: … and here now is today’s Focus on the Family.

Jim: Cynthia, last time we were talking about that parent that has hit that natural boiling point. I mean, they… this is yet another grocery store moment, where they’ve said, “No,” to that candy bar. And sounds like I’m speaking from experience which-

John: This is a-

Jim: … I am.

John: This is a friend of yours, right? (laughs).

Cynthia: (laughs).

Jim: (laughs). A good friend of mine.

John: (laughs).

Jim: Uh, but, you know, you just get to that point you’re, you’ve said it as many as you can say it and they’re not listening to you and you’re saying, “What am I going to do?” And you hit that boiling point. Your nature human emotions, bang! You snap. And last time, uh, you gave us three quick, uh, ways to manage that. Let’s hit those again as a recap from last time.

Cynthia: Sure. We call it the strong-willed child emergency kit and that is your first step is to back off, get a little perspective, just back off, walk away if you have to, just a little ways. The second one is, is to figure out what the point is. What am I trying to accomplish? Is there another way to get there? So, can I just, you know, dial it back just a little. And then the third way is to just be honest. Um, to say, “Look, I’m not going to be able to do this here. I- I’m, I’m just… I’m going to say something I’ll regret, so I need to back off again.” Just honesty.

John: And that sounds like you’re giving up right there.

Cynthia: It does in some ways, but here… And, and I don’t know if this’ll be all that popular with the parents who are listening. ‘Cause let me just tell you one thing, as a strong-willed child, the honesty in a strong-willed parent, I had to apply to myself is it’s harder to do to ourselves. If I’m the strong-willed parent and I’ve got a strong-willed kid and we’re going toe-to-toe, I don’t want to lose. I’m not going to lose. And that kid’s not going to lose, right? And so one of us has to be able to figure out how to do this. And, and one clear example I remember when I was a police officer. You know, I’m a young, impetuous 26, 27-year-old police officer. I’m the only woman on the force for, for several years and so I’m, you know, I’m feeling pretty good in my uniform and I, I pull this guy over for, you know, he just didn’t completely stop. And so I’m thinking in my head, “I’ll just kind of give him a warning and just tell him that’s not what he should do.” So, I walked up to the car and before I could even say a word, he says to me: “Why’d you pull me over? You can’t give me a ticket. You just can’t even give me a ticket. You’re not even a real cop. You’re only a woman.”

Jim: Ooh.

John: Ouch.

Cynthia: And-

Jim: That wasn’t a very smart thing to say.

John: Them’s fightin’ words (laughs).

Jim: (laughs).

Cynthia: And so what I… You know what I did, right? I said, “You’re right, I’m not going to give you a ticket. I’m going to give you three.”

John: (laughs).

Jim: (laughs).

Cynthia: And he goes, “What?” And I said, “Yeah, the tread on your tires, the failure to notify department licensing about change of address within 30 day”-… I mean, I was doing little chippy things, right? Well, what happened immediately was things escalated quickly.

John: Mm.

Cynthia: In fact, he got out of the car and then… I mean, it turned into a fight and back-up-

Jim: Oh, my.

Cynthia: … and he ended up in jail. And, you know, the bottom line? It’s my fault.

John: Mm.

Cynthia: It was my fault. Uh, I let escalate. I let him bait me. And I learned then as I’ve learned through the years over and over, that those who anger you, control you. So, the moment he made me angry, the moment he made me lose my cool, and escalate and, and let him have it, I lost. He won. He was now in control. And even though I eventually got to put him in jail and go, “Ha! So there!” Nobody really won from that. And, you know, every parent knows that that’s true. You don’t feel good when you lose it and you snap and you… and you just say, “You’re grounded for life!” Or, “I- I’m taking away everything that you care about and I’m”-… You know, you can make horrible punishments and you don’t feel about that.

John: Mm.

Cynthia: You just… You lost it and you let that kid know, I can be weak. I can give in, and so I can’t count on you. I mean, as a strong-willed kid, I, I need to count on you to be solid. I need to know that you’re going to hold steady. And if you scream and yell at me, you’re not holding steady. That’s why your calm, firm voice says, “Nice try. We’re not going to do it.” And you, you don’t lose your cool. ‘Cause as a strong-willed kid, if I know the buttons to make you angry, I will push them.

Jim: Just about every day.

John: (laughs).

Cynthia: Every day-

Jim: The, uh-

Cynthia: Every chance I get (laughs).

Jim: Cynthia, when you’re… when you’re in that moment… I mean, what’s so important in what you’re saying that’s so critical is to de-escalate-

Cynthia: Yes.

Jim: … and everybody wins in that situation, when you can actually take the, uh, energy out of the process. I’ve tried to remember that when, you know, Trent and I are, are having our little, uh, parental problem (laughs). And, and, uh, you know, to put a smile on your face and to put your arm around him and say, “Listen, you know, Mom’s just asking you to do this. Can you honor your mom by doing that?”

Cynthia: Exactly. And that’s-

Jim: And-

Cynthia: And then that melts me there, yeah.

Jim: It, it… And they do jump in. What I notice with, with Trent which is so wonderful, he usually gets around to doing it, but to your point of control, he wants to do it when he wants to do it, within a reasonable amount of time. And now, we’ve begun to relax about that. So, if we say, “You know, we really would like you to mow the lawn.” I say, “Can you just get it done sometime this afternoon?”

Cynthia: Yeah.

Jim: And he gets it done. And I don’t stay harping on him. You know it’s one o’clock and you haven’t got it done yet. Well, you said sometime this afternoon. But you need to find ways to let them have some of that control, don’t you?

Cynthia: Yeah, you know, and the other little secret is did they empathize, you know? I know that you hate doing that and I… You know I wish there was another way around it, I sure appreciate you doing it. Do you think you could have that done by 2? I mean, as long as you know I hate it, then I’ll probably do it better for you.

John: Mm.

Cynthia: But when you just act like it’s my job to do it and I just better do it and just, you know, pull myself together, there’s something about that empathy. Again, it goes to the relationship-

John: Mm.

Cynthia: … where, where you and I can look at each other and you say, “I know it’s a bummer, isn’t it?”

Jim: You know some of this it, it almost sounds like respect as well.

Cynthia: It’s all respect.

Jim: It’s hard… It’s hard for a parent to understand that. I think I had to learn that. And believe me, even though I’m giving you good examples (laughs), it doesn’t always work that way.

Cynthia: Yep. I know that too.

Jim: I’ve got plenty of poor examples in my parenting.

Cynthia: Me too.

Jim: But it does come down to realizing that this is a human being.

Cynthia: Yep.

Jim: You gave birth to this human being, uh, but you need to respect your child in that way. Be honest with them, talk with them, don’t simply control them like a robot.

Cynthia: That’s right. And as parents, we don’t often realize, but they’re watching us very closely and they’re talking to us the same way we’ve been talking to them.

John: Mm-hmm.

Cynthia: But as the parent, that’s unacceptable to us. You can’t treat me that way. You cannot treat me with such disrespect. Without realizing, our responsibility as the parent is, we have to model it for them. How else will they know to practice? And that’s when the, the, the introspection comes in with the parent who doesn’t… You know, I shouldn’t have to kowtow to my child. That-

Jim: I don’t answer to you.

Cynthia: … child should just do. I don’t answer to you. They answer to me.

Jim: (laughs).

Cynthia: And, and then you think, “Well, I don’t know.” I think, you know, you, you get what you give and it’s hard-

Jim: Yeah.

Cynthia: … it’s hard to sometimes deal with that.

Jim: Uh, Cynthia, one thing that I’ve observed as well is it’s hard to pick to the battles. Uh, everything can look like the big stuff when in reality there’s probably only a handful of things that are the real big things, and then a lot-

Cynthia: That’s right.

Jim: … of it, it’s the little stuff. And we tend to sweat the little stuff maybe even more than the big stuff, but give us the examples of how we go about discerning what are the big battles and what the ones that w- we don’t need to win.

Cynthia: Right. And, and this is a classic, of course. And w-… You know, we, all of us as parents, have to decide what am I going to go to the wall for?

John: Mm-hmm.

Cynthia: ‘Cause I can’t go to the wall for everything or I’m not going to get anything. Um, if you make everything a big, fat, hairy deal, then everything will turn into a big, fat, hairy deal. And, and you will fight a battle on everything. So, just decide what… You know, in our home, physical safety is always a go to the wall issue. I’m-… It’s not going to be negotiable whether you walk out in traffic, or whether you don’t wear a seatbelt. So, physical safety, I’ll go to the wall for. Spiritual and moral values. I’m not going to make those negotiable. I’m not going to let you lie, or cheat, or steal, or hurt somebody. I’m going to wall for those. Now, if I’m going to get those, I’ve got to back off of other things. Exactly what you wear, um, exactly what you say or how you say it, I can’t have everything. So, as parents, it’s hard, but you have to figure out, is this one really worth it and because you’re not going to get everything and you may lose the stuff that was really worth it if you’re going to harp on the stuff that wasn’t.

John: Mm.

Cynthia: And the classic example when Mike and Rob were about eight, um, Mike, my strong-willed son at breakfast table, he says to his brother, “Hey, Rob, pass me the cereal.” And I said, “Mike, what do you say?” Robert pass me the cereal. Do it now.

Jim: (laughs).

John: (laughs). Not the words you were thinking.

Jim: Not quite what you thought.

Cynthia: I said, “Michael Tobias!” He goes, “I’m not going to say that word. I-… You can’t make me say that word. If I have to say that word, I’m just not going to eat breakfast.” And I said, “That’s fine, Michael Tobias. Because this is worth it to me. I’m not going to raise a rude, ill-mannered, ill-behaved child. This one’s worth it.” And he got up and he stomped down the hall and he went into his bedroom and he slammed the door. And he wasn’t even in there a minute before he s- stomped back down the hall and sat at the table and then he went, “Please!”

Jim: (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Cynthia: Now, you know, as a parent what I’m thinking, right? I’m thinking, “That’s not how we say it. Let’s start over.” But I did then what I did at least a couple of times a week. I mean, he’s 21 now, right? I covered, physically covered my mouth-

John: Mm.

Cynthia: And didn’t let myself say anything ’cause I realized I just won-

John: Mm.

Cynthia: … my go to the wall issue. If I’m going to keep pressing, if I’m going to keep convincing, I’m going to keep picking at him for exactly how he does it, I’m going to lose it all. We, we have to as parents put your hand over your mouth sometimes. Just think, did I get the really crucial point and does it really have to be exactly my way? Because if it does, everything’s going to disintegrate and it’s not worth it.

Jim: And in fact, what happens if, if you can’t do that, the child then sees you as renegotiating the deal constantly.

Cynthia: Right.

Jim: That’s what’s funny. I mean, Trent has actually said that to me. You keep renegotiating it. You told me to say please, I said please. You didn’t say I had to please kindly.

John: Mm-hmm.

Cynthia: That’s right.

Jim: I mean, they get-

Cynthia: Yeah.

Jim: … they get back to that exactness, don’t they?

Cynthia: That’s right ’cause the letter of the law can always get you. I can always get you with that. And it’s… Again, it’s a sense of humor, you know, the nice try and, you know, if you can just… If I do something outrageous that angers you, just enrages you, if before you just jump on me and say, “I can’t believe you just said that. You better”-… If before you do that, you can give me a fire escape, just a little one, you can say, “Ah, nice try. I thought you were serious.” And then I have a moment where I can say, “Oh, yeah, sorry.” And really the majority of the time, you’ll be surprised how often I will take that out. But one of my favorite stories my, my friend Sharon in Greenville, South Carolina, she, uh, her strong-willed son, Brandon, when she was about 16… Now, Sharon, she’s a by the book mom, but she’d been really practicing and, um, Brandon, he was about a ninth grader, and she picked him up after school and he’d been, you know, it-… He was all ramped up in conversation with his friends and stuff. And he got in the car and he tossed his backpack in the backseat and he got in the car and Sharon said, “So, Brandon, how was your day at school?” He said, “It was great chick.”

Jim: (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Cynthia: Well, well…

Jim: That doesn’t go down well in South Carolina.

Cynthia: So, Sharon, she’s got no… She’s got her hand over her mouth right away, right? And Brandon he’s frozen in fear ’cause he just realizes what he has said.

John: Mm.

Cynthia: He didn’t even think before he said it. He’s frozen in fear. So, so Sharon, she pulls herself together for a few seconds and then she says to him, “That’s Mrs. Chick to you.”

John: (laughs).

Jim: (laughs).

Cynthia: And he said, “Oh, Mom, I’m sorry.” Now, see if he hadn’t said, “Oh, Mom, I’m sorry,” then she would’ve had to go ahead and enforce the disrespect rule. You have to do that. You sometimes have to do it the hard way. But you have him just that moment that said, “You didn’t mean that, right?”

Jim: He caught it.

Cynthia: I mean, he sensed it. He caught it. He got a chance to correct it himself. He got control-

Jim: Right.

Cynthia: … and control of himself and instead of having a bony finger, he had a relationship with a mom who understood for a moment that he got carried away and he didn’t really mean it and she gave him just a second, a few seconds, to make it right.

Jim: Uh, Cynthia, we haven’t talked about this last time or this time, but the, the, uh, siblings of a strong-willed child-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … uh, let’s talk about that dynamic because often that strong-willed can consume all the oxygen in the home. I mean, it’s all about them all the time. And then you got little Junior (laughs), next to Big Brother and how do we ensure that we’re protecting that child in the proper way emotionally, sometimes even physically?

Cynthia: Of course, one of the things you should just do with all your kids is, you know, continually re-enforce strengths and point out strengths in front of your brother or sister and, and encourage them to recognize the strengths in that they’re different. When it comes to the strong-willed child, you’re right. A lot of times there’s a whole lot more going on with the strong-willed child and this more compliant brother or sister doesn’t get the attention. What I did… Robert was the compliant twin. He’s two minutes younger-

Jim: (laughs).

Cynthia: … than his twin brother, Mike, right? And Robert tell everybody it was the best two minutes of his life.

Jim: (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Jim: That says it right there, doesn’t it?

Cynthia: (laughs). Says it all doesn’t it? And when he was younger, I think he was probably about second or third grade and his brother constantly, you know, getting attention and stuff and I kind of drew him aside one morning and I put my arm around him and I said, “Robert, do you have any idea how valuable you’re going to be when you grow up?” He says, “What do you mean?” And I said, “Y- You’re going to be able to work almost any place you want because you will have incredible experience and ability to work with strong-willed people. You’ve practiced with the best: your brother, your mother… I mean, you’re learning every day how to bring out the best in somebody really strong-willed and, and strong personality.” He goes, “Yeah, I guess maybe you’re right.” And, you know, it’s really come true in many ways. As he’s gone through, I try to reinforce that in him and to say, “You know what you’re learning is how to deal with a strong personality. That is a good strength to have and it’ll be valuable to you later.” So, again, just reinforcing it’s not all that I have to have all that much attention as a more compliant child, it’s just the attention I get is encouraging and it’s positive and it’s strong.

John: Uh, as we talk Cynthia about the dynamics in the home, um, address some of those things that strong-willed kids do to their siblings because everything’s a battle, not just with the parent, but with the siblings as well, isn’t it?

Cynthia: Well, you know, my-… You could talk to my sister who’s five years younger than me, right? And she’s the compliant person. Not s-… Compliant doesn’t mean weak. All right? It doesn’t mean that you’re, you’re a namby-pamby-

Jim: Right. It’s a different personality-

Cynthia: It’s a different personality.

Jim: … trait.

Cynthia: It’s like the other hand. It’s compliant is to complete. And so, but, you know, I was not… I could have been perceived as the bully growing up, but I was the leader. Definitely the leader. And I was the boss kind of with her and people will ask her often and say, “Weren’t you kind of resentful that your sister, you know, kind of pushed you around and told you everything to do?” And she just smiles sweetly to this day and she says, “Oh, no.” She said, “I, I knew that I would never get in trouble.” She said, “It”-

Jim: (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Cynthia: … “anytime there was ever any trouble (laughs), I could always say, ‘It’s Cindy’s fault.’”

Jim: You were cover.

Cynthia: And I knew that was true.

Jim: (laughs). You were proving cover.

Cynthia: I, uh, exactly, I did.

John: And strong-willed kids do tend to get most of the discipline, don’t they?

Cynthia: We do tend… I mean, we take the bullet. It’s okay ’cause we’re willing to.

Jim: Well, parents will jump to the obvious, it had to be you.

Cynthia: That’s right.

Jim: And you’re the one that stole the cookie, fess up.

Cynthia: Right.

Jim: That can be hard too because a parent needs to be careful not to put undeserved guilt onto that-

Cynthia: Right.

Jim: … strong-willed child when… You know, I’ve had that dialogue in our home where Trent will say, “Hey, Troy did it, not me.” (laughs)

Cynthia: Yeah. And again, here you want to shift some responsibility and ask… By asking some questions, you’ll be in a better position. You can say, “Wow, you really hurt your sister’s feelings. Did you mean to do that?” See, and, and if I say, “No,” then I can say, “I- I didn’t think so. How did you want to make that right?” Now, what you’re doing is you’re shifting responsibility and control to me and I’m recognizing that, yeah, I did hurt somebody’s feelings. Now, if I say, “Did you mean to hurt your sister’s feelings?” And this-… the kid says, “Yes,” well now, we’ve got a different situation. We’re going to have to do it the hard way, but the hard way doesn’t happen nearly as often is if you shift responsibility and recognition to me as the strong-willed kid, “Yeah, I guess I did get a little bossy.”

Jim: In fact, Cynthia, in your book, You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded), uh, you give 10 tips and I think we should post these on the website, John.

John: Oh, great idea, yeah.

Jim: I won’t mention them all here, but, uh, some of them, if you have a strong-willed child, these are going to hit you because they did with me. One, value my ability to see the world from a unique perspective. And that’s beautiful. That’s that identity and that respect-

Cynthia: Right.

Jim: … that we talked about. Two, you mentioned, remember we need compelling problems to solve, not just chores to do. We talked about that. Uh, three ask for my input. Keep me in the information loop.

Cynthia: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, if you have that strong-willed child, you’re seeing your child in these. What are the others that you think are critical? I mean, you have 10 there. Do you want to run through the other seven?

Cynthia: Well, you know, we, we talk about protect the relationship because you’re not going to get much of anything with me if we don’t have one. Um, and we talk about smile at me more often. And this you have to practice. Smile when you don’t feel like it.

Jim: That’s hard to do.

Cynthia: It is.

Jim: That’s Christian and that’s hard. (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Cynthia: It is, but even scientifically, they say if you smile, it starts out fake, but it kind of turns into genuine.

John: Mm.

Cynthia: Uh, we talk about don’t let me push you around, but don’t push me around either.

Jim: Talk about that for a minute. Don’t let me push you around, but don’t push me around either. Boy, I can resonate with that with Trent. Can you John?

John: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a natural thing for a parent to do is to say, “You will.”

Jim: Yeah.

John: And that’s what you’re talking about here.

Cynthia: Right. Right. Because it’s, uh, it’s efficient, right? We already know what the deal is and we know what has to happen here, so just do it. And, and it takes a lot more time and a lot more effort to stop and let me try a little and ask a little and argue with you a little, it’s much more frustrating. Um, speak to me respectfully, but firmly, number seven. And that’s just really, really important. And that takes the most practice, but if you can stay calm, then you’ve won so many battles, more than you think. And then of course, choose your battles. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Uh, give me some control over my own life and circumstances and, you know, here especially, we find kids… For instance, kids that are foster kids or kids that have through divorce, kids that have lost… suffered the loss of a parent. Those are the things that take control away from me as a strong-willed child. I have lost control over my life. I’ve lost control over so much. I’ve been abandoned. Things haven’t worked out. I’ve got an alcoholic parent. So, I seek to control whatever I can, even if it’s a small, even if it’s a negative thing. So, any way you can build in giving me some control over my circumstances. And then number 10, which is so important and, and what God does to us all the time is, you know, remind me you love me. Even when you have to correct me, even when I have to learn the hard way, if you could just remind me. You know, you’re so special to me. You are so important to me and I don’t know if I’ve told you lately, but one of the things I love about you is… If you could just remind me how much you love me, makes all the difference in the world.

Jim: Well, those are, you know, 10 beautiful things that you have in your book. Uh, for the last few minutes here, talk about that strong-willed child that’s the grown adult maybe in their 20s and, uh, they’re back home. I mean, the economy right now, there are a lot of people that are in that seat. Uh, how does a parent (laughs)-

Cynthia: (laughs), yeah.

Jim: … of an adult, strong-willed child, how do you set the ground rules there for what will and what will not be tolerated?

Cynthia: It-… It’s tough, isn’t it? ‘Cause, you know, part of you is glad to see the child, part of you is not so glad-

Jim: (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Cynthia: … to see the child. Um, you want your child to succeed and you’ve got a lot of ideas for how they could do that, right?

John: Mm.

Cynthia: But here… But they’re 21, or they’re 26, or they’re 30 and, uh, I’m not all that receptive as a strong-willed adult, young adult, not that receptive to your ideas anymore, ’cause, ’cause, you know, I feel like I have my own ideas and you’re, you’re quick to say, “Well, obviously, your ideas didn’t work,” and there’s that poster that says, you know, a lot of kids to leave home to set the world on fire come back for more matches.

John: (laughs).

Jim: (laughs).

Cynthia: That’s where they are (laughs).

Jim: (laughs).

Cynthia: And we are more than happy to give it to them, right? But again, here it’s really important. Now, you’re dealing with a young adult, so the honesty, the transparency, you know, sit down at the table and say, “You know, we’re happy to have you stay while you get on your feet, um, let’s talk about what you think is fair.” You know, let… You know, maybe we’re, we’re not going to charge you rent, for example. But what do you think is fair as far as what, what you might give us in exchange for, and how will we know that you’re working on, you know… Ask questions. Ask questions. Ask questions. Instead of saying, “Well, look you can live here, but you’re going to need to do this, and I think it’s only fair that you do”… You have to resist the temptation with that young adult who they’re supposed to be thinking for themselves. You remind them how much you love them and how much you’re supporting them and how happy you are that they’re there, but, you know, instead of bugging them and nagging them, you just ask. You know, how would, would you like me to remind you about this? And how would you like to have this? And with that again, authority in your voice that says, “You know, it’s really not an option. I’m just kind of giving you this”-

Jim: Yeah.

Cynthia: … “opportunity to tell me what you want.”

Jim: Well, I love that illustration of putting your hand over your mouth-

Cynthia: Yeah, I still do that (laughs).

Jim: … as a parent. No, that’s good. That’s good to see.

John: What I hear you saying and Jim, you have said this time and again during the past few years that we’ve been in the studio together, the relationship with that child. That’s what you want.

Jim: It’s definitely more important than the rules. I know that sounds counter-intuitive because we, as Christians, particularly, and we want to live by the rules. We’re called to live by these righteous standards. But you know what? God is a god of relationship-

Cynthia: That’s right.

Jim: … first and foremost. And if you’re struggling with the rules, He wants to walk alongside you to improve that area of your life. If we’re really honest with ourselves, even as adults, even as parents, that’s true. And so how do we mirror that to our children, so that they know they are unconditionally love, that there’s expectations there, but that fundamentally, my relationship to you as your mother, your father is-

Cynthia: That’s right.

Jim: … core. Uh, let’s end with that, Cynthia. What are… what are your thoughts about that?

Cynthia: Well, you know, Tim Kimmel wrote a book about why Christian kids rebel.

John: Mm-hmm.

Cynthia: And, and, you know, I have a- a- one-… my strong-willed son who’s kind of rebelling a little bit in some ways now too and what’s going to bring him back is not going to be the sermons and not going to be the lectures and not going to be the reminders of what sin is and what sin isn’t. It’s… What keeps him close to me is the relationship that we’ve built. And, and it’s very difficult sometimes as a Christian parent ’cause your heart just aches that this child is making these mistakes, but when you think about what Christ does for us, I serve Him because of the relationship. I don’t serve Him because of the hammer and because of the internal damnation if I don’t. Now, that’s a bonus that I don’t get that, don’t get me wrong. But, but the thing that draws me and if you really think about what’s going to draw them to the church, what’s going to draw them to Christ and to the foot of the cross, it’s not going to be a bony finger, it’s going to be the love, and the consistency, and the unconditional relationship that we give them.

Jim: In fact, in Romans 2:4, it says: “It’s God’s kindness that leads one to repentance.”

Cynthia: That’s right.

Jim: And you can put the parent in there as well.

Cynthia: And one-

Jim: It’s a parent’s kindness that leads a child to repentance.

Cynthia: Right. Right. And one word of encouragement to parents of strong-willed, rebellious kids, you know, God’s the perfect Father, but He still has wayward children.

Jim: (laughs). Well, Cynthia Tobias, that is a good place to end. Your book, You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded), love the title. Thank you for being with us on-

Cynthia: No, it was great.

Jim: … Focus on the Family.

Cynthia: Thank you.

John: You know, every time I hear Cynthia Tobias on Focus on the Family, I’m reminded of some of the nuance involved with parenting a strong-willed child and she really knows how to unpack and simplify those concepts she shared.

Jim: I agree, John. Cynthia has such great wisdom and depth and I think a lot of that comes from her having been one of those strong-willed children herself. She knows how they think-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … ’cause she is one.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And that’s why we wanted to come back to this program because I know it’s going to help parents who are struggling in this particular area. And we want to be there for you to get practical resources into your hands so you can apply them in your home. And I want to say thanks to those of you who have supported Focus to give that kind of hope to families.

John: Yeah, and your monthly pledge helps us to do that on an ongoing basis, so we really appreciate that. Donate as you can and if you’re not able to make a pledge right now, uh, please consider a one-time gift of any amount. Either way, we’ll say thank you for joining the support team by sending a copy of Cynthia’s book, You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded). Donate today when you call 800, the letter, A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

You Can't Make Me (But I Can be Persuaded)

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