5 Things to Say to Your Son (and 1 to Stop): Jerrad Lopes
You want to be a dad who calls his son to greatness; who loves him well. But…what do you say? Dad Tired author and podcaster Jerrad Lopes offers 5 don't-miss things to say to your son—not to mention one to avoid.
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You want to be a dad who calls his son to greatness; who loves him well. Dad Tired author and podcaster Jerrad Lopes offers 5 don’t-miss things to say.
5 Things to Say to Your Son (and 1 to Stop): Jerrad Lopes
Ann: That’s it.
Jerrad: And that’s spiritual leadership, isn’t it? Just humble men. Just be humble. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m trying. I’m sorry. I need to get this right.” I say that to my six-year-old. One day she’s going to come to the decision of “Do I want to follow Jesus? I have sin in my life.” I hope that she says, “Well, I’ve seen my daddy repent. I’ve seen my daddy need a heart change, and so do I.” I would model not just all the spiritual disciplines, but model for her what it looks like to say, “I need Jesus desperately.”
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Alright, It’s Friday Five.
Ann: I like Friday Five!
Dave: Friday Five has become one of my favorite things to do. Today we get to talk about dads and men and five amazing things we’re going to talk about. We have to introduce our guest, though. We have Jerrad Lopes from Dad Tired with us again. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Jerrad: Oh, man. It’s always good to be with you guys. Thanks for having me.
Ann: Let me add, too. We’ve had Jerrad on for the last couple days. It’s been really good, Jerrad. Thank you.
Ann: The book that we’ve been talking about with him is called The Dad Tired Q&A Mixtape. It’s great.
Dave: Yes. If you haven’t listened the last two days, go back and listen. If you’re a man, I would encourage you to jump in the Dad Tired community. How do they do that?
Dave: Just go there and boom! I remember I did it, and I was like, “Will I get accepted?” because I had to go through some screen process.
Jerrad: Yes. We filtered you out. We saw you coming a mile away. [Laughter]
Dave: By the way, if you don’t know, Jerrad’s married. How many years?
Jerrad: Oh, man—[long pause]
Jerrad: Yes, thirteen years. Thank you for saving me for not answering fast enough there. Yes, thirteen years, four kids.
Dave: So you are Dad tired.
Dave: No question, so hopefully you have five surprising or just a couple. Here’s the one I thought of, and it comes from one of my sons saying this to us a few years back. He said, “I wish you would ask me this question.” I said, “Yes, what is it?” “How’s your heart?”
Dave: In other words, “How are you doing?” Get to a soul-to-soul level conversation. Do you know what I’m talking about, Ann?
Ann: Yes, I do.
Dave: I remember when he said that, I was like, “Really? I didn’t do that?” He said, “No, you were easy to be more superficial, like ‘Okay, we’re good, right? We’re good. I’ve given you skills—’ rather than ‘How are you doing? Let’s talk about it.’” That’s vulnerable and I think scary for men sometimes.
Jerrad: Were you defensive or were you able to really hear him?
Dave: I don’t know. Was I defensive?
Ann: He’s so good in not being defensive. He’s really great.
Dave: You’re complimenting me right now?
Ann: I totally am.
Jerrad: Soak it in.
Dave: Yes. [Laughter] I’ll take it!
Ann: But let me add this. The thing I’ve loved the most and I’ve admired that you’ve done is after that conversation with them—because a couple of them said that to you—you went to get help through a counselor, and that is huge, especially at your age, like “I’m still learning. I still need to get better.”
Dave: “There’s something broken here. I want to do better.”
Dave: Hey, can we stop talking about me? Can we go somewhere else?
Jerrad: Well, hear me. I’ll just say as an outsider perspective, and not to make you feel old, but I think I’m about the age of your sons.
Jerrad: Man, that is so powerful, so powerful to hear that you heard that and you’re like, “I’m willing to receive it humbly and see that this is still an area of my life that I want Jesus to change.” That’s really, really cool.
Dave: That’s good.
Jerrad: So thanks for saying that. Actually, on my list here I will say it’s number two, but it could easily be a Part B to that same thing. I was going to say, “Dads need to say, ‘What were you feeling?’ or ‘What are you feeling?’” That’s really the exact same thing that you were just talking about, which is essentially—I'm trying to get better at this as a dad—not just parent their behavior, but really parent their heart.
Ann: I remember, even as a mom, I’m trying to get to that, too, trying to get to their heart. It takes so much patience, because you get mad at them, and they’re hitting each other. I’ve shared this before, but there was one point where our eight- and eleven-year-old were just hitting each other, screaming. So, I walk in on that, and the younger brother is so mad. He wants to punch his brother. I’m pulling him away and I said, “Tell us. Tell us why you’re so mad.”
He said, “I’m so mad. I’m so mad.” I said, “But go further. Why are you so mad? Try to get it out. What’s wrong?” I was amazed that he could verbalize. He said, “I’m mad at you because every time your friends come over and my friends come over, you embarrass me and make fun of me.” For him to even say that, instead of just “I’m going to hit you and punch you,” for him to be able to verbalize that was pretty extraordinary for an eight-year-old. I said, “So you’re feeling rejected.”
Ann: And then it came down to, and now he’s crying, he said, “I feel like you don’t even love me or like me anymore.” I thought, “This is amazing that he could verbalize it.” Then I asked, “And what do you need from your brother?” This was the most classic. He’s crying, this little eight-year-old, and he said, “I just need you to hug me sometimes.”
Ann: The eleven-year-old is getting a little older, so he’s like, “Well —,” and then the younger brother again says, “And sometimes I just need you to give me a kiss before I go to bed.” Now I'm trying to not laugh. But the older brother says, “I’m not going to kiss you, but I will hug you once in a while.” And then he said, “And I’m sorry I’ve made you feel so bad.”
That took a long time to get all of that out. It would have been easier just to separate them, to give them a time-out or whatever, but I love that. Get to their hearts.
Jerrad: You know all I could think of as you were sharing that story, which was so amazing was—and you guys know this better than I do—but you put that same language in marriage.
Dave and Ann: Yes.
Jerrad: Men are just mad, but can you get past the mad and get back to the first—what's the first emotion you’re feeling, not the second or third?
Jerrad: Could a husband and wife talk like that? “I actually feel rejected, and what I just need is a hug.” [Laughter]
Jerrad: How many marriages would be healthier? But here’s what I would say number three is: I have “What Dads need to say is ‘No.’” What I mean by that is what you did with your kids is you had to slow down. You could have just said, “If you punch him, you’re in trouble. I’m sick of it, because I have to fold the laundry, and do the dishes, and do a million other things.”
But you said “no” to other things so that you could be more intentional to say “yes” to raising disciples in that moment. We have to say “no” to the fantasy football team or the game or pausing the TV or whatever other things need to get done to say “yes” to my primary role here as disciple-maker. I have to slow down, say “no” to everything else so I can say “yes” to the people, the little disciples that God has put right in front of me.
Ann: And we won’t do it perfectly every time for sure.
Jerrad: Or ever. [Laughter]
Ann: Because we're tired. We’re tired.
Dave: I’ve said this before as well, but when we started our church, both of the founders were young dads with young kids, and we made a decision because our wives said, “We need you home at night,” so we stood on the stage. I remember we did this together, and we said, “Hey, we just want to let you know if you need to meet with us and it’s really important, we’ll meet with you in the morning, not at night. Here’s why.”
“We asked our wives, ‘Which one do you really want us at home?’ Both of the wives said, ‘Man, if you could be there at dinner, getting baths and getting in the Bible and then putting them to bed.’ So we said 'Okay.’” We both thought, “They’re going to applaud this. They’re going to say, ‘Way to go! Way to be dads and husbands!’” We heard the opposite.
But I’ll tell you this, 34 years later it was the best decision we ever made, to say “no” to people that mattered, and we were supposed to be discipling, making disciples, but the most important disciples we’ll ever make are sleeping right down the hall in your house every night.
Jerrad: That’s right. And I imagine the only reason you had the confidence to say “no” when it was hard is because you really knew what you were saying “yes” to.
Ann: That’s good.
Jerrad: Guys just have to know what they’re saying “yes” to. Otherwise, your boss is going to convince you to say “yes” to him. Life will convince you, people will convince you, you should really say ‘yes’ to this, but you just have to know, “This is what God has called me to say ‘yes’ to, and I’ll say ‘no’ to everything else.”
Ann: Guys, what would you say to a man who says, “My business is falling apart. Finances are falling apart. I have to be there. I can’t say ‘no’ to this thing in my life right now. How do I say ‘no’ to this?”
Dave: That’s hard. I feel it. I would not make light of it—” Oh, yeah. It’s just easy.” It’s a hard, hard call, but I think what Jerrad just said—it comes back to what matters. What are your priorities? Make the hard call. In some ways it’s a trust part, too, to say “I’m going to do the right thing that God’s called me to do,” and trust Him for the other part of it. There are other ways to work, different hours and different ways to make money. Maybe you have to be creative that way, but I think at the end of the day you have to make the hard call.
Jerrad: Laila and I said before we had kids, first year of marriage, we said, “We would rather live in an RV and be together trying to raise kids with a small budget, than to be working to pay for all the stuff and be away from each other and away from the kids. I know a lot of guys might say, “Well I can’t do that because my wife wants all these things, so I have to—.”
This is a decision you have to make together as a couple. What kind of lifestyle are we actually going for? What’s our value of time, like a dollar amount? Are we willing to cut some budget stuff in order to spend more time together?
Dave: Yes. Have you, as Dad Tired grows, have you had to make some hard calls?
Jerrad: Absolutely. Yes.
Dave: You sound like you’re on the road. Has there been a lot that you’re not on the road but you could be, that you’ve said ‘no’ to?
Jerrad: Absolutely. I’m traveling every week, but we homeschool our kids, and I’m with them five days out of the week, so Monday to Friday, and then I usually take the last flight out that I can on Friday, speak on Saturday. I say ‘no’ now when people ask me to speak on Sundays, for almost every time so I can go take my kids to church on Sundays. I want to be home on Sundays so I can go to church with them.
Dave: Man, that’s big.
Ann: I’ll answer that question as a woman. I know that there are some seasons where it’s going to be really hard for Dave to be at home, if something’s going on at the church or there’s something really important, and if he comes to me and he says—
Dave: It’s called “football season.” [Laughter]
Ann: But if he says, “Hey, this is going to be a rough season. How can I make some deposits into our family that would be really helpful for you, because I know that I'm not going to be home as much?” So, we know that this is going to be a season, but then, here’s the key.
Dave: I know where she’s going. [Laughter] I was going to say the same thing.
Ann: The season can’t just keep going, because as a woman I lock in. “Alright. I’m going to do this for the season, and then when the season’s up, if it doesn’t change, that’s when my heart gets, ‘Hey, what happened to the season?’”
Dave: You get resentful. Every wife would.
Ann: Absolutely. One season turns into another season to another season. I think that would be easy because you slip into this new lifestyle and this new schedule, but I think that helps a wife. “Here’s the season, here’s what it looks like. Just tell me what I can do to help you in this season.” That helped us a lot.
Dave: It made me think of this—Jerrad, you’re sort of stepping into this sort of season. I think another big “no” for families is how many sports and extracurricular activities are we going to allow our family to get in? It will suck your life out; you’re just on ball fields and concerts. Again, that’s all great stuff, but I think the best families make hard calls to say, “We’re not going to do everything. We’re going to decide what to do,” right?
Jerrad: People are going to be upset when they hear you say that.
Ann: Oh, this is the idol of America.
Jerrad: They’re going to be upset. My response would be, “Why are you upset? Try to pause for a moment and try to really figure out, ‘Why did that make me feel uncomfortable when you said that?’” Usually when that happens, when somebody’s stepping on our toes, our chest gets tight and we think, “Oh, my. I want to disagree with you,” we’re probably getting in the space of idolatry, what you just said.
Dave: I was going to say it’s an idol.
Jerrad: Yes. “Don’t mess with my stuff.” Sports have become a huge thing. Listen, my son is a really talented athlete, and I don’t care if he ever doesn’t play a single pro or college sport in his life, but I do care if he loves Jesus and turns out to be a man that leads his family well, so you just have to say “no” to some stuff.
Dave: Yes, that’s true. Hey, Ann. Have you got one?
Ann: Here’s one of the things I’m going to add. My dad didn’t spend a whole lot of time with me growing up in my earlier years, because I had older brothers. I was the youngest of four. But I hit this age where my dad started inviting me to go out to dinner, because my uncle had cancer. My mom was gone, so my dad said, “I’d like to just have dinner with you.” It was once a week.
Dave: You were in high school?
Ann: I was in high school, and I didn’t even know him. This was so awkward. But one of the things my dad did that I loved was he just started asking me questions. I think this is a great thing for parents to do. He would say things like, “Tell me about what’s making you happy right now. What’s making you sad right now? Tell me the names of your friends, and tell me all about them, and why do you like them?” I was only fifteen, sixteen years old, and I can’t even tell you what that meant to me, that my dad would take an interest, that he would ask me questions about my friends.
Here’s the other thing that he did that was amazing along with that. He would then ask me this, “What do you think I should do?” I’m in high school. I don’t know anything, and he says, “Ann, I have this problem going on at work. What do you think I should do?” You know this, Dave. My dad would make us feel so important that he’s asking our opinion on something.
Dave: When we got married, that was one of the first things I noticed. I said to Ann, “He treats me like I’m an adult! He asks my opinion, and he’s not just being nice. He really thinks I have thoughts.”
Ann: He’ll say, “I’m kind of dumb. I’m not very smart. What do you guys think I should do?”
Dave: Yes, I remember, “Most adults don’t treat me like that, but your dad—it's man to man, adult to adult. ‘I want your wisdom, give it to me.’” I’m like, “Wow. I feel like a man!” That’s unique, and I think that’s important for us to do to our kids as they rise up to that age. Make them feel like, “You’re not just a teenager anymore. You are an adult.”
Ann: One of the things I love about my dad, too, is he was always willing to change and see his shortcomings. He knows that he was not great, he was not there when I was younger, but man, he was always changing, even to the point of when he died. I remember him apologizing to me about that, at 92 years old. “Ann, I’m really sorry I wasn’t there when you were growing up. Just didn’t take an interest, and that was so wrong of me.”
Don’t you love that we can still change, that we can still repent and apologize? ￼You know, I didn’t think, “Well, it’s too late now.” I just thought, “That is the sweetest thing, Dad,” that he would do that. So that’s mine.
Jerrad: I just think people are willing to give a lot of grace to genuine humility.
Ann: That’s it.
Jerrad: And that’s spiritual leadership, isn’t it? Just humble men. For our audience, for Dad Tired, we’re just telling you, “Just be humble.” “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m trying. I’m sorry. I need to get this right.” How we started, with your son coming to you and just saying, “Okay. I hear you, and I’m going to do what I can to fix it.”
Actually, that leads me to the fifth one here, which is “Dads need to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Anyone would say that. You could probably go to any parenting conference and hear “You should apologize to your kids. That’s a good, moral thing to do.” But I think when we apologize to our kids as Christians, what we’re doing is we’re modeling for our kids every single person in this house needs Jesus.
Ann: That’s good.
Jerrad: Everyone, including dad. So when I go to my kids, it’s not just the right thing to say. “Oh, I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” But it’s “Baby, little girl, son, daughter, I’ve messed this up and I’ve had to ask God to forgive me for this, and I’m asking Him to take that part of my heart and to change it and make it new.” I say that to my six-year-old.
One day she’s going to come to the decision of “Do I want to follow Jesus? I have sin in my life.” I hope that she says, “Well, I’ve seen my daddy repent. I’ve seen my daddy need a heart change, and so do I.” I would model not just all the spiritual disciplines, but model for her what it looks like to say, “I need Jesus desperately to come and make me a new man.” So, more dads to say, “I’m sorry.”
Ann: That’s good.
Dave: I think sometimes we need clarification, like this is not “I’m sorry” if you say, “I’m sorry that you feel this way because I did this.” That is like putting it on them, like “You’re such a loser.”
Dave: “I’m sorry” that’s repentance is, “I’m sorry. What I did or said was wrong, and I’m owning it.” Right? I’ve been on the other side, and I feel like it’s on me. That’s a biggie.
Ann: That’s really good. One of the things I thought too as you were talking about that, Jerrad, was I think it’s good to apologize to our kids sometimes. If they’re in the midst of maybe an argument with our wife or our husband, the way we talk to them, even saying to the kids, “Hey, guys. I just want you to know I had to apologize to Mom for the way I talked to her.”
“How I was talking to her or the tone or what I said was wrong. It was sin, honestly, and I want you to know I was wrong, and I shouldn’t have talked to your mom like that. I hope you guys can forgive me, because I had to ask Mom to forgive me.” It’s just good to see that Mom and Dad’s marriage isn’t perfect, but they’re apologizing to each other. As a kid, that makes you feel secure, and it’s also modeling to them what that looks like, even as they get married.
Dave: We’re out of time, but we have one more.
Dave: It’s the most obvious statement that needs to be said, but I’m telling you, there were times I found it was hard to say. It’s three words: “I love you.” Of course, you’re going to say that. What should you say to your kids? I never heard that said. It almost felt like, “They know it. I’m living in such a way that I’m proving it every day.” But man, guys, if you haven’t said “I love you” to your wife lately, it means a lot, doesn’t it?
Dave: And if you haven’t looked your son or daughter in the eye, especially as they’re six and then they’re sixteen—sometimes as they get older as a man I’m thinking, “This is another man. I’m not going to—” It means the world for their dad to say, “I just want to look you in the eye and say, I haven’t said this in a while, and I mean this. I love you. You are a good man. You’re a good daughter. I just want to make sure you know I love you.” That’s simple, obvious, but I think there might be a dad today who says, “That was for me. I need to make sure my daughter or my son, my wife has heard me say that today.”
Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jerrad Lopes on FamilyLife Today. We have a little addition to the Friday Five. We’ve heard about the surprising things every dad needs to say to his kids, and even the bonus one, but we’ll have one thing we should stop saying to our kids, coming up from Dave Wilson here in just a second.
All of this conversation, and over the last couple of days has been super appropriate as we’ve been talking about what it means to be a dad, a gospel-centered dad. Spoiler alert—in case you didn’t know—today is Friday. Two days from now is Sunday, and that day is Father’s Day. If alarm bells are going off in your head, you still have 48 hours to go grab something, or have your kids draw something as well for Dad. I know he’ll appreciate it.
Jerrad Lopes has written a book called The Dad Tired Q&A Mixtape: Jesus-Centered Answers to Questions about Faith and Family. I know I have questions about faith and family. Well, this book is going to be our gift to you when you give any amount to partner with us financially here at FamilyLife. You can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, the number is 800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.” And feel free to drop us something in the mail. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, Florida 32832.
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Alright, let’s throw it back to Dave Wilson for one thing we should stop saying to our kids.
Dave: Here’s one thing we shouldn’t say as a dad or a mom. “I’ll do that tomorrow.”
“How about tomorrow?”
It’s easy to say, and there are times that you need to wait a day, but man, if you can do it today, do it today. Don’t procrastinate. You may not get tomorrow. I remember Joe Stowell, speaking at a Promise Keepers 30 years ago. He was a pastor in Detroit. I knew Joe. He had a great church, and he had a yard in Highland Park. I remember his house.
He said, “I did my own yard, because I want it to be perfect. I was into my yard.” He said, “Every time I drove into my street, I’d look at my yard and think, ‘It’s the best one on the block, because I care about it, and I take care of it.’” He said, “I had three sons, and often I’d be out working on the yard, and they’d say, ‘Hey, Dad. Can we play hoops, or can we —’ and I’d say, ‘Yeah, later. I have to work on the yard.’”
He said, “We actually got a basketball hoop. We put it in there, and my youngest son every day would say, 'Dad, let’s shoot hoops,’ and I’d say, ‘Maybe later. How about tomorrow? I have to work on the yard.’” He said, “I did a funeral for a teenage boy in my church. I’m driving back home and I turn onto my street, and I see the hoop,” and he says, “It was the symbol of misplaced priorities.” He said, “As I got closer to my house, I looked at my yard and I said, ‘Yep, it’s the best yard on the block, and who really cares?‘”
He said, “The brevity of life was staring me in the face.” He said, “I literally walked upstairs, went to my son’s room; he was doing his homework. I said, ‘Son, let’s shoot some hoops.’ He turned and he said, ‘Dad, I have a lot of homework. How about tomorrow?’” He said, “I remember I closed the door and I’m walking down the hall and I said to myself, ‘I missed it. I missed it. I had a window and my yard was more important.’”
I’ve never forgotten that story over 30 years because I’m like, “Don’t miss the window. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, especially as a dad. Seize the moment. Make a memory.”
Ann: And Dave, let’s just add, it’s never too late to start.
Ann: It’s never too late.
Shelby: Now, coming up next week, Jonathan Pokluda is going to be talking to us in his marriage message from the Love Like You Mean It®cruise. He basically says there are no shortcuts to a good marriage. Man, that’s true. Can’t wait to hear from him.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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