Jim: He’s brutally honest. That’s the thing. David, welcome back to Focus.
Jim: It’s so good. I mean, I love your energy. I love your humor. And it’s – I connect with it because I problem-solve through humor as well. I mean, and this life can be so overwhelming if you don’t have a sense of humor about it. It’s crushing.
David: Oh, I agree. You have to laugh, or you’ll be driven crazy.
Jim: I think so.
David: By your own kids.
Jim: All right, um, so we covered these five needs of a child. Let’s recap those, and we’ll get into it again. What are the five?
David: Love, respect, competence, spirituality and independence – that is the package.
Jim: And we hit love. But, again, for the listeners joining us, let’s touch on that again real quick. What – from a child’s perspective, what does love look like?
David: For a child, time equals love, quality time. And I recommend – we didn’t touch on this last time, so I’m glad you brought it up, Jim – 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.
Jim: Why is that so important? I think that’s an area I may have not, um, kept my eye on because having two boys, we did a lot together. And it was always boy stuff. You know, we’d go play basketball together, do things together. And I – I do regret not separating that sometimes. I mean, I did some of it, but probably not enough of it.
David: Yeah, it’s tough to think of because your time is so tight. And this is an extra, going the extra mile. It’s not every week, maybe. But that – for the child that we’re – we’re doing just this. It’s just about me. This is all about me. And it gives the opportunity, when you’re doing an activity with a girl or boy, for some nice things to come out that will not come out if brother and sister were there.
Jim: Right. And that’s true. Usually, the one personality, if it’s a bit stronger, the other personality of the other person will be kind of quiet, right?
David: Right. When it’s just that child, boy, some things are gonna come out.
Jim: Yeah, to blossom. One thing I think I did do is, uh, Saturday breakfast. We’d maybe go out and…
Jim: …Get early breakfast at – at a restaurant or something like that. That was always fun. Dave, you also mentioned that the counterpart to love is respect. The kind of – it’s interesting, you know, I think as parents we tend to play down the respect for children. We want them to respect us.
David: That’s right.
Jim: Of course. But respecting a child, what does that look like, especially for us dads that, you know, we want that respect, but we may not know how to show respect to our kids?
David: It’s allowing your child to put some reasonable limits on you.
Jim: What does that look like?
David: Well, in terms of privacy, even when our little girls – of course, they were girls, but even the girls and William, their room is their room. Now, I own the home. I’m coming in. But I would always knock on the door first out of respect for them. The girls might be dressing or doing something. And girls always make you wait no matter what. They could be actually doing nothing, but they always make you wait.
David: “I’ll be in a moment, Daddy.” “Why? I – I know you’re probably” – whatever. It’s a woman thing. So I would respect that. And I would not search their room or try to tidy it up. That’s their room. That’s kind of their fiefdom. That’s a respect. Sandy had a problem with that. I have no problem with the room being a mess. Who cares? That’s a minor issue of rebellion. We had two kids that were just slobs, absolute slobs. I won’t give their names.
David: But we let – their rooms were just a – like a hurricane. I would come in and go, “Where was the bomb? Are you OK? There was a” – “What do you mean?” “A bomb went off in this room.” “Oh, Daddy, I can’t believe” – but I allowed that to happen ’cause it’s not that important. It’s a healthy form…
Jim: Right. But how did you coach Sandy in accepting that?
David: I had to say, “Honey, look. This is a healthy form of rebellion. All kids have to rebel, or they’re not gonna break away and become independent.” And it’s a way of respecting them as well. So it’s a minor thing. They’re sticking it to the man with a messy room. You’re the man. And it’s, like, safe. Who cares? It’s very easy for them to be taught, as they get to be teenagers, how to clean a room.
David: You can train a monkey to do that. It’s not a big deal. One of our daughters, who was the slob, the minute, the day she got a boyfriend, she went to her room, and she cleaned it up. It was like a Holiday Inn maid. It was – you could eat off the floor. It was spick-and-span because “So-and-so” – I can’t give the name, we know who it was – “Is coming over, and he’s gonna maybe see my room.”
Jim: She had the motivation to do so.
David: Yes, it was a miracle.
John: The boy version of that, having two boys, is the shower. All of a sudden…
David: Oh, my goodness.
John: …They realize, “Maybe I’d smelled better if I showered” (laughter).
David: Exactly. Personal hygiene. William was the same way. He started to look at dating quotes in middle school, and yeah, he started to clean up. Oh, yeah.
David: And even the room was a little better if the girl was coming over.
Jim: That is so true. Let me ask you. You mentioned something. I’m sure some caught and may have even flinched, uh, when it comes to a teenager needing to rebel or a child needing to rebel for them to find out who they are and – unpack that a little bit because I – the prodigal story is probably a good example of that. But describe why that’s important again for disconnection because most parents, we would want our child to just be perfect. You know, they get great grades. They’re polite. They always go to the functions we want them to go to without complaining. And they just – you know, they toe the line. It’s not gonna be like that, typically. And maybe if it is like that, you’re – you’re maybe setting up for something down the road that’s far worse.
Jim: But why is appropriate rebellion something that a parent should – should actually encourage?
David: Well, it gets it out of their system. If you accept my premise – and you should…
David: …Because I know what I’m talking about – they have to rebel. There is no avoidance of rebellion. We wanna keep the rebellion because that leads to developing who they are, uh, respecting other people, their own identity and breaking away from you and becoming their own person and who they are. So if that’s true, we allow it in the minor areas – the state of their room, what their hair looks like, the clothes they wear, again, within reason, uh, not forcing them to eat – to eat certain foods that everybody hates. I’ve always hated spinach. I will until the day I die. My mother said, “You know what? He doesn’t like spinach. No big deal.”
Jim: I’ll eat it. I love spinach.
David: Do you?
David: Oh, my goodness.
Jim: I used to eat everybody’s spinach in elementary school (laughter).
David: Oh. Yeah, that’s healthy.
Jim: Plates of it.
John: That’s how you got so big and strong.
David: Oh. Oh.
Jim: That’s it. Popeye.
David: Almost surpassed by lima beans. I just don’t like ’em.
David: They taste like sawdust. Not gonna go there. So if you allow that – see, if you – and I’ve seen this a million times, not in my own kids, thank God, because we allowed them to rebel. But with many parents, if you win those minor battles, and you can win them, they’re gonna rebel in the major areas.
David: Drugs, sex, lying, breaking – uh, breaking the law, hanging out with scumball kids. They’re – they’ve got – it’s got to go somewhere. So we just channel it into the healthy things, into the things that really don’t make a big deal.
Jim: David, what role does communication play in showing respect? Uh, you know, I think this is probably one of the biggest issues. Uh, you can have a dirty room – that’s OK, you’re keeping it. I don’t have to sleep in there, so I don’t smell it or anything like that. I get that. Communication is a little more delicate – how you respect your mom and dad, how we respect you. Uh, speak to that issue of how to create healthy ways, uh, that our kids and we as parents should be communicating.
David: Well, it’s vitally important, Jim, uh, to build respect. And you listening is so important as a parent. Children are just like adults. They want to be understood.
David: When they’re yelling their head off, and they’re illogical, and they’re super emotional, that’s hard to do. You wanna say, “Be quiet. You’re being disrespectful.” We allow a certain amount of disrespect as long as it isn’t over the top because especially a teenager, once they hit middle school, they’re gonna be so intense, and they’re gonna have bipolar swings. And they’re not bipolar. It looks like it. And you’ve gotta stand there, and let them kind of talk it out.
Jim: It’s kind like a pressure valve, isn’t it?
David: It is.
Jim: Because their brain – I mean, they’re not fully formed. They’re battling hormones and emotions. And it’s just that (imitating explosion).
Jim: To let that pressure out a little bit – that’s a good way to look at it.
David: It is. And – and you’re gonna be convenient. If you’re safe and they can do it with you – they can’t do with teachers or their friends or other people, neighbors – they do it with you – if you can allow that within reason, it lets the pressure out.
David: And you stage those conversations – you won’t even have a response when they’re talking. Now, there’s some limitations here if there’s name-calling, if there’s profanity. Of course, there’s limits where you will shut that down. But if they can maintain – and even they’re angry – and you’re just listening, reflecting a bit, and they blow it out. You say, “OK. I’ve listened to you.” You take a break at that point. They actually leave the situation because they’re not ready to listen to you anyway, even though they’ve calmed down. Later – 10 minutes, a half an hour, you go to their room and say, “OK. Well, I’ve listened to you – and anything more you have to share?” And then you can share a response. You have a better chance of having them listen to you.
Jim: David, a lot of the experts now are talking about a parent’s ability to not give the lecture.
Jim: And I’m telling you from personal experience, it is hard not to do that. I mean, I think Jean and I tag-team lectures.
Jim: You know, you go at it for a minute; then I’ll pick it up from there.
David: It just feels so good sometimes.
Jim: I mean, you are just – you’re just espousing this incredible wisdom. “I – you not – you have not been 17, as a 15-year-old. I was 17. I know where you’re headed.” Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah. It’s kind of like Charlie Brown, you know? Wah, wah, wah, wah.
David: Blah, blah (laughter). That’s right.
Jim: How do we pull back from that knowing it is not fruitful?
David: No. They’ve turned you off within seconds of you starting the lecture. They’re not even listening.
Jim: Now, as adults – why do we think it’s effective?
David: Well, because it may be effective with another adult – not your spouse – maybe somebody else. And you actually have important information. You know what you’re talking about. And so you’re actually delivering great information.
Jim: It’s great content.
David: It’s the wrong way to do it. It’s the wrong method. It’s these short, clear bursts. And you have to practice. And I used to allow my kids to catch me in the lecture. My dad used to – he called them mini sermonettes. He would – he would dump on me. And so he allowed me to kind of say, “Dad, that’s too much…”
David: …If it was going on, which was a big deal so…
Jim: How old were you when you said that to your dad?
David: Oh, man. I probably was mid-teen years.
David: Maybe 14, 15 – my brother was a wonderful guy. Compared to me, Mark’s perfect. He’s a pastor, a Christian teacher, wonderful guy and more low key than me. So he and Dad would have these long conversations. He would listen to Dad and take notes. I wasn’t like that. I’m more like my mother – my mother’s fault again.
David: More expressive and kind of volatile – and I don’t want to hear a lecture. And I want to be independent so – but let your kid call you on that. If you’re – if I’m lecturing you, I don’t want a lecture. I want to give you a clear, concise burst of information – two to three minutes, literally. Set the alarm on your iPhone or whatever. And then it’ll be over. They can take that in. And then hopefully, they’ll respond.
Jim: Well – and then the problem there is if you’re going to say, “You know, help me. Don’t let me lecture.” And then when they try to do that, you respond emotionally. “I’m just trying to help you. What are you saying…”
David: Right. Right
Jim: “…That to me for?” I mean, that’s a bad signal.
David: We gotta tamp down the emotion.
David: Easier said than done – and when you blow that – and this happened to me, of course, with my kids. I would be upset, stressful day, whatever – no excuse. And I would snap. It’s, “Honey, I’m sorry.”
David: Especially the girls who were sensitive – women say, “Oh, Dad – no big deal.” The girls were upset. They were emotional. “I’m sorry. I went too far. Let’s – I’m – would you forgive me?” “Yes.” “Let’s have a reset. Let’s talk about that issue again. And I’m sorry. I lectured. I got upset.”
Jim: So that’s that respect category. Um, let’s move to your child’s need for competence, to learn competence. In that, it was an interesting story you shared in the book where you had a – I think a teenager who had parents who were alcoholics. And that taught him a competency. What were you getting at with that?
David: Well, that story was a case where he was at a – I – when I was seeing him, he was probably in his early 20s at that point. And he had two parents who were alcoholics. Both of them rejected him, and he was in terrible shape. Somehow they dumped him at my office, and they wanted him to get some help. It may, in fact, have been a grandparent. And I was talking with him. His self-esteem was so low. But what happened – and he was actually – he thought of harming himself at that point ‘cause neither parent was happening. It was a teacher in his life, a Christian teacher, that recognized his ability to sing and to have a musical ability that saved – literally saved his life. That competence gave him an identity. It gave him something to kind of cope with his parents’ rejection. And it changed his whole life.
David: He was locally known for being a singer, a Christian singer, and had a band. It was awesome – only because somebody had recognized a competence in him. He wouldn’t admit it otherwise – no way.
Jim: That’s a beautiful story of mentoring and…
David: Oh, yeah.
Jim: …Being on the lookout for young people who need help.
David: Yeah. Yeah.
Jim: That’s great.
David: And even this – I think teachers will find this parenting book very helpful because teachers have a major role to play.
David: They absolutely do.
Jim: That was true in my life.
Jim: Yeah. And with that competence, you’re also looking to develop their faith as a competency. I think you mentioned…
Jim: You talk a lot about – and I think it’s great – how your dad modeled faith for you. How did he do that practically?
David: Boy, Dad. Every morning of my life, Dad would have his quiet time. He knew when I got up every morning Monday through Friday to go to school – he wanted to make sure I saw him in the hallway – actually, in the doorway of the family room…
David: …In his rocking chair, had his Bible, had his devotional. And so I would see him every single morning doing that. Even on the weekends, depending on when I got up, he would be in the same spot. As an adult, I said, “Dad, it was the craziest thing. I would always see you having your quiet time in the morning – what a coincidence.” He said, “Dave, that was no coincidence. I knew when you got up. And I wanted you to see me doing it.” (Laughter) Whoa. Dad didn’t stop there. He taught me to have my own quiet time. You don’t just freelance with that. “Well, I read the Bible. It’s important.” He would sit – he sat down with me for a week. And we had quiet time together. And he taught me how he did it – how to read the Bible, how to pray…
Jim: Well, that’s good.
David: …Uh, you know, how to – how to – uh, you know, even worship God. It was, like, awesome. It was like a window into my – what my dad was doing. And so that helped me develop it.
David: And we had once-a-week family devotions. Dad never failed on that. When I was a teenager, it was the last thing I wanted to do – talk about not cool. Are you kidding me? – because I was having some faith issues. “We – you know, as long as you’re in this home, you’re going to church.” And I tell parents that. I told my kids that. “As long as you’re in my home, you’re going to church. It’s that important, non-negotiable.” “Oh, but that’s going to force them away from God.” No, it’s not. As soon as they leave home, they can do whatever they want. But that’s – that’s such a high value. And kids, if you get the right youth group, they’re going to enjoy it even if they don’t admit it.
David: So Dad would do the family devotions. It was only 20 minutes. It was very simple. It was very practical. We prayed for each other. And, of course, he modeled a life of Jesus Christ as well.
Jim: Yeah. And that – you know, that’s every Christian parent’s goal – is to launch our kids with a faith that will endure the things that they’re going to encounter, right?
David: It’s the most important thing.
Jim: When you look now beyond faith, the – kind of the practical everyday stuff, what are some good ways to launch your child in that respect when it comes to competency, you know, things you can teach them?
David: Well, in the area of competence, you start with – whatever they enjoy doing, you push them into those activities. My mother – I always kind of liked baseball. And so my mother – I wanted to be in Little League. And my mother dropped me off the first day of Little League. And I had some second thoughts. “Uh, Mom, I don’t think I want to do it.” She said, “Get out of the car.” She kicks me out of the car, and she drives off in the station wagon – harsh woman – harsh.
David: But two minutes later, I was having the time of my life. So you let – whatever they enjoy, you push them into competence. And that actually bleeds into independence because, “This is my thing. This is who I am. This is what I do.” And if it’s the right scenario, there’s – they’re starting to become independent. That’s why youth group and youth activities and missions trips connected to your church are so important. It’s tough letting them go to Africa. And Nancy, she went to Africa one day. But that changed her life.
David: That chance to share Christ – and it was so open. So all those things leading up to spirituality and competence but independence.
Jim: Yeah. And that’s a great example of, uh, crisis of faith for the parent…
Jim: …You know, having your child go on a big trip…
David: I didn’t want her to go. Sandy and I disagreed on that. I said, “I don’t want to send her to Africa. What are you, crazy? She can go to Louisiana or Georgia or here right in town. There’s needs here.” She said, “Dave, I think it’s important.” We had to go through with it.
David: “She wants to go. And it’s a big deal. And her friends are going.” OK.
Jim: So that’s the difference boys and girls. Jean and I are the opposite. I’m like, “Let him go.” And she’s like, “You know, what could happen to them?”
David: (Laughter) Right.
Jim: That is so funny. Hey, share with us the general strategy you have for the war of discipline. Discipline’s the next one. We’ve covered love and competency – discipline.
David: I have a behavior-based system because that’s what God has. This is absolutely Bible-based. There are standards of behavior that you – reasonable standards of behavior you have for your children and how they’re to act and how they’re to behave. It’s all – it’s – here’s how we expect you to behave.
Jim: And you’ve outlined that in the book.
David: Oh, yeah.
David: It’s very clear. And I recommend even putting it down on paper. And some of it’s tied to the kids’ personalities, but most of it is here are the rules of the home, all of which are biblical, inspired by the Bible. It’s really – this is – I’m standing in for God and raising you. Here’s what he’d want you to do. I’m convinced of it. And I can show you in the Bible. Then based on that, you also have reasonable rewards and consequences. If you choose to – and you can choose to do whatever you want from an early age. Kids choose. You have nothing to do with it. If you choose to obey, then there are always rewards. And you’ve chosen to be rewarded, in other words. If you choose to not obey – and that’s going to happen, too – then you have chosen a consequence.
And here is what it is. This is exactly the way God works with us – free will. He’s not going to force me to do anything. But based on my choices, there are always rewards and consequences. So that’s how we raised our kids, and it worked. And they made a lot of bad choices. And they – and when they have the consequence. with very little emotion, “You’ve, in effect, chosen this consequence.” “No, I didn’t. I can’t believe” – “Here, it’s written down. Isn’t that your signature?” (Laughter) Whatever. And so that’s – and it was reasonable. And they learned that that’s not really the way I want to live.
Jim: Yeah, consequences are typically age-related, right? You’re gonna be a little different or a lot different between a 5-, 6-, 8-year-old from a 13-,14-, 15-year-old. Kind of give us an idea of those consequences that the parents listening could find in the book. Uh, what are the differences of consequences?
David: I covered the whole age range. When you’ve got small kids, spanking – God is still, uh, a believer in spanking. We’re not gonna remember those (unintelligible).
Jim: That’s pretty controversial.
David: I’m tell – oh, these days. But if you do it the right way, it actually builds independence and respect for authority. And it changes them.
Jim: And what’s that right way?
David: It is – I’m glad you asked, Jim. I’ll tell you. It is always a private situation. It’s not a public spectacle. You know, you’re not gonna hand out popcorn and candy. I’m gonna spank Susie, and I want you to be here. We’re not gonna humiliate. You – it’s mom or dad. And it’s in their room. Here’s what – here’s what’s happened. And, uh, now, you’re angry when you spank. You’re not losing it. If you’re out of control, and you’re really – sometimes you really get upset. You would wait until you’ve calmed down. Uh, but never spank a child in anger is ridiculous. Of course I’m mad. That’s why I’m spanking you. So it’s reasonable. But there’s a – there’s a two or three swats. It’s private.
You clearly know why this is happening. And this is for a smaller child because they don’t – this is what communicates with them. Paddle or hand to bottom, this is – it keeps them from touching the hot stove, going in the road. When William was 3 years old – he’d be dead now. We had a busy road in front of our home. We’re always playing in the yard. I had to spank him a number of times to keep him from going in the road. He’d be dead. You can’t reason with a 2- or 3-year-old, 4, no. That’s what the spanking’s for. Now, after the spanking, you leave them alone to cry and be upset. Then you come back. You want an apology. That’s the whole point of the process – apology to God, apology to you, maybe some other kid that they – a sibling or somebody in the neighbor – that they – that they violated. And then – and then there’s a reconnection of affection, and, gosh, we move right on. So many – even Christian parents are dropping that. And you know what? I think I can reason with my 3-year-old, good luck. That’s not what it’s for. Now, in our case, by 4 1/2, 5 years old, we weren’t spanking anymore. We’d gotten the job done, authority. Uh, they respected it. And they learned. And now – and now we can use other techniques like time-out, stickers, uh, taking away, uh, special video. And so the older they get, the more things you can take. Once they’re teenagers, it’s a goldmine of opportunity.
Jim: Yeah, it’s – it’s really interesting. I’ve never heard it quite like that. And to have it over with so quickly is really good, especially when it’s gonna cause them physical harm. And you try to keep them…
David: Well, right. And there’s – there’s pain. There’s pain involved. But, uh, that’s only for the purpose of, again, communicating.
Jim: Well, I mean, you’re preventing them from physical harm…
David: Oh, right. Right.
Jim: …By – by making sure that they understand this is not the place to go or the way.
David: It’s very protective.
David: And once they get older – got a whole section on teenagers in the book. We went through four of them, so we know what we’re talking about. You can take things from them that will really get their attention.
Jim: Yeah, hit that. Let us hear those as well because I think parents of teenagers struggle a lot about what is fair game in terms of consequences.
David: I’m tellin’ you anything except food, water, shelter and clothing.
Jim: That means electronics.
David: Everything. Their whole stinking life is their electronics. We know that. Their phone – oh, the whole world. No, you’ve lost that for a day. “Oh, my social life is over. I’ll have no friends.” “You know what? I’m surprised you have friends now. You’re so mean.” But you take the phone. Now, again – but they’ve made the choice.
David: I used to tell my kids, “You never have to lose anything. All the things you can earn every day. But if you make that choice, then you’ve chosen to lose that” – so the phone, the electronics, the TV. Unless the phone’s used for homework, it’s gone. Once they start driving, you will take the car from them. And the best thing in the world for us, we would drive our kids to school. We’d have Christian hymns playing as we drove up with the windows down. Oh, it’s the worst thing for a teenager.
David: No. “Goodbye, Susie. Mommy loves you” – ah, the worst thing in the world. Uh, food, special snacks – now, you’d feed them the vegetables and the basic meals. But snacks of all kinds can be used more…
John: How about social things too?
David: Oh, yeah.
John: Like, shut off the social, uh, engagement opportunities.
David: Exactly. “All the social media gone – you’re going dark.” “No, my life.” “Your choice.” Only a day – a day means a lot to them. And even though we’re limiting screen time, and that’s covered in the book too – technology’s a big deal – uh, you know, any kind of, uh, time with an – if they have an extracurricular activity, a sport, an activity, a martial art, uh, dancing, uh, music lessons – on the table.
David: You will take it from them.
Jim: Well, and we’ve hit the love and the – and the competence and spirituality. We worked that in as well. The independence – uh, speak to independence. You’re kind of touching on that right now. So how – how do you get that – that teen into that independent zone where they’re making good decisions and living life in a very independent way?
David: We start really early on. Even a small child can make their own decisions within reason. With the girls, it was always a clothing thing. So we would – Sandy would say, “Well, you can wear this outfit or this outfit” because it – when it’s 40 choices, “I can’t decide.” Well, yeah, neither can your mother. I didn’t add that. But you – it’s either this outfit or this outfit they choose. We would go out to eat. And within reason, if they finished the meal, they could – they could choose what they wanted to eat. That’s fair. If you choose something, and you don’t eat it, you’re gonna sit there, and the rest of us are gonna eat. All right. I’m sorry. You won’t starve to death. Breakfast is coming. But anyway – when we could farm all four of our kids out, (laughter) hey, there’s a new couple down the street. They’re a biker couple. We don’t know them, but you’re gonna be over there – I’m kidding.
David: You – grandparents are wonderful. Uh, so when you’re gone on a date, it also gives them a chance to be independent with someone else that you trust. Uh, Christian camps are a wonderful idea. I think mission trips, I mentioned before, youth group activities, uh, part-time job, as long as it’s earned, even dating is good for independence, as long as it’s reasonable and they’ve earned it. All those things just push them away from you.