Steps to More Fulfilling Relationships With Teens
About the Guest
The teen years can be chaotic, especially if you have a prodigal. Moms Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock give parents some practical advice for building more fulfilling relationships with their kids. Roesner and Hitchcock encourage parents to first revisit their own childhoods to uncover any messages that might be be shaping their parenting currently. After that, parents can focus on teaching their kids how to respect others rather than feeling entitled to everything their hearts desire.
Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock give parents practical advice for building relationships with their teens.
Bob: People who live together need to learn how to respect and be aware of each other’s schedules. That’s something that parents need to learn how to teach their teenagers. Here’s Debbie Hitchcock.
Debbie: Too many times we think that something has to happen now. It’s immediate—you know, this child wants to go here, they want to do this, they want the sandwich—they start making demands. We get wrapped up because we want them to be successful.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. So, who is driving the schedule at your house? Whose life is revolving around whose? We’re going to talk about how you bring balance and mutual respect to your relationship with your teenager. That’s coming up today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think, if we had a roomful of moms and dads, who had taken kids through the teen years, we would probably have more moms and dads who would raise their hand if you asked the question: “Was there high drama in your house during the teen years?”—more who would say, “Yes,” than would say, “No”; don’t you think?
Dennis: Oh yes. In fact, I think that one of the support groups that needs to be functional in the church all the time is a group called POPS—Parents of Prodigals—because you can have a prodigal who lives with you in your house. A prodigal can start when they’re 12, 13/14. You don’t have to have a full-blown prodigal, who’s run away from home—as it talks about in the Scriptures—and going down to slop with the hogs as a young adult. You can have a child who just is pushing back against parents; at that point, parents need a support group.
They need other parents—who are also raising imperfect children—that create a safe place to talk about these issues.
The ladies who are with us today know all about creating safe places and also equipping parents in the midst of this to be able to handle some challenging days. Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock join us again on FamilyLife Today. Debbie / Nina, welcome back.
Debbie: It’s great to be here.
Nina: Thank you.
Dennis: Debbie and Nina give leadership to a ministry called Greater Impact Ministries. They live in Cincinnati, and they’ve written a book called With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens.
Bob: That’s a pretty good promise—40 days. So what are these 40 days going to look like?
Dennis: Yes; is this an absolute—
Bob: Is there a guarantee—money-back guarantee?
Dennis: “A” plus “B” plus ”C” equal?
Debbie: You know, you feel like you’re trapped in the ark with the smelly animals; right? [Laughter]
Dennis: What are you trying to do in your book, though, because you have broken this down into 40 topics.
You’re encouraging parents to both be reflective but also go on the offensive, and again, relate to children with respect.
Bob: And we just say—a lot of this is born out of—Debbie, your personal experience with a child who was a prodigal. We’ve shared a little bit about that already this week. If you’re sitting down with a parent, who is describing a situation like we heard Debbie describe this week, Nina, where do you say, “Here’s where we start in this process”?
Nina: Well, the first thing I do is I send her over to Debbie.
Nina: Honestly, because—I mean, our family has avoided a lot of situations because of the training that she and her husband have had. So, we’ve passed them off—the really tough cases go to her. The average parent dealing with a smelly teen or a difficult teen—I can handle, maybe.
Bob: Smelly or difficult?
Nina: Yes; yes.
Dennis: But what you’re talking about is that a parent does not need to be isolated.
Dennis: They need to be in relationships with other parents, talking about what’s going on with their kids, because I’m going to tell you—these are challenging days to raise young people.
Bob: Alright; so, Debbie, if you get one of these parents passed off to you—that Nina says, “This one’s deeper than we’re going to go,”—where do you start with them?
Debbie: I start by listening. You know, what happens is—we need to create a safe place for other parents.
Debbie: I will let them talk. Typically, they don’t want to talk a whole lot because, you know, they want to protect the child. I just start sharing a little bit of my story because, in that, there’s safety—there’s safety that says, “Oh, they won’t think I’m a terrible parent.”
Bob: Yes. Can we just be honest that moms and dads feel a sense of shame if they have a teenager who’s acting up? Even if they’re looking and saying, “I think we did the best we knew how to do,” they still feel like, “We must have done something wrong because, if we’d done it right, that kid would not be doing what that kid’s doing.”
Debbie: You have got it! It’s a situation where we, as parents, want so much for our kids to—you know, we want to be that perfect family. We want our kids to be in a place where they’re following the Lord / they’re part of this team that we have built. When you have that stray animal that just won’t get with the program, it’s difficult. You want to hide behind the mask because you don’t want anybody to know that, as a parent, you’re the imperfect one.
Bob: So you’re going to encourage them to open up and share their story and not be boxed in by shame; but honestly, as a parent, I’m just looking for the answers: “What’s step one? What do I do? When I leave you, what do I go home and do differently than I’ve been doing so we can start to fix this situation?”
Dennis: Well, where they start in the book is—you actually instruct parents to go back and do an inventory of their own childhood.
Debbie: Yes. The other thing we do is—we ask them to set aside the expectations for that child. What happens, as parents, is—you know, we have this ideal of what is going to be the perfect relationship, the perfect kid, the perfect whatever it is we want for that child.
What we need to do, as parents, is set expectations for ourselves: “What are we modeling?” because—when the kids often—you know, they are raising Cain because things aren’t going their way—are we marching up the steps with them as they start to slam the door, you know, yelling at them, going, “Don’t you talk to me that way!” because we’re upset / we’re frustrated; and we just want to control it.
Debbie: And that’s typically the stance we take.
Bob: Nina, why is going back and revisiting things from when you were a child—why is that a starting place?
Nina: We pick up things we don’t even know we’ve picked up from our parents / from our friends, as parents—there are so many things that are just deeply ingrained in us that we’re not even aware of. A lot of them are unhealthy habits of interacting that we have.
One of the stories I tell in the book is about coming home with one of my teenagers. He has some place he has to be—I think it was like a Thursday afternoon / it was in the spring. We pull into the driveway / garage door is going up, and he’s just ranting about how he’s running late—and you know, “I need to go right here,” and you know, “Go do what you need to do because we need to leave,” and “Make me a sandwich!”
He gets out of the car, and he slams the car door. I’m looking at him, going: “Wow! I don’t know who you are right now, and I don’t like how you’ve just spoken to me.” I’m a little angry because he was really disrespectful. I’m thinking, “How am I going to handle this?” So I went upstairs and I’m praying—
—I’m walking up the stairs and going, “God, what am I going to do with this thing?” I go in, and I got on my bed, and I started reading a magazine. He throws the door open to my room; and he’s like: “We’re running late! We need to leave right now! What are you doing, and where’s my sandwich?”
I looked at him and I said: “You know, baby, I love that you have all these neat things to do; and I really love being able to spend time with you and take you to places you want to go. I love doing that when you treat me with respect, and I’m happy to take you to the places you want to go when you treat me well like that because I’m a temple of the Holy Spirit. You know, we don’t speak like that to each other here.”
He’s like, “Okay; so—you’re not going to make me a sandwich?” I said, “That is correct.” He said, “So okay; so, okay, Mom—you’re right. I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have—
Dennis: He’s now thinking through that he may not get to go where he wanted to go.
Nina: Yes! Light bulbs, you know? He doesn’t drive! He needs something! He’s apologizing; and he says: “So, you’re right, and I’m really sorry. I won’t do that again.” I said: “Thank you so much for that, and you know what? I forgive you.” He’s standing there, and I look back at my magazine. He goes, “Well, so—are you going to take me?” I said, “You know what? You can go, and I’m not going to take you.”
He’s like, “Well, how am I going to get there?” I said: “This is not my problem. It’s your problem. I’m happy to do the things you want me to do when you treat me in a way that’s worthy of respect.” He says, “But you forgave me!” I said, “Yes, I did; and there are still consequences for behavior that’s not fitting with who we are as a family.” I said: “You can go, but I’m not going to take you. Maybe the next time you need something from me, you will speak more kindly; and maybe that’ll become more consistently part of who you are in dealing with me.”
He’s like, “Ah! Really?” I said: “Yes; really. And I love you, and I hope you have a good time.” He goes, “Well, can I walk?” I said: “Yes; yes—that’s fine; however you get there is fine.” I mean, the kid’s a Boy Scout; right? He’ll be fine! He’ll figure it out. He called the other parent—they came and got him. That was a choice she could make, you know. I had to deal with that on Sunday when I saw her at church—she was like, “How come you didn’t…” I said, “You know, I appreciate so much that you were willing to invest in that, and feel free to say, ‘No,’ anytime with the choices you make with my kids.” She was like flabbergasted. [Laughter] But, that was her choice. I made mine / she could make hers.
Dennis: Let me ask you a question: “If he’d come back to the room and said: “Mom, I really did blow it. Would you please take me where I need to go?” would that perhaps have opened the door to the possibility of you taking him?
Nina: If there had been no sign of manipulative intent there, I might have considered that. More likely he probably would have had a consequence to deal with, though.
Dennis: I think what I want parents to hear in this situation is that you really miss some opportunities to teach if you don’t draw the line and hold to it. It’s so built-in to a parent to rescue the child from the pain, and from the discomfort, and the inconvenience; but frankly, that was brilliant.
I wish Barbara and I had heard that before we kind of bent in the wind in the midst of those circumstances, where the child is trying to have a hostile takeover and get you to do what he or she wants you to do. It’s so easy to just—rather than put up with the pain it creates—just take him.
Nina: Right. Yes; it is. You know, when you get tired—you have more than one kid—you get so tired of the complaining, and the hormones, and the complaining, and the whining, and the complaining. Oh my; there’s so much of it!
Bob: Not to mention the complaining!
Nina: There’s so much complaining! [Laughter] They forget things because they’re hormonal, and not sleeping, and sleeping too much, and all this stuff.
Early on, I remember listening to a parent talk about: “Oh, and I had to run to school three times. She forgot this, and then I came home; and then she forgot that.” I’m thinking: “I’m not doing that—there’s no way! I am not that person. How is this person going to function as an adult?” That was one of the themes that Debbie had in a lot of our discussions is—you know, “You’re not parenting for this minute in this situation. You are thinking further out—further down the road.”
When my kids went to school, I said: “If you pack your lunch and you forget it, you get one freebie a semester. I will drive it there for you one time. After that, it costs you $5. You can make the decision. And by the way, it has to be convenient for me to be able to do that. I’m not always going to be able to bring you your lunch.” They went hungry—all of them did.
Bob: We had the same situation—not with lunches to school—but with rides to school.
We had one child who—it did not seem to matter how loud the alarm clock in his or her room was—this child could sleep through whatever the noise was. [Laughter]
Dennis: Bob, there’s a story in this book very similar to what you’re describing.
Bob: Is there? So with this child, there were a number of times when it would be the middle of first period before the child would arrive downstairs, ready to go to school. Well, the school bus time had already expired; right? [Laughter] That child had to learn: “There’s a transportation fee after eight in the morning if you need a ride to school.”
Dennis: And I know where you live—it’s too far for the kid to walk. [Laughter]
Bob: It’s not a walk-able deal. There was money coming out of that child’s pocket to get them to school.
I do think this idea of learning from consequences in a way that kind of drains the yelling and the emotion out—
Bob: —and saying: “You know, there are going to be consequences. It’s not because we don’t like you, and it’s not because we’re mad at you.”
Bob: It’s because—in our case, we knew this child was a year away from college. In college, when you sleep through the alarm clock, you sleep through the alarm clock—you missed the class; right?
Nina: Exactly—yes; yes.
Dennis: I have two points to make here. Number one, what Nina did at that point was she stayed out of the emotional mud-puddle. A teenager will win ten times out of ten / one hundred times out of one hundred if he can get the parent to get down into the emotional mud-puddle with him or her—arguing, debating, and going back and forth. They get you wrapped around the axle—you’ve lost.
Dennis: Okay. You did a perfect job of that—that one time.
Nina: Yes! I know—the one time; right? [Laughter]
The second thing I want to say—if there’s a listener / now, listen carefully—I could be responsible for helping you, as a listener, become a millionaire.
If you could invent an alarm clock that you can put outside of the Lepine’s home, the Rainey home, the other homes of teenagers as they grow up, that somehow make it beyond pain—
Bob: Yes, I have it; I have it. Forget noise. You want something that causes an electric shock to go off in the mattress [Laughter] so that the child cannot stay in bed without getting shocked. That will fix it—I’m convinced.
Dennis: No doubt about it.
Debbie: I have to tell you—the things that Nina and I talk about in terms of what happens in the home and the craziness of what we, as parents, have to deal with becomes unbelievable at times—especially when you have that difficult child because they think of things that have not even crossed your mind. If you are reacting to that rather than being proactive—you know, it’s kind of like you know it’s going to happen / you know something is going to happen; and so: “How do you train yourself to be quick to listen / slow to speak?”
We talk about “the pause button” because too many times we think that something has to happen now. It’s immediate—you know, this child wants to go here, they want to do this, they want the sandwich—they start making demands. We get wrapped up because we want them to be successful. It’s where the helicopter parenting comes in—
Debbie: —you know: “Oh, we have to get them into this school. So we have to help them with their homework / we have to help them do different things.”
Bob: We’re talking with Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock, who have written a book called With All Due Respect. It’s a book, by the way, that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of the book, or you can call us if you want at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Really, the overarching theme of what we’re talking about here today is learning, as parents, and teaching our kids how to be respectful in relationship with one another.
As parents, we think, “Yes; I’m going to teach my kids how to respect me because that’s—kids need to learn to respect their parents. There’s not a verse that says, ‘Parents, obey your children in the Lord’; right? But there’s the other one—so they need to learn how to respect me, and we’ll use the switch and get them doing that.”
You’d step in and say, “The switch may be appropriate at some points, but there’s a bigger principle of mutual respect in a family that’s huge.”
Nina: Yes; because when they get freedom, and when nobody’s watching, they will be the person that they are. If they’ve been allowed to grow up and be individuals and separate their identity from Mom and Dad in a healthy way—then they will know who they are and then will not look to others for that identity. They will already have that person affirmed within them because of how their parents treat them and their relationship with God.
Dennis: You mentioned the key word that—almost like the old TV show, Bob—Groucho Marx, where you said the magic word—
Bob: [Imitating Groucho Marx]Say the secret word, the duck drops down, and you get $50.
Dennis: —it drops from the ceiling. Some of our listeners go, “What are you talking about?” That’s from a foreign country. Well, some of us, who are as old as dirt, remember that television show. [Laughter]
But you just mentioned the word, “identity.” It made me just think about a great resource FamilyLife’s just produced for parents that will help them do the very thing you talked about. We’ve created a resource here called Passport2Identity™. In fact, Nina, you actually took your daughter through Passport2Purity®, which is for ten-, eleven- / twelve-year-olds, prior to adolescence.
Dennis: You had a good experience with that.
Nina: We had a great experience. We had just the most wonderful weekend, and we’re still seeing—years later, we are seeing the benefits of that weekend.
We’re on the same page with who she is in Christ—how her interactions with the opposite sex / what she wants those to be—how she wants to honor God with her body, and she has a deeper level of understanding the influence of the culture as a result of that. We recommend it highly on our website as well—it’s awesome.
Bob: And your daughter heard about Passport2Identity and she was the one who said, “Can we do that?”—right?
Nina: Yes; yes. So I came groveling, as part of the interview today. [Laughter]
Bob: And we’re happy to reward you for being here, and you’ll let us know how the weekend goes with your daughter?
Nina: Yes; yes, we will.
Dennis: And you know, here’s what teenagers need—they may not be able to express it like your daughter is—who can come forth and say, “Mom, would you get that so we could go do that?” Teenagers today desperately need moms and dads to be connected, stay connected, and build bridges into their lives to help them handle some of these issues—I mean, issues of sexual identity, emotional identity, how they’re relating to their peers and maintaining their own sense of personhood—all demands biblical training, which Passport2Identity reallytees up, like a golf ball, for the parent to be able to deliver the message.
We want to make the parent the hero here, Bob, because that’s what the kids need today. They need a parent who is assuming their responsibility in the life of the child to help them really handle some of these difficult issues.
Bob: Yes; and here’s what’s cool—we’re starting to hear back from parents who, this summer, have taken a son or a daughter on a Passport2Identity getaway. What we’re hearing is that this resource enabled them to have some very significant / very meaningful conversations with a son or a daughter that probably would not have been had if it weren’t for the time away together and the tool, Passport2Identity, opening up a subject and giving you something to talk about together.
You can go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about the Passport2Identity resource. There’s still time this summer, or even into the fall—get a weekend where you go away together to watch a football game or head off for a getaway weekend somewhere and listen together to the audio for Passport2Identity. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information and to order from us online, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Of course, we also have copies of the book we’ve been talking about today, called With All Due Respect. At the end of the day, what we’re really talking about is the importance of a strong, healthy relationship between a parent and a son or a daughter. Respect is a key part of what makes a relationship a healthy relationship. Order a copy of the book, With All Due Respect, from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more about the teen years and especially about technology and how that can affect relationships and respect. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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