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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Rising to the Challenge of Parenting (Part 1 of 2)

Rising to the Challenge of Parenting (Part 1 of 2)

Dr. David Clarke offers parents proven, time-tested strategies for raising children to become healthy, well-adjusted adults in a discussion based on his intriguingly titled book Parenting is Hard and Then You Die: A Fun But Honest Look at Raising Kids of All Ages Right. (Part 1 of 2)



David Clarke: For a child, time equals love, quality time. Individual time with each child also very important. I did a lot of group things. We had four kids, so there was a grouping often. But to identify each child and what they want to do once every two to three weeks a couple of hours with each child, mom doing it and dad doing it, is a goldmine.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Dr. David Clarke joins us today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: You know, parenting is one of the most rewarding tasks I think a man or woman can, uh, do in this life. It’s so rewarding, but it is exhausting and taxing as well. It’s kind of like the best of the worst. And Proverbs  22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go. And even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” But that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be any resistance to that (laughter) or difficulty or struggle. There isn’t a magic formula for the perfect child. I don’t think there’s a perfect child. In fact, God, in my heart, says, “You’re all teenagers to me.”


Jim: And – uh, because we’re all sinners saved by grace. And today, we’re gonna talk about how to overcome those roadblocks that we as parents often hit in our child – often hit as we’re raising our children. And who better to talk about that than Dr. David Clarke? He has over 30 years of experience counseling families through every kind of issue you can imagine.

John: Yeah. He is, uh, a psychologist, an author, a speaker. And, uh, Dr. Clarke’s most recent book is Parenting Is – Dr. Clarke’s recent book is Parenting Is Hard…

Jim: (Laughter).

John: …And Then You Die.


Jim: That’s encouraging.

John: That is a – the subtitle is a fun but honest look at raising kids of all ages right.


Jim: David, welcome back.

David Clarke: Well, good to be here.

Jim: All right. So right off the bat, you ask if children are gifts from God in your book or instruments of slow torture.


Jim: So which is it?

David: It is both.

Jim: It’s both. I know.

David: As you said in your opening, it’s wonderful. We find our four kids just endlessly interesting and fascinating at the same time.

Jim: So the gender breakdown of your four kids, what is it?

David: We have Emily, Leeann and Nancy – three girls right in a row. And then there was a pause, and we weren’t sure we were gonna have a fourth. And then we did.


David: God took a hint. And then – so William Clarke came along.

Jim: You also relate – and, of course, people, if you don’t know Dr. David Clarke, there is a lot of humor in what he writes. And I think you use that as a tool to make sure you can hit tough topics in a way that people can digest it. Is that fair?

David: Right. You just can’t say it. It’s too serious…

Jim: Yeah.

David: …And too threatening. So a humor goes a long way.

Jim: So take that as we continue to talk about it because (laughter) right off the bat you relate to parenting as, uh, a major war, and a battle. What exactly is the war? And what are you getting at?

David: Well, there’s three wars. You’re in a war with your own kids. They’re wonderful. They’re precious gift from God. The Bible’s clear on that. However, they’re fiendishly inventive. They have the old nature. And they want their way. And along the way, they’re going to break your heart. You have to embrace that truth. Every now and then, you have a sweetheart of a kid who’s pretty easy to raise. It’s like a white rhino – very rare.

Jim: (Laughter).

David: And if you have one like that, you ain’t gonna have two. So you’re fighting your kids. You’re also fighting your spouse. Sandy and I had, we’d come to find out after our first child, two totally different parenting styles based on our personalities, based on how we were raised. Oh, my goodness. So that, we had a struggle to figure out – because you need to be a team – and we disagreed on most things. And we had to figure it out. And then, of course, you’re in a war with culture, which means Satan.

Jim: Boy, that’s so true. And we’re going to unpack all of that. But how can parents make a difference when we have so many forces, like you’ve described, kind of aiming against us or trying to take us down in our role and responsibility?

David: Well, Proverbs 22:6 says it best. You quoted that, Jim. We – parents are the final authority. We have the most influence. That’s always been the case, and it always will be. All these surveys taken, even among secular people – parents have the most influence. So we can do it with God’s help.

Jim: Yeah. And you and Sandy had, uh, a big decision about selling a house. And you parlayed that into a parenting approach. How did you do that? And what does it mean?

David: Oh, don’t ever sell a home. Die in the home you’re in.


David: I am telling you. And this new home we have – I’m going to be carried out. I’m not selling.

Jim: (Laughter).

David: All the different pieces, fixing it up and – and dealing with the realtor – the bank was the worst. We banked with this – I won’t give the bank’s name – for 35 years. And they act like they didn’t even notice, which they didn’t. They dragged the process out – all kinds of paperwork. They lose the paperwork – nightmare. So we’ve figured out we couldn’t do it alone. Even Sandy and I working together – we had to have a support team. We had a wonderful realtor – Liz , wonderful person. She really helped us. And we had friends, Bob and Pam Johns – our best friends. They were on the team. They were talking to us. They – Bob has sold, uh – bought and sold several homes. So he knew the process. He’s an old banker – not old, but he used to bank. And so we had my parents, who would listen to us crab and whine. And so it was a team. Same thing’s true with parenting. You can’t do it alone – got to have a team…

Jim: What does that team look like?

David: Well, it is God, first of all. Again, just like marriage, you can’t do parenting alone without him. He’s got the power. Who can raise a child, who can have the patience, the self-control, the difference the wisdom, the guidance to raise a child on their own? – can’t do it. So you stay close to God. Of course, you’re gonna be very connected to your spouse. You’re going to be a team. Church, I think, is vitally important. I know Focus is full support of the local church. You need to be in church and not just attending but involved – children’s ministry if you’ve got kids, uh, solid youth program for youth – got to have it. We – looking back, we wouldn’t have made it without that. Plus, you’ve got friends. And you’ve got the Word of God. You’ve got worship.

The kids are involved in that and other adults that can really come alongside. I say coaches. We had some wonderful coaches. This is a – could be just persons or other couples that you’re very close to, that support you and your parenting. We were saved by godly people like that. The Johns were some of them that – that really came alongside of us. And when you’re in the middle of it, you can’t see what to do until you read Dr. Clarke’s wonderful book. And even if you do, talking to a friend who knows your kids – “Well, have you tried this?” “I hadn’t thought of that. Gosh.” And you start doing that, and it works.

David: …Big time.

Jim: You know, in the book, you mention how critically important it is to keep your marriage first in the parenting effort. And we can all understand that. We could say, “Oh, yeah. We all agree.” And then to actually do it is really tough because…

David: Yeah.

Jim: …The kids can disrupt your – your marital bond. I mean, they work you. They pit you against each other.

David: Yeah.

Jim: So how do we make it practically correct that we can keep our marriage first? How do we do it?

David: You have a series of conversations where you make it clear – the Bible’s clear on this – Genesis 2:24 – the one-flesh relationship – Ephesians 5:25 – our marriage is No. 1. No matter what the situation – traditional family, blended family – our marriage is top of the food chain. I told my kids growing up, “We love you dearly. I love your mother more.” “How can you love mom more?” “I do. Check the Bible. I will read the verses.” “Ah.” They didn’t care.

Jim: Because you’re leaving at some point…

David: Exactly.

Jim: …And she ain’t (laughter).

David: She’s staying here, God willing. That’s critically important because even – even good kids – they want their way. Culture’s tugging on them. They want to do this and that. And they know exactly what each of you are like. And if there’s any room between you, they’re going to exploit it.

Jim: Oh, yeah. They’re good at that.

David: They are…

Jim: It’s amazing.

David: …Masters.

Jim: You offer three questions that we should ask our spouse to gauge our priorities. What are those?

David: First one is – look. And this is – this is being very honest. “Honey, what is above you on my priority list?” And you need…

Jim: From her or his perspective?

David: Yeah, from her perspective. “What is more important than you?” Now, if I was asking the blonde that – and it’s still – this is my big bugaboo – is work. I’m a workaholic. Hello, my name is Dave, and I’m a workaholic. I am. And so that would be what she would answer often when I asked her that. So the second question is “OK. What can I do to fix that, to make you more important in that priority?” And either the woman or the – or the man – they’ll have ideas. “We’ll try this, try that” – stuff they’ve been dying to tell you or they’ve been telling you, and you’ve been ignoring them. And then the final thing is – look – “I – as ongoing here, let’s continue to – I give you permission to call me out. Anytime you see the priority slipping, you call me out on it, and I will fix it.

Jim: Huh. Describe that for us because sometimes the mission of parenting is so critically important. And we want our kids to follow the Lord and – you know, that we can forego making our marriage the most important. And it seems reasonable, logical.

David: Yeah.

Jim: Correct – I mean, but how do we regain our equilibrium, say, “Wait a minute. This isn’t quite the way we should be doing this”?

David: One parent will usually figure it out first. And then we’re a little off balance here because parenting demands so much time and attention and effort and prayer and all the things involved in it. So you can easily focus on your kids too much. When a child – the real problem is – and we had this with one of our kids – really had a problem in middle school when there’s real acting out, and there’s a real issue then it’s – it’s almost like the marriage gets suspended and all – you know, everything goes to that child. Now, that’s a mistake because you’re losing your effectiveness. You’ve got to continue to keep the marriage strong.

Jim: Yeah. But if you’re – for the couple taking that inventory maybe tonight after hearing this – they’re sitting together going through that list, what does it look like when it’s out of kilter? Help the couple that’s maybe blinded, and they don’t even see that they’re kid-centric as opposed to marriage-centric.

David: You’ve lost your couple-ness. You’ve lost your romance and your passion. You don’t go out on dates. Or if you do, you’re dumb enough to take one of your kids. What is the matter with you? It’s like The Waltons. Stop.

Jim: Yeah.

John: (Laughter).

David: They’re always around. No. You go out. And you don’t lose your romance. And you – you’re not going out two – I say minimum two weekends a year. You need to get away from your kids. If you’ve got grandparents, grandparents are for dumping the kids on. They’ll love them. They’ll spoil them. And you need to use them.

Jim: But what if they give him too much sugar?

David: Well, who cares? They’ll survive.


David: That’s what grandparents are for.

Jim: Right.

David: I have never said no to my three grandkids, and I never will (laughter).

Jim: Five people just turned the radio off (laughter).

David: They probably did – tough.

John: Yeah. I’m thinking that the, uh – the calendar can be a real good representation of maybe a marriage that’s out of whack because we’ve got soccer. And we’ve got these lessons. And we’ve got that and this and that. And I may be guilty of not scheduling the time with my spouse.

David: Right. Each week, you need to have time apart from the kids connecting and talking. And most parents aren’t doing that. And they think, “Well, you know what? We have to get through the parenting thing. And then once they’re OK, we can get them back to our marriage.”

Jim: Yeah.

David: No. There won’t be a marriage to go back to. The empty nest – I’m seeing a high divorce rate in my practice and other counselors across the country at the empty-nest stage. Kids are finally gone. It’s just you and I. We got nothing.

Jim: Yeah. A while back I think it was Wall Street Journal – said that’s the No.1 category divorce. The graying of divorce, they call it, is the empty – early empty-nesters.

David: Oh, yeah. It’s happening.

Jim: Yeah.

David: So you work on the marriage now. We used to put our kids – we locked our little kids in their rooms because they kept coming out. Sandy reversed the locks.

Jim: (Laughter).

David: I’ll never forget the night. They’re running around – four kids. And we’re trying to have a couple talk time. Ah, she said, “We can reverse the locks and put the twisty on the outside.” I said, “I’ve married a genius.”


David: It was a moment of beautiful clarity. We locked them in. We said, “Visiting hours” – like at the zoo – “Visiting hours are over.” “Whoa.” I said, “If you want your door open, we’re reasonable people” – because kids worship the hall lights. It’s always about the hall light.

Jim: Yeah.

David: “I have to see the hall light.” It’s a sun god to them. “OK. If you want the hall light, you can stare it all night long, and burn your retinas out. I don’t care as long as you’re quiet.”

Jim: (Laughter).

David: “I won’t be sleeping” – could care less. Just be quiet.

Jim: Stay in there.

John: (Laughter).

David: And so we would lock them in sometimes because we were building a marriage.

Jim: Yeah. No. That’s commitment. Um, David, in your book, I want to, you know, have you fess up here because it said – you said you cheated in your high school literature class. Now, first of all, you shouldn’t cheat, David.

David: (Laughter) Is that like a sin?

Jim: Yes.

John: Does that invalidate…

David: Oh, man (laughter).

John: …The book we published?

Jim: Yeah. And secondly, you know, how does that relate to prioritizing your marriage? I can’t believe you connected these two.

David: (Laughter) You have to read these horrible books…

Jim: (Laughter).

David: Lorna Doone, Wuthering Heights. Wuthering is right. I was withering reading that book – just awful stuff. Jane Eyre – you could torture people, and they reveal their secrets being forced to read those books. So I went to Cliff’s Notes. Oh, Cliff Note – the little – yellow Cliff Notes where they give you the outline.

Jim: So that was your cheating.

David: Oh, it was.

Jim: OK. That’s not too bad.

David: And I confessed it. We’re – God’s OK with that. We moved on.


Jim: Cliff Notes are OK. But then apply it to marriage.

David: Well, I’ve got Cliff Notes from marriage. And even though it’s a parenting book, there’s a section on marriage and keeping it strong. And so I’ve got just a few little Cliff Notes there that can keep a marriage strong and make sure they can stay on track.

Jim: OK. And what do those Cliff Notes say for you? I mean, when you’re – the practical advice on those Cliff Notes – how can a couple promote emotional intimacy in the midst of all this chaos with the kids?

David: Well, you better have – and the kids are in their room. Small kids – lock them in – whatever – get them to bed. Teens – don’t worry; they’ll be in their room already because they hate you.

Jim: (Laughter).

David: This isn’t an issue so – “We’re having a talk a couple talk time.” “Oh, great. I hate you,” you know?

John: (Laughter).

Jim: That’s pretty funny. You don’t have to say go to your room for your teens.

David: You don’t.

Jim: That’s so true.

David: You can’t drag ’em out of the room.


David: Anyway, so you create four 30-minute couple talk times each week – four days, 30 minutes, just…

Jim: Just you and your spouse.

David: Just you and your spouse.

Jim: Yeah.

David: You talk about the kids. You talk about your – your life, your couple-ness or your relationship with God. That’s how you develop emotional intimacy, in those deeper conversations so you’re still in love. Now, there’s the spiritual area, uh, that’s critically important. In those talk times, you pray. You talk spiritually. You share what’s going on in your spiritual lives. And you read the Bible together. So you’re focused and growing as a couple.

Jim: Yes.

David: And then the physical area – what is it? You must have sex in order to have kids. But once you have kids, you have no more sex. It’s over. We’ve got to stop that.

Jim: (Laughter).

David: Come on. So we – it’s not just, uh, being intimate in the bedroom in the whole enchilada. It’s kissing and making out and giving massages. I have to retrain couples in this because they’ve lost it. “We are not going to have any more kids.” Well, fine, but you – God still wants you to be involved physically. That’s – you can’t do it with anybody else. And you have to retrain them. I’ll say, “What’s your kissing like?” “Well, here’s how we’re kissing.” “Stop that. That’s embarrassing. That’s not a kiss.”


David: Shake hands, and get it over with. It’s about that exciting. Let’s have a smacker of a kiss when you leave in the morning, when you get home at night, during the – after a couple talk time, there should be some making out. Come on. If you want to get rid of a teen if they’re haranguing you if they’re causing a problem, you just start making out. They’ll leave the room.


David: They’ll leave the country.

John: They do.

David: They can’t take it.

John: They do. They don’t like watching that…

David: Oh, it’s a horrible.

John: …At all.

David: It’s so awful.

Jim: I’m kind of speechless here.

John: Well, this is a good time, then, for me to just remind our audience that you’re listening to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And our guest today is Dr. David Clarke, an author, speaker and psychologist. And, uh, he’s written a great book that Focus on the Family has helped publish. It’s called Parenting Is Hard And Then You Die.

Jim: (Laughter).

John: And we have copies of that and this broadcast, lots of other help as well at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800-A-FAMILY.

Jim: David, I want to slip this in with the kids because your children are a little older. You’re empty-nesting now.

David: Yeah.

Jim: I’ve got late teens, so, uh…

David: I’m sorry.

Jim: Well, there’s kind of this idea that once they leave the house, then parenting is over. What’s the truth?

David: Oh, if only. No. We stay in touch with all of our kids. And now they’re going to the young adult things. The good news is we’ve been there before. The bad news is they really don’t want to hear from us.


David: But there are times – of course, we’re in support. We’re still helping them. And now our kids are having kids. And they’re having the parenting things – so a lot of dialogue about that. And we’re enjoying it. And there’ll be times when you can kind of – when they will ask for some help. But there’ll be some low-key – it’s always, “FYI, if you want to do this, OK.” Um, but I’m hoping this parenting book – they’ll actually read that because they’re having kids of their own. I think it’s gonna help them because really, they’ve turned out beautifully.

Jim: Well, there’s a great example of what a grandparent can do. I mean, get this book for your children. That’s a good idea. Let me ask you, David. Every child, um, has specific needs. Uh, I think that’s true. We’re all unique. Uh, but you boil it down to five needs that every child has. Let’s touch those briefly. What are the five?

David: Love – that comes first – respect, competence, spirituality and independence. If you can meet those five needs, you’re gonna turn out a successful, independent and effective person.

John: Uh, David, in light of those five, how many kids express those needs? And how much of this is, “As a parent, I just need to know my kids need these five things?”

David: Yeah. No kid’s gonna ever come up and say it. You’re exactly right. They’re not even aware of it. As the parent, that’s our job. And of course, God makes it clear in the Bible, I think, all these needs in his own way. But yeah. You have to just know. Yeah. They’re actually desperate to get all of these needs met. But they don’t – little kids especially don’t have the wherewithal to really voice that. Teenagers start to get it. But again, they’re not going to voice it.

Jim: Yeah.

David: They’re like, “I got to make my own way. And I’ll trust you. And you’re too old.” So we have to do it ourselves.

Jim: David, as a young child, your daughter Emily was attached to – I think it was a pacifier.

Jim: …If I remember in her book. Tell us about that and why that was so disturbing to you.

David: Oh, my goodness. We made the mistake – and I think it was a mistake looking back. We gave her the pacifier, you know, to keep her quiet and to soothe her. Well, it worked. But Emily, she’s a very feisty girl, and still is a feisty adult. She’s strong-willed. She would not give up the pacifier. She’s 3 years old. She’s a little over 3, and she’s not giving it up. She had to have it to sleep at night. I began to hate that pacifier. It was a bane of my existence because when she went to sleep with it, she would lose it during the night and then wake up screaming, “Ah, my pacy, my pacy.” And she – she was smart enough to know it was a certain pacy she had to have.

Jim: Oh, really?

David: Any other pacifier, no, no, she knew it – the curve of it in my mouth.

Jim: (Laughter) You couldn’t find another one.

David: “That’s not” – and she’d go, “Pfft” and spit it out. I would search for 20 minutes. “Where is the pacifier?” One night after a 20-minute search, it had fallen down her nightshirt and was against her navel. Oh.


David: So the day came when Sandy and I said, “OK, enough of the pacifier.” I took it out. Now, we didn’t have Emily watch. It would – it would have traumatized her. But it was a moment of victory for us. I had Sandy buy me – I took a hammer, and I shattered the pacifier. “Free at last” – I think I yelled something like that. Some of the neighbors, “What’s the matter with that guy?”

Jim: (Laughter).

David: I said, “I’m a psychologist. Everything’s fine.”

Jim: Yeah, right (Laughter).

David: And then that night, she didn’t have the pacy. Oh, couple of nights of screaming, she got over it. But the point is that – that she depended on that, but it had to be taken away from her. There were was that limit we had to put on her, otherwise she’d be – still have it today at 33. I mean, come on.

Jim: Right.

David: You have to make a move.

Jim: Yeah, and you’re putting that under the category of loving your child. But from the child’s perspective, what does love look like at different stages? Let’s talk about the early years – those 8- to 10-, 12-year-old years and then the teen years.

David: Time is so important for a child. Even a young child, love is measured in time – the time you spend with them doing what they want to do. I’ll bring up the Barbie thing, even though it’s traumatizing to me.


David: My three little girls wanted to play Barbies – Emily, Leeann and Nancy. I held the line on the Barbie thing for years. And then somebody else – I think it was a grandparent – gave them a Barbie, and the gates were opened. “Let’s play Barbies, Daddy.” You know what? But that was love. That’s what they wanted to do and that’s how…

Jim: And what did that look like that was so frustrating to you, obviously?

David: Well, you walk into the big clubhouse – big place in the back of our home – and there’ll be a pile of 45 naked Barbies because they have to be clothed. You spend 20 minutes clothing Barbie. You think it’d be a piece of cake ’cause she’s anorexically thin.

Jim: (Laughter).

David: It’s not true. Barbie’s clothes are thinner than Barbie.


David: It’s like, are you kidding? Tugging on a pair of pants and a shirt, and it’s all, “Oh, you look good in that, Barbie. That doesn’t meet your complexion.” All the Barbies have the same complexion. “No, no. I think you’re more of a spring.” “Seriously?” “I have to change.” But all that was about loving them. And the Barbies get together, and we decide what to do. Uh, “Let’s go to the beach. Let’s do this.” We’re all talking and connecting, and they love doing that.

Jim: And this is you playing with your three daughters.

David: Oh, on the floor.

Jim: And it’s all verbal.

David: Yes. The blonde was nowhere in sight. This was her break.


John: Great. She might have given them the Barbie. I don’t know. So this would be an hour, an hour and a half of just playing and talking, and I can’t get Barbie – you can’t get Barbie’s shoes on. I’m just here to tell you, they’re incredibly small. And you can only find one shoe. Well, they have to match. Even little girls know that. “That’s a brown shoe, and that’s a green shoe, Daddy.” I said, “Who cares? We’re not going out.”


John: No, no, they have to – and so we’d talk, and it was fun. And they felt loved ’cause dad was gonna do that.

Jim: Yeah, chit chat, chit chat. But now your son comes along. What did he do with the Barbies, (laughter) threw ’em across the room?

David: He would tear their heads off and burn them (laughter).


Jim: I know, it’s true. Isn’t it?

David: He was not gonna do that. William didn’t even do the G.I. Joe thing.

Jim: Yeah, go G.I. Joe.

David: It was out there, and we were just – it was all sports with William, activity. He’s loved sports. He’s a great golfer, tennis player. We did that for years. It worked out well ’cause I’m a golfer myself.

Jim: And you’ve hit it for those stages. I mean, being engaged, spending time is what you said. And that time then is what they want to do with you, right?

David: Right.

Jim: That’s what you’re saying. Don’t do what you want to do. Do what they want to do.

David: Yeah. I had a dad in my office a few weeks ago, and he has got a teenage boy. That teenage boy loves to fish. The dad hates to fish. I said, “I don’t care what you think or what you feel. You’re taking your son fishing. That’s his thing.” “I can’t…” “A couple years of that, will that kill you? You do what he wants to do.” “I want to play golf.” “No, your son hates golf. Don’t do that.”

John: Yeah.

David: It’s just common sense. You sacrifice.

John: Meet your kid where they’re – where they’re at.

David: Right.

John: Yeah.

David: Whatever they want to do.

Jim: No, that’s really good. You also describe that parenting three-step. So describe for us what that is.

David: All is about relationship. The first type of parenting – the parenting one-step – is we – we’re gonna build. We’re gonna meet these five needs in your child’s life – love, respect, competence, spirituality and independence. And when you do that, you’re going to have a successful child. I’m convinced of it because it worked for our kids and many – hundreds of parents I’ve seen in my practice. The second parent – parenting two-step – is, when you meet those needs, you’re building the relationship – most important thing. When they hit all along – when they hit teens, that relationship is vitally important to navigate them through all the horrible stuff Satan has for them to sample. And then the final three-step – parent three-step – is when you’ve done those first two steps, you’re effective. You’re gonna be an effective parent. And your efforts are going to pay off. And they’re going to listen to you when you really need them to listen to you.

Jim: Well, that’s really good. And that’s all in the book, which is really helpful. You also ask – or suggest that you ask – three questions of yourself, your child and your parenting team when it comes to your relationship with each child. What are those questions?

David: And this is tough. We did this way back in the day and – ’cause it felt it the right thing to do. You gotta get the feedback. No. 1, what – you know, “How am I doing in this relationship, building the relationship with you? What am I doing right?”

Jim: Yeah.

David: And hopefully they – “Well, Dad, you’re doing this. You’re doing that,” if it’s the child. Or – course, the blonde always knew. She knows everything. She’s with ’em all day long. She’s…

Jim: She’s way ahead of ya.

David: Oh, she – totally. So I would ask her, “Honey” – and she – and I would take her advice every time because she just knows. Women just know. The moms know. She might not be able to be the one to do it. I’m the dad, but she can let me know what to do. So what am I doing right? Second, of course, what am I doing wrong? I’m open to feedback. That’s a real man or a real mom – real woman – who will ask that question. What am I doing that’s hurting our relationship? Children know. When they have permission to say, they might just tell you. Or even close friends. I would ask Bob Johns. We would – we used to go to Havana Villa – just this dive that had the best Cuban sandwiches in town – and he knew the kids. He’d interact with them, and so he’d give me great advice. “Dave, I’m telling you I would do this. I would do that.” He’s got a couple of great boys. And I’d give him – I’d give him advice that really helped.

Jim: And even more helpful, “Don’t do this.”

David: Exactly.

Jim: I mean, really.

David: “Stop doing that.” Or “Don’t – I tried that. It didn’t work.”

Jim: Yeah.

David: And then the third question is, you know, on an ongoing basis I – tell me when you catch me doing something I shouldn’t be doing, or it’s not helping. Please tell me because I don’t want to make a mistake.

Jim: Yeah.

David: And I also would put in there, when I’m doing something right, you know, let me know. Give me some feedback.

Jim: That’s good. You know, one thing I did, Dave, which was really helpful, is when the boys were bringing their report cards home, I created a little daddy report card for ’em. I had, like, seven things to it.

David: Ooh, I like that.

Jim: Yeah, it was really good. And I just asked them, you know, A to F, have I spent enough time with you in this last semester? Have we laughed enough together? Have I taught you something that you need to know, like changing a tire or something? And then spiritually, have I taught you about God in a way that has drawn your closer to him? Those are kind of the questions I would ask. The lowest grade I ever got was a C, which was time together.

David: Not bad.

Jim: It was a busy period. But mostly it’s B’s and A’s. But I decided – opened up the dialogue. That’s what you’re driving at.

David: Right.

Jim: It begins to open up discussion between you and your…

David: Right.

Jim: …Children about how you’re doing…

David: Yeah.

Jim: …As a father or a mother.

David: True. And even to ask the question of a child is an indication – I love you.

Jim: Yeah.

David: I love you enough. I’m open to whatever you’ll tell me.

Jim: Yeah.

David: And kids respond to that.

Jim: Hey, David. As we close today – and I want to come back next time and keep the dialogue going. We’ve got more of those five things that children need. We’ve covered love – one of them. But let’s come back next time and cover the other four. But as we close out, speak to that parent who feels overwhelmed. I’m thinking of that mom that is so stressed out. Dad is checked out, and she’s trying to carry this big load. And that may be exactly where you’re at as a listener. What can they do to begin to form that solid relationship with each child individually? What advice do you have for ’em?

David: Well, I’d say first of all, boy, join the club. Sandy and I at many times during parenting were overwhelmed. “We’re not getting this done.” It doesn’t look good, and you worry so much because how they turn out means everything to you.

Jim: Yeah.

David: So you embrace that. But at the same time, you make it a matter of prayer. And I think having a plan – I’ve got a plan in the book. It works. You got to follow a clear plan. All the principles are biblical, and you will carry the day. There’s times when you don’t think you will, but you will carry the day. They will turn out OK.


Jim: David, this is so good. And the time has flown by. And I want to come back again and talk about those other attributes that children need from us as parents. But first, let me remind the listeners of Focus on the Family, we are here for you. We have caring Christian counselors and other great resources like our seven traits of effective parenting assessment. It free. It’s a quick quiz that takes about five minutes to do. And it will highlight those things you’re doing well. And it’ll show you some of those things that you may need to strengthen. And there’s suggestions to use some great tools and resources there for you too. One of those great tools is Dr. Clarke’s book, Parenting Is Hard And Then You Die: A Fun But Honest Look At Raising Kids Of All Ages Right. That’s the title and subtitle, and I am grateful to David. We’re publishing that along with Tyndale. It’s a wonderful book. And we’ll send that to you as our way of saying thank you for a monthly pledge or even a gift of any amount one time.

John: And we’re listener supported to, so we rely on your prayer and financial contributions so we can reach out and help families like yours.

Jim: You know, one of the things that we can do as Christians, and it’s really important, is to give people hope. Together we can do that. If you can support Focus on the Family financially, we can reach more people and help more people, and I do believe that’s the heart of God.

John: And we trust that this broadcast has encouraged you, and that its doing so right now in somebody else’s life as well. You can get the kind of hope Jim is talking about when you donate, and we do request your copy of Parenting is Hard and Then You Die. And be sure to take that parenting assessment as well. Our website is focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, and our phone number, 800 – the letter A, and the word family. 800-232-6459.

On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we continue with Dr. David Clark and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

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Parenting is Hard and Then You Die

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