FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Loving Your Sons

with Matt and Lisa Jacobson | August 9, 2021
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It can be easy to love our boys when they are really little. Matt and Lisa Jacobson give us practical ideas for loving them throughout their whole lives.

  • 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.

It can be easy to love our boys when they are really little. Matt and Lisa Jacobson give us practical ideas for loving them throughout their whole lives.

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Loving Your Sons

With Matt and Lisa Jacobson
August 09, 2021
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Dave: Okay, honey, as you think about my job as a dad with our sons—

Ann: Oh good! This is a good topic. [Laughter]

Dave: —don’t critique me—I just want to, on a scale of 1 to 10—yes, I guess this is an invitation to critique me.

Ann: Oh, no.

Dave: Scale of 1 to 10, how did I do, loving our sons? Oh boy, the pause means not good.

Ann: I think you were good at that. [Laughter]

Dave: Then why did you pause?

Ann: Eight; is that bad?

Dave: No; 8; I’d take an 8 any day.

Ann: Oh, good!

Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

Dave: You know, as I was thinking about it, I thought—and I’ve said this—it was easier I feel like for me to love them when they were little boys. As they became men, it should have been the same; but if felt harder to love them.

Ann: Was it awkward? What do you think that was?

Dave: I don’t know exactly what it was; because today, we get help with this. That’s why I’m bringing it up; because I felt like it was man to man, and it felt different. It shouldn’t have, but it felt different to me. Again, I’m not making an excuse; I’m introducing a topic, because we’ve got two experts on this—you guys—Matt and Lisa Jacobson. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Lisa: Thank you so much.

Matt: It’s great to be back.

Dave: I mean, we’re really glad to have you back here. You know, you were the gurus of 100 ways—[Laughter]—you have 100 Ways to Love Your Husband; 100 Ways to Love Your Wife—those were previous books; right?

Lisa: Yes.

Matt: Yes.

Dave: And now, you’ve come out with: 100 Ways to Love Your Son; 100 Ways to Love Your Daughter. We get to talk about sons for this time.

Just to introduce you a little bit: you’re not just authors; you’re speakers. You planted a church; involved in that. You’ve got eight kids. You’ve got Faithful, and you do a podcast. Tell us about your podcast; because I started listening to it, and I thought it was fantastic.

Matt: Awesome; thanks so much. Yes; it’s called Faithful Life podcast. It is essentially about living a faithful life in your personal life with God, in your life with your spouse, and how you’re walking together. It’s really just practical Christian living; that’s really what it is. I like how you describe it in terms of talking, Dave, about: “Hey, I know this intellectually,” or “I understand, but what does it mean on Monday morning when normal life has taken over?”

Dave: —real life hits you.

Ann: Lisa’s the founder and host of What is that?

Lisa: It’s a resource—it’s a blog—but it also has lots of other ministries and books that go with it. It’s encouraging women in their biblical walk just as—if they’re a mother, if they’re a wife, if they’re a daughter—it’s to all ages. And again, the idea is very practical biblical encouragement; because sometimes, we’ll know a verse, or we’ll know we’re supposed to be this way: “But how does that look like?” and “What are some ways that I can be more truthful, more kind”—all those kinds of things—“into your home/into your daily life?”

Dave: How did you two end up with the 100 ways? Actually, I think—and obviously, you do, too—it’s a great way to write a book, because there are little nuggets; they’re almost like a devo. But again, I would be like: “I can write five”; I don’t know if I can write a hundred. [Laughter] You come up with 100 on many different topics; and they’re very easy to read, and they’re so practical. So how did you end up on 100 ways?

Lisa: I think there are a lot of great books out there that talk about the big concepts—the kinds of parents you want to be; or maybe the kind of—in the case of our marriage books—the kind of marriage you want to have. Let’s just say it’s communication; you’re like: “Okay, I know I need to communicate better. I need to communicate more lovingly.”

But then you—you know, you read this great book; you put the book down—and you go out there to your kids, in this case, and then you go: “Ahh! I don’t know what to say,” and “I don’t know what this looks like. I just need a little bite of something that I can start, today, making a difference in my home.”

Dave: Right.

Lisa: That’s basically how we broke it down into these little bite-size pieces.

Matt: The thing is: a great relationship is built with a lot of every-day moments. So when you get into the 100 Ways to Love Your Son book, you find that it isn’t this deep tone that you’ve got to just commit to getting through, it’s really just bite-sized instruction on very practical things. You can read a page or two at a time, and then you can think about that/you can apply it. The book will give you, maybe, a way to change your thinking. It’ll give you something specific/something concrete to do, and you can just employ that in your relationship with your son. It’s very practical/very doable; it’s bite-sized.

Ann: Yes; it’s little, and there’s simple things you can do. Today, we’re going to look at: “How do we communicate to our sons that we love them and that they are loved?”

Dave: You know, when I started this book, I found it easy—maybe not easy—but I found it easier for me, when they were little boys, to hug them; to lay in bed with them; to say, “I love you.” I didn’t have a dad, so I never had a dad say that.

Matt: Wow.

Dave: I was trying to create a new legacy, and it was awesome from what I remember. You’d have to ask our sons how awesome it was. [Laughter] When we wrote our parenting book, we literally said, “Write in the book,” so they did. They said: “Here’s what worked and what didn’t work…”

But I struggled, I feel like, as they became teenagers. I don’t think I did a bad job of it, but it was awkward. It felt a little awkward to even say those kinds of things. Let’s dive into that a little bit; because when I picked up your book, I’m like, “Yes; this is very, very practical.” I mean, you could pick almost any one of these 100; and you’ve got an assignment for the day. “I’m a guy, just tell me what to do”; and there it was, you know, walking into it.

But did you find that, at all, in terms of loving your sons? Was it different when they got older?—same?

Matt: Oh, I think it was definitely different for me; absolutely. One of the things that is just a natural part of a son getting older is that he gets into that 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 range there—and it can start early or a little later—but he goes through this process of becoming independent from you. It can feel, to the parent in the moment, as, “Hey, you’re pushing back against me; you’re rebelling against me.” That can, certainly, be a part of it; but the truth is there’s a natural process that’s taking place there.

We, obviously, want our sons to grow independently, and to become independent of us, in so far as they’re getting ready to lead their life and step out wherever God may be leading them. What I had to do is I had to recognize that, and I won’t say that I recognized it perfectly overall. Lisa and I are a good team and she’s spoken so much into my heart and life on these things. I just really appreciate the perspective that a wife/my wife—and anybody that you’re married—God gave you your wife for the purpose of blessing you with that added perspective.

But I had to get to the place, where I changed how I was thinking about that process. I told myself: “I need to embrace this process of them becoming independent.” But before doing that, yes, it was tougher for me; because it did feel like there was this big push-back against Dad’s instruction and suggestions—and not all the time—but it became, I think, naturally that underlying process of them becoming independent.

It’s much easier to love your little kids. They have a lot less life direction, where you see your teenagers making choices. But you get to a place, where you recognize that: “No, this is a natural process of what is happening/is they’re growing into manhood and embracing that. The thing about loving your sons that are older is they need just as much love as your kids when they’re younger; it’s just different.

Dave: Yes; one of the things I love about the book—it isn’t just a father writing—it’s a father and mom. Lisa, you wrote this sort of story about how it’s good to hug your kids. Talk about that a little bit.

Lisa: I think that the kids/they long for it, most of them. I’ve got one kid, who’s not as much of a touchy guy; but I still think he needs it, so he gets his hugs nevertheless. But they do long for that. Sometimes, we’re so quick with words; like we’re a fountain of wisdom, and we can’t wait to just give them that lecture and correct them.

Many times, I have found just that gentle touch—even just a hand on the shoulder, a gentle pat on the back—says so much; it says, “I love you.” It says, “I’m there with you; I’m standing with you.” It’s very powerful; and we could under-use it unless we use it coyly. I think it’s a/if you’re a mother, who has a son who’s getting up into his teens, just be really respectful of him as well. Don’t keep doing the little boy thing; they tend to not like that.

Ann: —and especially in front of their friends.

Lisa: —especially in front of their friends.

Matt: Well, just one of the things that also we’ve really tried to do is to recognize that each one of our kids—they’re, literally, a different person—now, that doesn’t exactly need to be a profound statement; [Laughter] but they have a different personality than you. They see things differently; they approach things differently. And a lot of times, I think as parents, we can think of different as wrong because it’s not our way/it’s not our way of thinking.

Especially as the boys have gotten older, I absolutely have had to grow in that understanding that they see things and do things differently because of the differences in their personalities. We’ve gotten into the habit of just telling them: “You know what? I love your personality. You’re so different than me. I love how you think; I love how your thought leads you to doing something a different way completely than what I would do.” But we really try to tell them that on a regular basis.

Ann: It’s so good to hear; yes.

Matt: “We just like you as a person.”

Dave: And that’s really one of the first things you open the book with is that: “Say to them how much you love to be with them.”

Matt: Yes.

Dave: You tell the story—tell that story—because I had a similar experience of her [Ann’s] dad, who’s awesome, never saying to me he thought I was awesome; and then one day, I overheard him.

Ann: Oh, welcome to my life! [Laughter]

Dave: Yes, I know! [Laughter]  I mean, that’s what she grew up with. He’s a great guy—

Ann: He is a great guy.

Dave: —and he sort of became my father—and he’s my high school coach; but I always sort of wondered, even after we were married, “You know, I don’t know if Dick really celebrates me.” I heard him one day talking to somebody about me, and he was talking like I’m the greatest guy ever! I remember I called him out, like, “You’ve never even said that to me!” He almost backpedaled, like, “Well, he didn’t think that was something he should do.” He should say it about me to somebody else but not to my face.

Matt: That is the irony of being a parent. I don’t know why; but parents so often are ready to celebrate you to a third party—right?—but not directly to you. I grew up in a home, where I just didn’t have a lot of accolated affirmation. I always felt like I was in the way, and felt like I was, maybe, even not wanted, which was not remotely the truth in terms of how my parents felt and, certainly, not later in life. That’s kind of what I grew up with—is that sense—so we really wanted our kids to know: “We like you,” “We like being with you,” “We love spending time with you,” and that’s a repeat theme in our home.

Lisa: There’s two things; I know quite a few people that never heard their parents say, “I love you.”

Ann: I didn’t, growing up; my parents never said that.

Lisa: Yes; it’s just assumed. It’s not that they didn’t love you, they just didn’t say it. How often we actually need to hear that and repeatedly. But another powerful statement in its own way is that even: “I like you”; because sometimes, we can actually throw out “I love yous”; like our families, I think we over compensate.

Matt: We probably do. [Laughter]

Dave: Do you? [Laughter]

Ann: But you’re right, Lisa. What about the parent [who’s] thinking, “I really don’t like my kid right now”?—you know, a teenager that feels like they’re rebelling/they’re pulling away. I’ve heard parents say, “I love you, but I don’t like you right now.”

Dave: Maybe she has said that; [Laughter] that’s what she’s really saying.

Ann: I don’t think I have said it.

Dave: I don’t think she’s said it that way.

Lisa: Because we all want to be liked, which is to say—not just “You have to love me,”—but “Do you really like me?” It’s also a very powerful statement to communicate to your child that: “I like you. You’re different; sometimes you make me tear my hair out a little bit, but I like you.”

Ann: It was interesting—I think our oldest son was nine—and we put the boys to bed, pray for them, talk to them every night. This one night, I was about to turn off the light; and I said to our oldest, CJ, “I love you so much.” He stops me—I’m walking out—he goes, “Mom, Mom.” I’m like, “What?” He said, “You don’t have to tell me that all the time! I know it. You say it over and over.” And here’s what he says, “You can just tell me one time, and I know it the rest of my life.” [Laughter]

My first thought was, “His poor wife! Oh, no!” I remember coming back in the room and saying, “Oh, thanks for sharing that; but here’s the truth—like I’m going to say it over and over—because I just do. It flows out of me.” I remember saying, “And I like you too.” I then said, “And the truth is your wife is going to need to hear that over and over, and your kids will need to hear that over and over.” Because, even as a mom, I get insecure; and as people, we get insecure; and we need to be reminded of the truth of that [love].

Matt: One of the things that I like to say—and Lisa and I, in talking with parents, like to remind them—is: “Don’t take the bait”; okay?

Ann: Ah, so good; explain.

Matt: “Just don’t take the bait.” Growing up—it’s tough—there’s so many transitions; there’s so many things going on all at the same time. If you can—not take the bait and respond from your place of personal hurt, because kids are good at hurting their parents; they really are—if you can choose not to respond that way, and respond in a loving manner, even though they were acting that way, it can really lower the tension in the moment.

Ann: So Lisa, let me ask you that question: “When I’m talking to moms or dads—and I especially say to moms: ‘Don’t take it personally,’—how?! Like how do we not take it personally when it really hurts/what they’re saying?”

Lisa: I think you can take your hurt, and just take it aside, and work through it another time with maybe another person. Matt and I talked to each other quite a bit about this. Actually, we’ve been able to encourage each other: “Remember, this is not about you, even though it feels like it’s about you.”

If you don’t have a spouse that’s supportive that way, you can even go to a friend and just say: “My child said this,” or “…did this; and it just feels like it is a direct attack.” Just encourage each other: “No, this is not what this is. This is a spiritual battle,”—some cases. And sometimes, the child didn’t even mean that or even think that you might be hurt by that.

It’s always eye-opening to go—later, we might have this conversation, especially if it’s a teen—and just say/okay, we worked through the situation—but later, we’ll say, “Do you realize, when you said this” or “…did this that feels personal? That feels like…"

Ann: So you’ll come back to it.

Lisa: Yes, we talk about it carefully.

Matt: We will come back to it. We like to say: “Never try to deal with a correction in the moment of emotional intensity”; right?

Ann: That’s so wise.

Matt: “You’ve got to get away from that; and two or three days later, when the playing field is level and all the emotions are calmed down, then you can go back and talk about it.”

Dave: I know that, as a parent, I’ve been there—I think we all have—where you’re hurt; or something’s done, and you’re thinking, “I need to be the adult here, and I don’t want to be.” [Laughter] It’s like I’m going to respond immaturely, just like my son or daughter did; and yet, it’s like you said, Lisa, it’s one of those moments, where you go: “I’ve got to ask God for help.”

Again, I find it so practical in your book—one of them that just hit me; it’s number eight out of a hundred—“Always be glad to see your son.” What does that look like?—“Always be glad…”; because there’s moments—when you’re working, or you’re doing/you’re in a project, and they walk in—

Matt: Sure.

Dave: —and they need you, and you’re not really glad in that moment. It’s like I am, but I’m not; I have things going on. How do I be glad when maybe I’m not?

Lisa: Well, one example of this wasn’t even too long ago. I was on a tight deadline, and I had to quickly get some dinner going before I went back to finish up my deadline. Stress was just beaming out of my body. I’m over the stove; and my son came behind me—and he was just kind of wrapping his arms around me—he was about 15. He’s taller than I am; and honestly, every/like I just bristle; because I’m just like, “Go away! I’m just trying to get this thing done.” But the other part of me goes, “Lisa, don’t! You’ll want this someday. You’ll miss this, so don’t communicate to him, ‘Go away.’”

I did my best; and he turned to me, and he said, “You know, Mom, something I like”—so I’m all ears—right?—“What?!” I’ll take anything positive here—he said, “I like that you’re always glad to see me, even when you’re not.” [Laughter] I said, “I’m sorry that you read through me, but I’m glad that it does mean something to you.” I was glad he was able to articulate that to just say, “It’s important to me that you’re happy to see me.”

We were just talking about all these hard things that you end up working through with your kids; but there’s so much building you can do in between that makes those hard things easier to work through when you have communicated: “I’m happy to see you,” or “I like you.” Those are really positive building things that make those harder moments not so hard to work through.

Ann: My thought, as you share that is: “That’s what the heavenly Father does every time we approach Him.” Like I used to have this shame-filled view of God that, when I would come before Him, and maybe it had been a couple of days, He was tapping His foot, like, “About time!” And the Father never does that; He’s always anticipating our return. He loves seeing us.

My thought was: “Oh, we’re just doing what the Father would do.” He’s so excited to see His kids. I think of the prodigal; and the father running to the prodigal, welcoming him back home. I love that idea of making sure, even in the morning, that we love them, see them, notice them.

Matt: Absolutely. And if you’re the parent, [who] has the kid that goes, “Meh,” when you do say “Hi,” or when you do greet them, again, persevere. Just keep at it/persevere; because you never know, later in life—in fact, one of our kids, in talking about this certain aspect of the way he was interacting with me, he says “I don’t even know why I did that,”—like looking back on that—“I don’t even know why.” But love the fact that we persevered and that we were single-minded and focused on: “We love you,” “We like you”; so if you’ve got that son, that kind of shrugs it off, that’s okay. You just stay in the game—don’t take the bait; don’t take it personally—just stay in the game.

So many times we found, also—when we’re tempted to take something personally—we found out there was just some big thing that happened in their life; and that’s where their head was. They weren’t really trying to directly hurt our feelings by not responding that way. It’s just that their heart was at a different place, and maybe hurting or maybe focused on something else. So just keep that in mind: “Persevere if you’re the parent with a kid that doesn’t really respond directly to that kind of an overture.”

Dave: Obviously, we know the truth is nobody rebels or walks away from love. People walk toward love. When they’re feeling loved, it’s almost impossible to run away from that; you are drawn to it. So I mean, as you talk about 100 Ways to Love Your Son, that draws a family together. I mean, it’s what God does to us; it draws us. I think it would be interesting for our listeners to go online and even post on FamilyLife social media ways their parents loved them or, as parents, ways they do it.

Matt: Absolutely; absolutely.

Lisa: These books really are the ways that we genuinely tried to love our kids. We asked our kids: “What are some ways it felt/made you feel loved?” It was a big kind of group effort that way. But even as you’re reading the book, you might go, “Well, I wouldn’t do that,” or “My son wouldn’t appreciate that; but it does give me an idea that they would like this…” At the very least, it’s a conversation starter; it’s a way of thinking.

When we started writing the books, Matt and I were talking about—actually, we were talking about ourselves: how we know our parents loved us, but we didn’t always feel loved—and how many adults we know that said “That’s exactly/that would be our case.” It’s not that our parents didn’t love us; it’s just they didn’t spend time with us; or they didn’t actually say, “I love you.” How kind of tragic that is, really, that there’s all this love that didn’t get communicated. We have to be intentional about that. That’s another thing with the books is just a way of being intentional about the love you’re already feeling.

Matt: And you know, you said at the beginning—I hope your tongue was in your cheek when you said “experts”—[Laughter]—because the fact of the matter is we’re not experts. We’re just people that are on a journey and have tried to learn some things. We’ve made mistakes—we absolutely have—and we’ve learned to do some of these things that are in these books too.

I’m one of these guys that—all of our kids—everybody knows our kids are really hard workers. We’ll get out, and we’ll do the job: “You stay and you do the job until the job’s done,” and “Jacobsons never give up.” The kids are really great at that. I wish I was better at fun. There are some suggestions in the book—just ways to have fun with the kids, because I was all about getting done what needed doing—but then that fun part of: “Hey, let’s go; let’s just do something fun,”—even looking back, I wish I was more like that, you know, when the kids were really young.

That’s one of the reasons why there are many suggestions in the book that are in that category; because it’s something that I really had to grow in, and to let go of the next responsibility and the next duty, and just enter into the moment. Just practical suggestions is what you’ll find in here, but it isn’t because we have it all dialed in and we’re perfect; it’s because we, ourselves, learned a lot of these things along the way.

Bob: All of us know, but it’s easy to forget, how important it is for our kids to understand that we love them/for them to know that. As parents, we have to be wise in how we express that in a way that they’re going to understand it and receive it. That’s why I think the help we’ve been getting from Matt and Lisa Jacobson today is so vital; because it reminds us: “This is a part of our responsibility, as parents, to communicate our love for our children.”

We’re making available this week Matt and Lisa’s books: 100 Ways to Love Your Son; 100 Ways to Love Your Daughter. We’ll send you both books as a thank-you gift if you’re able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife this week with a donation. As most of you know, FamilyLife Today is here because listeners, like you, have made today’s program possible. We’re entirely dependent on our listeners to keep FamilyLife Today on the air on this station, on our network of stations across the country, online all around the world. You make that happen anytime you make a donation.

Those of you who have donated in the past, thank you for your support. Those of you who are regular listeners, if you’ve never made a financial gift to support the work of FamilyLife Today, let me challenge you to do that today. You can donate, online, at; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate; it’s easy to do.

Again, when you donate today, we’d love to send you Matt and Lisa Jacobson’s books: 100 Ways to Love Your Son and 100 Ways to Love Your Daughter, practical ways for you to be communicating to your children just how much you love them. By the way, this is for young children, for teenagers; we even need to continue to communicate to our adult children that we love them, and that we’re proud of them. Again, you can donate online at; or call 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation and request your copy of the books from Matt and Lisa Jacobson.


And we’re going to continue to talk about this with Matt and Lisa Jacobson tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.

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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