FamilyLife Today®

Preparing Your Teen for Future

with Barbara Rainey, Dennis Rainey | February 27, 2008
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Is your teen prepared for adulthood? On the broadcast today, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, parents of six grown children, identify four key areas of a child's life that parents must strive to develop before launching them into the big, wide world.

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  • About the Guest

  • Is your teen prepared for adulthood? On the broadcast today, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, parents of six grown children, identify four key areas of a child's life that parents must strive to develop before launching them into the big, wide world.

Is your teen prepared for adulthood?

Preparing Your Teen for Future

With Barbara Rainey, Dennis Raine...more
February 27, 2008
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Dennis: I think a good question for any parent would be – what are you trying to build into the life of your child right now?  What value, what character qualities, what relationship principles that come from the Bible that will direct them to God when they are on their own so that they will be able to be an adult and truly dependent upon God when they are completely independent of you?

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 27th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  If you have a son or a daughter who is a senior in high school, are you ready to let go, and are they ready to be released?  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I guess it hits different parents at different times.  I don't know exactly when it first hit me that there's a time you get to, probably in your son or daughter's senior year in high school, where you realize the opportunity for making deposits …

Dennis: Game, set, match.

Bob: It's about to be over.

Dennis: It's about over.

Bob: It's not like you'll never have any input or influence in your child's life again.

Dennis: No, that's not the case, but you realize that the days are coming to an end where you're the main teacher, you're the main influencer, you're the one who is building in their lives, in fact, at a point, you realize you know what?  You just better be quiet.


And just let somebody else have those conversations.  But – but – until that time comes, I think you need to drive truckloads of truth and wisdom and experience as your child will allow you, over the bridge of a relationship into their lives.

Bob: We've got some of our listeners who are checking their watches or their datebooks right now and going, "I don't have that much time left before my son or daughter is going to head off," I mean, it's a matter of weeks, months, for those who have seniors in high school, right?

Dennis: That's right.  If you've got a senior in high school then you literally do have months, and I'm going to tell you, when they head off to college, it's not that your days are done, but the majority of your teaching better be sticking, because it's game time.

Bob: Our team recently put together a CD that is designed for parents who have a son or a daughter heading off to college in the next year or two, to help parents be thinking about the critical areas you need to be addressing as a mom or as a dad, areas around relationships, around character, around spiritual development, around life skills, and this CD is you and your wife, Barbara, coaching us as moms and dads on how we can make sure we've got the bases covered before we release the arrow off toward the target.

Dennis: Yeah, let me tell you something, Bob, you know, how you can get an abridged version of a book or a condensed version that really gives you the essence?  Well, our team here at FamilyLife has done a masterful job of taking more than five hours of content and pulling it back to the very essence of 70 minutes that are chock full of practical advice to really equip a parent to know what to talk about with their teenager right before they spin them off to service, to college, to work, or to their own homes.

Bob: And we're going to feature a portion of that CD today.  In fact, we're going to zero in on the whole issue of life skills and what a mom or a dad needs to do in the time before you launch your child to make sure that you've at least had some conversations around things like changing the oil or managing a bank account, those kinds of things.  So here is some counsel from Dennis and Barbara Rainey about this whole issue of life skills from a brand-new CD we produced designed for moms and dads.

[musical transition]

Barbara: [from audiotape.] And I remember the first time we sent a child, our first child, off to college – all the fears that plagued me. 

[musical transition] 

Was she going to be able to manage her schedule?

[musical transition] 

Was she going to stay up so late at night, night after night, talking and visiting and not studying?  Was she going to flunk out of school?

[musical transition]

Was she going to eat the right things?  Was she going to get sick and get mono because I wasn't there to help her go to bed on time?

[musical transition]

Just on and on and on – the fears and the concerns that you have for your child when they go off on their own are just limitless.

[musical transition]

Dennis: Time management is something that has to be taught to children.  They're not going to naturally learn this.  In fact, in my hands, I have exhibit A of the great need for time management.  It starts at the very beginning of where time starts every day – getting up.  A teenager has to learn how to get up.

I walked into my daughter, Rebecca's, room and found all of these notes that I have in my hand.  She had these notes taped on her alarm clock, on her lampshade, on her window, on her bedpost, I mean, it looked like some kind of card game, Bob.  But here's the first one.  It said, "Get up now!"  Then the second one reads, "Don't close those eyes!!"  The third one reads, "Come on, now, don't go back to sleep."  And the last one reads, "Get up or else!"

Bob: Rebecca sounds like a kindred spirit.

Dennis: Yeah, really, but, you know, as we train these young people to ultimately take on responsibility on the college campus, in a job, or in the service, they've got to learn how to get up, and they need to learn that first at home.  They ought not to sleep through half of their classes before they learn how to wake up in the morning.

Bob: Barbara, it seems that some people are just kind of naturally better time managers than other people are.  Undoubtedly, with your children, you've had some who are able to keep their schedule well in check and others who are all the time forgetting and have things double-booked or even triple-booked on a single evening.

Barbara: That's right, and we've had all kinds, but nobody who has done it really well, because I think part of learning to manage your time and manage your life is going to come about through making mistakes.  You're going to have to overcommit or not do the project on time to learn what it costs you to not do it well, and then you say to yourself, "Oh, well, I better not do that way again next time," and I think our kids have to learn some of those lessons in order to understand how to manage their time.  They're going to have to make some of those mistakes.

So, yes, we've had some kids that have been better at managing their time and keeping things flowing than others, but they've all had to make those goofs and those mistakes to really understand what it means to keep a schedule going.

Dennis: And one of the best things we've done for each of our children is give our children a notebook, or a schedule, a time-minder that enables them to be able to schedule and anticipate things in their day, in their week, in their month, and I think help them ultimately be time managers.

Barbara: One of the phrases that I've often said to my kids is, "Do your work first and play second."

Bob: Oh, they hate that, don't they?

Barbara: Oh, they do, because I have some who would rather play first always.  And I just have to remind them that the way you should do it is do your work first, and then you reward yourself with your play, whatever it is.  They, of course, don't want to live that way, but that's a part of teaching the priorities and teaching them that they need to do what needs to be done first and then do what's frivolous second, and they don't like it, but it's a part of growing up.

Dennis: It's at this point that a parent has to learn the art of allowing their children to make their own choices and, at times, fail.  Have the pain settle in deep and let them feel it and not rush in to rescue them, because if you do, you are creating an emotional cripple or perhaps a spiritual cripple at that point who isn't always going to have a mom or a dad to bail them out when they get into trouble.

[musical transition]

Barbara: One of the things that we tried to do as a couple when we were raising our kids is instill the whole idea of the work ethic with our kids, and we've talked on the program before about values that you have as a couple in raising your kids, and one of our top 10 values was teaching our kids how to work and teaching them how to complete a job and teaching them that it's important to be faithful when you've been given a task to do and to do it well and not do a sloppy job, even though they try to do a sloppy job, and we try to make them go back and do it well, so it's kind of been in tandem, those two values – teaching them how to have a good work ethic and then helping them get their first job and teaching them what it means to have a job.

Dennis: And, you know, again, our sons and daughters need parents to be involved and stay involved as they make these choices.  We need to be light-handed about it, we need to let them go and then let them make their own choices, but as they open up and want to discuss it, interact with them and talk with them about where they are headed and what their values are, and why they're making those choices.

[musical transition]

Barbara: If I had a child who was a senior in high school and was struggling with that balance of priorities between, say, sports and homework, I might say something here or there, but I wouldn't step in and actually help.  I wouldn't go to their rescue as much with a senior in high school as I would with someone who is a freshman in high school, because I think there is a big difference in their ability to balance all that in those three years.  I think there is a huge difference.  So with a senior I would back off, and I might remind a time or two, because I'm pretty good at that, maybe too good at that but, anyway, I can't totally let go as a mom, it's real hard for me to totally back off.  I did back off with Samuel a good bit, and …

Dennis: I can testify, I watched it.  And I …

Barbara: And it was hard at points.

Dennis: It was hard for Mother to do this, and I …

Barbara: Because he'd rather be on the computer.  See, his thing wasn't sports, his thing was computer, and he'd rather read his e-mail and send e-mail and do computer games and all that kind of stuff and then start his homework at 10:00 at night, and that was his pattern, and that's what he'd rather do, and he never did buy into my "work first play second" philosophy of life.  His was always "play first and work second," if you can do it.  So it was hard for me to back off, but I knew that I had to, because I'd rather he'd learn those lessons in high school than fail and flunk out of college.

Bob: There is coming a time for him when he'll be making those decisions with Mom looking over his shoulder.

Barbara: That's right, and I won't know, and that will be easier for me, too, because I won't know.

[musical transition]

Dennis: You know, the bottom line on not releasing our kids is we prolong childhood, and when you do that you prevent your child from beginning an adult, and what I've seen is as I have ventured out onto the college campus, I am seeing a lot of young people who have been repeatedly bailed out of problems by their parents, and so they are still children, even though that have adult-like bodies, and what we have got to do, as parents, is allow our kids to fail and then allow them the pain.

Barbara: To pay the price.

Dennis: That's right, to feel the pain and allow them the privilege of solving their own problems.  You see, as a parent, we have got to be developers of their conscience and of their dependence upon God for some of the fixes they get themselves in, because if they act like a fool, they've got the consequences of a fool to deal with.

And when we mask the pain, when we keep them from feeling it full force, whether it be financially or emotionally, we bail them out, we may be preventing them from really becoming dependent upon Jesus Christ and growing into the young man or young woman God wants them to become.

Barbara: Well, and then they are even more susceptible to become bait on the college campus, because they haven't developed that sense of responsibility that says, "When I get a driving ticket, I have to pay," and if they don't ever have to pay for those, and they know Mom and Dad's going to always be there, then why worry about making mistakes?  What difference does it make?  It doesn't.

And so I think it's very important that parents understand that they've got to let their kids suffer those consequences when they're at home so that they will understand what that means when they are on their own in college.

Dennis: And, parents, do not rescue them.  Let them deal with the consequences, get another job, get two jobs, be forced to really pay the price for their wrong choice.  Sometimes those results can help our children wake up.

[musical transition]

Bob: I've heard to describe many times on the broadcast about what the month of May feels like around the Rainey house, and when you have a senior, Barbara, the month of May gets particularly challenging, doesn't it?

Barbara: Well, it really does, because there are a lot of extra activities that occur during the senior year that you don't have with a junior or a sophomore, for instance.  Our seniors always do a play at the end of the year that the senior class puts on, so that requires a lot of practices, and it requires the family go and watch, which we want to do, but it's another event, and then preparing for graduation and senior prom and a lot of the other things that go along with your son or daughter being a senior.

And those activities are fun, and they're wonderful, and they're special, but it just creates a lot of extra busy-ness for the whole family.

Bob: Here is what I'm wondering – in the midst of that busy-ness, do you lose perspective on the fact that your son or daughter is about to leave.  Are you so busy that you forget that what's right around the corner at this point is the release?

Barbara: Yes, I think the tendency is to forget, because I do think that in the busy-ness you lose sight of what's ahead.  But, for me, it kind of caught up with me at graduation, because at graduation you can sit down, and you can breathe for a few minutes, and I just remember the whole graduation thing and watching the kids together and watching them parade in, and they call out their names, and it's not just my son, as I think back to that graduation, it was all these other kids that I knew, too, that he'd gone to school with since he was in elementary school, and I knew those kids, and I knew their parents, so it's not just my own child that you begin to think ahead for, you're thinking about all these other kids and what does the future hold for them and what does the future hold for your son, and that was when it sort of began to catch up with me, and I began to feel that emotion of what is this going to feel like when he's really gone?

Bob: Dennis, was there a time that you remember when it clicked in for you that it was here, that time had come?

Dennis:  Well, it was all pretty emotional to me, but at a church service where we honored our seniors one night, there was a defining moment where the kids' youth pastor had written a poem that was entitled, "With These Hands," and what he did was, he asked all of us, as parents, to stand as our graduating senior was seated in front of us, and we placed our hands on the shoulders of our sons and daughters, and Barbara and I were standing above Benjamin, and I remember the more he read, the more emotional I got, because this poem that he wrote really helps capture what is taking place in the heart of a parent as they are releasing their children to adulthood.

Bob: Barbara, I've got a copy of it here.  Do you want to read what Mark wrote for our listeners?

Dennis: If she can.

Barbara: I'll try.  It's not real easy to listen to because you can picture doing all of these things that he's written about, so I will do my best to read this.

 "With these hands, I gently cradled this child,

 Held him close to my heart,

 Nursed his wounds and calmed her fears,

 Held the books that I would read

 And rock this child fast asleep."

Dennis: She's never going to make it.  I'll read it.

 "With these hands, I gently cradled this child;

 Held him close to my heart,

 Nursed his wounds and calmed her fears,

 Held the books that I would read

 And rock this child fast asleep.

 With these hands, I made his lunches

 And drove the car that carried her to school;

 Snapped endless pictures, wrapped countless gifts,

 Then did my best to assemble those gifts.

 Combed his hair and wiped her tear,

 Let her know that I was near

 To nurse his wounds and heal her heart

 When it would break.

 With these hands, I made mistakes,

 And with these hands, I prayed and prayed and prayed.

 These hands are feeble, these hands are worn,

 These hands can no longer calm the storms;

 These hands have done all they can do;

 These hands now release this child, my child,

 To You.

 For Your hands are able,

 Your hands are strong,

 Your hands alone can calm the storms.

 Your hands will continue to do

 What they are so gifted to do,

 To shape his life and make her new.

 Into Your hands receive this child, 

 For my child I now give back to You.

 In the strong name of Jesus,

 And with all my heart I pray,


I think the picture of standing over your son or your daughter and having that read, you know, seeing the snapshots along the way, the vivid memories of raising a son or raising a daughter, you're hit with the brevity of life and with the importance of the handoff, and although those seniors who sat there didn't weep nearly as much as their parents did, someday they will, and someway they will stand over a son or a daughter and, all of a sudden, they will understand why.  And the reason is, is parenting is exhausting, it is a challenge.  It takes everything you've got to be able to pull it off to His glory, and as a parent, you desire that this child be commissioned by these hands, and receive the blessing of God and go off on their own to make their own choice and honor Him with their lives, because I think that's what God set the family up to be, Bob.  He set the family up to be this nurture center that after the life was built into and after it was cherished and cared for, that child was not intended to stay there but was intended to go to adulthood and to make an impact on his or her world.

[CD segment ends]

Bob: Well, we've been listening to a portion of a CD called "Preparing Your Teen for Life," and I guess it's actually been just a couple of years since you pulled the arrow back and released your last one.

Dennis: In fact, it's interesting, Bob, to listen to those words and just reflect a little bit.  It's been a number of years since we actually sat down and gave that advice, and it's interesting now, in looking back at who our children have become, ages 23 to 33, and one daughter with five sons, and another with four children, another with three, and two others with their first, 15 grandchildren, lots of life going on, and lots of choices being made.

And they're not going to do it the way we did it, and that's okay, Mom and Dad, it's okay.  The issue is is where their heart is, and our kids aren't perfect.  We've never claimed, with our listeners, that they are perfect, and they are in process just like each of us are in process.  But you know what?  They're headed in the right direction, and that's what we want for our children. 

You know, 3 John, chapter 4 says, "I have no greater joy than this, than to know that my children are walking in the truth," and that really is the hope of every parent, and that really is our hope in putting together this CD to equip parents to better launch their teenager into life.

Bob: Now, again, on this CD we address four areas that parents need to be focused on – your child's spiritual development, their character, their relationship skills, and their life skills, and we have the CD in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and we'd love to send it out to parents of seniors, particularly. 

Actually, we've come up with something that we think makes a great gift idea.  If you know someone who is graduating from high school this year, there is a music CD that's been produced call, "I Am for You," for the class or 2008.  It features songs from groups like Switchfoot, Relient K, Stellar Kart, Toby Mack, and others.  There is also a DVD that includes greetings to the class of 2008 from a lot of these bands and from other members of the class of 2008.  The CD and the DVD can be a graduation gift that you would give to a graduating senior and along with that, we'll send you a copy of the CD that you can give to the senior's parents that gives them the help from Dennis and Barbara that we've heard on today's program.

So if you know somebody who is graduating, and you'd like to give a gift to the graduating senior and help out Mom and Dad at the same time, all the details about this resource are on our website at

When you get to the home page on the right side of the screen, there's a box that talks about today's broadcast, and if you click that box, it will take you to the area of the site where there is more information about the resources we've talked about here, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, someone on our team can let you know how you can have these resources we've talked about sent to you.

You may want to get multiple copies, if you know multiple teenagers who are graduating from high school this year.  Again, the information is on our website,, or you can call 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

Let me also invite you to call us this week.  We've got a CD we would love to send you.  A number of months ago, we had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Elyse Fitzpatrick who wrote a book called "When Good Kids Make Bad Choices," and she helped us, as moms and dads, think through how we respond when our kids are doing things that are either contrary to Scripture or contrary to our direction as parents.

We'd love to send a copy of this CD out to you at no cost.  All we ask you to do is call 1-800-FLTODAY and request a copy, and we're happy to put it in the mail to you, and we hope this will be a good way to introduce ourselves to you, especially if you're new to FamilyLife Today and haven't been listening for very long, and you'd like to find out more about who we are and what we do.

Simply call 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, ask for a copy of the CD, "When Good Kids Make Bad Choices," and we'll be happy to send it out to you, and we hope to hear from you.

Now, tomorrow we're going to meet a young man who, when he was a teenager, made some bad choices and actually rebelled against his mom and dad in some pretty significant ways.  We will introduce him to you tomorrow, and I hope you can be back with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 


“With These Hands” Poem  Copyright© 1994 Mark DeYmaz, Little Rock, Arkansas.

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