A Parent’s Influence
Teen expert Jeffrey Dean knows that moms and dads each have something unique to bring to the table when it comes to raising spiritually healthy kids. According to Dean, each child is looking for authenticity. They want to know if Christianity connects to the real world. Dean tells moms and dads how they can help their kids know that God's Word is still applicable today.
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Moms and dads each have something unique to bring to the table when it comes to raising spiritually healthy kids. According to Jeffrey Dean, each child wants to know if Christianity connects to the real world.
A Parent’s Influence
Bob: Whether you realize it or not, your teenagers are paying attention to how the two of you interact as a couple/as a mom and dad. Jeffrey Dean says it’s not just your kids who are watching.
Jeffrey: We try to be that home where the kids come to after the games; and we try to have those parties and those celebrations in the backyard, where our kids want to throw those parties, and they want to invite their friends. I’m telling you—the thing we hear the most/that we love the most from our daughters’ friends is—“We love that you guys love to be together.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 16th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. As parents, we have a tremendous responsibility, as well as a tremendous opportunity, to help shape the lives and the marriages of the next generation. We’ll talk more about that today with Jeffrey Dean. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, for years at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, we have made the statement that kids need both a mom and a dad to better understand everything about parenting, about gender, about sexuality as they’re growing up at home. The reason God gives kids a mom and a dad is so that they can get the full picture of His creation.
I know there are some times when divorce or death takes a mom or a dad out of the picture; and somebody feels like, “Boy, my kids are missing something.” God is the Father to the fatherless, and He is the mother to the motherless—so we need to keep that in mind—but it is so true that both a mom and a dad are essential, and essential in different ways, as we raise our kids.
Dave: You know, it’s interesting—and you probably don’t know this, Bob—but at that moment in the Weekend to Remember, when we’re teaching that point—you know me; I always grab a guitar—
Dave: —and I sing an old, old song.
Bob: Oh, hang on; hang on. We’ve got a guitar! Grab the guitar here!
Ann: Ooh, let’s see it. Let’s hear it, Dave Wilson.
Dave: I was not expecting that—
Ann: No! Come on! Show us your stuff!
Bob: Here, go ahead. Roll over here; get the guitar.
Dave: I usually do it acapella. Okay, we can do this.
Dave: I don’t know what year this was—had to be the ‘60s. [Singing a few lines from It Takes Two]
Bob: That’s very nice!
Dave: You remember that song?
Bob: I do; yes.
Dave: I don’t remember who it is by. But I do make the point that Bob makes, even after singing that—because it really is just for fun—“It takes two, baby, to raise kids.” It’s better if you can have both, but I was raised by a single mom. I didn’t even experience that, growing up—as Bob said, through divorce or death—my parents were divorced.
But here’s what my mom did, which was—I didn’t even realize it—she would walk, speaking to coaches that I had in sports, and literally ask them, without even me knowing: “Will you parent my son—
Dave: —“through this season? Be the male influence in his life that his”—you know, my dad’s gone. In a sense, there still was a two-part thing; there’s the female and the male; it’s critical.
We’ve got a guest here today; don’t we, Bob?
Bob: We do have a guest here today. [Laughter]
Dave: We’re looking at Jeffrey. We haven’t even introduced the guy! [Laughter]
Bob: Jeffrey Dean is joining us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Jeffrey: It’s a joy; you guys are fun. I’m quite impressed with the guitar playing.
Bob: —with the guitar playing?
Ann: Jeffrey, you’ve heard nothing yet.
Bob: Well, wait—
Dave: Hey, I like my woman saying that. [Laughter]
Bob: I have a sense that this could get off track real quickly—
Dave: I know.
Bob: —because you got started in ministry doing—what?
Jeffrey: Playing music; isn’t that crazy?
Ann: Oh, maybe, you should sing us something now.
Jeffrey: There’s a little Nashville in us all. [Laughter]
Bob: Jeffrey lives in Nashville; he and his wife have two daughters. For the last three-plus decades, you’ve been travelling around the country, speaking to teenagers and their parents. Really, that’s been your primary target audience—has been teens and their parents—why that audience? Why do you think God singled you out for that?
Jeffrey: You know, I wish I could give you a really great answer that sounds really good; but the simple of it is I fell in love with students, years ago—and just being privileged to volunteer at our local church, and hang out with students, and see their enthusiasm for life—but also seeing their need for truth and their hunger to want more than the world gives them. That sounds so Christian-y that I should say that, but it’s so true. God really broke my heart for this generation.
Out of that, as you can imagine, being at a variety of events all over America—of course, we meet people of all ages, who are equally struggling and need hope and truth—but parents really drive the ship, looking to the world—working to teach them to look to God’s Word: “At the end of the day, God has created you for this moment.” We want parents to know that—regardless of your situation, regardless of a failed marriage, or a prodigal child—God has created you for this moment to be a parent to this child. What a challenge but, equally, what a privilege.
Bob: You know that some of the teens you were talking to in the early ‘90’s are now the parents of the teens you are talking to in the 2020s. You’ve written a book called Raising Successful Teens. Are teens different today in the 2020s than they were in the 1990s and the 2000s? What’s the same, and what’s different?
Jeffrey: Well, we know the world is different and the accessibility is a click away to just about anything they want and don’t want.
Jeffrey: But at the end of the day, kids are still kids; they are looking for help and hope and have questions and want answers. Wow; what a privilege it is to either stand on a stage, in front of thousands, or shake a hand of a kid in a public school or detention center and remind them they were made for more—that “You’ve been created in the image of God.”
That word, “image,” of course, means reflection: “You are created to reflect Him. The ability to be able to reflect Him in the way He desires is understanding that He has a plan and a purpose for your life,” and “Through salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ, you can be everything He’s desiring you to be; and that He’s created you for Him.” I am so honored to have been able to share the gospel with kids and to see life change happen.
Ann: Yet, we hear that so many people are leaving the church: “Teens are leaving the church in droves” is what we hear. Do you still see that hunger?—because the message is still the same of what you’ve been sharing all these years. What are kids looking for today? Is it any different?
Jeffrey: I think they just want authenticity; it’s what we hear from students. We work with a lot of college-aged students, and do a lot of work on college campuses, and meet students who—yes; many grew up in the church, love the Lord, want to live for Him—but find themselves lost in all that of trying to figure out: “Does this really connect in the real world?” and “Is my religion just my parents’, or is it truly something that I have embraced and want to be?”
There is a challenge there; but I think, as we strive to remind parents, that you can’t get your kids to believe everything that you want them to believe, necessarily, just by taking them to church. Living that example in the home, I believe, is something that is going to stick—even if they take that prodigal journey for a while—that truth that is imbedded in them.
Parents have a huge responsibility really to step back and take a landscape view: “Okay; how are we helping our kids understand that God’s Word is applicable; and that it is real and that it is tangible; and that it can be something you embrace, even in your moments of challenge and question?” I think it is important to give our kids permission to question their faith, and to wrestle with that, and to let them know that we’re in the wrestle with them; and we may not have all the answers, but we sure will help them get to the answers.
Bob: We talked about how important it is for kids to have both a mom and a dad in the home. You talk in your book, Raising Successful Teens, about the fact that there is a unique role a dad can play that is maybe different than what a mom can play in raising the next generation. As you look at it, what can dads uniquely bring to the party? What can moms uniquely bring to the parenting journey? How can they work together and use each other’s strengths and gifts?
Jeffrey: First of all, for that single parent, as you just mentioned, that is listening today: “You carry that double load. We high-five you from the studio today; and know that, even though your situation might be different than those listening today, who are in a two-parent family, God’s/He’s still in it with you. He has called you to this moment, so stay the course.”
I write these two chapters obviously/specifically from the approach of really thinking about my mom and dad, and the uniqueness they brought to our family, growing up. I am one of three brothers—actually four, one passed away at birth—but my mom and dad brought unique gifts. I break this down in the book, really thinking about my mom Sherry and my dad Jerry.
My dad was that spiritual leader in my home, though not that leader of really being a vocal leader; but he sure was that spiritual leader of prayer. Of course—yes, moms listening today—you can be that prayer warrior as well. I can remember my dad’s journeys at night, spiritually in the Word, when the house would be quiet and us boys would be in the bed. I can see myself walking down the steps in our home—just a few miles from here, where I grew up—and seeing my dad in his black leather chair, the Bible open, and hearing my dad pray out loud even as I’m thinking now in this studio.
My mom, a very quiet pray-er, but with her unique gifts, my mom wrote; and she wrote letters. My mom brought that uniqueness of putting pen to paper and writing what was on her heart and how the Lord was leading her.
Dave: I love one of the quotes in your book, which you are sort of hitting on right now. You just said it this way: “The thing your son or daughter is saying to dad”—here’s how you wrote it; I’m sure you remember this—“Dad, I believe four words capture the heart’s desire of nearly every teen: ‘I want my father.’” When I read that, I just thought, “That is so true.” They may not show it; they may not ask for it, but deep down, that’s what they are longing for; right?—the father’s heart.
Jeffrey: They want their father. The story you’re referring to there is the story from The Princess Bride movie: Inigo Montoya and the six-fingered man, who had killed Inigo Montoya’s father. He [Inigo] wants to avenge his father’s death, and he finally has that opportunity. The six-fingered man is offering him anything he wants; he said, “I just want my daddy back.”
Jeffrey: The heart’s cry for all of us listening, that were born because of that relationship, that we have imbedded within us to have that tangible relationship with our Father in heaven. We also long for that in our relationship with our father here on the planet. That’s really powerful. I think about those words; and I remember writing that, thinking about my daddy and his impact in my life as I wrote that.
Bob: You’re a parent of two teenage daughters. You and your wife bring different things to the equation. When you think about what a dad can bring that a mom can’t bring, is there anything that jumps out at you to say, “This is just a unique area where a dad can bring affirmation or encouragement that it’s not going to work as well for a mom to try and do it”?
Jeffrey: Well, I can’t say that I know it’s not going to work as well because I’m not mom—but I can say this—from countless conversations with boys and men of all ages, and knowing my struggle as a man, I think about—when we write about this a lot in the book—the challenge that our boys are facing today with lust. I know, from a man’s perspective, I’ve got that. Every man listening today—there are really two types of men in the room—those who admit that they struggle with lust and those that lie about that struggle.
A father can bring that unique perspective for both a son and a daughter of helping their kids understand the power of the enemy, and that Satan hates us, and he wants to destroy your kid. In the lives of so many children, he has been working through that lust struggle. As a father, I know I bring a unique perspective. Though I don’t have sons in my home, I really can help my daughters understand the struggle a man faces and the struggle that their future spouse, potentially, will face in his life, even after marriage.
Amy and I have worked hard for many years to help our daughters understand love and the power of intimacy and understanding how things can go south really quickly in their dating lives. I would challenge every man listening: “Listen, you have a powerful voice in the room when it comes to the struggle of lust, whether you have a son or a daughter, under your lead; so use that.”
One of our foundational principles—we talked about three of them—number five is: “You’ve got to be willing to go there; you’ve got to be approachable; you have to be un-shockable.” As a man, you bring that unique perspective to the table, specifically when it comes to that struggle of lust, of helping your kids understand how to walk through that.
Dave: How have you done that? How do you talk to your daughters about a man’s struggle with lust?
Jeffrey: We, in our home, have an open policy that nothing is off limits. I remember when my oldest daughter was ten; she said, “Dad, I need to ask you a really important question.” She came into my office.
Dave: It’s in the book. This is a great story, yes.
Jeffrey: She closes the door. I’m thinking we’re going to talk about her day or a new friend she’s met. She gets right up in my face. Anyone listening, who knows my oldest daughter, you know she will call it like she sees it. She gets right in my face and says: “Dad, I have to ask you a very serious question. I just need you to be honest with me.” I said, “Tell me the question.” She said, “No; I need to make sure you’re going to be honest with me.” I’m thinking, “Where are we going with this?” [Laughter]
The question was this—she said, “Daddy, is it true that every 17 seconds guys think about sex?” She had researched for a paper online. An MSN ad popped up, and there it was: “Every 17 seconds, guys think about sex,”—challenging moment but a wonderful moment—I’m thinking, “This is what we’ve been waiting for.” These are the moments—not so much the question about: “How often is Daddy thinking about sex?”—but I want my daughters to know that: “You can come to me about anything.”
Hopefully, every parent listening would say they desire the same; but have you clearly articulated that to your kids?—that: “Mom and Dad are here. We want to be the number one source of truth. We may not have the answer, but we are sure going to go look for it. We want you to see us as approachable/as un-shockable.” That open door policy is so important. For every parent listening today, it is never too late to open that door of conversation; it just begins with authenticity.
Listen, if you aren’t willing to go there, they are going to go somewhere. If they can’t look to you, who are they going to look to? We’ve got to be that open door to say, “You can come to me about anything.”
Ann: Guys, what do you do when—I’m thinking of many women that have come up to me and asked me—“I want my husband to talk to my kids about these things. I want there to be this open discussion; but my husband will say, ‘Yes, why don’t you go talk to your mom about that?’” You know, he’s saying that to sons and daughters. Coach us, as women, when our husbands don’t want to be involved.
Jeffrey: My encouragement would be: “Okay; take what you have and work with it.” I remember my mom and my dad, as I mentioned already in our conversation today and in our previous one, that my dad was a man of few words. I remember the sex talk we had; my older brother was there. We knew the talk was coming because Kent, my older brother, heard my parents the previous night saying it was coming. [Laughter] I hardly slept that night: “I know when it’s coming.”
The next morning, Cocoa Puffs® were in the kitchen; Dad walks in. Bless his heart; you’d have thought he had seen a ghost, because he knew the conversation he had to have. He sat down. My older brother is there, and I’m there; and here goes the sex talk. My dad’s not doing so well. So—[Laughter]
Ann: Was it just awkward?
Jeffrey: It was just awkward. So he punts; but there is Momma, and she takes over; it’s the team. Mom, to this day, says she didn’t do this—but oh, she did do this. [Laughter] Woman of few words, rather than talking, she took out a piece of paper and a pencil—
Jeffrey: —and started drawing what I thought were very awkward pictures I had never seen before. [Laughter] I wish we still had that drawing; we could show her every Christmas. [Laughter] But I’ve never forgotten it; even though the conversation didn’t go well—and they would have both said, “We failed miserably,”—I’ve never forgotten it. Mom and Dad loved me so much; they were in it with me so much that, even in the midst of awkward and weird-looking pictures—that I really never want to see again from them—[Laughter]—I have never forgotten the conversation.
The power of that conversation that, even though they weren’t perfect at it—because, again, success isn’t about perfection—it’s the pursuit. Mom and Dad loved us so much they were willing to have the conversation with us; that’s so powerful.
Bob: Ann, let me ask you: “What were the things that, as a mom, you thought, ‘No; Dave needs to do that. That’s really in his job description’”? What were the things that you thought, “No; that’s on me. I need…” You were raising three boys. Were there certain subjects that you looked at and said, “I think, really, that’s a dad’s responsibility, and I’m going to encourage Dave and motivate him in that area; but then I’ll own up to the stuff that ought to be my area”?
Ann: Yes; I’m pretty much an open book, and I’m very open. Now, my kids have told me that I was a little too open—
Bob: Yes; right.
Ann: —because I want to talk about everything. They are like, “Mom, this is just weird with you.”
But yes, I think when it came to physical/sexual intimacy, I wanted Dave to give a man’s perspective on that. When it came to porn, I wanted Dave to talk to them about that—and Dave and I would talk about it—but when it came to those issues that, like, “This would be so good from a man.” I would probably walk into it; but I think, “Yes, those are the ones that they just need a man to talk to them.”
Bob: And what about the areas that you felt like, as a mom, “These are things that I need to make sure…”?
Ann: I told the boys: “If there is anything you hear at school/if there is anything that happens, I am always here for you. You can ask me anything.” They would come home and say: “This is a word that I heard. I don’t know what it is.” I would happily explain that. The more embarrassed we are, as parents, the more awkward it can feel.
Ann: But I think it’s really important to just have that open conversation—
Ann: —about everything; because I said: “Your friends are going to talk about this.
Ann: “They probably won’t have the right answer, and they’ll make up half of it; but Dad and I will always tell you the truth.”
Jeffrey: That’s huge. The world is teaching our kids about sex, and love, and dating, and intimacy, and pornography. Many a message that is given is a lie. So, you’re right; you’ve hit it right on the head—the world is teaching them. We’ve got to step into that classroom and realize, “Every day our kids are coming to class; is the teacher showing up?”—so important to that conversation.
Dave: As you said earlier, they really do want to hear from us. They may not say it; but they really do want to know: “What’s Mom think about this?” “What’s Dad think about this?”
Bob, to answer your question from my side, I do think—and Jeffrey, you put this in your book—one of the things that I think Ann wanted me to teach our boys—and this would be true for daughters in a different way—but for sons, and you put this here, one of the roles of dad is to teach them to respect women.
Now, Ann definitely jumped in there and said, “Here is what it looks like from a woman’s perspective.” But as a man, I felt this weight, like, “It is my job, not only to teach it, but to model it with their mom first; but to make sure, as they especially become
13-/14-/15-year-old young men, this is what it looks like to respect women.”
You put that in the book. We live in a time—
Jeffrey: We do.
Dave: —where that is huge in our culture; so talk about: “What would that look like?”
Jeffrey: Yes; so teaching our sons and our daughters: “What should I respect?” / “That I should expect respect,”—“How does that look? How can we put hands and feet to that?” It may be as simple as opening the door for a girl. It may be more intense as: “If I’m a son, and I’m taking a girl out on a date, that I’m never going to put her in an environment that could be compromising to either of us.”
One thing I tell teen boys all over America: “You want to melt the heart of a girl, and you want to teach respect, from moment one. The next time you go out on a date with a girl, before you ever leave the driveway, reach over”—and at this moment, I’ve got a couple of thousand kids in an audience, sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to hear. The boys want to know what they need to say; and the girls want to hear what the boys should say—“So before you ever leave the driveway, reach over, grab that girl’s hand, and say a prayer with her.”
Jeffrey: The moment in the room gets quiet. You’ve just sent the message to a boy that: “Listen, praying with a girl may seem odd/may seem weird; but it’s really hard to go there, physically with her, when you’ve just lifted the date up to the Lord.” In that moment, you have sent the message to her that: “Whatever happens from this moment forward, I desire to respect you.”
Dave: I’d just say one thing to the men. If that son or daughter never sees you do that with his/[her] mom—I mean, you just have/you have an opportunity to show your kids what that looks like by grabbing your wife’s hand in the kitchen—
Jeffrey: So good.
Dave: —and praying.
Jeffrey: So good.
Dave: Again, you are not doing that for them; this is an overflow of your own walk. But, man, to have the courage—and there are some dads listening that have never once prayed with their wife—I’m saying: “Today’s your day. Be a man; step up. Pray with your wife,”—maybe make it a regular thing. Your son or daughter is watching; they may just model it on their next date, because they are copying what they saw in their own home.
Ann: I want to encourage women, as wives, if your husband’s not doing the job you would hope that he is doing with your kids—talking to your kids, praying with your kids, leading your kids, having these deep discussions—can I just tell you from one mom to another, “Don’t belittle your husband in front of your kids; because the disrespect that goes on there, your kids feel it and they see it”? I think I did that, for years, to Dave.
But if you can encourage your husband, and tell him the things he’s doing right, that will motivate him. Go to God and pray for your husband, pray for your kids, and pray that God will just lead and guide you and protect those kids.
Bob: Keep the goal in mind; you want to raise successful teens. By successful, we mean teens who understand who God is, understand who they are, are in a right relationship with Him, and are living that out in their lives. If that’s happening, that’s what we care most about. That’s what at the heart of the book, Raising Successful Teens; and it’s a book we’re making available, this week, to FamilyLife Today listeners.
Any of you who would like a copy of this book, you can request it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. With your donation, we’re happy to send you a copy of Jeffrey’s book. Again, the title is Raising Successful Teens. You can make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to donate at 1-800-358-6329. We think this book will give you a game-plan/a strategy for how you can be most effective as you take your kids through the teen years. Get your copy when you donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate.
Now, here at FamilyLife®, we’ve been hearing from a lot of you about the challenges you have been facing in your marriage and family relationships over the last several months. It’s been a challenging season for many of us. And when we’re under stress/when life is not as predictable as it has normally been, our relationships get strained. We put together a resource we think is going to help a lot of couples. We’re calling it “Taking Your Marriage from Good to Great.”
This resource gives you access to a couple of online mini-courses: one on how to resolve conflict when it occurs in marriage; another course called “Light Bulb Moments in Marriage”—those times when the light bulb goes [on]; and you go, “Oh, I understand better,”—we’ve got messages available for you from Paul David Tripp, from Gary Chapman, Voddie Baucham, Juli Slattery—all of these messages designed to help strengthen your marriage relationship.
We’ve got download-ables and print-ables, conversation starters, questions to help take your relationship to the next level, a quiz you can take on being a good listener—all of this is available, free—when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and register for the “Taking Your Marriage from Good to Great” resource. As an additional bonus for registering for this content, you are also automatically going to be entered into a giveaway. We’re going to be inviting one couple, who downloads this content, to join us at FamilyLife for a FamilyLife Today recording session and then dinner that night with Dave and Ann Wilson.
If you’d like to come sit in on one of our recording sessions, and have dinner with Dave and Ann, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and register for the “Taking Your Marriage from Good to Great” resource. There is no purchase necessary. All contest rules are available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. We hope you enjoy the content; and we look forward to meeting, at least, one couple here at a future FamilyLife Today recording session.
And we hope you can join us again tomorrow when we’re going to talk about how to get teenagers to talk a little better; you know, so that they are not just saying: “It was fine,” “It’s okay,” “No,”—you know the kind of one-word answers we often get from teens. Jeffrey Dean is going to be here tomorrow to talk about how we can break through that log jam with our kids. I hope you can tune in for that as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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