David Eaton and Melanie Mudge coach parents on how to talk to their kids about true freedom and explain why living without boundaries isn't freedom at all. They talk about how technology has made peer pressure virtually inescapable given how much unsupervised access teens have to each other through their smartphones.
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David Eaton and Melanie Mudge coach parents on how to talk to their kids about true freedom and explain why living without boundaries isn’t freedom at all.
Bob: Who is having more influence on your children today?—you as Mom and Dad?—the Bible?—or their peer group? Melanie Mudge says one of those voices is operating on steroids in our day.
Melanie: Peer pressure is, obviously, super powerful—I mean, we’ve all been there—but even today, it’s even more powerful; because that peer pressure is constantly buzzing in our pocket. It’s not just like—“Oh, I go to school; and I get this peer pressure from my friends to look this certain way, or do a certain thing, or be a certain way, or kiss this boy, or…”—whatever. It’s, now, constantly in their pockets.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 9th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine. How can we help our children care more about what God thinks than about what their peers think? That’s an ongoing struggle; right? We’re going to spend time talking about that today.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. There is a classic moment from the history of FamilyLife Today. In fact, we’ve played this not long ago. It’s that moment where your daughter was feeling completely trapped in the Rainey household. She felt like Mom and Dad were her jailers. You remember the story; right?
Dennis: Oh, do I remember it?! I lived it! [Laughter]
Bob: This was your daughter, Rebecca. She was out with a friend—
Dennis: —Christian friend.
Bob: —and she was complaining about all the rules and all of the boundaries.
Dennis: In fact, the Christian friend’s father used to work at FamilyLife.
Bob: The Christian friend’s daughter said to your daughter—
—said: “You’re just a caged bird. You just need to get the key, and let yourself out of the cage, and be free.” Your daughter was like, “Yes; that’s what I need!” She said, “I had no idea what that meant, but it just felt so right—that I should be free.” Of course, living in the oppressive Rainey household, we all understand why she felt that way. [Laughter]
Dennis: It was just terrible. We laugh about this today, and it was the saddest act I have ever seen of any childhood play.
Bob: She came to you and—[Laughter]
Dennis: Oh, she was in tears [falsetto voice]: “I just want to—I just feel like a caged bird! I just want out! I want out. You’ve just got me trapped.” Now, she’s a mother to six kids. So, she’s learning about freedom and about how to let the birds out of the cage.
Bob: And when not to let the birds out of the cage.
Dennis: Well, we’ve got a pair of folks, who work at Axis, which is a great ministry that’s been developed over the past decade to address the needs of teenagers—
—helping them connect with their parents/grandparents. David Eaton and Melanie Mudge join us again on the broadcast. Melanie/David, welcome back.
David: Thanks for having us!
Dennis: Let’s talk about this subject of freedom. Melanie, we were talking to you about “What are the issues today that young people are facing?” You said, “Freedom.” I said, “That’s kind of an old-fashioned term.” [Laughter] That’s been around for a while; hasn’t it?
Melanie: It has.
Dennis: What are you seeing kids struggle with today—teenagers, especially?
Melanie: I think it’s the definition of freedom: “What does it mean to be truly free?” Culture is telling them all the time that: “Freedom equals the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else.”
Dennis: —with no boundaries?
Melanie: —with no boundaries; yes. “Freedom equals no boundaries.” I think they think that’s what adulthood is too. They can’t wait to get out of the house; because then they can be free, and no boundaries, and do whatever they want; but that’s not the real world.
I mean, we all know, even if we don’t want to have consequences for our actions, they are still going to be there.
I think part of being an adult is realizing there’s no such thing as that kind of freedom. Real freedom is freedom from the power of sin in our lives, and it is freedom to live that abundant life; but they are not taught that. They hear this message over and over again from culture—that freedom equals the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want—and that’s what they believe it is.
Dennis: So, parents are listening—they are going, “I’m hearing this echo from my kids.” In fact, it’s starting at earlier and earlier ages today, I believe. What would you coach a parent—to do, to say, how to behave / how to talk to a child—so they don’t dismiss their desire to be grown up, to be older and responsible? We want them to grow up / we want them to be free of our control; but in the process of growing up, they’ve got to make some mistakes. They’ve got to make it while they’re at home so we can coach them how to handle it.
David: So, I love this G.K. Chesterton quote. He talks about how boundaries are created by God so that good things can run wild. I think, with freedom, there has to be this overarching goal of like: “God has made the world a certain way. He’s made you a certain way. So, I want to see good things run wild in your life.”
Bob: We were talking, earlier, about the Passport2Purity® resource that FamilyLife® developed many years ago. We actually developed a follow-up to that—parents were asking us for something—so, we came up with Passport2Identity™. The beginning of this—this is for 13-/14-year-old kids and their parents—but the whole premise at the beginning is: “A 14-year-old wants freedom, and Mom and Dad want you to have freedom at the right time. There is a connection between responsibility and freedom. There’s a connection between life management and freedom. So, as you demonstrate, as a young person, that you know how to handle responsibility and how to manage your life well, more freedom will come.”
But we start with the premise: “Your goal, as a teenager, and our goal, as a parent, is the same. We both want freedom for you. Now, we’ve got to figure out what’s the path from where you are today to where you want to get to.”
Dennis: And if you’ll send in a donation to FamilyLife Today for $50, Bob will come to your teenager and say just that. [Laughter] That was masterful, Bob! I was going, “Where were you when I was raising teenagers?” [Laughter]
Bob: Well, the wisdom comes after the kids are gone. [Laughter]
Dennis: Oh, it does! Now: “I have rehearsed the speech so many times.”
David, you’ve got a young daughter. You need to listen carefully—
Bob: —take notes.
Dennis: —to what he is saying.
David: I just am taking notes. I love that he also said—is the wisdom comes, oftentimes, in the do over; right?
David: You’re a grandpa now; and so, grandparents have this awesome opportunity to, maybe, fix some things that they did wrong. Oftentimes, when parents—of course, we see this, because we travel and we speak to a lot of parents—is where parents get so like frustrated and uptight of:
“My daughter keeps asking for freedom and like all this stuff. It’s offensive to me.” Grandpa or Grandma can slip in—they’ve got the long play—they’re not as offended in the now, and they can help kind of cultivate that bigger picture.
Bob: The thing about freedom that paralyzes us, as parents, is the culture is saying life is found in all of these things that we know, as parents, can be enslaving / can be damaging.
Bob: So, when our kids say, “We want freedom,” we go: “We’re afraid of what you’re going to go investigate,” or “…where that’s going to take you.” In fact, I heard about a dialogue taking place between some middle school kids recently; and they were talking about gender and sexuality. They were expressing kind of their sense of freedom—what that should look like. One of the kids was saying, “I think I’m probably 70 percent hetero and, maybe, 30 percent gay.”
This whole issue of fluidity in gender and sexuality is one of these areas where, when parents think about that and freedom, they go: “Uh-uh. No; I’m putting my daughter in a convent right now, and my son is going to a monastery.” [Laughter]
David: Well, I think whenever you hear that, the first thing you need to do is practice your “I’m not shocked,” face—so, just whatever that is. Right now—if you’re driving right now, and you’re hearing this; or you’re at home—just practice that “I’m not shocked,” face; because the next generation—it’s kind of normal where you just grow up and you might feel like there’s this 70 percent / 30 percent.
When we grew up—you know, I’m 34—it was just like, “You’re a boy,” or “You’re a girl,”—that was actually a gift that was given to me. It was like those were my options. Now, if you’re on Facebook®, you have over 50 options; or it’s LGBTQAIAA?—you know all of these different options. So, again, this is a byproduct of that idea of freedom.
Again, to come back and say, “Hey, God has made us in a certain way so that good things can run wild,”—is really great—I love that you went after that in Passport2Identity, because that is the question.
It used to be all about apologetics. Then, it was all about worldview. Then, it was all about “What is your story?” Then, it was all about spiritual formation, and habits, and liturgy. I mean, these are all things that we’ve kind of noticed at Axis over the years. Now, it’s the question of the soul or the question of identity: “What does it mean to be human?”—that’s the starting point, where I think I have the conversation about the gospel.
Bob: And it’s not a new question, because every 14-year-old who has ever been a 14-year-old has been asking the question: “What am I good at?” “How do I get people to like me?” “Where do I fit in this world?” “What am I here for?” All of those questions in middle emerge. People make life-shaping decisions, at the age of 14, based on a quest to understand their identity.
Dennis: And that’s what I want to ask you two to coach parents on—is how to handle peer pressure. Coach parents at understanding how lethal peer pressure really is with their teenager and how they should go about engaging with their teen without feeling like they’re trying to run off all their friends from them.
Melanie: Peer pressure is obviously super powerful—I mean, we’ve all been there—but even today, it’s even more powerful; because that peer pressure is constantly buzzing in our pocket. It’s not just like—“Oh, I go to school; and I get this peer pressure from my friends to look a certain way, or do a certain thing, or be a certain, or kiss this boy or…”—whatever. It’s, now, constantly in their pockets, telling them: “You need to be this way,” or “…pursue this thing,”— or whatever.
I think parents need to understand, first and foremost, whatever peer pressure there was before has now been magnified a hundredfold because of these devices that we have. Then, in order to talk about it with their teens, I think it’s not a matter of just telling them: “Hey, your friends are dumb,” or “They’re 12, and they don’t know better than me,”—because that could be the temptation—
—is just kind of be like: “This is ridiculous. How could you even think that that even makes sense?”
But really, it’s looking beneath the surface and saying, “Why is this pressure so powerful to my kid right now?” Maybe, it’s that pressure to start wearing makeup—that was my thing when I was a teenage girl—was I couldn’t wait until I got to wear makeup and wear name-brand clothing. That was huge, because my mom always went to Costco® and Walmart®. I was so embarrassed of my non-name-brand shoes.
I mean, she [mom] knows / she sees from her perspective: “None of this has any significance. It doesn’t matter,”—but, really, it’s understanding: “Why is this captivating to my daughter’s heart? Why is this thing so drawing to her? There is a reason why she wants this so badly, and it’s something that’s not going to fulfill her. So, how do I help her see that there is something better to pursue?”
Dennis: Help parents understand, though, what’s happening with the cell phone that’s buzzing in their pocket. I found that really interesting that you would call that peer pressure.
Most of us, as parents, think about face-to-face peer pressure and getting in a crowd; but it is happening 24/7.
Bob: And it’s Facebook-to-Facebook peer pressure; right?
David: There’s—you’ve got to realize there’s no safe place anymore. There is a job—social media gives you a job, as a student—where you are always on, always performing, always comparing, always feeling less than or hoping that you get likes.
One of your things—as you were talking about peer pressure, Dennis—is: “How can you create a safe place as a parent?” It used to be, hopefully, the home was a safe place. You came home from school: [Parent]: “Did you make the baseball team?” “Did the girl like you back?” “Did you pass the test?” [Student]: “Ah; here I am. At least, I’m at home; and now, it’s safe.”
But now, that you’re home, you have social media lights up. I think an opportunity for parents is to really figure out: “How do we create these safe moments?—these safe places?” Then, you have to approach it—I think three things that come to my mind are: experience, story, and blessing. You want to realize:
“Have you created the right experience in your home, or wherever you’re at, with your son or your daughter, where they feel safe?—where they feel like the conversation can happen?”
Bob: —where they don’t get the shocked face.
David: Right; right. Well, yes; so, they say, “Hey, I saw two girls making out at school today.” Practice the “I’m not shocked” face so you create the experience, where they feel safe enough to bring that up.
The second thing is—you’re going to hear things that you didn’t face. There are going to be a lot of times, where you have to remember, “Oh, this is what it felt like”; but how do you have that level of curiosity and that interest in their story to know: “How does it really feel like to live in a world with LGBTQAIAA—all these acronyms? How does it really feel to have social media?” So, to have that level of curiosity and listen to them is going to make them feel so loved. It’s going to help you understand how to insert the last thing, which is the idea of a blessing.
How can you, in conversations—not where you spiritualize things or force things in—but you’re trying to bless their vision of reality and realize:
“Yes; that really doesn’t lead to life,” or “Man, we really missed out on this,” or “Wow! You’re so amazing at that. I love how intuitive you are at figuring out that situation at school. I just want to bless that as a part of who you are.”
Bob: Melanie, I’m thinking back to your Costco tennis shoes. [Laughter] I’m thinking, “You didn’t really care what tennis shoes you were wearing—
Bob: —“what you cared was that you had the social approval.”
Melanie: Correct; yes.
Bob: That’s where the mom and dad need to be able to clue in and go: “What is the real desire behind what my kids are asking for? What’s the need that they’re really expressing?”
It’s not that: “I have to have these tennis shoes, because my feet will feel better,” or “…I will perform in an athletic function more efficiently.” It’s because: “If I go with Costco shoes, I sit at this table at lunch; and if I go with Jordan’s, I sit at the other table at lunch. I want to sit with the cool kids”; right?
Melanie: And “I don’t want to be made fun of anymore.”
Melanie: That was part of it too—especially in middle school—that was the time.
David: “I don’t feel safe.”
Melanie: Yes; “I don’t want to be made fun of.”
That is what is crazy about these devices—is it used to be just: “Who do you know?” and “Those are the people who can pressure you.” Now, it’s someone in New York City, who wears the coolest clothes, and posts online, and is on Instagram® and Snapchat®. That person can also pressure me to feel not good about myself or that I don’t add up. Peer pressure isn’t even really peers anymore—it’s just anyone’s pressure.
Dennis: Yes; I agree.
I want to go back to something you said, David. You ran through a list, LGBTQAIA—something or other. So, what do all those letters represent?
David: We live in a world with—our students are faced with all kinds of gender options. So, LGBTQAIAA—I’m trying to think of them all right now, off the top of my head. So, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Inter-gender, Agender. The last one, I want to—there’s a question mark for Questioning or Queer. The last one is A—which is Ally—
—so that means a straight person, who is an ally of other people who are same-sex attracted.
Melanie: You mean Assist-gender straight person.
David: Yes; Assist-gender, which is—
Dennis: See, now, that’s what we’re talking about.
David: This is why you sign up for The Culture Translator—right?—because it’s going to continue to change / it’s going to continue to get longer. You don’t want to spend your time just hunting this stuff down, online. We want to bring that to you.
Dennis: A parent needs to understand this; but secondly, a parent has to understand that their kids have a face to all these letters—
Dennis: —all these genders. They’re relating to these kids, as human beings.
David: That’s really good.
Dennis: How do they have convictions and, yet, still love? How would you coach parents to train their kids to have convictions and, yet, still be a person who has compassion, love, and grace toward others?
David: This is a super complicated conversation. We’ve actually made a conversation kit on gender. We worked with Sean McDowell, Josh McDowell’s kid, and John Stonestreet, as well, to kind of—
—because you have to make a larger case for gender, sexuality, marriage. You also have to realize: “What kind of world do we live in with this idea of freedom?” So, you have to redefine your terms.
One term that is really big and is really insidious is authenticity. Oftentimes, you say: “I want freedom—freedom to be authentically me. I’ve got to be true to myself. I’ve got to be me. I’ve got to do me.” There’s all these “Whatever floats your boat,” and all these things. Here’s a complicated thought—I think you’re going to love it: “Authenticity is the new hypocrisy,” / “Authenticity is the new hypocrisy.”
Let me unpack that. When you are authentic to a lie / when you are authentic to a false story, it is very similar to being a faker or a hypocrite. So, a hypocrite is someone who is acting their way. With this idea of: “I have to be authentic to my sin nature,” / “I’ve got to be authentic to my predispositions to anger,”—
—“…to rage,” “…to alcoholism,” “…to all of these things,”—if you’re being authentic to that, no one says that’s a good thing. “I’ve got to be authentic to my selfishness,”—no; we live in community, and we’re better in community than in isolation—we are made for that.
So, when someone says, “I’ve got to be authentic,” there’s this sneaky gospel big-picture moment to say, “You’re being authentic to a world that’s way too small.”
Bob: Kevin DeYoung, in The Art of Parenting video series makes the statement—he says, “That great theologian, Lady Gaga, is teaching, ‘I was born this way.’”
Bob: He says, “That’s part right.”
David: That’s so true; yes.
Bob: But he says, “What we miss is that we were born one way, but we’re to be born again another way.” That’s the point you’re making. Yes; we—authenticity says, “I’m going to be controlled by my sin nature.” Redemption says, “No; I’m going to have victory over my sin nature.” That’s the real me—
—is the one who defeats my passions and my enslaving, sinful desires.
David: —because I trust that God loves me, and He has good plans for me, and He has a better world where I’m going to become more fully human.
I think that’s the really interesting part that we live in; because it’s all about—in a world of freedom, as Melanie was talking about earlier—it’s all about happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy. The Bible says, “Happiness is great, but it’s secondary to holiness.”
Holiness is going to ground you. Holiness is going to allow you to enter into the core relationship with God and get that relationship right, first, so that you can have right relationships with others / so you can have right relationships with this world. Then, all of a sudden, you realize, “Life is so much more meaningful / has so much more depth.” They can handle the evil that seems confusing and insane in certain situations.
You can just say, in that moment: “You say you want to be authentic, but your world is just a little too small. There is a bigger, richer narrative for you to live into.”
Dennis: You know, we live in a culture today where the young people are taking the bait.
The bobber is going under this happiness bait that: “Live for yourself, and you’re going to be happy.” I think you guys pointed out in some of your research that 26 percent of the teenagers are struggling with depression compared to a population number of like 6 percent of adults. This is a group of young people who are being damaged by these choices.
As parents, we must do our job—as parents and grandparents—to be engaged with this generation / not allow them to push us out when we need to be in their lives. We need to love them—guide them / pick them up just like we did when they got an owie on their knee when they tripped and fell when they were three—help them deal with their owies, as young men and women, because they’re going to have them; and they’re going to have them, later on, as adults.
And I’m just grateful to God for you guys—that you are addressing the needs of parents, and teens, and grandparents today so they can better connect.
Thanks for your ministry at Axis, and I hope you guys will come back and join us again sometime.
David: We would love that.
Bob: Well, in the meantime, let’s encourage moms and dads to sign up to get The Culture Translator that comes out Fridays. You can sign up, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com—click the link you see there, and get all signed up to receive this free email each week that will keep you clued in as to what’s going on in the culture in which your teen is living.
We also have online resources that we’ve created, here, at FamilyLife to help parents and teens through what can be a turbulent season. We’ve got Passport2Purity / Passport2Identity. Dennis has written some books for parents of teens: Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date / Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys. What we’re trying to do, at FamilyLife, is create resources to help moms and dads stay on track as you guide your kids through these years.
So, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the resources that are available.
You can order from us online; or you can call to order—1-800-FL-TODAY is our number—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we want to ask you to pray today for what’s going to be happening this weekend in Montgomery, Alabama; in Norfolk, Virginia; and in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We have three of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways that will be kicking off tonight and be going through the weekend. Of course, our spring season is just now underway. There will be, over the course of the next several months, tens of thousands of couples who will be attending one of these weekend getaways for couples. Our prayer is that, during these weekends, couples will have their thinking realigned when it comes to marriage; and they’ll have the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time, just drawing closer together as a married couple.
The Weekend to Remember is just one of the ways that, as a ministry, we are seeking to effectively develop godly marriages and families. That’s our mission, here, at FamilyLife. Every time you donate to support this ministry, that’s what you’re helping to make happen. In addition to covering the costs of producing and syndicating this program, you’re helping with events we produce, the resources we create, our website, and all that we make available online. You make that happen when you donate to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
If you are a long-time listener and have never made a donation, or if it’s been a while since you’ve pitched in to help support this ministry, I want to challenge you to go, today, to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Make an online donation; or call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY; or you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today, PO
Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
And we hope you have a great weekend this weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend; and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we were going to talk about some of the questions that people have about love, and romance, intimacy in marriage, and how to answer those questions. Dr. Juli Slattery will be here with us. We hope you can be with us as well.
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 Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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