Mrs. Kay Yerkovich: Hard work has an amazing reward at the end of it, that as we grow, we model for our kids the importance of growth. And I think it’s one of the most important things we can do to invest as a parent. We’re not gonna be a perfect parent, but we have to be a growing parent.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Kay Yerkovich reflects on growing as a parent and learning to process your own emotions and then you can help your child do the same. She and her husband, Milan are on our program today. This is “Focus on the Family” and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, last time we talked about the five love styles of our children and if you didn’t hear that, get the download; get the CD, whatever you need to do. Get it, because it was really informative, especially if you’re that parent who is struggling with your child’s temperament. You may use different ways and different terminology to describe it, but something’s amiss. Perhaps you’re seeing some patterns develop in your child and you’re concerned about it.
And what we talked about last time are those styles that your children learn early on and you, as a parent, possess and the way that dynamic works in your household. And we’re gonna continue that discussion today to give you the tools that you need to help your child grow up to be secure and trusting in their relationship with Christ first and foremost and then to everyone around them. I mean, that’s what I want for my boys.
John: Yeah and I so appreciated your illustration last time, Jim.
Jim: (Laughing) Thanks a lot.
John: I’m just sayin’, thousands and thousands of parents are saying, “Oh, I get that. My pantry has empty boxes, too that could’ve been thrown away. The child didn’t take it.” And as you were sharing that, I was thinking, based on the styles that Milan and Kay were discussing, it’s pretty clear your boys aren’t pleasers.” (Laughter)
Jim: Or amazing pleasers?
Jim: No, I think we all have different elements and we talked about that last time and I want to get into that more today about how we can express different attributes. Nobody’s in a box and we all know what, but these are tools that you can use to identify patterns again that you can use for correction and hopefully, in your own life, as well as the lives of your children. Let me welcome back Milan and Kay Yerkovich. Great to have you back.
Kay: Great to be here.
Milan Yerkovich: Great to be back. We’re glad to be here.
Jim: I love the model and what you’ve really done is to put into a model some parenting tools for us to be able to recognize patterns in our kids. Last time we talked about those characteristics, the avoider, the pleaser, the vacillator, the controller, the victim and then that golden spot, I would say close to God’s heart, that secure connector and that’s our goal.
We talked a little bit about the avoider temperament in the child, because I asked the question, what does a child look like who’s an avoider? Let’s continue that discussion today. What does that pleaser child look like?
Milan: Pleaser children end up being caretakers of others. They are very hyper-vigilant to look at moods and a look on your face. You look sad. They’re gonna to try and help that. And so, they can be over focused on others in trying to make whatever is perhaps a bad mood in you or a problem or a difficulty, make it all go away.
So, you might find a kid who’s a pleaser might be a person who cracks jokes a lot, who’s trying to have fun a lot, is trying to change the topic, is using diversions and also caretaking. And so, they’ll do stuff around the house to try and make everybody happy.
And so, this is how I grew up as a child, trying to be this child to compensate for, at times, angry outbursts in my home. I would them compensate with those tools that I used to try and cope with my situation as a child growing up.
Jim: Let me ask you this, because some of these attributes that we learn are actually good skills. You talk about a person who ends up being a lawyer, a negotiator, something like that. They’re a person that’s gotta read a room very skillfully and they gotta know where their opportunities are, how to earn the trust of somebody because of their forthrightness, whatever it might be. So, not all of this in terms of the skills you learn are negative, but they’re just part of life.
Kay: Well, that’s very true. I mean, avoiders are very responsible. Pleasers are very nice. You know, these are things that it’s not like they’re all bad and God uses even the broken parts of us He uses for our good and for even His glory, which is pretty amazing.
I think what we’re looking at here is, how can we identify when a child or as a parent, when we’re off track and we’re not really building the security we want to build? You know, how can we turn that child around for, like the pleaser child, for example? They tend to lack boundaries. One of our kids was a pleaser child and … and the other kids took advantage of him.
Jim: You had four kids.
Kay: We had four kids and I remember one of our boys is definitely a pleaser and you know, the other kids would be unkind. They’d push him too far and he’d never stand up for himself. So, we had to recognize that and say, you know, he’s nice, but he’s too nice.
And so, we role played with him and we pretended we were the friends and we gave him some lines to say. “You treat me like that again, I’m not gonna play with you anymore.” And he was so afraid to do it, ’cause he thought, well, the kids won’t like me or they’ll never have me back. But you know, I remember the day he finally delivered the line and he came home and he said, “Oh, I did it. I don’t know.” And the next day his friend not only played with him, but he treated him way better.
Jim: That’s an amazing thing and what strikes me is, you’re trying to equip your children to live in the most healthy spot they can.
Jim: And boy, it’s tough, but even giving them the goals, here’s what we’re trying to hit—
Jim: –that secure attachment area and these would be the attributes. I mean, I could see that in one of my boys. I could see him easily being that pleaser. In fact, I asked him that question, you know, “How are you doin’ in your friendships at school?” And he said, “Well, everybody likes me.”
Jim: And that’s a comment from a pleaser, right?
Kay: Yes, it is and—
Kay: –it’s like …
Jim: –I’m sorry.
Kay: Well, there’s something great about that. Everybody does like a pleaser, but the question is, is … are they taking advantage of him, as well?
Jim: Talk about the vacillator child.
Kay: The vacillator child wants your attention when you’re least able to give it. (Laughter) It’s almost like—
Jim: Isn’t that every child?
Kay: –well, the vacillator particularly. It’s kind of like always a test. You know, they kind of have their longing for more connection turned on high and they’re looking for moments when you’ll connect with them, but then sometimes you’ve made ’em wait, so they’re also mad. So, they’ve got this push-pull inside. I want you, but boy, I’m mad, because you made me wait. And what these vacillator kids are really tuned in to, is my parent present with me or not?
Jim: And that’s your grade—
Jim: –as a parent. They’re grading you in that curve.
Kay: — they really are and you know, many times for these kids, they have a parent who’s home, but not present–
Kay: –sometimes more not present than present, so these kids are really protesting that lack of connection and one of the things we see in these vacillator kids is, they’re longing for someone to sit down with them without the cell phone, without the distractions and really be present with them.
Jim: Huh, interesting. So let me just say the busy dad, who you know, work comes before everything, even on the weekends perhaps he’s on the phone, that vacillator child’s really gonna have a difficult time with that father.
Kay: They are and what happens is, over time they get angry and they start to protest and these vacillator kids, they’ll tell you exactly what’s wrong with you and what you need to do to fix it and sometimes in a way that’s very immature and not very hard to swallow. So, I think part of what we have to do is teach this kid how to ask for what they need and want without doing it in an unkind way.
John: Are they asking in an unkind way just to prompt a response?
Kay: They’d rather fight than have no response.
Jim: So, they’re good button pushers.
Kay: They’re really good button pushers.
Milan: And what we say in our book is, is that their behaviors are immature ways of expressing a deep need. And if we only work on correcting the behaviors and saying, “Well, you can’t be mad,” what are we doing? We’re not trying to ask what is the message that your anger is trying to tell me?
Jim: Right, you’re damming up the emotions–
Milan: We’re damming up—
Jim: –that are–
Milan: –the emotions.
Jim: –bursting out.
Milan: So what I’m gonna do as a vacillator kid who I’ve had many of them in my office, is I look at them and I put everything aside and I look at ’em and I say, “You know, you’re really angry, aren’t you? What made you angry? Who made you angry?”
Jim: Can they articulate it?
Milan: Yes. I’ll say, “What are you feeling?” And I’ll hand them the feelings word list. And what else are you feeling underneath that anger? And oh, if it’s my child, I’ll say, “What did I do that made you angry?” I’m not just gonna respond to your anger right now. I’m gonna ask you, what did I do that made you angry? And I want to get them talking.
Because one of the greatest release[s] to anger is the ability to vent and to get that out. And so, if it’s about me, if it’s about somebody else, I want to not just correct the behavior. And a lot of times in our Christian homes, it’s about correcting the behavior and character and all that. And we don’t stop and ask, what was driving that bus?
Milan: Well, dad, you’ve been so busy at work, you haven’t even talked to me for two days. I miss you. Well, that’s a different conversation than, “Stop being angry” and you need to treat me with respect. Or you’re supposed to honor your father and mother. I can (Sound of click of fingers) whip off those kinds of retorts left and right instead of stopping and saying, “She’s not … he’s not. I wonder what happened.”
Jim: No, I mean, that’s wonderfully said and I think it’s unfortunate that again, we work so hard vocationally to hone a skill, to be the thing we need to be. But in this area of parenting particularly, we just kinda glide through it and the kids glide through it and at the end, you say goodbye when they’re 18 or 19 and go off to college. And then you see ’em occasionally on the holidays. It’s unfortunate, because as Christians again, we need to be intentional about what we’re trying to work with, with God, what we’re trying to work on with God to prepare that child to be a very healthy adult. And that’s what’s so fun about this.
Let me ask you this though and if I’m struggling to connect with my child, because they have a different attachment style from me, what can I do to understand it and begin to, I guess, master it, so that I can be more productive in that parenting role?
Kay: Well, it’s important to say, we didn’t even get any of this until our kids were older.
Milan: Yeah, you and me personally.
Milan: Yeah, we were just learning this.
Kay: So, one of the first goals we made was, we’re gonna have conversations that include feelings–
Milan: At home, as well.
Kay: –our own and the kids. And Kevin was in high school at this point and his stress response is to get testy and difficult to live with.
Jim: A word like “whatever?”
Kay: Yeah, yeah, like “Whatever,” or “I’m not gonna do that.” Or you know, just oppositional.
Jim: That sounds boring.
Kay: Well, that’s what he said. So, when we say go pick these three feeling words, he said, “I’m not … that’s dumb psychology. I’m not doing that.” And I said, “Well, honey,” I said, “I can tell you’re stressed.” And I said, “Until you give me the three words, the car keys aren’t going your direction, so …”
Milan: (Laughing) That’s called “bribery.”
Kay: That’s called bribery.
Jim: But it works.
John: I like “leverage.”
John: Yeah, that’s an option.
Kay: Leverage, so–
Milan: It is a little bit more positive.
Kay: –I drew some circles on a page. This circle’s church. This circle’s friends. This circle is sports. This circle is school. Pick three feelings words for each circle. Well, as the conversation went on, he started crying.
Kay: He was shocked. He didn’t realize how stressed he was in all of these areas and when we began to list all of the things that were stressing him, he started to cry. And he said, “I didn’t even know I was this stressed.”
And I said, “Well, honey, I did” and I said, “Just remember that when you can talk about all these things and you can share the feelings and you can identify ’em, you learn something about yourself.” And I said, “Do you feel better than you did an hour ago?” And he said, “Yeah, I really do.”
Jim: Let me ask you just for clarification, if you can share these.
Jim: I don’t want to be too intrusive here, but what were some of the words that he listed?
Kay: Oh, gosh. I remember that he had a girlfriend at the time and they were having a lot of discord, so he chose words like, “confused,” “annoyed,” “frustrated.” He had a coach that he dearly loved, but you know, he hurt his ankle and he had an injury, so he listed words of “very frustrated” in sports and “disillusion” and “disappointed” and just “brokenhearted” was one of those words. I’m brokenhearted ’cause I can’t really play like I want to play.
And then in church, I remember one of the things that was really stressing him there is, he was a senior and he was having to go away to school. And he was gonna be leaving all his friends and he’s like, “I just can’t imagine having to leave my friends in a year.” And—
Jim: And make new ones.
Kay: –and make new ones. And you know, those are some of the things I remember and I think sometimes just to sit down with your kids and say, “List me everything that’s a stressor right now.”
Jim: What if they just can’t even articulate it? I mean, I can imagine going home and doing that and they’re blank pages. You know, things generally are okay.
Kay: Sometimes they need some prompts like, okay, let’s just think about your friendships. Like what’s the best thing that’s going on there and what’s the most difficult thing? Or your girlfriend or your studies? You know, what’s your favorite class? What’s the most difficult class? And I think what we found is, as that we learned to do this in our own marriage and in our … our relationship, we were more open to hearing their feelings and pulling them out, instead of just trying to fix ’em and make ’em go away.
Milan: Yes, we separated whatever the incident was and trying to connect with the thoughts and the emotions of that incident before we came down with whatever the consequences were gonna be. We put a gap in there. And we always wanted to know two things. What were you thinking and what were you feeling right before you hit your brother, you see. (Laughter)
Jim: (Laughing) I’m just laughing, ’cause that’s not where I would go as a dad.
Milan: That’s right.
Jim: Let me cover your—
Milan: That’s right.
Jim: –feelings before—
Milan: That’s right.
Jim: –you smacked your brother, okay.
Milan: But here’s the message; here’s an illustration and I’ve told this before and the boys know this, but I said … and Kevin says, “I don’t want to do this.” And I go, “Well, I’m sorry, you have to do before you go to the ball game, before you get the keys. I need three words that you were feeling right before you hit your brother.”
And he goes, “Okay, I was frustrated. I was … I was um …” “Oh, what else?” And he stammering and stuttering like this. And I said, “Well, here’s a feelings word list. And he goes, “I felt violated and I felt duped.” I go, “Well, what happened?”
He said, “You know, I was in the shower and he took my last pair of white clean socks I was gonna wear tonight and my brother just took ’em and put ’em on and ran off with ’em.” I said, “Well, no wonder you were angry. No wonder you hit him. No wonder you felt violated, duped and … and stressed.”
I said, “We have a non-tolerance policy here for hitting.” But I said, “You know, that tells me a little bit better. Maybe I need to talk with John also.” And I said, “I want you to be thinking what we’re gonna do about this.” Oh, by the way, the door that’s broken that you guys bashed into and we gotta figure out how to pay for that. Let’s discuss that tomorrow, but I need to go talk to your brother about taking your socks.” So, I slowed the whole process way down.
Jim: Took some of the stress out of it.
Milan: It didn’t excuse what happened.
Kay: No, he still got a consequence and he still had to pay for the door.
Kay: However, he felt heard and listened to and like someone did understand that the sequence of events and that his feelings were valid. It was how he dealt with his feelings that we needed to work on.
Jim: Sure. You’re listening to “Focus on the Family,” How We Love Our Kids: The Five Love Styles of Parenting with Milan and Kay Yerkovich. This is a really interesting conversation, John. I don’t know–
John: A lot of take-home stuff here.
Jim: –man, we’re just writin’ notes and I can’t wait to do more of this in my own house. You talked about some of the gifts you can give to your child. Talk about a couple of those and how you gave them those gifts in your own family. And what do you mean by the gift?
Milan: Well, there [are] lots of gifts that we talk about at the end of the book, How We Love Our Kids, gifts that you want to give to your child as a legacy. And one of them is what I’m gonna call “the gift of vulnerability” as a parent. We had our three oldest children move out of the house within a period of 18 months. Two got married; one moved away.
And all of a sudden, our house was real quiet. And I started to feel triggered and anxious and depressed because I loved having this busy home. And I found that all of a sudden, I was being the helicopter parent to my daughter, Kelly.
Jim: And that’s because you’re a pleaser parent or a recovering pleaser.
Milan: But what was happening, I was getting triggered by the silence in my home and the quietness. It just was unnerv[ing].
Jim: I can so relate to that.
Milan: All right, so I said to Kelly one day, because I would bug my daughter to pieces and say, “Well, where are you goin’? Who’s gonna be there? What’s the telephone number? How long are you gonna be there?” And then I’d ask her again. “Where are you goin’? Who’s gonna be there? Are there any parents in supervision?” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And I would “over-ask” these helicopter parents’ [questions]. So, what I said to her one day was, I said, “I need to tell you why I ask you so many questions.” And I told her my life story. I told her that I was an anxious child, that quietness triggered me. And when I got triggered, I got anxious and when I got anxious, I started asking questions to settle my own security.
And what I said to her was, “If you feel like I’m asking you too many questions, I want you to look at me and say, ‘Dad, are you feeling anxious?’”
Jim: So, you gave her permission.
Milan: I gave her permission.
Milan: I was vulnerable and shared my story and I gave her permission to give me feedback in my life.
Jim: Yeah. Hey, let me ask you this and you mentioned it, but we didn’t zero in on it, Kay and you talked about when you first started to do this, your older son was in the last couple of years, a high-schooler.
Jim: Because I’m sure some parents are going, oh, man. We’re on our last child, who’s in—
Kay: Right, right.
Jim: –high school and our other two or three are in college or beyond. How do you come back around and maybe have some discussions with your late teen kids or maybe even your early adult children to say, “Okay, we gotta talk this through, ’cause I may have done some things that did not help you as a parent.”
Kay: Oh, I love that question, because I think every Christian parent should be growing enough where they can look back and have regrets about their parenting, ’cause the first one’s a crash test dummy. We don’t know what—
Jim: (Laughing) That’s–
Kay: –we’re doing.
Jim: –so true. I wish we could do this, you know—
Jim: –a couple times in a row.
John: Sorry to all the firstborns out there.
Kay: But how healing is it when a parent comes to you and says, “Oh, I just learned that feelings are important I wish I would’ve known this sooner. But I’m gonna make it a real point to learn how to say what I feel and I’m gonna ask you how you feel. And would you give me a do-over? Would you give me a chance to just grow even now and let’s talk about what it was like for you to never be able to have feelings.”
Jim: That is so well-said. You know, I love the title you have in some ways, How We Love Our Kids. Another way to say that though is, how to understand brokenness.
Jim: I mean, what we’ve talked about, both a couple weeks back with your marriage program based on the same principles and now with the parenting side, is understanding human brokenness—
Jim: –and what the Lord can do with it and how to get to that better secure place. And I think that’s wonderful and that’s the reason we want to put the tools into the hands of these parents, including me. I think you’re thinkin’ the same thing, John–
John: I am, yeah.
Jim: –and how to do this better. Milan, someone in the audience is probably thinkin’, “Well, that’s great for this couple. I mean, they have a counseling center. This is your vocation. You were a pastor before; now you’re doing counseling. I’m just a dad. I’m just a guy that goes to work every day and comes home and tries to survive.” (Laughing) Talk about that methodology and the fact that you don’t have to be a counselor to apply these principles. You just need to be in tune.
Milan: We started all of this, as you said, when our oldest son was 14, 11, 9 and 1-year-old; all our kids were at that age. We weren’t counselors. We were actually just learning this ourselves. And I think I had to start it off with a decision. Am I gonna try and do what God wants me to do? God tells us as the body of Christ to comfort one another, encourage one another, bear one another’s burdens, confess our sins to one another, pray for one another.
Now we didn’t know how to do that and I have to decide, I don’t care what I do for a profession, do I want to learn how to do that, martially and with my kids and with my friends? Second, the way I started that is, I simply started with that feelings word list. I would say what am I feeling today? And I would tell Kay and I would tell the Lord what I was feeling today.
Then I’d ask Kay. I’d ask my kids. So, you don’t look real happy right now. You look sad. You look depressed. I would reflect and hold up to them what I thought I was seeing on this little feelings word list.
Then I’d say, “You pick a word off this list and tell me how you feel. I just want to know, so I can love you there and pray for you.” God tells us to do these “one anothers” of Scripture. It was a decision and then an action.
Jim: Yeah. Speak to that mom or dad who’s got so much goin’ on. Life is hectic if you haven’t notices.
Kay: No, I haven’t.
Jim: We’re both workin’. We get home. We’re tired. We gotta get dinner ready and then we gotta clean up. We gotta do laundry. We got so much to do. To do this just sounds like an overwhelming amount of more work.
Kay: You know, sometimes when you start to make a change, it is more work and it is uncomfortable, because all growth is uncomfortable, oh but the results. I mean, we see such a difference between our fourth child, because she got so much of this. And it’s like what I see in her, even as a teenager and as a young woman and now a mom, astounds me. So, I think, you know, you have to realize that, that hard work has an amazing reward at the end of it, that as we grow, we model for our kids the importance of growth. And I think it’s one of the most important things we can do, to invest as a parent. We’re not gonna be a perfect parent, but we have to be a growing parent.We have to make the time and it can be one small change at a time. It doesn’t have to be a big, I’m gonna try and do it all. Just the feelings, just start there.
Jim: Well, and it’s so important to put the priorities right. I mean, so often we’ve said it here at Focus on the Family, at the end of your life, when you’re on that bed and time is clickin’ and you know you’re winding down and your whole family’s around you, it’s not gonna be the stack of laundry—
Jim: –or the dishes or the dirty garage in my case that is so important. It’s gonna be your relationship with your children—
Jim: –and with your spouse. And that’s what is going to be most important and what legacy you leave.
Jim: And it’s not gonna be about the stuff. It’s gonna be about your relationships and that’s what’s so important. If you are in that spot where you’re feelin’ ill-equipped to be the parent you want to be, would you call us today? Let us help you. We have a counseling team. We have resources like Milan and Kay’s book, How We Love Our Kids. We’ve got so many tools that you can set your path in an entirely different direction. So, when that day comes for you, it’s going to be a good day, not a day of regret. Call us.
John: And the number to talk to one of our caring Christian counselors is 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
Jim: And here at the close, I wanted to share a powerful story that we heard from the operator here at focus. She said, “A woman listened to our broadcast and was crying on the phone. She wanted to talk to one of our counselors about her marriage. She also asked that we pray that she and her 18-month-old son would grow up to be close to God. And while on the phone she prayed to accept the Lord as her Savior.
And man, that is what it’s all about, folks and it’s something we’ve talked about here for almost 40 years at Focus on the Family. We can help somebody with their family, but if we don’t introduce ’em to the Author of the family, we’ve kinda failed. And so, I am excited that last year alone, 250,000 people made a decision for Christ.
And we need your help to continue the work. If you’re able, can I ask you to please donate today? There’s no other way to say it. You put the fuel in the engine here at Focus and we’re currently experiencing a bit of a summer shortfall and we need your help to continue in this mission in helping people not only in their family, but also to meet the Savior. No donation is too small.
John: We’ll invite your partnership with a generous donation of any amount today at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459. And when you get in touch, be sure to ask about the CD or the instant download of this conversation and request a copy of How We Love Our Kids, which as you can tell through these past couple of days with the Yerkovich’s, is really insightful and that child’s love style is so important to understand. The book will help you learn how to do that and we’ll send that to you when you make a generous contribution of any amount today.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow when we’ll hear from actor, Kirk Cameron about a season when he neglected his family.
Kirk Cameron: And just as a woman’s heart can be stolen away by a man who pays attention to her and so, a man’s heart can be wooed by work and ministry and accomplishment and sports.
End of Excerpt
John: Kirk and Chelsea Cameron join us on the next “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.