FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Grandparenting Teens? Don’t Let Go: Mark Gregston and Larry Fowler

with Larry Fowler, Mark Gregston | September 22, 2023
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You hope to be grandparenting teens for an impact that lasts. But does it look like what you'd think? Authors Mark Gregston and Larry Fowler weigh in on pursuing your grandkids in tough years—in ways that work.

I don't share my opinion unless I'm asked. I think that's the role that, as Larry said, a lot of grandparents get in. It's like, “I've just got to share my opinion.” They don't want your opinion. What they want is perspective. They want to know, “How do you see this and see it differently in light of what they've been taught, applying it to a world that is out of control in one sense?” -- Mark Gregston

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

How can you grandparent teens for an impact that lasts? Authors Mark Gregston and Larry Fowler weigh in on pursuing your grandkids in tough years.

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Grandparenting Teens? Don’t Let Go: Mark Gregston and Larry Fowler

With Larry Fowler, Mark Gregston
September 22, 2023
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Mark: I don't share my opinion unless I'm asked. I think that's the role that, as Larry said, a lot of grandparents get in. It's like, “I've just got to share my opinion.” They don’t want your opinion. What they want is perspective. They want to know, “How do you see this and see it differently in light of what they've been taught, applying it to a world that is out of control in one sense?”

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 or on the FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: All right. So, we’re going to talk about grandparenting for another day, maybe another couple days.

Ann: Yes, this is going to be fun.

Dave: I mean, we have a lot of listeners who are grandparents, and I think we underestimate the power of what God wants to do in us, but especially through us, in the lives of our families and our grandkids.

Ann: And I think when we become empty nesters, we can think we’re done. And there is a segment before our kids might have their own kids. But man! I feel like, in a lot of ways, it’s just beginning, or can [be] just beginning with our grandkids, and we can have an impact. So, this is going to be fun to continue this conversation.

Dave: Yes. We’ve got Mark Gregston and Larry Fowler back in the studio. Welcome back for Day Two, guys!

Mark: Good to be here!

Larry: Thank you.

Dave: And Mark, I don’t know when this came out. You wrote a book called Grandparenting Teens: Leaving a Legacy of Hope.

Mark: Yes.

Dave: How long [ago did] this come out?

Mark: Couple years ago. It came out in one form under another title that worked well, but then—

Dave: The subtitle was the title, Leaving a Legacy of Hope?

Mark: Yes. Leaving a Legacy of Hope. And then somebody said, “To market it better, you need to change the name. It’d be a little more direct.”

Ann: I don’t think there are—are there any books in the Christian realm on grandparenting teens?

Mark: I don’t—

Larry: No, I don’t think there are.

Ann: There aren’t. Larry, you would know.

Mark: Larry knows.

Larry: I would know. There are not.

Mark: Yes, so I mean—I think that’s the time that teens need their grandparents the most. I don’t believe that God’s keeping us all around, you know, to hop in an RV, drive to Arizona, and play shuffleboard the rest of our lives. [Laughter] I mean that’s not—

Larry: Pickleball. Pickleball now.

Mark: That's right, Pickleball. But I think He's keeping us around because He knows this generation needs the wisdom, and the insight, and even the tradition to be passed on to that next generation because parents are struggling through so many things. Larry said it before, and I've heard him say it at times, that a grandparent isn't just a parent on steroids. It is a different role, and it's a role that kids welcome.

I mean, I have probably never been as loved by kids as I am now, and I've turned colors. [Laughter] I mean, I've got a mustache. You know, it's from 1880. I know I'm outdated, and my hairstyle is one of like a billion years ago, but it's amazing to me how kids want to spend more time with me now than when I was a youth pastor or a young life leader.

Larry: That’s really true.

Mark: Because they're wanting something that their generation is not offering one another in a relationship. But it's also the challenge with parents to say, “Mom, Dad, your kids are wanting something different than just more information. They're desperate for wisdom because they're drowning in information.”

That's where the world's changed so much. I think grandparents—if you gather wisdom by observation and reflection and experience, then grandparents—have that role. They have a story to tell, and that's what needs to be passed on to their grandkids. That's their legacy. They're not going to be remembered past their grandkids, you know, unless you're some serial killer or rock star. And I mean that. That's the only way you're going to be remembered.

Pretty much everybody else gets forgotten about, but what greater way to make an impact on somebody else's life and the destiny of your family than, as a grandparent? To pour your life into a grandchild that can carry that on to their kids and to their family, I mean, it just keeps going and going and going. But it happens with the grandparents’ involvement.

Dave: Yes, Mark, as I was reading this, over and over you keep saying, “Ask questions.”

Mark: Yes.

Dave: "Ask questions.”

Mark: Yes.

Larry: Yes.

Ann: And love unconditionally.

Mark: Yes.

Larry: Yes,

Mark: I mean, I think you have to.

Larry: Yes.

Mark: I mean, it's asking questions. I don't share my opinion unless I’m asked. I think that's the role that, as Larry said, a lot of grandparents get in. It's like, “I've just got to share my opinion.” They don't want your opinion. You know, opinions are like armpits: everybody has two of them, and they both stink! [Laughter] And I mean, nobody wants those things. [Laughter] What they—

Dave: I thought he said armpits! He could have said something else. [Laughter]

Mark: Yes, I know. What they want is perspective. They want to know, “How do you see this?” And see it differently in light of what they've been taught, applying it to a world that is out of control in one sense.

I'm not an anti-world kind of guy, but I also know that 82% of kids are leaving the church upon graduation from high school. They take a hiatus, and they don't come back until they're 29 or 30.

Dave: Yes.

Mark: So, during that time, they make—there's some pretty big life decisions there: who they're going to marry; whether they're going to have kids; how they're going to spend the rest of life; where they're going to live. And I want to be involved in that. There's a part of it that, I mean, you see in Scripture over and over again, that there's a place for a grandparent.

But I remember what Paul said when he said, “Remember—" (when he wrote to the Corinthians): “Remember how I was with you.” “How I was with you.” I look at my grandkids, and I think, “I want it to be not a teaching time.” I mean, they get enough of that in other places.

Ann: Yes

Mark: I want—

Dave: And that's what their parents do.

Mark: That's right!

Dave: Yes.

Mark: I want to offer something that they can get nowhere else, and that's my life as a reflection of God's presence and allow the Word to become flesh and dwell among them; to offer them a viewpoint when they ask, to give them perspective of life, and to give them a great sense of hope that, “You can get to the other side of this. There's always going to be challenges.”

Larry: Let me share a time where I blew it. I grew up on a cattle ranch and at Thanksgiving a few years ago, my oldest grandson—they came out to visit us for Thanksgiving—and he announced to us that he was a vegan.

Ann: What'd you say?

Dave: I'd love to be there.

Larry: I didn't say anything. So, Diane, being the gracious, loving Grandma she is, accommodated his new diet. I didn't say anything. Then, in January, I got a call from my daughter. She said, “Dad, I called to tell you Tyler's really angry at you.” And I thought, “What’d I do?!” She said, “Well, you remember at Thanksgiving when he told you that he was vegan?” I said, “I didn't say anything!” She said, “Well, your body language did!” [Laughter] I was sharing my opinion through my body language. I wasn't with my words, but through my body language, and I deeply offended my grandson.

Dave: Did you—

Larry: And I love that grandson.

Ann: Oh! What do you wish you would have said?

Larry: Well, so here's what I did. I don't. In the moment, I don't know, because I was wrestling with my grandson turning vegan, but I thought, “I don't—I am so sorry. I didn't mean to offend him.” So I thought, “Olay, I want him to really know I'm sincere.” So, I decided I was going to go on a vegan diet myself. So, for two weeks I tried a vegan diet. It about killed me, Mark. [Laughter]

Ann: Did you tell him? Did you tell him any of this?

Larry: Well, my son-in-law, his dad, told him that Grandpa was going on the vegan diet.

Ann: Okay.

Larry: He got word of it, and I got a call from him. He said, “Grandpa, I hear you've been doing a vegan diet.” “Yes,” and I said, “Tyler, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to. I didn't mean to offend you”. He said, “Well, Grandpa, you're forgiven.” And he said, “You don't need to go do the vegan diet. It's okay.” [Laughter]

Dave: You had steak that night, didn’t you?

Larry: I had a hamburger; best hamburger I ever ate. [Laughter]

Larry: But you know what? If I hadn't restored the relationship; if I hadn't been willing to say, “I'm sorry for when I blew it by sharing [my] opinion too quickly,” I wouldn't have been able to maintain that relationship. There are grandparents that are listening that need to ask forgiveness for being too opinionated, and leading with that, rather than leading with relationship.

Dave: Yes, Larry, when you said that, I started to tear up because saying, ‘I'm sorry” is not done in a marriage, and parenting, and especially now, as you're saying, as a grandparent. We don't do it. We don't own up to our sin. And I'm guessing—we don't have teenage grandkids yet, but I'm guessing—that's a big way to pursue a relationship with your grandkids, is to own your sin, own your mistakes, and speak it; reach out to them, right?

Larry: We had a grandmother that was listening to a webinar we have on Legacy Coalition called “Grand Monday Nights.” She was really impressed with the truth of leading with grace and not just putting out her own truth in the form of opinions. She told her story.

She had a daughter that had been estranged for 20 years. The daughter had walked away from the family. [She] had gone through detachment counseling where the counselor actually teaches them how to detach from family, and she had not had any contact with this daughter for 20 years. She began to realize that they came because she was pushing opinions too hard. She was able to get contact through, and the very first thing that she said to her daughter—to her adult daughter—was, “I want to ask for your forgiveness for speaking my mind too much.” And it was the start. It opened the door to reconciliation.

Ann: Yes.

Larry: Now that grandma's 82 years old. She’s restored her relationship with her daughter, in the family unit where there was never hope. It's been restored now, and it's just blessed our hearts to hear that story. But that's what happens when you begin to exhibit grace rather than lead with truth, I think.

Dave: Yes. Mark, I was reading—I don't know what chapter in your book—about your son saying, “I'd rather live somewhere else”?

Mark: Yes.

Dave: Wasn’t that because you’re such a clean freak?

Mark: Well, yes. You know—

Dave: Which is good. My wife's the same way.

Mark: —a little bit—

Dave: She loves clean!

Mark: I’m obsessive compulsive. Yes, I could pretty much ruin any relationship. [Laughter] If you'd straighten up the books on the table [in the studio], it would make it feel a whole lot better. [Laughter]

Dave: Okay.

Mark:  But I mean, it really is. I am just wired that way. I see things other people don't see, and I can ruin a relationship. You begin to realize that, you know, it's not about me. It really is about me, preteens, but once they become teens, it's not about me anymore. It's not what I want. It's what they need desperately.

For some reason, my son trashed out his room, and it just drove me nuts because I thought, “You're being disrespectful!” All these different things. And he got to the point because I would just hound him out. I didn't walk into his room for three years. And what I realized was, I've got to give him some space and let him, you know, figure it out on his own.

I'm not one of those guys who says, “Make your bed” and all that stuff. I don't care about that stuff, because what they're dealing with is so much other stuff. I want to be a place that relieves some of the tension they feel from the culture. That'd be the first thing I would tell parents: you’ve got to provide a place of rest. When Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and you will find rest for your soul,” that's what a home needs to be. I was not creating that. And when he said, “I'd rather live someplace else,” you know what my first thought was? “Well, the house would be a lot cleaner if you would.” [Laughter] But it just shows my own selfishness.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Yes.

Mark: So, you know, I spent a lot of time encouraging parents to say, “Hey, there's something that you need to know about our family, and I want to make sure that I tell you.” “Hey, there's something that you're going to hear about, and I don't want you to hear about it after I'm gone.” Or a grandparent that says, “You know, I haven't done everything right, and I want you to know that I've done some things wrong.”

Until you say you're sorry, you ask forgiveness—until you say you're wrong—you will never hear those words out of a child or a grandchild. You know, I mean you will never hear them. You are the example. You're the living example of biblical principles being lived out before your kids. There's no better—words don't even compare where the Scripture says, “Let us not only love in words, but let us love in action [and] in deed.”

That's what they need, is a living example of somebody that's fleshing out, struggling through their relationship, and trying to apply those things that we embrace, to a world that's a little bit crazy, and let them know that it's a struggle. As a matter of fact, it's going to be a struggle, you know, until we get to the other side of life.

Ann: Yes. As we talk about legacy, take us into Deuteronomy. We started going there the other day, because—

Larry: Okay, yes.

Ann: —I mean, this is, for us, a life first that you're going to share and talk about.

Larry: Yes, the verse that really moved my wife and I—literally moved us, because we were living in Chicago and we moved to California to be obedient to this verse—[is] Deuteronomy 4:9. Moses is speaking to the children of Israel right before they enter the promised land and before he dies. And he says, “Teach your children and your children’s children.” That's a command to both parents and grandparents. So, as a grandparent, I need to fulfill that.

Well, we know they conquered the land and Joshua dies a number of years later. Right away, in the book of Judges, we find out that it didn't continue. We have that very frustrating verse that says, “Another generation grew up that did not know the Lord nor the things He had done.” What in the world happened?!

Then we know, just mess up after mess up in the nation of Israel, and several centuries later, David is now king, and his chief musician, Asef, writes some psalms. One of the psalms is Psalm 78. In Psalm 78, it's like Asef read that passage in Judges, and he says, “I don't know what went wrong, but I'm going to fix it,” because he says, “We're going to remember the things, and we're going to pass them on to future generation.”

But you know what he records in Psalm 78? He records all the failures of the children of Israel. He mentions the miracles and the victories, but then he says, “But then they just walk away. They disobey again.” You know, that's the gist of it.

It's interesting that that vulnerability over even the history of Israel is an important lesson for us to follow. We were talking yesterday about being vulnerable. Mark was talking about that, and that's a biblical way to approach our history, to bring out the stuff—the messy stuff—and just talk and put it out there so that we can learn, and future generations can learn from it.

Dave: Now is that the kind of stuff you cover at the Summit? And tell our listeners again when that is.

Larry: Yes, the Summit is the third weekend in October, the site—

Ann: The Grandparenting Summit.

Larry: The Legacy Grandparenting Summit. It’s a national conference, live in Dallas, Texas, but streamed to 150 sites across North America, and you can find a site probably to attend near you. Mark is one of our speakers, and if you've appreciated his wisdom as you've listened, just know that there's a whole bunch more, just like Mark, that are going to be on the stage. He will be one, but there'll be others that are sharing some absolutely amazing insights [that] will blow you away.

Mark: Yes.

Ann: You guys, help us, as we're kind of finishing up. There are a lot of grandparents that have teens, and the relationship is broken.

Mark: Yes.

Ann: You know, the kids have drifted away because they're busy, and the grandparent feels rejected like, “I guess they, you know, they're busy. They don't want or need me anymore.”

Mark: Yes.

Ann: How—after hearing this, maybe they're thinking, “No, I want that.” How could they go about restoring that?

Mark: Yes.

Ann: What would you say, Mark?  

Mark: Yes. Well, today's the day. You know, I think you just look at it and say, “Today's the day.” Now is the time to call them, to text him, to get ahold of them and just say, “I just want you to know that I've blown it.” You know, I think that's a hard, hard thing, and people get there as a result of trauma in their life. When you lose friends, or you lose something—I mean, I lost a home in a tornado, you know? When you have lost everything, it changes your perspective on life. For an obsessive-compulsive guy like me, you begin to realize you take none of it with you.

So, it really doesn't matter; but I think it changes the way you engage when you see loss all over the place, and you take that and you say, “I need to share something with you. I've missed your heart. I haven't done what I've needed to do. I haven't been the parent that I feel like I've needed to be. I feel like I haven’t been the grandparent. I'd like to be involved in your life.”

And it's not so that I can start sharing all my insight and all my wisdom and some of that. It's because I love them dearly. This is a challenge for people that live apart from their grandkids. You’ve got to figure that out! Maybe it's a couple of trips. Maybe it's taking them where they want to go. Maybe it's spending some of your money, you know, because you take none of it with you. Just spend the money, and enjoy the fruits of life, if you will, with your grandkids, so they have those experiences. If wisdom is transferred observation, reflection, and experiences, I want to create experiences as long as I can.

Ann: Yes.

Mark: You know, go make some memories before you lose yours. You know, I mean, it's—you may not remember it eventually, but they will. I think it's doing things in such a way that your child knows that, with a humble heart, and a sense of gratitude, and a sense of either loss, or a sense that “I've done something wrong” that creates an atmosphere that people will move towards you. I think you begin to see that value, especially as you're losing people on one end. You're trying to gain those relationships with your kiddos.

Dave: Yes. I was just sitting there thinking, Mark, when you were talking—I don't know what you thought, but I remember—I don't know what year the cell phone came out and texting became our means of communication—Ann’s dad, who really became my dad, because I didn't really have a relationship with my dad so, when I married Anne, Dick became my dad, and he was my high school baseball coach. Anyway—

Mark: Oh, wow.

Dave: —I remember him coming to me in our kitchen, and at that point, I don't know how old he was, but his fingers were starting to shake a little bit when he would try to do stuff. And he said,” Hey! Teach me how to text.” He just pulled his phone out and he, I mean, again, this [in Dave’s hand] is a much newer—

Mark: Yes, yes.

Dave: —version of a phone, but he's like, “I need to learn how to text.” I'm like this—

Ann: It was back when we had flip phones, and they were really hard to text.

Mark: It’s hard to text.

Dave: Yes, yes; you know, hit the “8” three times to get to whatever. [Laughter] And I said, “Dick, no you don't—that's okay; you don't need to text.” He shouts, “I'm not texting you! I'm texting your kids.”

Larry: Yes.

Dave: “I need to be able to communicate with the grandkids.” We're talking about 12 grandsons.

Ann: Yes. I'm glad that you talked about that, because my dad—he wasn't strong; he became a believer late in his life. And he had 12 grandsons, no granddaughters. He passed away two years ago at 92.

Mark: Wow.

Ann: And every grandson, and their wives were all at his funeral.

Mark: Oh, how cool.

Ann: Dave officiated, and he had every single grandson come up and talk about my dad—

Mark: Oh, wow.

Ann: —and every single one had so many stories because he pursued them.

Mark: Yes.

Ann: He would—

Dave: I mean, he’d text them almost every day.

Ann: All of them. He would write them letters, I remember, [to] all of the boys. They gathered all the letters that he had written to them, going into school, going into college. And he would always—this is the part that he did and I think, “Oh, this was so good that he did this!”—every single note would say, “This is what I see in you. This is the greatness that you have. These are—” It's really identity. “And I can't wait to see what you do as a man!”

When each of those grandsons got up to talk about him, they ranged from the age of 40 to the age of 30. He had, I can't even remember, 30-some great grandkids. And that was a legacy, because he pursued and pursued and pursued.

Mark: Wow! Yes, that's a grandpa that's made an impact.

Dave: Yes.

Mark: How cool is that?

Ann: It's so cool! And he wasn't the greatest dad, but he was an amazing grandfather.

Shelby: Now mulligans—for those of you who don't know golf language, mulligans—are second chances; a do-over, so to speak. So, whether or not you need a mulligan, move toward grandparenting with intentionality. Ah, such great wisdom and encouragement today.

I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Mark Gregston and Larry Fowler on FamilyLife Today. You know, Mark has written a book called Grandparenting Teens: Leaving a Legacy of Hope. Leaving a legacy; that's the opportunity to grab that mulligan. That's really what it is: passing that wisdom along to the next generation.

You can pick up a copy of Mark Gregston's book, Grandparenting Teens, at Or you could give us a call and request your copy at 800-358-6329. That's 800-“F” as in family. “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY”.

You know, grandparenting is one of those things that you don't know how to do until you start to go through it. Well, the Legacy Coalition Grandparenting Summit can help you as you're moving into grandparenting, or if you've been a grandparent for a long time. It's happening from October 19th to the 20th in Dallas, Texas. Or you can actually attend The Summit online. The link will be in our show notes at if you want to find out more information about The Grandparenting Summit.

Now, coming up next week, Willie and Korie Robertson are going to be joining Dave and Ann Wilson. You might recognize those names because their story is going to be featured in an upcoming movie called The Blind, which tells the back story of Willie's parents, and their journey of love, redemption, and faith. They'll also discuss the impact of their TV show, Duck Dynasty. That's coming up next week.

On behalf of David and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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