Made to Last, The Parenting Edition: Bryan & Stephanie Carter
Want quality, long-lasting relationships with your kids? Bryan Carter, author of Made to Last, and his wife Stephanie share doable ideas for feeding spiritual growth and unshakable family ties.
“How do we raise our daughter? How do we raise our children well? How are they gifted? How are they wired?” So part of us discovering this strong-willed nature was figuring out how valuable it is, how the leadership gifts were there, how this would turn out later in life. So we had to figure out, “How do we cultivate each of these personalities in such a way that they feel loved, they feel valued?”
About the Guest
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Want quality, long-lasting relationships with your kids? Bryan Carter, author of Made to Last, and his wife Stephanie share doable ideas for feeding spiritual growth and unshakable family ties.
Made to Last, The Parenting Edition: Bryan & Stephanie Carter
Dave: A classic moment in the parenting world for us was when our oldest son, C.J., was three years old. Was he three?
Ann: Yes, he was three.
Dave: I’m giving him a bath, and he looks at me, and he’s a real analytical. You could tell it already. Today he’s an engineer, in IT with Sharper Image. But he’s three years old, and he’s always thinking. He’s just staring at my face. I will never forget this. He says, “Hey, Dad. How old were you when your head started sucking your hair back in?”
Dave: That’s how he is. I could tell he’s analyzing, “What’s happening to my dad’s hair?”
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 FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
I asked all the boys one time as they got a little bit older, “Tell me what you guys think about the most.” That son said, “Oh, easy. I’m constantly thinking about ‘How does that work? How does that work?’” That’s totally who he is, and always has been.
Dave: And always has been. There’s a part of being a parent where you can try and change that, or you can celebrate that. The reason we’re bringing that up is we have Bryan and Stephanie back in the studio one more time—
Bryan: One more time.
Dave: —talking about their book, Made to Last: Eight Principles to Build Long-Lasting Relationships. We’ve just had a blast with you guys the last two days.
Bryan: Thank you for having us.
Dave: I hope you’ve had fun.
Stephanie: We have.
Bryan: It’s been great. It’s been great.
Ann: And if we would all apply the principles that you talked about yesterday, we would have amazing marriages. So now we want to dive into a little bit of this parenting aspect. You guys have been married 25 years; you have three kids.
Stephanie: We have a 21-year-old, Kaitlyn, an 18-year-old, Kennedy, and then our son, Carson, is 15. Each of them are completely different. I think about Kaitlyn, and I remember her being our oldest, and that we kept feeling like, “This is so easy. Is this all parenting is?”
Ann: Oh, really?
Stephanie: “She just sits here. She reads her little books. She’s just great!”
Ann: And you probably thought, “We’re the best parents!” [Laughter]
Stephanie: “This is all? What’s this nightmare situation that is happening?” So then we had Kennedy. [Laughter] I would say she is our strong-willed blessing.
Stephanie: Between zero and seven, she brought it. We had to learn through having a strong-willed child not to break that spirit.
Dave: What does that look like? What do you mean?
Bryan: We had to learn to give her choices. With the first one, you could say,, “Do this,”—
Dave: —and she’d do it.
Bryan: Right, and she’d do it. But with this one, you had to say, “Well, either you can watch TV, or you can do your homework.” It had to always be choices to let them feel empowered like it was their decision and their choice.
Bryan: If you focused them and made them, it was a battle of wills, and their will is pretty strong. [Laughter]
Ann: And it’s not worth that battle.
Bryan: It’s not worth the battle.
Stephanie: It’s not.
Bryan: So you’re constantly offering options and choices and trying to help them navigate. You’re like, “Why am I negotiating with my children?”
Stephanie: With a two-year-old!
Bryan: “I mean, what is this!?”
Ann: And they’re good at it.
Bryan: They’re good at it.
Stephanie: She was so good. She was so good. I tell young moms now, “That little strong-willed blessing that you have, just nurture that.’
Stephanie: “Nurture that. They’re going to be the strongest leader,” and she is.
Dave: What’s she like now?
Bryan: We had to read and ask a lot of questions. We had to unpack the uniqueness that God had given her.
Ann: How did you do that?
Bryan: Reading, asking questions—
Stephanie: We went to therapists.
Bryan: —therapists, trying to figure outM “How do we raise our daughter? How do we raise our children well? How are they gifted? How are they wired?” So part of us discovering this strong-willed nature was figuring out how valuable it is, how the leadership gifts were there, how this would turn out later in life. So we had to figure out, “How do we cultivate each of these personalities in such a way that they feel loved, they feel valued?”
We’re not comparing them to their siblings, like, “Why don’t you do it like this? I don’t have any problems with them.” [Laughter] We had to put all of that kind of language away and say, “Let’s learn to value them, affirm them, celebrate them, coach them, based on how God has uniquely wired our children.” So that’s something we had to wrestle with.
But now it’s interesting to watch them as teenagers and young adults that we’ve been able to try to coach them through some of those unique seasons. But early on, it was just—
Stephanie: We were like, “What is happening?”
Bryan: It was hard.
Stephanie: We had to learn just the different stages of parenting. I feel like in the beginning, it’s kind of like a dictatorship. “Okay, you do this. You go sit here. Okay.” And then it eventually, gradually. comes into kind of like a coaching season. I feel like with all of our kids we had to learn to give them responsibilities and so on, as far as, “Hey, you can sort clothes. This is a color game.” So at five— “towels, whites, colors”—just helping with the wash, but just giving them some type of responsibility and accountability.
Our kids grew up with social media; social media, phones, and all that was introduced.
Stephanie: And at a young age, even working through that situation, but just being really clear with them as far as, “These are the expectations in our house,” and sticking with them. But also not comparing your kid to somebody else’s kid, having one kid who would do whatever they were supposed to do, and then having another kid who was like, “Yeah, no. I’m not doing that.”
I remember when I was pregnant with Carson—just a transparent moment. When I found out I was pregnant with him I thought, “Ohhhh, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the other two. I don’t even know what I’m doing with those two, and now I’m going to have another one!”
Bryan: Our last child was a complete surprise. [Laughter] We’re school teachers, right? So our first child was born June 4th. School teachers will get out in May, June, so they can have the summer.
Dave: There you go.
Stephanie: They’d be home.
Ann: There you go.
Bryan: Our second child was born June 16, and then this third one comes. It’s a total surprise that she’s pregnant. We don’t even know. She’s kind of wrestling with depression, and then it’s a terrible two thing happening at the same time.
Stephanie: She was bringing it. She had separation anxiety, so when we would drop her off at school or at preschool, she would just completely scream and—
Bryan: She would just scream!
Stephanie: —completely fall out. Even if my mom was watching her, she’d say, “What is it with this crying?”
Bryan: So bad!
Stephanie: I would say, “This is what she does.” [Laughter]
Ann: And then you feel like people are judging you, especially--.
Bryan: Oooh! Church babies.
Ann: That’s what I was going to say.
Stephanie: At church, yes.
Ann: And then you’re the pastor, and that can be really tricky.
Dave: With that pressure.
Stephanie: So it was that pressure—oh, y’all, I’m having all these memories come up. I will tell you this one story, real quick. Bryan was preaching at a church in Los Angeles. We go. I’m pregnant with Carson. Kennedy has to be two or three, and she’s in rare form. Oh, she’s in rare form. Kaitlyn’s just sitting there, obedient, whatever. This particular church, you had to do the offering. You had to get up, and you had to walk around.
I’m thinking to myself, “This is not going to go well, but I’m just going to talk and try to reason with this child, and be like, ‘Alright, here’s your little money that you’re going to put in.’” Kennedy was having no part of it. As we get to the altar, she throws herself down.
Stephanie: She throws herself down. “Okay, put it in there.” She says, “No!” I’m thinking, “No, not now! Please, Jesus!” and the older saints are looking at me like, “Honey, you better spank her. I mean get her up, spank her.”
Stephanie: I’m thinking, “Spanking her is just going to really energize her even more into the Incredible Hulk, so no.” [Laughter]
Ann: The Incredible Hulk! [Laughter]
Stephanie: And then Bryan is sitting there, and he’s just looking at me like, “I’m so sorry.”
Dave: And then you have to get up and preach?
Bryan: I have to. I have to. [Laughter]
Dave: His daughter is right there. Oh, man.
Stephanie: And we’re having another one. Oh, my goodness.
Bryan: Nothing like parenting to keep you humble.
Ann: That is the truth!
Bryan: I just think the Lord gives you kids to keep you humble, because you just never know what you get.
Bryan: We’ve been blessed. Our kids—oh, man! We have three. They have totally different interests.
Ann: Ours, too.
Bryan: Our oldest is a dancer. She did dance, ballet, modern much of her life. Our middle one did gymnastics and she did competitive cheer. Our son does basketball. He loves basketball. You’re tired, right? You’re tired all the time. I think at one point we had three kids at three schools.
Stephanie: Three different schools, yes.
Bryan: We had extracurricular stuff going on.
Ann: It’s crazy.
Bryan: It’s so demanding. To be at this point, where two are about to go to college, and this third one is about to be a sophomore—he’s learning how to drive right now. [Laughter] There is a feeling and there is a freedom that’s about to come over our house that’s unreal, but it’s amazing.
Dave: It’s awesome.
Stephanie: It’s awesome. We love it!
Dave: It is.
Stephanie: But I just want to encourage someone. In that season between the time that they are infants to the toddler stage, no matter what, it’s hard.
Ann: It’s rough.
Stephanie: Potty training is hard. I just want you to stay encouraged because it goes so fast.
Ann: I just talked to one of our daughters-in-law. She sent some pictures of their four-year-old talking very close to his two-year-old sister. My daughter-in-law said, “Bryce, our son, is telling his sister that today’s the day she needs to be potty trained.” [Laughter] Jenna said, “I haven’t even started yet. She’s two, but I’m going to wait awhile.”
She can hear him saying, “Now today’s the day, Autumn. You’re going to go potty, and whenever I go, you can go.” And she’s listening to him, like “Okay.”
Dave: No accidents the whole day.
Ann: She never had an accident the whole day!
Bryan: What a coach! [Laughter]
Ann: This little boy—
Bryan: He’s going to have a full--
Ann: —has a teaching gift.
Bryan: That’s right!
Stephanie: He’s a teacher.
Ann: He is a teacher.
Stephanie: That is the cutest story!
Ann: So late last night I asked, “So how did it go?” They said, “Well, our four-year-old just potty trained the two-year-old.” [Laughter]
Stephanie: “He’s a magnificent teacher.”
Ann: He’s gifted.
Dave: He is. He’s a trainer.
Ann: But you guys talked yesterday about how you sit down as a family and make goals. Is that once a year that you sit down?
Ann: You must have done that with your kids, like parenting goals for your kids. Did you do that for each child? You had goals for the year?
Stephanie: We do. We sit down right before school starts, and we just talk about goals that you might have. It’s helpful for them to set their own goals, but realistic goals, not my goals. I had one friend who said, “Now I set my goals for them.” I said, “No, no. That’s not you.”
Ann: But you did when they were little.
Stephanie: You do when they’re little, but middle school and high school, no. As a parent goal, my goal could be “Yes, they’re going to be a 4.0 student. They’re going to be this; they’re going to do this.” But realistically, let your kids set their goal.
Ann: What does that look like? You’re all sitting around the table; they’re in middle school, high school.
Stephanie: Before we have the meeting, we say, “Hey, you know, we’re coming together to make goals, so what are going to be your goals? What could be your friendship goals? What could be your academic goals? What could be your social goals,” because sometimes you might have a kid like our son. He’s kind of shy, and our girls are leaders, so they’re like Student Council. They said, “Listen, Carson, this is what we do. We lead.”
Dave: We’re the Carters.
Stephanie: “You need to run for something. So then, when you’re a senior, you can be the President, because that’s what we do.” [Laughter]
Bryan: This was last year. Six months ago this was the conversation.
Bryan: His older sisters with him. I said, “Hey, no pressure!” [Laughter]
Ann: Was he looking at you, Bryan, like “Help me, Dad!”
Bryan: He was like, “Okay, okay. I got it. I got it.” I think the goals are designed for the kids. Sometimes we do it one-on-one. We might go to Panera or a restaurant and sit down one-on-one, and let that child just kind of talk about— “What are you thinking? What do you want to do? What do you see happening? Do you want to play sports? Do you want to do this club? What do you see?” and just try to help them set those goals, coach them along.
Because sometimes, they’re going to need help to get the goals accomplished, right? Whether it’s academically, they may need some additional help, athletically, or even spiritually. “How do we help you? You’re going to have to get involved this year, so what are you going to do at church?”
Bryan: So we try. “You can pick whatever you want, but we need to do something at church.”
Stephanie: You have to do something at church.
Bryan: Either this or that group, or youth group. It gives them the space for them to be able to talk about how they see their lives being, how they see God at work and those kinds of things. So that’s kind of what that looks like. So when they get to college they have to do the same thing. “This is what I’m thinking about, I want to get in this, I want to do this, next summer I want to do this,” so we’re trying to help them to think before things—
Ann: And they didn’t roll their eyes, or like, “Ughh, these dumb goals?”
Stephanie: No, I think our son initially was kind of like, “Oh, what’s this about?” but I think seeing his older sisters do it—and I think the example is you have to model. So as parents we have to model. We have to model prayer. They have to see us praying.
Sometimes we can be doing so many other things that they see us doing, but if we don’t model how to pray, if we don’t model how to forgive, if we don’t model these things for our kids, if we don’t model how to communicate and talk to people when we have a conflict, they’re going to have problems. They’re not going to know how to do these things. If we’re not showing them, who else is going to show them?
Stephanie: Just giving them those realistic expectations—and that’s the key, realistic expectations.
Ann: I like how you said, “Hey, what are you thinking?” It’s not like, “Hey, what are your goals?” It’s more of a conversation.
Bryan: It is a conversation.
Stephanie: Like, “What were your wins last year?” Or “What were your wins this past nine weeks?” “What would you like to see moving forward?” and so on. So for each kid, it is different. With my son, his sisters are about to be in college, and so I said, “Okay, Carson.” He’s a sophomore. “So what are your schools that you’re thinking about?”
Now his dad is saying, “Oh, I want him to do this. I want him to do this type of major.” However, my son loves marine biology. [Laughter]
Bryan: They don’t get paid very well. [Laughter]
Stephanie: So I had to tell him. I said, “Bryan, you have to let him—”
Bryan: I’m going to let him, but I’m also going to expose him to math, some engineering experiences, because sometimes if we don’t know what exists, right? Then we don’t know to even choose it.
Dave: Right; see what else might pique his interest.
Stephanie: Yes, pique his interest.
Bryan: So I’m going to send him to a marine biology camp, but then next summer I’m going to send him to a couple engineering camps, so he can at least learn there’s a world out there, because he’s gifted in math and science.
Stephanie: Just to expose—
Dave: How about the spiritual area? How do you guys as parents develop--? Every parent listening probably is thinking, “Man, one of my top goals is that they’re walking with God when they’re men and women.” We’ve done several programs recently with the epidemic of our kids walking away. It’s an epidemic.
Dave: It’s never been seen at these numbers in history, so parents are afraid, and are asking, “What’s our role to help see that happen?” What do you guys do?
Bryan: I think spiritually we try to get them cultivated in church. We try to get them connected to church. We pray with them at home. We pray before we leave for the day, when we drop them off. One thing I miss, when they start driving, is we miss those times—
Stephanie: Yes. Miss that time.
Ann: Me, too.
Bryan: —in the car when you can talk about your faith, talk about those things, so I miss that. One of the things we often do, we try to put them in spaces. We often send them to Christian camp each summer, which really gives them a good foundation. We also try to figure out, “What are your gifts, and how can you use those gifts in the life of the church?”
Our girls both have been on leadership councils. That’s allowed them to use their leadership gifts in the context of the local church, so they can see that connection. If it’s mission trips that are happening, we try to get them connected there. And also at the home. Our talk time is also our family devotional time, so that’s Sunday night. It’s also the time when we may talk about prayer, we may ask them to pray. We may ask them their prayer needs, so that they get a connection there.
The other thing I’ve longed to do, but I haven’t done is I’d love to do a personal Bible study with my kids. It’s something I’ve wanted to do over time; I haven’t been able to do it like I would have liked to. I have a sabbatical break, so I have margin to do a Bible study with them, and I’m super-excited.
Ann: That’s so cool.
Bryan: Matter of fact, one of our kids decided to be a counselor at a Christian camp that she had gone to for a number of years, which was shocking, that she would want to be this counselor for six weeks a year.
Stephanie: Yes, we were shocked.
Bryan: So she left college to do that last summer. I told her, “Man, we are so proud of you. There’s a lot of places you could have spent the summer, but you went there and you invested in those young girls, as hard as it was, as challenging as it was.” Then when she got back to campus, she said her friends said they wanted to start a Bible study, and she said, “They’ve asked me to start the Bible study.” [Laughter]
I said, “I’m so proud of you.” She said, “Dad, this is not what I do. I don’t know how to do this.” Then it clicked for her. I said, “I’ll give you all the stuff. If you need help I’ll give you a Bible study.” She said—and then it clicked for her— “You know what I can teach them? The same material I taught last summer for six weeks.” I said, “That’s a great idea! You already have the workbook.”
Dave: There you go.
Bryan: She pulled her workbook out, and so she was able to lead that Bible study for the first time. So, I think part of what we’ve learned is, as she mentioned, model it, helping expose it to them, teach it to them, encouraging them as they have wins in their spiritual life. In the church space, PKs, preacher’s kids, sometimes have to deal with so much, and so being a listening ear to them, but still encouraging them to be in there and learn and grow, but not feel that pressure. Praying for God to send spiritual mentors into their lives, because sometimes our voices are not heard.
Bryan: But if there’s somebody that loves the Lord and loves them—we’ve had coaches at schools step in and be those voices.
Bryan: So I , spiritually, it’s a whole experience, right? Just trying to use everything that you can. The other voice that’s been helpful is their grandmother. Their grandmother, her mom, who lives ten minutes from us, picks them up, drops them, is that extra set of hands. But she would always say to our kids, “Have you prayed about it?” When we as mom and dad would forget, sometimes, she would be there—
Ann: Yes, just like she said to you over the years, Stephanie.
Bryan: She did. She’s been a voice in their lives, spiritually, texting them prayers, texting them verses. The other thing we did was try to make our house “that house,” right?
Ann: Yes, yes.
Bryan: So for sleepovers, for birthday parties, end-of-year parties—
Stephanie: That’s our house.
Bryan: Where they just can see us and know us. The last thing we do spiritually—I started a father-son camp.
Ann: Wait! What?
Bryan: About four to five years ago.
Dave: At your church?
Bryan: Really among some friends, among some friends in our church.
Dave: Oh, really.
Bryan: So it started because my son has about four young men that were all born around the same time, so they were all turning 13, and we’re all getting ready for “the talk,” right? [Laughter] They may have been 12 at the time. So I called the guys and said, “Listen, why don’t we do it together? Let’s do ‘the talk’ together.” They said, “You know what? Let’s do it together.” [Laughter] So we got our sons together, we spent the weekend together, we did ‘the talk’ together.
It started as we were talking about purity, and every year we have these conversations, we go fishing, we hang out and play games. It is the best! I’ll never forget. We were sitting there and they were asking all these—at ten or eleven, when we first started, they’re asking questions that I don’t know. You know what I mean? [Laughter] “Why does this happen? What is this?”
But it was the best. But again, other fathers, other men, available, speaking into each others’ lives. I just say it’s a whole community, just growing with all you can.
Dave: Wouldn’t it be cool if you’re doing it in ten years with the same guys?
Bryan: Wouldn’t that be cool?
Ann and Stephanie: Awww!
Dave: They’re married men now. They still would want it.
Bryan, Ann, and Stephanie: Yes.
Shelby: We’re going to hear more from Ann here in just a second, but first, you know, I love this. Again, trusted community to engage in important ongoing conversations about complicated things. We often don’t think this way, but it can make it so much less of a weird thing if our kids were hearing this alongside their friends and their parents, all walking with Jesus in the context of community. Unique, but so, so cool.
I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Bryan and Stephanie Carter on FamilyLife Today. Bryan has written a book called Made to Last: Eight Principles to Build Long Lasting Relationships. You can pick up a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329; that’s 800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
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Okay, here’s Ann to tell us more about how important community can be as we walk with Christ alongside one another.
Ann: It’s interesting. One of our sons became friends with a group. They were in a small group from our church. A guy that was in his 20s started leading their group, and now these guys are 37 to 40, and they still meet.
Ann: They don’t live around each other, but they meet for vacations—
Dave: Once a year they go away.
Ann: —with their leader, who is a lawyer.
Stephanie: I love that.
Ann: But they’re still friends. They still stay in touch with one another. It’s pretty sweet.
Bryan: That is so cool. That’s beautiful.
Ann: You guys, this has been so rich.
Dave: Yes, it is rich.
Ann: Bryan, I’m just sitting here thinking. I got stuck on the part when your daughter came home and she said, “They asked me to lead this Bible study.” And your enthusiasm when you said, “Yes!! You should!” I thought, “If I had a father that was just cheering me on and a mother who was saying, ‘You can do this.’” Our kids are needing that!
They don’t need our critique at that age, they don’t need us to tell them what they’re doing wrong. They already feel the pressure of the culture, of the world. But for us as parents to pray for them, to cheer for them, to ask them, “Hey, what are you thinking right now? What are your goals?”
Dave: Go for it!
Ann: You guys are impressive.
Stephanie: Oh, bless you! Thank you.
Ann: I wish you would have raised me. [Laughter]
Stephanie: Oh, my goodness.
Bryan: Thank you guys for having us.
Stephanie: Thank y’all so much for having us.
Bryan: It’s been a real honor to spend some time with you guys.
Ann: It was so fun.
Bryan: I love the work you guys are doing—an incredible job.
Dave and Ann: Thank you.
Shelby: If you’ve ever dealt with addiction, you know that it has both spiritual consequences and physiological disturbances. Well, coming up tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are joined by Bob and Dannah Gresh to talk about how those consequences and disturbances of addiction can deeply impact your marriage, and how we can still find hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s coming up tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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