FamilyLife Today® Podcast

So What’s Wrong With…

with Clarence Shuler, Gary Chapman | August 7, 2019
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Would you like your son to have the same junior high or high school experience you had? Inevitably our kids will step in pot holes along the way to maturity, and Gary Chapman and Clarence Shuler want to help. Together these authors of "Choose Greatness," talk honestly to young teens about the challenges they'll face in adolescence and will show them how and why to avoid some of the hazards, like smoking, drinking, and drugs.

  • 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.

Inevitably our kids will step in pot holes along the way to maturity, and Gary Chapman and Clarence Shuler want to help. Together these authors talk honestly to young teens about the challenges they’ll face in adolescence.

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So What’s Wrong With…

With Clarence Shuler, Gary Chapma...more
August 07, 2019
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Bob: Dr. Gary Chapman remembers the night as a young teenager when he decided he would not drink alcohol.

Gary: My grandfather was an alcoholic. A man knocked on our door one night and said to my father, “Your dad’s lying out there by the side of the street, drunk.” My dad said to me, “Get your coat on; I need your help.”

We walked up there and picked our grandfather up out of the ditch, really. He was fussing at us for messing with him and all of that. We walked him home and we put him in bed, and I walked home that night and I said, “I’m not going to do that.”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 7th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson, and I'm Bob Lepine. There are important life lessons that our sons and daughters need to learn during their teen years—some of those lessons will be illustrated in some pretty dramatic ways. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have often—when I’ve been speaking to parents about raising their kids—I’ve asked the question, “How many of you would like your kids to have the same junior and senior high experience you had?” Not many hands go up when you ask that question.

Ann: Middle, yes. Middle school, junior high.

Bob: But I’ve often thought, “Boy, I wish my 60-plus-year-old self could go back into that 15-year-old body and redo high school, because I’d do it so differently knowing what I know now.”

This week we’re talking about how do we help kids make wise choices—wise decisions—so that they don’t step into some of the potholes that we stepped in when we were going through. The truth is, our kids are going to step in potholes, because they’re human beings, and there’s no way to ensure—every mom, every dad would like to think, “I wish I could just bake at 350 for 25 minutes and they would turn out perfect.” [Laughter]

But they’re going to make mistakes, they’re going to have to learn some things the hard way. But sometimes, in learning things the hard way, some of the lessons you heard from your mom or your dad come back and you go, “Oh, that’s what Mom or Dad said.”

Dave: Right or wrong—I’ve said this to Ann—we wanted our sons to make bad decisions while they’re still under our roof. We didn’t want them to—we knew they would, and we wanted to be there to be able to coach them through rather than their doing that later.

Bob: We have Dr. Gary Chapman joining us this week, along with our friend, Clarence  Schuller. Gentlemen, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Clarence: Thank you! Good to be with you!

Bob: For those of you who don’t know Gary Chapman, when did you—

Dave: Does anybody not know Gary Chapman?

Bob: —when did you move to the United States? [Laughter] Welcome to America. Gary is the author of the book The Five Love Languages and dozens of other books as well. Clarence Schuller and his wife, Brenda, speak at our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. Clarence is also an author, he’s been on FamilyLife Today a couple of times before, right?

Clarence: Yes; yes.

Bob: Together, these men have written a book called Choose Greatness: 11 Wise Decisions That Brave Young Men Make, and there are 11 chapters in this book that point kids to wise choices like, “Listen to your parents,” and, “Get a good education,” and, “Build diverse friendships,” and, “Spend time helping others.”

But you know that moms and dads, when they get to this, they run right to, “Respect girls, be sexually responsible, don’t do drugs, and stay of marijuana and tobacco.” I mean, that’s the in the middle of the book. Those are kind of the scare points for all of us parents that we want our kids to handle their sexuality right as they go through school, and we want them not to get off into drugs or alcohol or—you include tobacco, interesting. But where you are from?

Gary: Winston, Salem. [Laughter] Tobacco capital of the world!

Bob: Let’s talk there about drugs and alcohol and why you included tobacco and marijuana in this book.

Gary: Well, when I was growing up in the South almost everybody smoked, but we didn’t know the connection with cancer. Now we know that, and it’s absolutely absurd for us to encourage young people to walk that road. It’s encouraging that even Hollywood has backed off on that. So there are far less young people smoking.

But the reality is, there are over three thousand young people that start smoking cigarettes every day, and a third of them are going to be long-term smokers. They’re going to live 13 to 14 years less than the person who didn’t smoke for a lifetime—so that’s why. I’m just concerned about life and health.

Then, of course, because often the cigarette smoking leads to marijuana, and marijuana can cause all kinds of things. I mean, we’ve legalized it now, but legalizing it doesn’t make it good. It doesn’t have a good effect. The brain is developing in these years between 11 and 18. Actually, they say the brain’s not fully developed till they’re 25. Don’t mess up your brain now! If you want to mess it up, mess it up after you get to be 25! [Laughter]

Bob: Clarence, did you smoke?

Clarence: I did not. I didn’t want it to stunt my growth. [Laughter] It didn’t work. But my sister and I, once we tried to get into my dad’s stash. You know, he smoked. We tried to light it and puff, and it just wasn’t rewarding to me. I said, “This is it! I have to acquire a taste for it.” I didn’t want to do that. Plus, we almost burned down the house in the process, so it didn’t have a big appeal to me.

Dave: I actually married a smoker. You didn’t know that, did you? [Laughter] I married a woman who smoked cigarettes! Tell them your story!

Ann: When I was five years old, I was the youngest of four, and I was always at these sporting events. So my first cigarette was underneath the bleachers, and there was a little butt, still lit, and I picked that up and took a drag on it, and I thought, “Why would people do this?” [Laughter]

Bob: That was your one time?

Ann: That was my one time.

Bob: Did you smoke at all?

Dave: No, I never did. I was like Clarence; you know, I thought you’d lose your hair or something. [Laughter]

Ann: Well, your mom did.

Dave: My mom was—and that’s one of the reasons. She was, I mean, a prolific smoker, several packs a day, get in the car—I remember as a teenager finally saying, “Mom.” Here’s how the conversation went. “If you smoke a cigarette in the car, I’m turning the radio up as loud as I can do it.” That was the tradeoff. And I did. She lit one up, and I just blasted it up, and she said, “Okay, I won’t smoke in the car.” So she then started to go out in the garage. I learned very early to stay away from it.

But Gary, you say in the book, you’re talking about alcohol, you decided as a young man not to drink.

Gary: Yes. Clarence and I both share some of our stories along the line in this book, and that one—I was probably 12 years old. My grandfather was an alcoholic. A man knocked on our door one night and said to my father, “Your dad’s lying up there beside the street, drunk.” My dad said to me, “Get your coat on; I need your help.”

We walked up there and picked our grandfather up out of the ditch, really. He was fussing at us for messing with him and all of that. We walked him home and we put him in bed, and I walked home that night and I said, “I’m not going to do that.” That’s when I decided I wasn’t going to mess with alcohol. Never regretted that decision, but the people who have messed with alcohol in those years, almost all of them lived to regret it.

Dave: Yes.

Bob: You know that the reason I think that young people are drawn to this—curiosity’s part of it—but cool is part of it.

Ann: Peer pressure.

Bob: Yes. I mean, it’s, “This validates you. This is what makes you edgy and cool,” and people kind of think, “Oh, you’re grown up,” if you’re drinking or if you’re smoking. Did you ever feel pressure in drinking?

Clarence: No, not really. Some of my aunts and uncles drank, and they would let me sip stuff when I was ten years old. It just—

Bob: —never appealed to you.

Clarence: —never appealed to me.

Bob: By the grace of God, huh?

Clarence: Yes.

Bob: Both cigarettes and alcohol just never had appeal to you.

Clarence: Well, I was trying to be a good athlete, so I didn’t want to mess with my body, you know.

Ann: Gary, did you have that conversation with Clarence? Because Clarence, I’m assuming you had friends and peers that were smoking or drinking. Did you guys talk openly about that?

Clarence: I don’t know that we talked much about that, Clarence.

Gary: I think by the time you and I met—I can’t remember—I’d already made that decision.

Clarence: Yes. I think so.

Gary: You know, one of the other points I wanted to make is what you were saying about your mother, Dave. My father smoked, and that’s the reason I don’t smoke. You know, I heard his coughing and hacking and all of that.

I remember the day that he came down off a ladder (he was painting a house) and he was up there coughing, he came down, he took his cigarettes and twisted it like that and threw it on the ground, and he said, “I’m never smoking another cigarette.” I became proud of my dad at that juncture. He set the model of smoking, and that’s why I decided, “I’m not going to do that! I don’t want to be hacking like that all my life.”

So we can learn from the bad model. I like to say this to young men—maybe your father, if you know your father—maybe he didn’t set the best example, or maybe your mother didn’t set the best example. You can learn from a negative example. “That’s one thing I don’t want to do.”

Bob: So, if you’re not smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, I’m guessing that does probably mean that you don’t mess with marijuana or drugs. I mean, if you have concern for your body at the one level, you’re probably not going to jump straight from nothing to marijuana.

I’m looking at Clarence; he’s like, “Well, that’s not always the case.” [Laughter]

Clarence: Well, you know, smoking a cigarette, to me, was just not cool.

Bob: Right.

Clarence: But the temptation of drugs—

Bob: That was there for you?

Clarence: I was very curious.

Bob: Yes.

Clarence: At our school they had this achievement deal. They were prep schools recruiting guys. They took the top seven guys, and I was in the top nine academically. So I didn’t get to go. But when my buddies from prep school came back, I think it was during Christmas break, they were talking about how they had access to drugs and getting them for free, and they were doing LSD.

I’ll never forget, one guy said that the room started breathing, and that didn’t appeal to me, because he’s not in control. The U.S. was doing a really strong campaign—“Would drugs turn you on or would they turn on you?” So I remember that night leaving his house, because they were getting ready to do drugs, and I said, “You know, guys, you’re my friends, but I’m not doing this.”

That was the first time I really started stepping out and becoming my own leader. That was a really big deal. I think I was 14. I don’t know if I’d met Gary or not, but we didn’t talk about that. I think I would have probably been too embarrassed, because he’s still an adult, to talk to him about anything like doing drugs. But that’s when I kind of made the decision I wasn’t going to do drugs.

Bob: For you guys, was drugs, alcohol ever an issue for either of you?

Dave: Wow, you’re really going, aren’t you? [Laughter] You ought to talk about Clarence and Gary. [Laughter] Did you know they’ve written this really good book— [Laughter]

Ann: Yes, share your story there.

Dave: Which one? [Laughter] You know, it’s really interesting that—I had two alcoholic parents, and my mom smoked, and the smoking thing was like, “I’m never going to do that,” and the drinking thing, I made a vow, “I’m not going to do this.” My mom even said, “Don’t drink.”

I can remember the day I went to Steve Litchwall’s house, in seventh grade—maybe eighth grade. He was the best athlete in the middle school, and you know, the best athlete in middle school is the one who hits puberty first. [Laughter] That’s how it goes. And he did. He was 6’2”, we were all 5’5”, 5’3”. I was the point guard to bring the ball down and get it to Steve, and he’d score, and he was the most popular kid.

I got invited to his house. I found out as I was walking there his parents were gone. That’s why I was invited there. I’ll never forget, I walk in the house, and I’m the last guy. There were seven or eight guys, they all have a beer in their hand, as soon as I step in.

Bob: 13 years old—14?

Dave: 13. I’d made a decision, “I’m not going to drink.” I watched it tear apart my parents’ marriage. My dad would come back a couple times a year and he would get drunk and be angry. He wasn’t happy, he was angry—he was mean. So that was my image.

So I walk in there and they all have a beer, and the first thing Steve says is, “Hey, man! Open the fridge, get a beer.”

I remember thinking, “No! That’s not what I do.” But it was Steve Litchwall, and I had that junior high identity—you know, I wanted to be accepted, and I did. I went over, opened the thing. I’d never opened a beer in my life. I sat down, you know, “Everybody’s cool, man; everybody’s drinking a beer. Now I’m in.” I remember opening that thing and taking my first sip and going, “This is the worst-tasting thing I’ve ever—” [Laughter]

But of course, I just drank it and looked like I had done this my whole life, and that was the beginning of a lot of bad decisions related to alcohol, because when I look back I really didn’t know who I was.

Bob: What’s often behind these bad decisions that kids are making is an identity issue. “Who am I? What am I good at? Will people like me? Will I be accepted?” Talk a little bit about that. How do we build into our kids this sense of self that, “You don’t have to do these things that are going to be destructive in order to get the approval of your peers”?

Clarence: Well, we try to show them the long-term benefits of it. What we really like about the book is that there are questions at the end of every chapter, so when a young guy reads this book that’s written to him, now he has a chance to self-evaluate himself. “Where am I? Why am I where I am? If I want to make a difference, I need to—I know the right answers to these questions. What should I do?”

We think it’s a really good chance for them to evaluate themselves without having parental pushing or preaching at him, that he kind of sees where he is. We hope that the book really helps him—if they don’t have a good self-identity, that by the time they finish the book it will have helped them to have formed a good self-identity, who I am.

Part of self-identity, I think, is not self-worship, but self-worth.

Bob: I’m imagining a parent sitting down with a son and saying, “Here’s question number one. Have you ever been offered drugs or alcohol? Did you accept or reject the offer? What led you to make that decision?” If a dad’s going to ask his son that question, or a single mom’s going to ask, they have to be able to say, “You can be honest. You won’t get in trouble. I want to know,” and then they have to put on their “I’m not shocked” face with whatever the answer comes back.

Ann: But don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Yes.

Bob: If your son says back to you, “Yes, I’ve been offered drugs. Yes, I took them. It’s been more than once,” what do you do as a parent at that point, Gary? If you’re in that moment and you’re trying to steer your kid in the right direction and they’re being honest with you about, “Yes, I’ve gone there”?

Gary: I think, first of all, you express appreciation to them that they’re willing to be open and honest about it, and then you keep walking through the questions with them as they process that. At the end, “What do you think about this chapter and the statistics that are in this chapter as to what this does?” It’s a learning experience, I think.

Also, if it’s the father, the father might also be honest with his child, his young man—young son—to say, “You know, I made a similar mistake, and I’ve always regretted it. So you have to decide here. I’m not going to encourage you to continue down this road; I’m going to challenge you, because I didn’t stay in that road very long myself,” or maybe you did, and now you’re saying, “I regret that I did that.” It opens up conversation between the parent and the son.

Bob: Yes, the questions go on. “If you are using drugs or alcohol, why do you continue to do so? Do you have friends who are involved in drugs or alcohol? What can you do to learn from their choices? Would real friends ask you to risk harming your brain or going to jail for the illegal use of drugs? Have we influenced you positively or negatively with regard to the use of drugs? What would you like to say to us?”

Then, “Consider: when you make a decision to refuse alcohol and drugs, you become a leader, an influencer of others in a positive direction.” You can call young men up to be a leader for good rather than a leader—care more about pointing people in a good direction than being cool.

Ann: I like those questions, too, because I think kids are way more prone to listen when we ask a question than when we preach to them. I know that our adult sons have said that to me. “I wish, Mom, that instead of being so concerned about my actions you would have asked me the whys behind my actions and my temptations.” “What’s going on that’s making you feel pressure in this area?” Or he said, “I wish you would have gotten to my heart more.”

One of the things I really appreciated you bringing up in the book was you talked about technology. When you began your friendship in 1968—that was a very different time and culture when it came to technology—and now we’re in a whole different world, where I have especially moms saying, “I have no idea how to tackle this issue with my teens.”

You guys address that. How would you encourage, and what would you tell parents? Do we say, “Oh, bring somebody in and they can help you,” or do we talk about that as parents?

Clarence: When you’re talking about technology, I think you want to talk to them about how to use technology. “There are some really good things about technology, and we’re letting you have a phone so we can stay in communication, we know if you delayed practice or you have to stay after school or where you’re going to be,” stuff like that.

Technology’s really good for just stating facts, more so than anything else. But when you have to deal with a friend who’s disappointed you or betrayed you, then don’t write an emotional response through social media. That’s not really helpful, because sometimes we might say things we would not normally say if it was face-to-face or by phone. I think that helps them. I think they know that—but it’s really important.

I think the other thing with technology, if we’re going to talk about that, is the whole idea of sexting. I’ve talked to a lot of young people about that, and just the fact that, “Hey, if you take that picture, it’s never going away. Someone can find that picture. The other thing is about it, when you take that picture, your friends’ friends or peers are probably going to see that picture as well.” In some states, it’s actually a felony.

There was a guy who had a scholarship to a Division 1 school. He and his girlfriend took this picture of each other, somebody saw it they didn’t expect; he got put in jail for a night, and now he’s fighting to turn the felony into a misdemeanor so he can go to college. His world can be turned upside down—so there are some consequences when you deal with technology, I think, in a wrong way.

Gary: Yes, so in the book we really do try to emphasize, first of all, the positive aspects of knowledge and learning. I mean, it’s amazing what you can learn. All you have to do is just ask sometimes, and it tells you what to do if you get stung with a bee! [Laughter]

Ann: So true!

Gary: There are a lot of positive aspects there, but also—and particularly during these formative years—there are a lot of negative things. We deal with both of those. I think the fact that a young man will read this and see that we’re not really preaching at him, but we are saying, “Here are the good things. Let’s use these good things, but let’s avoid these pitfalls.”

Bob: One of the things I love about the book is that it’s Reader’s Digest-sized, and I guess there are enough people who remember Reader’s Digest to know the size I’m talking about. [Laughter] This is not something that’s going to be hard to go through. Each chapter is short—it’s concise—about 150 pages in the book. This is easily digestible. You knew that young men don’t necessarily sit down and read at home, so you wrote something that would be right to the point.

To go through these 11 decisions with a son or with young men in your church or young men on your team as a coach, or whoever God gives you influence over—this will be something that’s digestible, easy to accomplish. I think this is a gift to moms and dads, but a gift to the next generation, and we’re grateful that you guys have written it and grateful that you’d be here to talk about it with us today.

Gary: Well, thank you. We’ve enjoyed being here. We’re excited about how this book may help literally thousands of young men make wise decisions.

Clarence: I’m excited for the book, too, just in the step-parenting perspective, because stepfathers can actually go through this with a stepson and just build a relationship, without preaching. Gary and I can be the bad guys, and they can go through and just have their discussion, if they create a safe place for it.

Bob: Yes. Again, we have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us online at, or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. The book is called Choose Greatness: 11 Wise Decisions That Brave Young Men Make. Order at, or call to order at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”

I have to tell you, the conversation with Gary and with Clarence this week has made me kind of wish I could go back to when my boys were two and three and get started all over again and have some of these conversations more intentionally. David Robbins, who’s the President of FamilyLife, is here with us. You can do it! You can implement now what I only wish I could implement.

David: I have two boys that this book is squarely created for—I have a nine-year-old and a twelve-year-old. I’m really looking forward to reading through this book, having these 11 conversations. I do love having a book like this where there’s that neutral source, that other person who’s actually bringing things that I really want to talk about before us, and we can build trust around it and have a different type of conversation than when it’s me bringing up this idea.

I want to have these conversations, because I want to get to the heart. I don’t want to just do behavior modification, I just want to get into their soul and shape the character in a deep way.

My constant temptation, I feel like—like a lot of people, as a parent—is just to manage behavior and to mold the environment—to make it as peaceful and as easy as possible for us. That’s not parenting. Parenting is getting into the deeper places and—I’m looking forward to these conversations.

Bob: I’m hoping a lot of our listeners will join you on that journey, get a copy of the book and have these conversations with their sons.

Let me just also mention, if you’ve not gone through, as a couple, The Art of Parenting video series that we released a year ago—maybe grab some other parents who have kids the same ages as your kids and set aside eight evenings, over the next couple of months, where you can get together and go through this content. It will help you be more intentional and more focused as you raise the next generation.

This is something that we’re passionate about here at FamilyLife, and in fact, we’ve had some friends of the ministry who have come along during the month of August and said, “We’re excited about what you’re doing, not just with The Art of Parenting, but with the outreaches of FamilyLife Today, with everything that’s going on on your website.” These friends have agreed to help accelerate what we have going on here by making a half-million-dollar donation.

There is just one catch: in order for us to receive the half-million dollars from them, that money needs to be matched by FamilyLife Today listeners. So we’re asking you: Will you make as generous a donation as possible today, knowing that whatever you donate, your donation is going to release funds from the matching gift account and you’ll be helping us expand the work of FamilyLife as a result?

You can donate online at, you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. When you make a donation today, we’ll send you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book The Art of Parenting, a great resource for you to have or to pass along to folks who are in the middle of the parenting years. Again, make your donation online at, or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”

Now, tomorrow we’re going to talk about what can be a stressful time of life for young men and women. It’s that time when they head off to college, they begin navigating life on their own, maybe they’re getting jobs or starting military service. These can be times of stress and pressure, and Shelby Abbott’s going to join us tomorrow to talk about how we help them navigate the stress. Hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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