Pursuing the Heart of Your Teen
Pastor Brian Haynes and his wife, Angela, explain what it means to relentlessly pursue your teen's heart. Angela recalls one tense time between her and her daughter after a family move. Together she and Brian sought the wisdom of an older youth pastor, and continued to pursue their daughter until healing took place.
About the Guest
Bay Area Church in League City, Texas. They have three daughters, Hailey, Madelyn, and Eden. Their home has been the incubator for books like Shift: What it Takes to Finally Reach Families Today and The Legacy Path: Discover Intentional Spiritual Parenting. Best known for the milestones strategy designed to link church and hom...moreBay Area Church in League City, Texas. His passion is to help people, families, and churches thrive for the glory of Christ and the expansion of His kingdom. Brian is the creator of the Legacy Milestones strategy designed to inseparably link church and home to equip the generations. He is married to his high school sweetheart Angela and they have three daughters, Hailey, Madelyn, and Eden. Brian is a graduate o...more
Pastor Brian Haynes and his wife, Angela, explain what it means to relentlessly pursue your teen’s heart. Angela recalls one tense time between her and her daughter after a family move.
Pursuing the Heart of Your Teen
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
Ever had a time with your teenager where you had to put yourself in time-out? We are going to talk today about what you do when your teens are testing your love for them. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Okay; Bob, I‘ve got a question for you: “What kind of teenager were you?
Bob: I was a—
Dennis: “Were you a compliant teenager?”
Bob: I was—
Dennis: Tell the truth.
Bob: I was a good, upstanding—I was the kind of teenage boy that the mom’s in town wanted their daughters to go out on dates with—only because they did not know what was behind— [Laughter]
Dennis: I was going to ask you—
Bob: It was—
Dennis: I was going to ask if it was fair to say—
Bob: —the outward appearance was pretty good / the inward was not so great—but outwardly?—yes; I was a rule-follower: I didn’t skip class, I didn’t—well, I did skip class; but I talked my way out of it. That is how it worked for me.
Dennis: I snuck out of the window only to come home in the middle of the night to find that the lawn chair I had propped up to get back in was now moved.
Bob: Had been moved? Oooh—
Dennis: And I—
Bob: —you were busted!
Dennis: I was busted.
Let us ask our guests—we have a pastor and wife joining us—Brian and Angela Haynes join us on FamilyLife Today. Guys—welcome to the broadcast.
Brian: Thank you.
Angela: Thank you.
Dennis: Angela, what kind of teenager were you? Were you a good one or not?
Angela: I was very compliant. I had an older brother that was not—saw consequences and was too fearful to follow his path. [Laughter]
Dennis: So when you say compliant, what do you mean? You just fell right in line with everything your parents asked you to do.
Angela: Pretty much.
Dennis: Okay; Brian?
Brian: I was the proverbial church kid that looked like a church kid on the outside but probably was not as much on the inside.
Bob: A little rebel streak?
Brian: A little—a little double-minded.
Dennis: I think it is courageous that—even though you did have pretty normal teenage years in your life—that you have written a book called Relentless Parenting: The Crucial Pursuit of Your Teen’s Heart; and you wrote this while you still have teens at home.
Brian: Yes; that’s nuts.
Bob: Angela, do you remember when it dawned on you that raising a teenager was maybe going to be a tougher assignment than you had thought when your kids were in elementary school years?
Angela: I absolutely do. Actually, I remember the exact moment—we were trying to catch a breath with our kids—and drove down to Galveston before busyness crept back into our life—just that afternoon—with some cheerleading events coming up. That was causing extreme stress for one of our daughters, which a lot was underlying there that we did not know about at the time.
Based on how things went down that afternoon, I felt very broken. I escaped the lunch for a little bit and said I just wanted to walk on the sea wall for a little while.
I began to realize: “Lord, this is a lot bigger than I ever imagined it to be, and I can’t do this without You. I am pretty broken.” God convicted me about raising my teenagers, now—that I cannot view it as raising a product or producing a product. I need to view it as a pursuit after their heart; because they are God’s children, and God has pursued me in my life that way. I am to reflect that in my own children.”
Bob: Brian, do you remember that afternoon she is talking about?
Brian: Yes; because she just left. We were at a restaurant. I got up to go to the restroom, came back, and I said, “Where’s mom?” They said she had to go for a walk; and I realized: “Something broke. I do not know what it is or exactly what happened, but she went for a walk by herself.”
Bob: Was it conflict at the table? Was it kids squabbling? Was it disobedience and defiance?
Angela: I would say a lot of anger displayed and the way the younger ones were reacting—was in pain. I felt very overwhelmed—I did not know how to fix it / did not know how to Band-Aid it in the moment—needed to cry out for help. The funny / the ironic thing about it was—I walked very far, not realizing how far, just in my cry out to God: “I need You. I need You. I cannot do this alone. This is—this is…”
Dennis: Like—like how far?
Angela: A couple of miles.
Brian She was gone a solid 40 minutes. What she does not know is—while that actually was the lead balloon that sort of dropped on one of our teenagers to say: “Oh my goodness! My words, my actions, my feelings—that I’m just vomiting all over Mom—actually hurt her.” It was actually a good thing and a bad thing.
Dennis: As I mentioned, we raised six teenagers, four at one time. I have to say—there are a lot of challenges in raising kids through the terrible twos, toddlers, etc. In our opinion, nothing was as challenging as helping teenagers navigate—their culture, their choices, their temptations—as when we did that. Really, when this frustration reaches a high level, parents need to reach out and let other people into their lives. Did you guys do that?
Brian: Yes; I think I have a natural tendency to do that. Angela might have reclused a little bit more, and I will let her speak to that; but I reached out to a youth pastor, who was actually a father figure in my life—my youth pastor, who is probably 15 years older than me / 20 years older. I remember him going through some similar things with his boys. I just called—I said: “I don’t know what to do. I need some handholds here; because all I thought I knew about parenting, and discipling my kids, and all that is out the window right now.”
He had some great words of wisdom that just brought me to a place of understanding: “Okay; God is sovereign; He has this, and He knows what’s going on, and He’s our peace-giver in the midst.” One of the first things he said was that “Family, more than any sort of other relationship that you have in life, family is the place where it is the most honest and the most painful; and you are just going through the most painful part; but don’t discount the beauty of the honesty. If the communication channel is open, that is a good thing. It is not shut—so that’s a good thing.”
Then “Look at that as an opportunity to listen to your teenager, to understand where they are coming from, and dig a little bit deeper,”—because, you know, Angela and I did not do anything to necessarily cause what was coming out of her. So: “What is causing that?” It was a great kind of coaching point for me and for us—I think, was: “Let’s take a listen and see what’s deeper in there then.”
Dennis: Were you a pastor at that time?
Brian: Oh, yes! I was pastor at the church. This is part of the difficulty of it is—pastor at the church—the Christian high school that my daughter goes to is—I oversee the entire organization. It is real hard—it was real hard, in the moment, to turn inward to the body of Christ that we shepherded and say, “Hey we’re going through this.”
Bob: We are talking to Brian and Angela Haynes, who have written a book called Relentless Parenting: The Critical Pursuit of your Teen’s Heart.I think there’s a key here, Dennis, which is: “Teens are not inviting pursuit. They are kind of pushing you away from pursuit, but you’ve got to be persistent as a parent.”
Dennis: You have to let other people in your life and speak into your life to give you hope in the midst of this. I think teenagers can rob parents of their courage. In the process, we can kind of back out of their lives at the same time they are pushing us out; and that is the most lethal combination.
In fact, Angela, you alluded to this earlier. Let us talk about what was going on in your daughter’s life at this time. What had happened, as you finally understood what was taking place at that lunch table that day?
Angela: I would love to share, because I believe that there is a lot of brokenness in a lot of teenagers’ lives. Some manifest into open anger / open actions, and others manifest privately. We need to be aware for all of our children.
With my daughter—she was in sixth grade. She had a great group of friends, where we lived. She lived near family. We decided that it was time we needed to move across town for her dad to become a lead pastor of a church. In our world, it was a big move. In her world, it rocked her world to the core—every comfort / everything that she felt stable with—we left. And that she needed a lot of compassion.
At the same time, her father was dealing with a huge transition in his life. We were moving to a church that needed transition as well. I would say that she did not receive all the compassion that she needed. That manifested into a lot of hurt and anger.
But the key thing in that was that—at the time of that huge transition in her life—to her, seemed tragic—she was bombarded by some things of the world in a [supposedly] very safe place. She was bombarded, and it crept into her heart—caused a lot of guilt. This guilt in her heart manifested then into much anger, but it was a hidden guilt that she carried for—about three years.
Bob: We should say that she has shared her story.
Angela: She has shared her story and wants other people—other parents and other teenagers—to know this, because there is hope in her story.
Bob: You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; and we’ve got a link to your daughter, Hailey’s, blog, where she shares what this season of life was like for her, and what the ensuing years were like, and how she rode through the rapids. I am thinking, as you describe this—for a child to transition from pre-adolescence into adolescence—you have always described that as “the rapids”—there is rocky stuff there—the canoe can tip over at any point.
Dennis: And you are wondering if you are headed for the waterfall.
Bob: Right; so you’ve got that going on in every teen’s heart, as they go through that. You mix in on top of that two factors—moving across town, outside of your normal social group, and then, this exposure that your daughter had /, stuff she should not have been exposed to in a safe place, as you said. All of a sudden, that transition—well, the canoe tipped over in her life; didn’t it?
Angela: It tipped over. From guilt and curiosity, it lead to a stronghold in her life—that it was a go-to to fix in moments of stress.
If you think about it—if she was a young child, and that place that we lived at that time was the place of security for her, and then moving away during that pre-adolescent phase into the limelight being a daughter of a pastor, this became a stronghold in her life. It became a stronghold that she wanted to keep hidden—because she did love us, and she did respect us, and she did not want to destroy what was going on in our life and in God’s plan, which made it even more difficult for her to feel like she had to keep this hidden.
In this time, me, being naïve to what was truly going on, God truly convicted me to pursue her. I do not even know how to explain this; but it was an exhausting, gut-wrenching pursuit of her heart.
Bob: What did that look like?
Angela: Unconditional love that you read in 1Cor. 13 that only Christ can give; but we, as parents, try to be that image-bearer to our children.
I had to hold on to that and beg God that “I can be that for her as much as possible.” I tried to show her an unconditional love—I mean, in the moments that I am looking at her and I, myself, wanted to punch a hole in the wall. It meant telling her I love her so she knew there was nothing she could say or do that could take my love away from her.
An unconditional love—it meant time. Every chance I had that I could spend quality time with her, I took—time alone, time checking her homework, time to do something fun that she enjoyed doing, time to invest where she was involved / I wanted to be involved. In fact, she was even asking for that, because she needed some comfort. It was loving, unconditionally. It was pursuing her heart in ways of continuing to pour truth. I did not know if she was hearing it; but I was continuing to pour truth into her life, intentionally.
Many words of encouragement to her—things that she was doing that were pleasing to the Lord—or just how she showed love to others—I would affirm that.
Bob: And all this time, were you thinking, in the back of your head: “Is this doing any good?”
Bob: You are doing it with no sense that this is making any difference in the relationship.
Angela: With hope that it was but not seeing the fruit of it yet. Although, I will say this—when you do pursue their heart, with this unconditional love and with intentionality, there are times of testing to see “Will you really love me?” that are sometimes extremely challenging. Then, there are other times, where they come up and they curl up in your la; because you are their safe place. I lived for those moments—I begged God that I would see more and more of those moments.
Another way to pursue your child’s heart is prayer—pray over them. You pray for wisdom and pray for the Holy Spirit to convict them to bring whatever brokenness is to light; because you, as a parent—
—you do not know all that God knows. Only God knows them intimately to their core, because He is their Creator and He created them in His image. Through prayer—that God would convict her and allow me to bring her to redemption back to Him. In this, she also showed a lot of anger to God because: “Why God? Why, if You love me, do You allow this to happen in my life?” I think we all go there—adults and kids.
One day, she came to me and she said: “Mom,”—and she just confessed to me and said—“I need you, and I know you were there for me.” It was in that moment, in that crucial pursuit, I realized, “Thank You, Lord, for pushing me through that and teaching me to be relentless like You have been in my life.” Because of that, began a healing process in her life and in my life. I needed healing through that as well.
Dennis: I am watching you tell the story—there is a lot of emotion still in you today.
Again, what I want to say to the parent, who is listening to us: “Maybe it’s not a teenager—maybe it’s a young adult or maybe it’s a toddler—who’s out of control. You do not know what to do, and you are in the midst of the rapids. This is where you have to have your own walk with Jesus Christ. This is where Christianity—
Brian: That is right.
Dennis: —“is not merely a dogma/a doctrine—it’s about a living Lord Jesus Christ, who defeated death / who is alive today.” Your relationship with Christ is what kept you in the game.
Dennis: Brian, how did you encourage that in the process?
Brian: I think, at the beginning of the process, I might have been more of a discouragement than I would have thought.
Dennis: How so?
Brian: When we moved, we moved to a church that needed to be a turnaround church. I felt like I got up and went to war every day. I would go home, already angry. When our daughter would sort of begin the tirade of things, I remember saying things that I deeply regret—like she would—she might say something like, “You’re ruining my life by making me move here.” I remember saying things like, “I moved every two years my whole life as a kid. It will get better. Get over it.”
Angela: That was the phrase: “Get over it.”
Brian: “Get over it.” It was just because I was at this—like point of: “I can’t. I have no emotional headroom. I am not ruining your life. Everybody else is dinging me, so I’m not going to let you ding me too.” It just was where I was for two years. My great regret—looking back, I would say, “That’s not worth it.”
I would have had a pastor coach in my life—that would have been an older, wiser guy—in the beginning of that to say: “You know what? Throttle back. Maybe not do some things as quickly—all those / those levers—but—
Bob: Well, it is one of the things you say in your book—you say: “Compassion first; then wisdom.”
Bob: You’re trying to say: “Get over here. This is—it’s going to be fine.”
Brian: Yes! So, we’re like—
Bob: But there was zero compassion between you and your daughter—
Brian: Zero—between me and her.
Bob: —because you had nothing leftin the tank after all day.
Brian: I had nothing.
Dennis: So I want to know, Angela, did you ding him?
Angela: Oh, absolutely! [Laughter]
Brian: And this is the beauty of Angela.
Angela: In fact, I said: “Maybe I didn’t ding you enough!” [Laughter]
Brian: She said that on the way here!
Bob: —“or hard enough!” [Laughter]
Dennis: Are you talking about today?
Brian: She said—she said it as we talked about it.
Angela: Looking back, and reflecting, and trying to get him to see where she was at—to hold back and push forward with compassion.
Brian: Hindsight, learned that she was fearful to come to me, which I would not have expected; but she was.
When she did come to me and she told me the whole story, God let me see her like He sees her in that moment. It broke my heart, and I just had compassion for her. For me, it changed everything in my relationship with her; but what I saw is—when her earthly father showed her the same compassion that God, her Father, would show her, it changed everything for her. I, in the moment, did not realize the power of that offer of grace.
Bob: Somebody told me, years ago, that the most common attribute of God that is mentioned in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word, Hesed—His steadfast love / His relentless, enduring love—“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,”—it says in Lamentations.
What you guys are talking about—what you talk about in the book, Relentless Parenting—is being like that with your kids. Being steadfast in pursuing them and in loving them, even when they are arms crossed, jaw tight,—
Dennis: —eyes rolling.
Bob: Steadfast love.
Dennis: What I just want to say to parents is: “You have to realize, today, evil is preying on our youth. You have to realize that these movies you see advertised on TV are nothing compared to what is taking place on the internet and what’s taking place in our culture. Our kids are surrounded by it. They have to have parents, who aren’t going to be omniscient, but they are going to be in the game—they are going to be protecting their kids with boundaries—at the same time, they are going to be speaking love, compassion, and truth into the lives of their kids.
That is what you guys have modeled—not only in your marriage and family, but what you ultimately did with your daughter—but also what you’re modeling in the book. You are coming alongside parents to exhort them what to do today—which is—“Do not give up. Keep on keeping on—loving them.” I liked the way you said it, Angela: “You have to reflect the same love and grace of God that pursues us every day.”
Bob: I imagine there are listeners today who needed to redouble their effort to be relentless. They may want to get a copy of your book, which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center—it is called Relentless Parenting: The Crucial Pursuit of Your Teen’s Heart. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request your copy. Order, online—again, at FamilyLifeToday.com—or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY—
—1-800-358-6329—that is 1-800-“F,” as in family, “L”, as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
With the conversation we have been having today, I’ve been thinking about the fact that all families/all marriages go through seasons. There are times when circumstances / events will rob us of our courage. We are faint-hearted in the middle of those seasons. One of the things we want to do, here at FamilyLife, is to continue to give you the courage necessary to live out God’s design for your marriage and your family.
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It is our gift to you when you support this ministry. We want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you are able to do in partnering with us, here at FamilyLife.
And we hope you will be back tomorrow. We are going to continue to talk about how we can stay faithful, as parents of teenagers—not become weary in well-doing—but stay faithful to what God has called us to. I hope you can tune back in tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I am Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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