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A 40-Day Journey to Loving Your Kids

with Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendr...more | February 3, 2014

Some days it's easy to love your kids. Other days prove more challenging. That's why parents need to intentionally seek out ways to encourage, teach and bless our children daily. To help with this, brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick, best known for their films, "Courageous" and "Fireproof", talk to parents about their book, "The Love Dare for Parents," a 40-day dare to parents to love their kids.

Some days it's easy to love your kids. Other days prove more challenging. That's why parents need to intentionally seek out ways to encourage, teach and bless our children daily. To help with this, brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick, best known for their films, "Courageous" and "Fireproof", talk to parents about their book, "The Love Dare for Parents," a 40-day dare to parents to love their kids.

A 40-Day Journey to Loving Your Kids

With Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendr...more
|
February 03, 2014
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Bob: You love your children; right? They know you love them; right? When was the last time you told them you love them you love them? Here’s Stephen Kendrick.

Stephen: There are so many men’s conferences, where we’ve spoken, and I’ve asked men: “Raise your hand if your parents never told you they loved you.” All these hands go up across the room. It just breaks your heart because, in ten seconds, you can turn to your child and say: “I want you to know I love you. You are priceless to me and I’m proud of you. I’m so grateful that God has placed you in my family.” I mean, how long did it take me to say that; you know? It can transform their lives forever to know that they have that affection from you.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today with Stephen and Alex Kendrick about telling your kids that you love them and, then, showing them that you love them, over and over again. Stay tuned.

 

1:00

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Back when you and Barbara were in the thick of raising your children, did you ever find there were some days when it was, maybe, a little easier to love the kids than on other days?

Dennis: Occasionally.

Bob: Yes?

Dennis: The occasional day. [Laughter]

Bob: Yes, there were some days when there was a little bit more of a challenge to wrap your arms around the kids—

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: —and just say, “I love you today, Sweetie.”

Dennis: There were those moments that were just picturesque. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting, and it was just beautiful; but I would characterize raising children as one of the most challenging—yet, beneficial, and satisfying, and fulfilling—tasks that Barbara and I have ever done. I mean, it was a great privilege—a high and holy privilege—that I look back on with a great grin and a lot of satisfaction—and not a lot of regrets. I do have some. One is that I didn’t have this book. [Laughter] It’s called The Love Dare for Parents. We have the authors of this, Stephen and Alex Kendrick, back on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, guys.

2:00

Alex: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Dennis: They co-authored another book that sold six million copies—called The Love Dare. That, of course, came from the movie, Fireproof. They are pastors, authors, filmmakers, and, amazingly—I’ve been around them a long time—they’re brothers who, for the most part, get along with each other.

Stephen: We do.

Dennis: It’s amazing! It really is. They’ve put together a 40-day dare—a dare to love your kids. The regret I have, Bob, is not having something like this just to kind of anchor you for a period of time and to focus on some of the key issues of raising kids today, from the Scriptures.

Bob: Well, it’s the recalibration—I mean, life kind of happens a day at a time. We need to be reminded to be intentional, to be purposeful, and to be focused. We have an assignment in front of us and, as Dennis says, it’s a challenging assignment—and it’s a rewarding assignment.

3:00

 

We can’t really check out of the game for very long and expect it to go well; can we?

Alex: That’s right. And that was our motivation. The original Love Dare was for couples. This Love Dare for Parents is to say exactly that.

Bob: Yes.

Alex: You have to win your child’s heart because whoever they believe loves them the most is who they will listen to the most, whether it’s their parents or their peers. It’s when they are unsure: “Do my parents really, really love me? But look over here—my friends are giving me a lot of attention.” They start listening to their peers. If that’s not settled—especially, in their teenage years and up—you get a lot of issues.

Dennis: You’re always in competition with something or someone for your kids’ hearts.

Alex: Yes, that’s right.

Stephen: That’s right.

Dennis: If you don’t go after it aggressively, you could lose that competition. You guys begin The Love Dare for Parents really focusing on this dimension of love.

Stephen: Well, in First Corinthians 13, you know, the Apostle Paul is unpacking love. If you look in Ephesians, he says it’s like soil. We need to be “rooted and grounded in love.”

4:00

 

Jesus used the illustration of truth being like a seed. Paul said, “Speak the truth in love.” As parents, when we want to pass on our faith, our values, the lessons of life—the wisdom—to our kids, we’re taking that truth and it needs to be planted in that soil of a loving relationship.

Alex: People tend to adopt the beliefs of those they believe love them the most. So, a child seeing what his parents do and what they believe—if that child believes, for certain, “I know my dad and mom love me!”—they will adopt their beliefs.

Stephen: David said, “I am ever mindful of Your love for me—your unfailing love for me—and I will walk according to Your truth.” He was thinking about how much God loved him. It caused him to want to listen to the Lord and embrace what He was teaching him.

Bob: Well, and to carry that a step further, it’s really why meditating on the cross—

Stephen: Yes!

Bob: —reorients everything about our lives—

Stephen: That’s right.

Bob: —because, when we consider God’s sacrifice on our behalf and the love that is behind that, it changes everything about our lives.

5:00

 

Dennis: It’s what turned my life around, as a college student. I mean, I was in the Book of Romans. It was the love of Christ—

Alex: Right.

Dennis: —that said: “Look! Even though you’re going your own way, I love you! I want a relationship with you. I want to give you purpose and meaning. I want to see your soul redeemed and give you a message for a lifetime.”

Really, that’s a picture of what parents are doing with their kids. One of the love dares for parents is about “Love Blooms”—it helps a child bloom. Alex, you have a story about that, with one of your kids.

Alex: Yes, I constantly remind my kids: “I love you. You are my daughter / you are my son.” When I do that—my wife Christina does that with me—when we do that, we engender that devotion to us, as parents. Again, it doesn’t mean we don’t have issues. We do. My kids misbehave—which is common for most families. They fight amongst one another; but when I verbalize that love and I say, “Whatever God has designed you to do, that’s what I want you to do.” We give them those opportunities—our kids learn: “My mom and my dad love me, and they love Jesus.”

6:00

I see them adopting that faith and making it their own.

Bob: So, what does it look like for you to say that? I mean, do you, in the car, say, “Look, you’re a Kendrick,” or, “You’re my son.” How would that play out for you?

Alex: Well, a recent time for my daughter—when we were on a trip and we were up on top of Pike’s Peak, which is, you know—a beautiful location—

Dennis: Yes.

Alex: —very, very high. We were up there, and I took that time to kind of surprise her with an act of kindness. I gave her a necklace. I said, “I want you to remember where we are—we’re at one of the highest places in the country. I want you to remember who you’re with and that I love you.” I gave her a necklace that she still has. She put that necklace on, and it was one of those moments—where I took that moment to just show her some kindness and to verbalize my love to her. She remembers it because she still has that necklace. It’s attached to a memory there.

You look for those opportunities where you can say: “I love you. It’s not based on your performance. It’s not based on your grades.”

7:00

 

You know, you always want to affirm those things, but my daughter and my son’s identity must be found in the Lord. They’ll catch on to that, first, if it’s found in us. In other words: “God loves me, and I love you;” and they see a picture of that. So, later on, when they begin to question who they are, they remember: “My dad told me who I was and that I was loved.” It’s easier for them to believe that God loves them when they have that.

Stephen: There are so many men’s conferences, where we’ve spoken, and I’ve asked men: “Raise your hand if your parents never told you they loved you.” All these hands go up across the room;—

Alex: Yes.

Stephen: —and it just breaks your heart because, in ten seconds, you can turn to your child and say: “I want you to know I love you. You are priceless to me, and I’m proud of you. I’m so grateful that God has placed you in my family.” I mean, how long did it take me to say that, you know? It can transform their lives forever to know that they have that affection from you.

Dennis: But when it doesn’t happen—and you get a room full of men who hold their hands up—you can see the look on their faces.

8:00

 

It’s like they’re transformed—and I hate to overstate it here—but almost back to being a little boy again—

Stephen: Yes.

Dennis: —just to have heard the approval and the affection, in words, from their moms and their dads.

Stephen: And they will tend to want to perform all of the time to try to earn what they never got. It’s like: “I want to win the awards. I want to win the approval.” They’ll, a lot of times, become workaholics or they’ll do things to try to win that love and affection because their dads and moms never affirmed that in them. Ultimately, it has to come from the Lord, as you’ve said, Dennis.

Alex: It’s been said that either of us are either living from approval or for approval. So, if you think about that—even into adulthood, are we living from approval—if we knew we mattered and we knew we were loved and have purpose—we can live from that approval. If we didn’t get it, in our younger years, we’re still living for it. We’re still searching for it: “Am I okay? Am I good enough?” We’re still seeking that award. There are three things all of us want—from a child, up: We want attention, affirmation, and affection.

9:00

 

We want those three things.

Dennis: Yes.

Alex: You’re supposed to get those from your parents; and, then, you realize that you’ve gotten it from God—later. Now, if you didn’t get it from your parents, it doesn’t mean you’ll never know you got it from God. It’s just easier, when your parents set up that fatherly/parental love—that authoritative love—and they give that attention, affirmation, and affection. That sets up their identity. It sets up a greater stability in life.

Dennis: Children get their first glimpse—

Alex: That’s right.

Dennis: —of who God is—

Alex: That’s right.

Dennis: —from their mom and dad.

Stephen: That’s right.

Dennis: If you love them, even imperfectly—and I’m not giving people license to yell at their kids; but we got impatient, from time to time—we got short with them. It’s always good to backtrack and to say, “You know, I’m sorry,”—

Alex: Yes.

Stephen: Yes.

Dennis: —“I want you to forgive me. I want you to know that I love you.”

Alex: Yes.

Stephen: Yes.

Dennis: “I really do love you.” You can’t say that enough, or too often.

Bob: I’ll never forget—speaking at one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways in St. Louis.

10:00

 

I was talking about the important and powerful mark a dad can leave in the lives of his children because we have a little bit of time on Sunday morning where we divide the men and the women up. We talk to the guys about their role as husbands and dads. The women talk to the wives about being wives and moms.

I remember a guy coming up to me after that session. He said: “When I was eight years old, I used to go down and hang out with my dad, who would just go down to the tavern, and sit with his friends at the tavern, and drink. I would just go hang out to be near him.” He said, “I remember, one day, when one of the guys said to my dad: ‘Hey, I’ve got some tickets for the ballgame. Do you want to go to the ballgame?’” My dad said, “Yes.” Then, he turned to me; and he said, “Run home and ask your mom if it’s okay to go to the ballgame.” The guy said: “I was on Cloud Nine! I was going to go to the ballgame with my dad and his buddies!”

11:00

 

He said: “I ran home and asked my mom. She said, ‘Yes, I guess that’s fine.’ I ran back to the tavern.” And he said, “They were all gone.” He said, “I realized, in that moment, that my dad sent me home to ask mom”—

Stephen: —to get rid of him.

Bob: “—to get rid of me.” You hear a story like that—and here’s a guy who will never forget—that marked him; right?!

Alex: That’s right.

Bob: We’ve got a lot of listeners who go, “I would never do anything like that to my child.” They would never be deliberately or proactively evil to that child.

Alex: Right.

Bob: But the question is: “Are we deliberately and proactively demonstrating and expressing love?” because I think there are a lot of parents who would say, “I’m not doing any bad stuff,” but they’re not being proactive in the good stuff they ought to be doing.

Stephen: That’s right.

Alex: That scar—even if he doesn’t want it to—

Bob: That’s right.

Alex: —will stay with him for years and years.

Bob: Yes!

Alex: If he’s not careful, that bitterness may even bleed into his parenting.

Bob: Well, he was in his forties, and he was telling me the story. You could see, in his eyes, that he was reliving it, as he was telling that story.

Alex: That’s right.

12:00

Bob: Those are powerful moments. I just think, as parents, we’ve got to recognize it’s not good enough to not have those memories. We’ve got to plant the opposite kinds of seeds for it to grow up in our kids’ lives.

Alex: And when you mess up—and we all do—I’ve done the same thing. This is a hard thing for a father and a mother to do—to swallow your pride and go to your child—no matter their age—they could be eight, eighteen, twenty-eight—and say: “I want to ask you a question. Have I ever done anything that really hurt you that I’m unaware of or that we’ve not talked about?”

If there’s something there, that child will remember it; and they’ll bring it back up. It takes a lot of guts to do this—but to humble yourself and say: “I want to apologize for that. That was wrong of me to do that.” That apology—a sincere apology: “Would you forgive me for doing that?” That sincere apology will go a long way—more than you know—to healing that scar.

Dennis: And that’s a great question to ask, regardless of the age of your kids—

13:00

 

Stephen: Right.

Alex: That’s right.

Dennis: —whether they’re a toddler or all the way into adulthood.

Alex: That’s right.

Stephen: That’s right.

Dennis: It’s a dangerous question to want to ask because of what might be said; but, ultimately, that’s one of the love dares in your book. How do you dare people with that assignment out of The Love Dare book?

Stephen: We walk through how we need to take responsibility for our actions. Love does take responsibility. One of the things that Alex and I most admired about our dad was that he would come to us, periodically, and say: “Have I ever made a promise, and I didn’t keep it? Have I ever said one thing and, then, did another thing? Have I ever wounded you in any way and, then, I didn’t make it right?”

Our love and respect for him went up because he asked those questions. It is our tendency to want to save face. You know, we think: “My kids will look down on me,” or, “I’ll be embarrassed if I open up about my own faults.” The opposite actually takes place. Your kids will love you more and respect you more when you deal with those issues!

14:00

 

A humble apology—not only teaches kids how to humble themselves before God—you know, when they see mom and dad do that—that we don’t have it all together. Our own kids show us a lot more mercy in our own mistakes because we tell them: “We’re pursuing God; but we’re going to make mistakes, too. We need your grace in our lives, as well.”

Dennis: So what you’ve got here is forty days of assigning parents bite-sized chunks. Some of them might not be able to be done in a day.

Alex: That’s right.

Stephen: That’s right.

Dennis: They’re going to take, maybe, a week or longer before that love dare actually can go full-circle.

Stephen: That’s right.

Bob: But you’re trying to build habits into parents; aren’t you?

Alex: Correct!

Stephen: That’s right.

Bob: I mean, forty days is—don’t they say: “You do something for forty days and it becomes a habit”?

Stephen: It becomes a habit—that’s right.

Bob: If you can get somebody to work through all of these chapters—it may take them three months or four months—but you’re building and developing a pattern in their lives.

Alex: Exactly! And some of them will be easy. You’ll say: “Well, we already do that. We already read Scripture together,” or, “I usually pray with my kids,” or, “I commonly say, ‘I love you.’”

15:00

Some of them are going to be harder. No doubt, when you go through The Love Dare for Parents, you’re going to get to that day—and you’re going to say, “Ouch!” We ask some probing questions like: “Would your children rather spend time with you or with others? Do your children respect and listen to you? Do they really want to please you? Are they flippant in how they respond to you?”

Some people are going to say: “Wow! That brings to mind this or that.” You can identify some key things and, maybe, those days take longer. Maybe, there’s some prayer that needs to go on there or an apology that needs to go on there. Again, our goal is to come out of this thing—whether it’s 40 days, or 80 days, or longer—that some healing that has taken place; some affirmation has taken place; and that you’ve grown, as a parent; and your child has grown closer to you and to the Lord.

Dennis: Okay, let’s just put the cookies on a lower shelf here for a moment. Both of you guys are filmmakers. You’ve written books. You’re known, all over the country. You’re also dads, who have your own struggles.

Stephen: Sure.

Dennis: Pick one of these—each of you—that’s a hard one for you—that’s a struggle for you.

16:00

Bob: Or was there one, when you were writing the book, that made you say: “Oh, ouch! Wow!”

Dennis: “I want to leave that one out!” [Laughter]

Alex: Yes, “Stephen, you write this day.” [Laughter]

Dennis: Who wants to go first?

Stephen: Alex will go first.

Alex: Well, I’m going to say—I’ve been married for 18 years, and I married the right person—but, as you know, marriage takes work. There’ve been some days—we have some rules in our marriage. We don’t name-call. We can say, “You’re being too difficult about this,” or she may say, “Alex, you’re being a hypocrite about this;” but there’ve been some times—and we know this is a no-no—but when we’re frustrated and trying to get something done—and we’ve argued in front of our kids. That’s not something that we want to do. I see, even in the countenance of my children’s faces, this strain. They’re downcast. They see mom and dad, who love each other, fighting or disagreeing over something.

17:00

 

I’ve had to go back—first, to my wife, regardless of whether I think I’m right or not about an issue—to say: “We should not have done that. I am sorry, as the husband and as the father, for fueling this argument—especially, in front of the kids.” And then, going to the children—because in my family, we do a family time—every night, we read a chapter of Scripture, and we talk, and pray together. You try doing that if something’s convicting you! [Laughter] I’ve gone to my kids; and I’ve said: “Would you forgive Daddy for arguing with Mom? That was not the proper way to handle this. I should have calmed down before addressing this or treated Mom with more respect for doing this.” “Yes!” My kids always say, “Yes, I’ll forgive you, Daddy.”

Bob: Yes.

Alex: But I think it says a lot to them to know that: “Even Dad can humble himself when he needs to humble himself—regardless of what the issue was—and say: ‘I should have handled that better. Would you forgive me?’” When my kids see that, I can even tell it’s left an impression on them!—

Bob: Yes.

Alex: —“It is okay to apologize,” or, “It is okay not to have your own way or to have the last word,”—which is a cancer!

Bob: Yes.

18:00

 

Alex: If you’re that person—who says: “I don’t care if I’m wrong. I have to have the last word,” that is a cancerous attitude. It will fester and leave bitterness. Again, it’s going to do more damage than good.

Dennis: And what I think most parents underestimate is—when you’re being authentic like this, and you admit that you’ve fouled up—that you’ve done it wrong, you’re really modeling how biblical love deals with wrongdoing.

Stephen: Yes.

Dennis: I mean—we’re all going to fail!

Alex: Yes.

Dennis: Your kids need to see—they don’t need to see us fail—they’re going to see us fail—they just need to see us handle our failures, biblically; and go to the other person; and ask their forgiveness; and then, tell the kids—who witnessed the civil war—to say, “Kids, I want you to know I’ve dealt with it.” That’s what you do in a marriage that honors God.

Bob: Well, I remember a guest we had, here on FamilyLife Today, who said a lot of Christian parents are raising kids, training them to be sin-avoiders and sin-concealers: “Stay away from it,” and, “If you step in it, don’t tell anybody.”

Stephen: Right.

Bob: He said, “Instead, we’ve got to raise our kids to be sin-confessors and sin-repenters.”

Alex: That’s right.

19:00

Bob: And the way you raise them to do that is you demonstrate for them what confession and repentance looks like.

Stephen: And God will give you many opportunities! [Laughter]

Dennis: He will! [Laughter] You know, I really hate that!

I’ve been watching you, out of the corner of my eye, Stephen. You looked all the way through your book. At the end, you kind of closed it, and shook your head, and said, “I don’t really have any struggles!” [Laughter]

Stephen: No, it’s: “Where do I begin?” you know? Proverbs 24:16 says, “A righteous man falls seven times but he rises again.” We’re all going to blow it, and we are going to blow it often. So, biblical repentance—it is a beautiful thing that this generation needs to rediscover—that we turn around; and we get right with God; and we get right with one another; and then, we walk in a new direction.

Bob: Right.

Stephen: So, when I was thinking through this, Dennis, the big one that came to me was time. You know, love gives time to your kids. We talk about turning off your television, turning off the internet, and spending time with your kids. With me, it’s ministry.

20:00

 

We’re so passionate about the ministries that we’re involved in—working on movies, and writing books, and traveling, and speaking. We see the fruit of that. We see lives being changed. It’s easy, sometimes, to put those things above time with our kids. There have been so many times, when I would come home from a trip—after being gone and ministering to other people—and I pull into the driveway, and I just wanted to cry because I knew my wife and my kids were, at home—praying for me and supporting me—but waiting for me. When I come home, I know that my kids need their daddy. So, for me—The Love Dare for Parents—we tried to make it for busy parents, like we are.

Dennis: Right.

Stephen: Every day is three-pages long—you can finish it in five minutes. Then, it gives you a challenge that you can try to tackle that day or that week; but, with us, we’ve had to develop habits—you know, devotion time at night. We got rid of cable in our family because I could get consumed with it and spend five hours, you know, flipping through channels. I’m wasting time that I could be spending with my kids.

Dennis: This may be three-pages long, but every one of these love dares—all 40 of them—is uranium-enriched.

21:00

 

I would really challenge folks, who are looking for a core for their parenting, to get this book and go through it—whether you’re a single-parent—you and your husband or you and your wife go through it—or whether you’re a blended family. Take this book—and you do address blended families in here—

Stephen: Yes.

Dennis: —which, I applaud, by the way—and go through it, and begin to take the dare—whether it takes you 40 days or 40 weeks—

Stephen: Sure.

Dennis: —get in it. Go through it; and begin to build your core, as parents.

Bob: I think the call to being proactive and intentional in this area is really what we’re focused on here. It’s what you’re focused on in The Love Dare for Parents. It’s a 40-day guidebook for a mom and a dad to turn it up—to turn up the volume on the love—to do a better job of expressing, to our children—just how important, how valuable, how cherished they are.

22:00

 

We’ve got copies of The Love Dare for Parents in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We’d encourage you to go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order a copy of the book, online. Again, it’s FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can request The Love Dare for Parents. We’ll send it out to you.

Also, when you’re online, find out more about the resource that Barbara Rainey has put together for families to help all of us understand what real love looks like more effectively. It’s called “How Do I Love Thee?” It takes First Corinthians 13 and allows us to—together, with our children—understand the biblical definition of love. Find out more about “How Do I Love Thee?”—online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.

Speaking of real love, Dennis, you and your wife Barbara wrote a book about marital love called Rekindling the Romance

 

23:00

 

which really does a great job, I think, of helping husbands and wives better understand what real love in marriage looks like and how we, as husbands, can be more effective in loving our wives; and then, how wives can be more effective in loving their husbands. In fact, the book is split into two parts so that there’s a half for husbands and a half for wives.

This month, we are making that book available to those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. We are listener-supported. If you can help with a donation today, we’d love to send you Rekindling the Romance by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone. Ask for the book Rekindling the Romance. Or, if you’d prefer, you can mail a check to FamilyLife Today. Our mailing address is P O Box 7111, Little Rock, Arkansas—Arkansas is AR. And our zip code is 72223.

24:00

 

Ask for the book on romance when you send in your check, and we’ll mail the book back to you.

And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. Stephen and Alex Kendrick will join us again. We’re going to talk about how we can more effectively love our children. We’ll talk, tomorrow, about how one aspect of loving them well is teaching them reverence for God. I hope you can tune in.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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