Parent to Parent
About the Guest
What if, as a dad, you got a chance to pick the brain of an older, wiser, more experienced dad? Bruce Goff, a relatively new dad with a toddler, gets to do just that with Bob Lepine, a veteran dad with grandchildren, and you get to hear the conversation.
Bruce Goff, a relatively new dad with a toddler, gets pick the brain of an older, wiser, more experienced dad, Bob Lepine.
Parent to Parent
Michelle: How old were your kids when you taught them the word, “mine”? Here is coworker, Bruce Goff, sharing a story and a meal with his two-year-old daughter, Estelle.
Bruce: So we were eating dinner, and Estelle was having French fries and chicken nuggets. I think I initiated it, saying, “Hey, Estelle, can you share a French fry with Mommy?” She goes, “No, mine,”—[Laughter]—which we discussed; I don’t remember ever teaching her the word, “mine”;—[Laughter]—but she’s got it. I said to her, “Estelle, you need to be kind and share.” Estelle looks down at her fries, and she is looking so intently. She finds just this little nub.
Bob: —the smallest. [Laughter]
Michelle: We’re going to talk about teaching character to every age. We’re also going to discuss some of those harder parenting questions. Bruce Goff and Bob Lepine join me for this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. The cofounder of FamilyLife® is Dennis Rainey, and my favorite leader at FamilyLife is Bob Lepine. [Laughter]
Bob: There’s a—
Michelle: Oh, wait; wait. Bob’s here? [Laughter] He’s in the studio with me, or is that just his laugh?
Bob: There’s a reason why you said that. That has never been said on a FamilyLife This Week program until today. [Laughter] I’m just—
Michelle: The first ever.
Bob: —a little suspicious of that sentiment, but it’s lovely to be here with you.
Michelle: Thank you, Bob. I’ve got you in the hot seat, and I’ve decided that you’re going to be our old dad today;—
Michelle: —and joining us, also, is Bruce Goff. He is the young dad today. Bruce is producer, here, at FamilyLife® and also married to Maria. They have a beautiful, little two-year-old, Estelle.
Bob: And we go to church together—Bruce and I do.
Michelle: Oh, that’s right!
Bob: That’s right.
Michelle: So you know each other?
Bruce: A little bit; yes. [Laughter]
Michelle: Okay; so we’re talking about parenting today. We’ve been talking about parenting last week, and we’re going to kind of carry it on through because FamilyLife has a big initiative that’s happening. Bob, I think you are a part of this.
Bob: I have spent the better part of the last two years involved in helping to create an eight-part video series called FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting®. Connected with that is a movie/a theatrical movie that Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the Kendrick brothers, helped us with. This is a story of a family, from pre-marriage to their 50th wedding anniversary, and all the parenting journeys that people go on in the midst of that 50-year period. That movie is going to be in theaters May 1st and May 3rd. It’s coming up; it’s a Tuesday night and a Thursday night. It’s only there those two nights. In fact, I went online today. I bought ten tickets—[Laughter]
Bob: —for our small group. We’re all going together on the—
Michelle: Very cool.
Bob: —Thursday night showing. If folks would like more information about the Like Arrows movie, they can go to LikeArrowsMovie.com; or if they’d like more information about the Art of Parenting, I guess come to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com, and there are links there for all of this; right?
Michelle: It’s an excellent movie. I loved it; I bawled like a baby. Just be aware; take tissues with you.
Bob: We’ve had people report to us that it’s emotionally moving. We hoped it would be.
Michelle: So tell us about Art of Parenting.
Bob: We think of the movie, Like Arrows, as Session 0 for the Art of Parenting. You watch the movie first; and it, hopefully, opens your heart. You can see yourself in there. You can say, “You know, we could use some help and some training. We could use some equipping.”
Art of Parenting—we got together more than a dozen experts—Dennis and Barbara Rainey give leadership to the whole thing; but people like Alistair Begg, and Bryan and Korie Loritts, and Kevin DeYoung, and Dr. Meg Meeker, Tim and Darcy Kimmel—just a whole group of folks who contributed to this. We wanted to get back to the core biblical distinctives that set Christian parenting apart from just raising healthy, happy, young people into adulthood.
Michelle: Well, I know that there is a session in the Art of Parenting, where Dennis Rainey talks about when he first held Ashley, who is his oldest. He turns her over, and he is looking for the instruction manual; and there is none.
Michelle: He’s like, “Uh, so what do I do now?”
Bruce tell us about the first time you held Estelle.
Bruce: Yes, I can remember taking her—we had a home birth—and the midwife handed her to me and said, “Why don’t you take a walk and go to the drier and get a warm towel?” I’m walking down the hall with a minute-old baby/I mean, minutes-old baby. Yes; I don’t want necessarily someone telling me—like, “Bruce, this is what you have to do,”—but I’m totally open to people saying, “I think this is what you should do.” Specifics are great.
Michelle: So did you feel equipped? I mean, throughout the pregnancy—and then, all of a sudden, holding this child—did you feel equipped as a dad?
Bruce: I felt equipped in the sense that I knew I loved this little girl. She had a mom and a dad, and I had a good upbringing. I had a general idea that she’d be alright; but when it comes to specifics, I want someone to tell me: “When do I start spanking?” “When do I start feeding her this?”—I need specifics; I want some help—it’s something I want.
Bob: Well, all of us have the desire—and we have the basics in place—but this is a living human being we’re talking about. This is somebody whose life has been entrusted to us to help mold and shape, and there is a love for our children that is unparalleled in terms of human affection. We pour everything into this; so to get whatever help we can get, I think that’s just wise and prudent.
What I’m hoping is—people go through FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting—they’re not going to get a recipe; they’re not going to get—
Michelle: —it’s not a formula.
Bob: —maybe, what you are looking for: “Start spanking on Day 132,” and “Start feeding on the…” [Laughter]
Bruce: I want a game plan: show me, and I’ll just follow it.
Bob: You know what? Everybody wants that.
Bob: And here is what they’re thinking, “If I just follow the recipe/what I really want is: I want to make sure that this child turns out okay, so give me the recipe. I’ll do everything I can, because that matters more to me than anything else.”
Well, the point is there is not a recipe that makes that work. Children are actual human beings themselves; they make their own choices. But there are things we can do to help nurture, and shape, and mold our children. It’s really an art; it’s not a science. It’s something, where you have to know your child—his or her temperament; you have to know how God wired them; you have to know what the Bible teaches—and then you have to have some adaptability, and flexibility, and intentionality, as a parent, in order to help guide that child.
Bruce: So having the right heart—but being totally misguided—Estelle was about six-weeks-old. I’m already thinking, “She’s just going to cry, because she wants attention or something; so I don’t want to feed that,”—right?—“Let’s not give her all the attention just because she wants it.” She is six-weeks-old. Maria and I are in her room, getting things ready for a trip; and she was out on the couch.
She starts crying; and I’m like, “Just leave her; let her cry. She is just looking for attention.” Then we go out; and she had rolled off the couch and landed on the floor, and she is six-weeks-old. She’s not trying to get attention. [Laughter]
Michelle: She’s trying to let you know—
Bruce: —when she cries, she needs something.
Bob: But you’ve learned over time—you and Maria—you can tell the difference in Estelle’s cry—from a cry that says, “I’m not getting my way,” and a cry that says, “There’s something really wrong with me.”
Bruce: Oh, yes; and like you said, that’s an art. Someone couldn’t have written that down in a book; and I couldn’t have gone, “Okay; that’s what a cry for attention is; and that’s what a…”
Bob: We don’t have audio samples to play for you. [Laughter]
Michelle: Did you feel awful afterwards, Dad?
Bruce: Yes, yes. It was a lesson learned, and there’s many more to be learned.
Bob: Now, if our kids were here, they would tell you about the time that our son, Jimmy, broke a finger; and he’d been at football practice. He came home and said, “My finger hurts.” Mary Ann is just like, “Tape it together with something.” [Laughter] It was like four weeks later; we finally got an x-ray: “Oh, it’s broken!” He reminds us to this day—he’s now approaching 30—and he reminds us to this day.
Michelle: “This crooked finger is because Mom and Dad didn’t believe me.”
Bob: “This is all because you ignored my pain.” [Laughter]
Michelle: Well, last night, I was at Bible study; and there was a gal who came in late. She just looked totally disheveled. She said to each of us, “I am late; I am so sorry.” The two-year-old and the four-year-old boys got ahold of their teen sister’s lipstick. By the time she found out about it, the lipstick was all over the carpet, in the boys’ bedroom, and I think also in the teen girl’s bedroom. She had to clean it up before she could come to Bible study.
She was just like, “Oh, I am so tired of having to correct these boys. I’m so tired of having to say, ‘No,’”—just the monotony of changing diapers, and correcting, and doing all of that type of stuff.
Bob: She’s just at the start of this: “You’re going to be do this, ma’am, for the next decade-plus.” [Laughter] It is daily; it is exhausting, and parents think, “Shouldn’t this be fixed by now?”
Bob: The answer is: “No.”
You look at 2 Timothy 3; and it says, “Scripture is inspired, and it is profitable for instruction, for correction, for reproof, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete.” Well, do we need constant ongoing training and reproof and instruction, as believers?—of course, we do.
Michelle: Yes, we do.
Bob: And your kids are going to need ongoing instruction, correction, reproof, and training; and it’s going to take years/decades before they are complete in Christ. So, yes, you just have to stay with it as a parent.
Michelle: Keep going and continuing.
Well, a verse I know you and Maria have seen a little bit of hope in that constant correction and training with Estelle—because there was a French fries incident that you guys had not too long ago; right?
Bruce: Yes; so we were eating dinner. Estelle was having French fries and chicken nuggets. I think I initiated it, saying, “Hey, Estelle, can you share a French fry with Mommy?” She goes, “No, mine,”—[Laughter]—which we discussed; I don’t remember ever teaching her the word, “mine”;—[Laughter]
Bruce: —but she’s got it. I said to her, “Estelle, you need to be kind and share.” Maria asked her, and Estelle looks down at her fries. She’s starting to think about it; she’s looking so intently. She finds just this little nub—
Bob: —the smallest. [Laughter]
Bruce: —hands her the little nub. Maria is like, “Thank you.” Then, as the dinner went on, she would, unprompted, be like, “Mommy, fry?” She would dip it in ketchup for her, and it was a big one. Then she even offered a chicken nugget. We weren’t even prompting this anymore. I was very pleased with her and her growth.
Bob: Let me say two things about that. First, all children are born selfish.
Bob: Unless we teach them how to be other-centered, they will remain self-centered. A part of our job, as parents, is to break the cycle of self-centeredness and teach them to be others-centered.
Now, ultimately, you want that to come from the heart—that takes a work of God—but you can correct behavior, as a parent, and say, “Here’s how we’re going to live. We’re going to think of others, and put others first, and help others, and be kind to others.”
After a while, she was playing a game; this was fun for her.
Bob: We used to do this with our kids when they were little. I would come home; and I would say, “John, you sit over there, and you wait there. In a minute, I’m going to say, ‘John, would you come here please?’ When I do, I want you to jump up and say, ‘Yes, Daddy,’ and I want you to run over here.” He’s thinking we’re playing a great game.
Michelle: Right; it’s a fun thing.
Bob: What I’m doing is/I am teaching him: “Here is how life works.” I think parents just have to be intentional and purposeful to say, “These are things we want to train into our kids: ‘Here’s how you meet somebody; here is how you shake somebody’s hand,” “Here’s how you look at them and speak to them,”—this is all training—“Here is the napkin you use,” “Here is the fork that gets used,” “Here is how you say, ‘Please,’ and ‘Thank you.’” All of this is built.
In fact, there is a scene in the movie, Like Arrows—you remember it—where one of the kids is bad-mannered at the table while the other child is polite at the table. The mom is kind of like, “How did you get your kid to do that?” The other mom says, “There’s no child who is going to say ‘Please,’ and ‘Thank you,’ on their own. They have to be taught these things.” That’s our job as parents.
Michelle: So how early on are you forming character in your child? I mean, because when they are like a minute old, that’s too early; but then also, you can tell that Bruce and Maria have been working with their two-year-old.
Bob: Yes; so I think you can start to see self-centeredness in a child in the early months. You can start to see. Parents would go, “No, they are just responding to their environment. They are just…”—it’s whatever their needs are. Well, keep in mind: the heart of your child is focused on self. No child wakes up in the middle of the night and says, “You know, I’m uncomfortable with my diaper; but Mom had a terrible day today. I’m just going to let her sleep.” [Laughter] No; when a child wakes up in the middle of the night, that child goes, “I want my need met immediately.”
Bob: You do have to say, “You’re a part of the family. You fit in; you don’t get everything immediately as soon as you whimper, or fuss, or cry.” You can start training before the child can speak. In fact, with our kids, Mary Ann had them learning sign language to say, “Thank you,” before they could say the words.
Michelle: Okay; yes.
Bob: So touching the mouth, and—
Michelle: It’s a great idea.
Bob: —and they were able to do it at seven-months/eight-months-old.
Michelle: Well, we need to take a break. This is such a great discussion; Bruce and Bob, can you stick around for a little while?
Bob: I can’t. I’m sorry; I’ve got to leave. Can you take care of this?
Bruce: Sure; sure; I’ll handle it from here.
Michelle: Wrong answer!
Bob: Alright; I’ll stay.
Michelle: Wrong answer, because I have a great question for both of you; but our audience/our listeners are going to have to figure out what that is.
Bob: I’ll tell the Uber to wait.
Michelle: Okay; thanks. We’ll be back in two minutes. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. I am joined by Bob Lepine and Bruce Goff in the studio today. Thanks, again, guys for carving out some time and for pausing the Uber for a little bit, Bob.
Bob: The old dog and the new dog—we’re here; aren’t we?—give it up, [Bruce] dog.
Michelle: Okay; Bruce, I know you had a quick question for Bob concerning discipline; right?
Bruce: Yes; real simple/real quick: “Just when is the right time to start disciplining?”
Bob: How old is Estelle?
Bruce: She’s a little over two.
Bob: So can you tell, in her, that there are times when she is intentionally/actively being disobedient?
Bruce: Oh, yes.
Bob: Okay; so as soon as you can see it, you start, first, asking this question: “Has she been well-instructed? Is she doing something that she knows she ought not do?”
Sometimes, parents are disciplining kids for things that they’ve never taught them not to do.
So you have to start off and say, “Have we taught her not to do this?”—that’s check number one.
Then, “Have we corrected her when we’ve seen her do this?”—so have we gone to her and said, “You know, Mom and Dad said, ‘No, we don’t do this. No, no’”?—she looks up at you.
Now, you’ve done the instruction; the correction is there. Then the next thing would be the reproving. This is where you bring a measured amount of pain to apply toward that correction, because your admonition is not carrying enough weight. She needs to feel a consequence for this. Now, that may be a little swat on the wrist or a little swat on the fatty part of the thigh. You have to have some kind of way to bring some pain.
Some parents will say: “I’m going to remove them from the fun,” or “I’m going to try to distract them.” I think distracting is an okay tactic; but ultimately, you have to get back to a child, at two, saying, “I know this is wrong, and I still want to do it,” and “I don’t care what Mom and Dad think.” You say, “Well, they are not conscious.” Oh, that’s in their heart; so you have to come along and say, “No,” clearly; and then when they say, “I’m still going to do it,” you have to deter them with a measured amount of pain. I don’t think [they’re] too young.
In fact, here would be an example of what we had: a child is at the dinner table. Before they can speak, they’ve got a plate of spaghetti; and they lift up the plate of spaghetti. Mary Ann looks at him and says, “You need to put the plate of spaghetti down.” They look back, they look at the spaghetti, and they look back. Then they just tip it over on the floor. Now, you would say, “Well, that child doesn’t know what they are doing.” I would say, “No; I think they know, ‘I’m going to do what I want to do.’”
You come along; you teach, “No, we don’t do that.” You correct: “You’re going to help Mommy pick this up.” This is an eight-month-old; somehow, you get—and then you come back around and a little swat on the hand—“No, no.” They cry, and they pout out for a minute; but they are getting the message: “I don’t want...” The next time, when they lift that up, and you just slap your own wrist, “No, no,” they’ll put it back down.
Bruce: So a scenario that often happens—or has happened—is she won’t swallow her food. She’s just got it in her mouth: “Estelle, you need to eat your food.” We’ll do the little pop. Then it just seems to escalate, and then she is hysterical. Then we feel like, “We just need to get her to eat this.” Then we feel like, “Did we just lose? Did she just win?” I mean, do you keep popping until she’s swallows? It seems like there has got to be a point, at which you say, “This isn’t helping in this moment right now.”
Bob: I would say, as a mom and a dad, “God will give you insight in that moment to know, ‘How should we respond in this moment?’” But here is what I would say you can do proactively. Before you put the food down, you say, “We’re going to give you your plate of chicken nuggets. When you bite it, you need to chew it and swallow it. Do you understand?” You take a little bite and chew. “Now, you see, I swallow. That’s what you’re going to do.” You make sure you’re doing that kind of instruction rather than just putting it in front; because your child may not remember from the last time, “Oh, yes, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
I think parents drop the ball on instruction; because they think: “I’ve told them this once,” “I’ve told them this twice.” You tell them every day, over and over again; that is part of the job.
Bruce: Yes; we’ve remarked before: “She doesn’t know anything. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right.
Bruce: “Beans don’t go on your head,” but she doesn’t know that!
Michelle: She’s got to try it out; she’s got to try it out some way. [Laughter]
Now, Bob, you have five kids.
Bob: We do.
Michelle: They are all starting their families.
Bob: Yes; they are all married, and we have six grandchildren.
Michelle: Okay; so help us understand, by maybe putting yourself in their shoes—or even in Bruce’s shoes—what are some rookie mistakes that young parents make?
Bob: For me/for us, I think the biggest mistake we made, early on—and this is easy to do—is for your child to be the center of the home and for you to quickly/easily fall into: “You are the most important person and thing here.” I mean, when you bring home a baby, you’re in love with them.
Michelle: They’re cute.
Bob: Of course! So everything is—you are looking at the baby—“You’re so cute”; the friends come over. From birth, this child is getting this message: “I’m a pretty big deal. I’m pretty stinkin’ important around here. Everybody, who comes in, just oohs and ahs over me.”
Michelle: Right; right.
Bob: We have to recognize that we have to say to our kids, “You are a part of a family, and you’re going to fit in here. You are important, but you’re not the most important thing here. You’re not the most important person.” Don’t make your home child-centered. In fact, make sure your marriage is stronger than your relationship with your kids.
Michelle: That’s a good point.
Bob: That’s important. Make sure the child understands: “The world doesn’t revolve around me. Our world revolves around God, and we’re all here to do what He wants us to do, not to get our own way.”
Michelle: Yes; okay. Switching gears just a little bit here—identity—identity is such a huge topic these days. It’s huge in our culture right now, and there are a lot of counterfeit identities. How soon should we be teaching our kids about identity? I mean, Bruce and Maria: should they be teaching Estelle about her identity at two years old?
Bob: Oh, I think so. When Amy was little—our oldest—when she was little, before she could speak—and I would hold her, and rock her, and have her on my knees—I would just look at her and say, “You know, you’re a sinner.” Part of this—she would coo and smile when I would say that—right?—I wasn’t—
Michelle: Poor thing. [Laughter]
Bob: —doing it to rob her of self-esteem. I was doing it as much for me/to remind me of what is true and just to make sure that we had a proper biblical framework.
Your child needs to know—spiritually, two things are very important—number one: “I am loved deeply and passionately by the God who made me. I’m created in His image—higher than the animals/higher than everything else—I’m a unique image bearer of God, and there is great dignity that comes with that.”
[Secondly] “I am also a rebellious sinner, and my natural inclination and my natural approach in life is to want to do my thing rather than do God’s thing.” They need to understand: “My sin is deeper than I realize it is, and God’s love for me is deeper than I understand it is.” You teach that differently to an eight-month-old than you will to an eight-year-old, but it’s a part of what’s the ongoing training going on in the home.
With a two-year-old, you keep pointing them to the fact that: “God made you, and God loves you.” You teach these lessons over and over again, because this is a part of their identity. Then you teach them: “You are selfish; and Mommy is selfish, too—and Daddy—and we have this struggle that we have to deal with that is our own selfishness; but we need Jesus to help us with that.” These are lessons you can start teaching to a one-year-old/to a two-year-old and have that on repeat in your home.
Jessica Thompson, who is one of the contributors in FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting video series—says, in her parenting—she said, “On repeat in our house is: ‘I’m a sinner just like you,’ ‘I’m a sinner just like you.’” She said, “We would say that to our boys as we were raising them just so that they would remember, ‘We don’t think we’re up here, spiritually mature; and you’re down here, the wicked, bad person,’”—no—“’I’m a sinner just like you. I struggle with this stuff just like you do.’”
You can start driving that home with your child/say, “We’ve all got the same predicament, and we’ve all got the same solution; and it’s Jesus.”
Michelle: As a parent, what is it like when, all of a sudden, that clicks?—to watch that click in your child’s brain.
Bob: Well, it clicks; and it unclicks.
Bob: Let’s just be clear. It’s one of those things that your child gets one day and doesn’t get the next day; but as you start to see your children—think of Bruce’s example—when Estelle wants to start sharing her French fries with Mommy, that’s a great moment; because that says, “She’s getting it.”
You know that, not only for her success in the world, but just for her relationship with God, she’s going to need to understand that we value God and others ahead of ourselves. Jesus has told us that the Great Commandment is to love God and love others. As she starts doing those things, and you see her delighting in that and joy coming from that—3 John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth,”—when your kids are walking in the truth, it’s like, “Yes!”
Bruce: We had a moment, a little while back, where it clicked for Estelle; I had never heard her use this word before. We were reading through the Bible; and I said, “So, Estelle, we need to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” She goes, “Oh! Gotcha!” [Laughter] “Okay; well, we’ve settled that; moving on…”
Michelle: That’s good; that’s cute.
Well, we have run out of time; I am so sorry because this has been a lot of fun. Bob and Bruce, thank you so much for joining me and for Bob playing the old man and Bruce playing the young man. [Laughter]
Bob: Can I put in one more plug for May 1st and 3rd?
Michelle: Yes; please do.
Bob: Like Arrows in theaters May 1st and 3rd, two nights only. I hope all of our listeners will come out and join us—800-plus theaters across the country—go to LikeArrowsMovie.com for information about where it’s going to be in a theater near you.
Michelle: Of course, we’re going to have information on our website for Like Arrows and also Art of Parenting. Go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, next week, we are going to sing. There are some benefits to singing to you and to your kids. We’re going to hear from Jason Houser and from Jenny Owens. I hope you can join us for that. Thanks for listening.
A big “Thank you!” to the team today who make me sound so good; and that is Keith, and Megan, and Phil, and Marques, and James.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today® in Little Rock, Arkansas; and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I’m Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us, again, next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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