Lessons About Parenting
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Today is Day 2 of Bob Lepine’s farewell week as co-host for FamilyLife Today. In this program, Bob shares with Dave and Ann Wilson some of the greatest memories he has from the show on the topic of parenting.
Lessons About Parenting
Bob: Welcome to FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 25th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You guys remember Casey Kasem; right?
Dave: Casey Kasem and the Top Forty!
Bob: I always wanted to be Casey Kasem.
Ann: You would be really good at that!
Dave: You could have been Casey Kasem.
Bob: I would love to countdown the hits—you know, the Top Forty—and sharing the little insights into songs.
Ann: Come on! Just give us your radio voice of what you think.
Bob: “This is Casey Kasem, and we’re counting down the hits on America’s Top Forty”; right? I always wanted to do something like that!
Well, this is my week. This week, we’re counting down the top 28—not the top 40—the top 28. We’re counting down the 28 things I’ve learned from FamilyLife Today over 28 years from the guests we’ve had/from the conversations that have gone on. We’re wrapping things up here this week.
Dave: Yes, why are you doing this, Bob?
Bob: This is the last week that I’ll be on FamilyLife Today as a co-host with you guys. You guys will take it from here. And we thought—
Dave: You are irreplaceable!
Ann: Yes, you are.
Dave: So we will not try to replace you, but—
Dave: —we will honor your legacy.
Bob: —I know you will. I mean, there’s a confidence that, what has been begun here, you guys are just going to carry it in the same direction; so that’s what we’re all excited about.
We thought, here in this last week, let’s just kind of run through some of the things that have been highlights: some of the things that have marked my life, my marriage, my family as I’ve been/I’ve listened to every FamilyLife Today program. There aren’t many people who can say that; but because I was here, I listened to all of them.
Bob: We’ve already talked about the marriage ideas that have marked us. I thought we ought to focus in now on parenting. So here are the top truths about parenting from the last 28 years for me.
The first one came in a conversation we had with our mutual friend, Tim Kimmel, who had just written his book, Grace-Based Parenting.
Ann: One of my favorite parenting books!
Bob: It’s a great book.
Bob: Tim was talking about the fact that most of us, as parents—you guys talk about this in your book, No Perfect Parents; you talk about the fact that a lot of parents—are focused on the wrong priorities as they raise their kids.
Bob: Here’s how Tim talked about it.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Tim: It is real easy to fall into the success trap when it comes to raising our kids. We are Western people; we’re running everything around us through Western filters. As Americans, in a capitalistic society, we have a bad habit of measuring success by things that can be quantified in ways that are beneficial to us:—
Dennis: —like financial?
Tim: —education, where we live.
Dennis: You’re saying those are the harbors that parents are headed toward today.
Tim: Yes; I can make this really simple. When you pin down a typical Christian parent—and I’ve pinned a lot of them down; talked with thousands of them over the years and you just have this real heart to heart—“Okay, now, you’re spending 18-20 years—a ton of sweat labor, a bunch of money; putting some serious miles on your body, losing a lot of sleep, crying a lot of tears—that’s a lot of effort! What do you hope happens as a result of all your efforts?”
Now, they might say something nice like, “Well, I hope they have a heart for God.” That’s nice; I’m sure they mean that; but what you go by is—not what they’re saying at that moment—but what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis as far as emphasizing the values of that child in their future.
Dennis: Yes, yes.
Tim: When you really, actually play that one out, you hear something like this: “Well, I hope they get a good job.” Now, we’ve got the word, “good” in front of job. How would I know it’s a good job?—usually, that’s defined by one that pays well.
Tim: “Why do they need all this money?” “Well, life is expensive; and I want them to have opportunities and live in a good, safe neighborhood.”
By the way, that’s why I think education is so sovereign now in parents’ minds. They think that the most important thing you do is give your kid a good education, because that is the pipeline to a good job.
Bob: I remember that day. I remember walking out of the studio that day and thinking, “I’m doing that as a parent. I’m focused on: ‘How are my kids’ grades?’ ‘I want them to be happy,’ ‘I want them to do well in relationships.’” These are not unimportant things; but I thought, “How much time and effort am I spending on their spiritual development, which is really what’s going to matter more than any of the rest of this stuff?!”
Ann: The first time I heard this, too, it stopped me in my tracks. I realized the same thing, Bob: “We’re doing this all wrong.
Ann: “We need to shift our mindset.”
Bob: We want our kids to thrive; we want them to have friends; we want them to do well in school—again, those aren’t unimportant things—but that’s what was driving me, as a parent, rather than saying,—
Bob: —“Let’s make sure that they’re going to thrive, spiritually, when it’s time for them to launch.”
Bob: And that brings to mind another message we featured on FamilyLife Today. I had a colleague, here, at FamilyLife® who brought me a cassette tape; and he said, “You need to listen to this guy.”
Dave: —which tells you how long ago that was!
Bob: It was years ago! [Laughter]
I was on a drive up into north central Arkansas—a couple-hour drive—and I took that cassette along. I popped it in. I remember driving at night, listening to this, and going, “This is so good!” It was a message/the first message I’d ever heard from Voddie Baucham, who later became a guest, and has been with us at a number of events.
Voddie was talking about the fact that, according to Ephesians 6—where it talks about: “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children,” “Children, obey your parents,”—he was making the point that discipleship is our number-one priority as parents. It’s similar to the point Tim Kimmel was making; but he was just driving it home that, biblically, we’re the ones, at the end of the day, that God is going to come and say, “How did you disciple your kids?”
If we say: “Well, I subbed that out to the youth group,” or “I subbed that out to the Christian school,” He will say, “But I put you in charge of that.” Here’s how Voddie talked about that in that message that we wound up featuring on FamilyLife Today.
Voddie: How about a plain, black-and-white, straightforward word?—verse 4: “And fathers/and fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” It doesn’t get clearer than that, folks.
Voddie: The context of this passage says the home is central in the evangelism and discipleship of the next generation. The fact that he points to the Fifth Commandment screams that the home is central in the evangelism and discipleship of the next generation! And then, in case we didn’t get those two hints, he says it in black-and-white: “Fathers, disciple your children,”—fathers!
If we believe this, then why is it that we’ve done everything in our power not to allow that to happen? I hear you—we go back to this whole thing; I understand that—“They’re just not equipped!” “They just don’t know!”
Here’s what’s interesting: if the people in your church are not tithing, you don’t start a ministry to tithe for them; do you? [Laughter] No; you simply teach them and expect them to do what the Bible says is their job! If it works for tithing, why don’t we think it will work for the discipleship of the next generation?
Bob: That will preach; don’t you think?!
Dave: Oh, boy!
Ann: I get riled up just listening to him. He’s such a good preacher.
Bob: Well, and it’s such a great reminder for me, as I’m listening to that, to go: “This is my job! I can subcontract some parts of this job, but I’m the general contractor.” When I stand before the Lord, and He says, “Okay, tell me about your kids and what you did with your kids?” I can’t say, “Well, I subbed that out, Lord.” He’s going to say, “But that was on you!”
That message was, again, a part of that wake-up call for me: “I have a responsibility here, before God, to bring my kids up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Dave: And it’s so critical, because the research—even decades later from Voddie talking about that—says that a lot of teenagers and college kids are going to walk away.
Dave: They grew up in a church—they were in the youth group; they were sub-contracted out for the spiritual development in their lives—and they walk away.
The ones, that don’t walk away, come home from church to a family that’s doing what Voddie said;—
Dave: —and that helps it stick! It’s that critical.
Bob: Yes; I paid my children five dollars to memorize the Lord’s Prayer. [Laughter] I paid them five dollars to memorize the Apostles’ Creed. I mean—things that I looked at and said, “My kids need to know this stuff,”—I would pay them money to read a book and write a book report on it. This was their spiritual development, and I was responsible for that.
Dave: So you’re saying bribery is okay?
Bob: Absolutely! [Laughter] I was: “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” [Laughter] That’s what I was doing.
There’s another principle—and we don’t have a clip for this one—but Ted Tripp, who wrote the book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart: the big idea of that book was something that, again, was a wake-up call for me. Ted Tripp says most parents are focused on behavior modification when it comes to your kids. You want your kids to stop doing these things; and start doing these other things; and just, “Act right! [Laughter] If they will just act right!”
He said we’ve got to be more concerned about their heart than we are about their behavior, because behavior will eventually flow out of the heart. Kids can put on the fake behavior that’s going to skate through for them.
Ann: —especially church kids.
Bob: That’s right!
Bob: If you’re not addressing heart motivation and heart attitude, you’re going to wind up with little hypocrites.
There’s another principle; this came from an early interview we did with Josh McDowell. In fact, I think it was the first time I met Josh. Dennis had known Josh for years; because Josh is a part of Cru®; Dennis is a part of Cru. Well, he’d written a book on parenting, and we sat down with him. He said two things in the interview on parenting that I’ve quoted dozens of times over the years. We’re going to hear him say both of those right now. Here we are with Josh McDowell, years ago.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Josh: Well, I am convinced that rules without relationship lead to rebellion. One of the best ways to give rules to our kids is when there’s a foundation of love: they know they’re accepted, appreciated, they’re lovable; [there’s] affection, and [you’re] available to them.
I think a statement that I learned about 12 years ago is that I used to make the statement—when people asked me about my family—and I said, “Look, my family comes before my ministry.” About 12 years ago, I realized that is one of the most ungodly statements I could ever make! If I truly believed that statement, I was headed for trouble; and I would lose my family. When I got older, I wouldn’t have my children coming to me or my wife.
God humbled me. About 12 years ago, I realized my family—I must never let my family come before my ministry; because the moment I do, then I should l leave the ministry—my family does not come before my ministry; my family is my first ministry!
Bob: Two big ideas there: rules without relationship will lead to rebellion, and I could see that in my kids. I was always just aware: “I’ve got to make sure I’m focused on the relationship, and not just focused on the rules,”—and then secondly—“My number-one ministry is to my family, and I can’t let my job/I can’t let anything get in front of that in the priority structure.”
Ann: That is so good! Those are two of our main principles, too. We’ve probably quoted [them] several times.
Bob: Dennis used to say all the time: “You’ve got to make sure that the bridge of the relationship with your kids is intact. You can carry a truckload of truth across that bridge. But if the bridge is out, everything goes down.” If that relationship is not intact, everything goes south. You keep that relationship intact, and you can carry all kinds of things across that bridge.
I remember an interview we did with Michael and Hayley DiMarco, maybe a decade ago. Michael said something in this interview that stopped me in my tracks. He said that most of us, as parents, are teaching our children how to be sin-avoiders and sin-concealers. He said, “We’re teaching them: ‘Don’t do this; and if I find out you did it, you’re going to be in real trouble,”—so: “Avoid it; and when you stumble, don’t tell me, or you’ll get in trouble.”
He said, “Instead, we need to be teaching our kids how to be sin-confessors and sin-repenters.” I thought, “I’ve been teaching my kids how to be sin-avoiders and sin-concealers rather than modeling for them and showing them what confession and repentance looks like.”
Here’s how Michael said it in that interview.
[Previous Family Life Today Broadcast]
Michael: We’re kind of crazy. We want our home—and we want our relationship with our daughter—to be one, where we create a culture in our home, where the whole culture of our home is centered around learning how to rebound from sin instead of having a relationship—a parent/child relationship—where it’s all about sin avoidance and sin concealment because we’re afraid of the consequences. We want to be the first place that she comes when she messes up. We want to help her learn how to rebound from sin, because we all have sinned: we all do sin; we’re all going to sin.
Where’s it safer for your child to confess? Is it safer for your child to confess: at school or at home?—in their living room or their first dorm room?
Bob: —with a peer?
Bob: —or with Mom and Dad?
Bob: And “sin rebound”—you’re talking about learning how to confess, learning what repentance looks like, learning what—
Hayley: —forgiveness looks like.
Bob: —forgiveness looks like, and learning what the “deeds in keeping with repentance”/what walking in grace looks like, moving forward.
Hayley: And I just want to add that—part of that, and I think it’s a part that a lot of us miss, is that we are very confessional ourselves—we’re not just talking about our kids telling us; but we’re actively saying, “You know, I have to confess to you, I got angry at that instant, and I shouldn’t have. I should have treated you better in that situation.” We’re continually trying to confess. It’s important for the parents—
Bob: You’re modeling sin rebounding—
Hayley: Yes; right.
Bob: —in front of your daughter.
Hayley: Right; yes.
Michael: And that way, we’re going to be better prepared, we hope and we pray, to cast her off into her big independence day, knowing that she does have a safety net to come back to. She’s not alone; that when she does mess up on her own, there’s nothing so shameful that she could do that she can’t come back to us and talk.
Bob: Isn’t that good?
Ann: Really good.
Bob: I just walked away from that going, again, “I’ve been pressing my kids toward obedience without this modeling of what repentance looks like and, then, helping create a culture where it’s safe to do it.”
I think Michael goes on to tell the story—again, Michael and Hayley DiMarco in that interview; Michael goes on to tell a story—about his daughter coming to him and saying, “Daddy, I messed up. I put a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the VCR.” [Laughter] Okay?—just completely destroyed the VCR. He said, “I took her out for ice cream after that.”
Ann: —because she confessed.
Bob: —because she confessed. “I wanted to celebrate her confession rather than flip out over the VCR.”
Dave: That’s because he knew VCRs would be obsolete in a couple years! [Laughter]
Bob: Right! But they’re replaceable.
Dave: Right; exactly!
Bob: Reinforcing the idea that your child—that you teach them, “There are consequences to your behavior,”—right?
Bob: Okay; here’s the last parenting principle for today. Again, these have been so helpful for me; I hope our listeners are finding these helpful today as well. Todd Friel was a guest on FamilyLife Today. He was talking about having a perspective on discipline/a perspective on correction, where your goal in correction is for your child to love Jesus more at the end of being corrected than at the beginning. And I thought,—
Dave: Yes, that’s a lofty goal!
Bob: —“What does that mean?” Well, listen to how he describes it.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Todd: When your child sins—because your child is never going to be naughty in the future; right? Your child is never naughty again,—your child is a sinner.
Bob: Yes; right.
Todd: That’s different; because if I just see a “naughty” child, I’m going to correct the behavior; but if I see a sinner, I’m on a rescue mission. If your engagement with your child does not end with your child loving Jesus more, than you’ve biffed it as a Christian parent.
Todd: Now, let’s apply that—and I suspect this scenario will resonate—you come home; it’s complete chaos. The first person who greets you is your wife. She doesn’t look happy; she’s got the look. She informs you that: “That son of yours has been disrespectful all day.”
Now, I’m not remembering the gospel/that I’m the chief of sinners: “I want this to stop, because I want peace in my home! I want this to be the way that I imagined it to be; because I’m tired, and I work hard for a living, and I pay for this roof over your head!” Now, I’m charging up the stairs, and I’m maybe taking off my belt on the way.
Stop!—freeze frame. I want this interaction to result with my son loving Jesus more. Now, walk up the stairs, and I think the scene is going to be different. It could look like this—and this can be reality—now I can walk calmly into my son’s room, and sit him down on the bed, and say:
Honey, I want to tell you a story about when your dad was in fifth grade. Your grandmother was raising three boys by herself, no help/one-bedroom apartment. She slept on the couch; it was tough. You can imagine her nerves were pretty shot, and it showed. I determined, in fifth grade, that my mom was kind of being a nag; so one day, when she was talking to me, I told your grandmother to “Shut up!”
Now, honey, I’m telling you that story; because I understand that’s how you were talking to your mom today, too. I’m telling you that, because I want you to know I get it. I understand you; I’ve done it.
What you’ve got now is two sinners, sitting on a bed, who need a Savior.
Todd: “So why don’t we pray to that Savior?” and “Then, when we’re done, you go talk to your mom; huh?”
Ann: Whew! That’s good!
Bob: Isn’t that good?
Bob: I heard that story, and I thought about the day that I found pornography on our home computer. I could figure out which of my children had been looking at it. I took that son out for lunch to see if he would confess: “So anything going on you want to talk to Dad about?” “No,”—there was nothing there.
Finally, I brought up what I knew. He was ashamed; he was caught. And I wish, at that moment, I had said, “I’ve been right where you are. I’ve had those temptations. I know what you’re going through.” But instead, I said, “Okay, you’re off the computer for 60 days. You’re going to have to memorize these Bible verses.” I mean, I went straight to the correction; and I never said, “I struggle with this, too.”
Jessica Thompson, in the Art of Parenting® video series, says, “At our house, it’s kind of on repeat to say: ‘I’m a sinner just like you,’ ‘I’m a sinner just like you.’ We don’t present this picture to our kids: ‘We’re the righteous ones; you’re the bad ones,’ ‘We have to fix you, but we don’t have to fix ourselves.’”
Boy, that’s a gospel-centered approach to parenting. I hope parents, who are hearing it today, can be proactive and start pointing in that direction.
Dave: Yes; and I would just add—because wow; I have never heard that—just this thought of when you’re going in to have the conversation or discipline your child: “Stop! Hit the pause button and go, ‘Okay; how do I want to do this?’; because often, we just do it!
Ann: And pray; ask God for wisdom.
Bob: Of course, you guys, as most of our listeners know, have just released a new book called No Perfect Parents. It’s available here at FamilyLife Today. The Art of Parenting, which we talked about earlier, is also available. For information about resources we have on parenting, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.
For those of you, who would like to have a permanent record of some of these lessons we’re talking about this week—some of the top things I’ve learned over 28 years on FamilyLife Today—we’re making these conversations, and the original programs from which the lessons were taken, all of that’s available on a flash drive that we’re making available to anyone who makes a donation this month to help support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today.
We had some friends of the ministry come to us earlier this month. They have agreed they will match every donation we receive this month, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $350,000. This is the last week of May; we want to take full advantage of that matching-gift opportunity. We’re not there yet; we hope to be there by the end of the week.
If you can make a donation today to help us take advantage of the matching gift, you’ll receive the flash drive with these programs and other programs on it. We’ll also send you two books from Aaron and Jamie Ivey. Both books have the same title and the same chapters—but one is for husbands; the other is for wives—the book is called Complement, and it’s about how we blend together in marriage. We’ll send you those books, along with the flash drive.
Those of you, who are regular FamilyLife Today listeners, and have heard us talking about the monthly Legacy Partner team that is really the key core team that makes FamilyLife® available for so many of us every day. If you sign on this week as a new Legacy Partner, two things will happen: you’ll get everything we just talked about; your donations for the next 12 months are going to be matched, dollar for dollar; so every donation you make for the next year will be matched, dollar for dollar, as long as there’s money in that matching-gift fund.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about some of the lessons I learned about how men and women are different. I mean, I always knew men and women were different; right? But there were some things I learned about those differences over the years that have been transformative in our marriage and in how we relate to one another. We’ll explore some of those principles tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch; we got some extra help from Bruce Goff this week, 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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