What Every Teenager NeedsAugust 2, 2007
Dennis Rainey talks with youth experts Michael and Hayley DiMarco, authors of the book "Not-So-Stupid Parents," about the very real needs of the typical teenager.
Dennis Rainey talks with youth experts Michael and Hayley DiMarco, authors of the book "Not-So-Stupid Parents," about the very real needs of the typical teenager.
What Every Teenager Needs
[Bob Dylan sings "The Times They are a-Changing"]
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You know, I hear that, and I think I was almost a teenager when that song was written and when it was first being sung, and it sounds different when you're a teenager than it does when you're a parent, and you've got teenagers of your own at home.
Dennis: You know, Bob, what you're talking about there, I think, ultimately spawned a cultural revolution that parents did not anticipate and, frankly, have been playing defense about ever since.
Bob: Yeah, we haven't recovered from it yet, have we?
Dennis: I don't, I think that put parents with their backs against the goal line, against a generation, and we not only grew up out of that, many of us, to become parents, but we didn't become astute as to what took place and as a result of that we didn't say, "You know what? I'm going to become a counter-cultural, biblical parent," and in the process of becoming a biblical parent, you go across the grain of the culture, and you do understand the need for children today to have parents who are authorities worthy of respect, worthy of honor, who have a relationship with their children.
We have a couple with us who give leadership to a ministry called Hungry Planet – Michael and Hayley DiMarco. Michael is the CEO, and Hayley is the Chief Creative Officer, and together they are a pair of barnstorming, creative, edgy authors and speakers helping teenagers and parents know how to cope with one another. Welcome back to the broadcast.
Hayley: Thank you.
Dennis: How's that for an …
Dennis: Yeah, really.
Michael: You left out "janitor" in my title.
Dennis: Yeah, well, I understand how that works. They've written two books. One to teenagers called "Stupid Parents."
Bob: I just wonder here, did you even think about dorky parents instead of stupid parents as a title? Did you play with that as a concept?
Michael: No, because there are so many things that parents do wrong, in their teens' eyes, that are so far from dorky.
Bob: Well, I'm just looking at the picture on the cover. I'm going, "That's dorky if I've ever seen it right there, you know?
Dennis: The other book is for parents, and it's entitled, "Not-So-Stupid Parents." Both are pretty edgy, and we talked earlier, Hayley, just about what parents do that causes them to be stupid in their children's eyes. One of the things I really like about your book to the teens is you have this voice in here of this person who is offering advice, and I'm trying to find him here in your book.
Hayley: Mr. Obvious?
Dennis: Mr. Obvious, that's it. Mr. Obvious is constantly – you could kind of feel him, as you go through the book – and I’m not a teenager, obviously, but it's kind of like, now that's pretty cool. Because Mr. Obvious steps into the book, he puts his arm around the teenager, and he goes, "Let me tell you how you can help your parents no longer nag you about the chores." And he almost sounds a little bit like "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." You know, he has a calming effect on the teenager …
Michael: With a hint of sarcasm.
Hayley: Slight hint.
Bob: A little edge to him.
Dennis: Are you finding that Mr. Obvious is affecting any change in teenagers around the country?
Hayley: Well, yes, at least I can make them laugh in the midst of their crying over what their parents are doing to them in their lives. But, yeah, that's one of the beauties of these books is I think that they're blatantly obvious.
A lot of people aren't saying the obvious, so if your parents are nagging you, as I'm talking to the teenager, about not getting something done because they've been asking you forever, then just do it.
Bob: You're really assuming, with both of these books, that you've got a situation where a mom and a dad or maybe it's a stepmom, stepdad, or maybe it's a single parent, and a teenager or some teenagers, there's just – communication has shut down, and they're not getting along, and they're not seeing eye-to-eye. These books are designed for when that's the situation at home, right?
Hayley: Right, right, and in all varying degrees. It might be they're ready to run away, or it just might be that they're not cleaning up their room. You know, all of it can be a problem for parents, so yeah.
Dennis: But you're trying to give teenagers and parents a common language where they can begin to talk with one another so they can connect with each other.
Now, Bob, didn't Forrest Gump say something about stupidity.
Bob: [as Forrest Gump] Stupid is as stupid does? Something like that, I think.
Dennis: Well, Mr. Obvious sounds a little bit like Forrest Gump when he says, "Stupidity is a forgivable offense." That's a good word. And you say that to teenagers to help them remember that a parent can make a mistake, a parent can appear stupid, but you have a responsibility to forgive them.
Hayley: Right, that's what you hear a lot from teenagers is "I just can't forgive them for what they did. I can't forgive them that they wouldn't let me go there or that they didn't understand why I needed this or that they wouldn't listen to me when I was emotionally hurt."
There's a lot of things that parents can do that are stupid, but if the teenager can't get beyond it and forgive them, then they're going to continue to just live under that horrible agony of whatever the parent did.
Michael: And the other thing is, in the book for adults, Hayley communicates to the parent that while stupidity is a forgivable offense, it also can be a fence in between communicating with your teen.
Bob: It can be something that we ought to learn how to correct so that we can have a closer relationship with a teenager.
Dennis: Speaking of relationships, Hayley, you talk about the number-one complaint that teens have when it comes to communicating with their parents.
Hayley: I think that probably their number-one complaint, which might, at first blush, not seem to relate to communicating, but it does – is time; is getting their attention.
When it comes to communicating, you can't just determine that, out of the blue, after not talking to your child for perhaps a week because you haven't run into each other, that you're going to ask them about an important relationship in their life, and that they're going to be transparent about it.
Dennis: Or – or – you can't just decide, "Sit down, son, I'm going to give you a lesson and lecture 334 in my series that I'm going to give you.
Hayley: Right, and expect that they're going to listen or even respect you for what you're saying.
Hayley: They're very insightful as to who you are, as an adult, and they want you to practice what you're preaching. If you come at them and say, "I care about, and I love you, and I want this in our relationship," if you haven't been acting like that by giving them time, by listening to their mundane stories by driving them maybe where they need to go, by just being there in the house when they're in the house, then it's going to be a lot harder when it comes time for you wanting more.
Bob: Do you remember, there was a TV campaign – commercials – I think they were public service commercials to try to promote parents being more involved so kids don't get involved with drugs. And these commercials were slice-of-life commercials, where the teenager is getting ready to leave the house, and the moms goes, "Hang on, where are you going?" And the teenager is rolling her eyes and going "Unhhhhh," you know, and every parent has been there where you're with your child, and you're asking questions, and they're going, "Just leave me alone, don't you trust me?" And all of these kinds of things.
The whole gist of this campaign about keeping your kids off drugs was press in, be there, ask the questions, and don't worry if your child acts annoyed. That doesn't mean be annoying, it just means stay with it and don't back down as a parent.
Hayley: That's right.
Michael: There's one little footnote in the job description of being a parent that does involve some stupidity, at least in the teen's eyes, and it's those moments where the parent does press in and does ask what seems to be the obvious questions or the interfering or embarrassing questions but that keeps them the parent instead of just the landlord or the laundry service.
Dennis: Yes, and I want to encourage parents – endure the stupidity. Go ahead and play the card because you've got to insert yourself into your child's life.
What you can't do as a parent is constantly be playing the card every time you're with them. As a parent, I've had other friends in conversations minister to me, as a dad, in ways they'll never know, by just advising me, "You know, Dennis, with your kids, just enjoy them, just go hang out with them, go shoot buckets, go play catch, go play a video game with them, go for a walk, take a drive with them, go somewhere and don't feel like you have to achieve an objective."
I think in this busy culture with some of us who are bottom-line, type A personalities, we're looking at, you know what? I'm going to move this thing forward with this teenager, they're moving out of our house in 722 days, and it's time for this lecture on this subject. We've got to check that off, got to keep it moving when, many times, you just need to go enjoy one another and, truthfully, I could have used someone coming alongside me – like your books – come alongside me.
It just reminded me, you know, it's not all about offloading the dump truck every time you're with them.
Bob: Yes, and if you want them to hear lecture number 344, you need to have some recreational time that's built the platform for that to happen, right?
Hayley: Dr. Bill Harley talks about this concept in his book, "His Needs, Her Needs," which is a relationship book for marriage but, still, it can be applied. He talks about our bank accounts that we have with one another, and these deposits that we put in when we spend time with one another, when do loving things for one another, and in "Stupid Parents" I call it the "trust account."
The more time you put into your child, the more currency you put into your trust account, the more they'll trust you with their lives and what's going on. So it's important, like you're saying, to just spend time making deposits in that account instead of just always making withdrawals.
Bob: Back in the summer of 2006, we had a wedding that was planned in our home, and I knew that in that time leading up to that wedding, other children were going to be neglected – just – one of the reasons I think I knew it is because …
Dennis: You'd watched Barbara and me?
Bob: No, it's because my 17th birthday occurred on the night of my sister's rehearsal dinner.
Dennis: So you'd experienced it.
Bob: Yeah. Here I am, I'm 17. I think they may have had a cake for me, but I was not the center of the party on my 17th birthday. It was Julie's rehearsal dinner. So I knew that was going to happen.
So I had planned that after the wedding, I was going to take a day off work and take the boys, and we were going to the amusement park – we were just going to go ride rollercoasters for the day. And I remember, as we got to it, the oldest son was still trying to weigh whether that was really how he wanted to spend that day – you know, going with his dad and his brothers to the rollercoaster thing, and some of his friends might be doing something that's even cooler, you know?
And I was getting a little torqued at all of this, right? You know, I've planned this, I've taken a day off, I'm getting ready to spend the rollercoaster money – it's not that I'm dying to go upside down on the corkscrews myself. This is all sacrifice on my part, and you're not appreciating it, kid.
Well, it turned out that there was nothing better going on. We had a good day, and we didn't try to accomplish lecture number 344 in that day, and I remember reading on his blog later, you know, "I had a pretty good day with my bros," with his brothers riding rollercoasters, and you come back from that and say you've got to have those times. You've got to be intentional, you've got to build that stuff in if you want parenting to work in a holistic setting.
Hayley: You know, it's interesting the comment you made about, "Well, I planned this, and now he might not want to do it." You were feeling hurt – you were going to be a little bit hurt if he wouldn't go.
Hayley: That's something I think we have to watch out, as parents, is not allow ourselves to be hurt because our child might make another decision besides us. As long as we hold that against them, and we become angry, and then we're mad at them, and then we can't forgive them, and it just really mucks up how they feel about us.
Bob: Yes, that's a good point.
Dennis: And what we have to remind ourselves, as parents, is they are still children. They have not emerged into adulthood. They're going to be angry sometimes, and they don't even know what they're angry about. And so it may not be Bob's getaway where he gets the pushback around what he's taking them away to do it's just, you know what? They just want to be alone.
Bob: You know, as I think back on it, it wasn't that there was something going on with other friends, it was that I wanted us to leave at 9 to get to the amusement park, and Jimmy was going, "We're getting up at 9?"
Hayley: That's right, an awful hour for a teenager. Are you kidding?
Bob: Well, maybe I just won't go if we're getting up and leaving that early.
Michael: How about 3 p.m. That's more the wakeup hour on the weekends.
Bob: Oh, man, it's driving me crazy.
Dennis: No doubt about it.
Michael: You know, Bob, you mentioned something that you got on your son's blog and read about …
Bob: This is how primary communication occurs around our house.
Michael: That's right, third party …
Bob: Blog to blog, baby.
Michael: From Internet point to Internet point, but teens always want to feel understood by their parents. They want to feel that their interests and their aptitudes are validated. So when a parent comes and says, "You can't have a blog," or "you can't have an online community account like MySpace or Zanga or something like that," because the Internet is evil. Then that's when a parent loses, once again, another opportunity for communication on the teen's level.
Bob: Let me give a couple of blog tips, though, because we have opened this up, and our kids have had Zangas and MySpaces and FaceBooks, and some combination – they're telling us about the distinctions between the different ones, all of that, but one tip I'd have is, as a parent, if you read stuff on your kids' blogs that causes you to freak out a little bit, you better decide when it's time to play that "I've been reading your blog" card.
Most of the time, we don't talk about what I read on your blog. We want to create the illusion that you're still out there in cyberspace unsupervised, right?
Michael: It's very much like blowing your cover.
Michael: That is your secret operative.
Bob: So the only time I tip my hand is if there is something that really is concerning here?
Dennis: Well, but, here's the thing – you may read something that concerns you. You don't have to play the card of saying, "I was reading on your blog."
Bob: Good point.
Dennis: You can slip around the issue and come in harmlessly through another door …
Bob: Just to ask an innocent question.
Dennis: Ask a question, and then listening and then begin to hitchhike and begin to go there and say, "You know, that friend of yours you're hanging out with, how are they doing?"
Bob: Yes. The other blog tip I have here, and this came to me later – as I started realizing I was not only reading what was on my kids' blogs and learning a lot about them and their life and what was going on, I thought, "I bet they'd read mine." So I've got my own little Zanga page here, and I type stuff that is – it never says, "Dear Sons and Daughters," but, I guarantee you, that's who I'm writing for, and I'm saying stuff like it's just – I'm saying it to the universe, and they're reading it like Dad was saying that to the universe but, hopefully, they're understanding that I'm having a little talk with them.
Michael: It goes right back to that point of modeling what you want your child, for your teen, how to live. If you're writing these things to the world and not just saying it to them, then it just improves your authenticity.
Dennis: And while we're talking about the Internet, I was talking to a dad the other day who is raising some children who are emerging into the teenage years, and he has surveillance software that gives him a snapshot of the places his teenagers are going …
Bob: You betcha, you betcha, I've got that, too.
Dennis: And it e-mails him pictures of this, and he can also use that same surveillance software to be able to look over the shoulder and see what kind of communications they're having. And he's been honest. He's told his teenagers he was going to do that in advance. He laughed, though, and he said, "You know, I think they've forgotten. I think they've forgotten that I'm looking at it, and he said, "Man, do I learn a ton of stuff about the peers and the friends that my children are relating to."
And so here is a place where parents definitely do not need to be stupid, because the Internet can be a very dangerous place, and parents don't need to think of this democracy that we live in, like, kids have all these rights, and that parents shouldn't have the right to be able to look over their shoulder at what they're communicating.
When I was raising our daughters, toward the end they were off on instant messaging, and I'd stop and just look over their shoulder and, you know what? It was amazing what I could learn in that period of time.
I remember one time one of our daughters was typing back and forth to a young man who lived in Atlanta, and he referred to her as "Sexy Thang," t-h-a-n-g. And that was his nickname for her, and I said, I spoke to this particular daughter, I said, "Get up out of your seat for a second." I sat down at the computer …
Michael: This is Sexy Thang's daddy.
Dennis: I did, that's exactly what I typed. I said, "This is Sexy Thang's daddy, Mr. Rainey. I would appreciate you referring to my daughter with terms of a little more dignity. She is a gift from God for some man someday. Thank you."
And you could almost –
Michael: Smiley face.
Dennis: Yeah, yeah, hit the smiley face, that's right, put a little humor in there. You can't just be all authority in these deals, and I remember there was a pause before that message came back both for my daughter, me, and the young man, and it was, like, "Okay, Mr. Rainey, sorry." And he cleaned up his act, and if he's the wrong kind of guy, go away. If he's the right kind of guy, he can take an instructive comment like that.
Michael: All of this comes back to the main theme of the "Stupid Parents" that Hayley has written in that parents are to teach their teens how to live under authority, and if the teen goes and – goes to college and gets a job and works for a corporation and starts sending out e-mails or doing something on the company computer, that employer can monitor the e-mails going out, the e-mails belong to them, the Internet traffic belongs to them.
So it's really a life lesson in what the world is like living under authority.
Dennis: And what you guys have sought to do is come alongside parents and – almost like a pair of coaches helping them understand their teens and, at the same time – and this is what I like about this – is you've got a companion book for the teenagers called "Stupid Parents," which puts your arm around the teenager and helps the teen kind of interpret the behavior of their parents.
Parents did not intend on becoming stupid. There's just a passage of life that you go through as a youngster where your parents are going to start taking these stupid pills just like my parents did and just like I grew up to take, and my kids were convinced that I took those pills as well.
And what teenager and what parent doesn't need the help today, because this is a pretty tough culture to raise teenagers in.
Bob: I just want to know how much do you have to pay guys to dress like this, get their picture taken, and be in a book called "Stupid Parents." I'm not sure– you know, that's kind of like the ultimate insult for anybody who is a model right there.
You've done a great job of communicating both with teens and with us as parents in these two books and, again, we've got them in our FamilyLife Resource Center. If anybody wants to see the picture I'm talking about, you can go to our website at FamilyLife.com. Click the red button that says "Go," what you see in the middle – it's not right in the middle of the screen, it's actually on the right and down near the bottom, but you'll see it. It's a red "Go" button. You click that button, it will take you to the area of the site where there is more information about both of these resources and, again, the website is FamilyLife.com.
You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information. Someone on our team can let you know how you can get copies of these books sent out to you. The phone number again – 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY or, again, there's information online at FamilyLife.com.
Let me ask you a question – are you the kind of person who likes a good challenge? The month of August, for us, is the end of our fiscal year here at FamilyLife. We wrap up the books, start a new fiscal year in September, so we've got just a few week to go before we are done with our financial or our fiscal year.
And this summer, we've had listeners who have been contacting us either online at FamilyLife.com, or who have been calling 1-800-FLTODAY and in addition to making a donation to the ministry, they have been joining with our 2007 Challenge Fund.
The way this works is when you make a donation you also issue a challenge to folks like you. It may be folks who live in your part of the country, folks who are involved in different recreational activities or hobbies or sports, folks who have certain occupations or who go to certain churches. These folks have been not just making a donation, but they've been challenging other people like them to help contribute to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
So bicycle riders are challenging other bike riders to contribute to the ministry, or folks who are regular runners are challenging other runners to give to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. And this Challenge Fund is something that we're hoping will help us end our fiscal year in a good place financially.
So can I encourage you, during August, if you are able to make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we would appreciate that, but we also want you not just to make a donation but to think about who you'd like to challenge to join you in making a donation. You can then call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone and issue your challenge there, or go online at FamilyLife.com.
As you fill out the donation form, there is a place there where you can type in your challenge for other listeners, and then we'll spread the word and see if we can't get other folks to join with you in making a donation to FamilyLife Today.
We appreciate your listening, and we appreciate your financial support during the month of August. We appreciate your participating in the 2007 Challenge Fund.
Well, tomorrow we're going to be back with Michael and Hayley DiMarco as we continue to look at how we can improve our parenting IQ, and do a better job with our teenagers, and we hope you can join us for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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