What to Do When They Fall
Our children will fail at times, just like we do. Brian Housman, father of two, talks with parents about how to handle the moral failings of their children. Housman shares what he did when realized his teen son had been viewing pornography.
About the Guest
Brian Housman talks with parents about how to handle the moral failings of their children. Housman shares what he did when realized his teen son had been viewing pornography.
What to Do When They Fall
Bob: Guess who really doesn’t want you to raise godly children? Brian Housman says there is an enemy, and he’s got a lot of strategies that he employs with parents.
Brian: The primary objective of the enemy for us, as a parent, is to constantly knock our legs out from under us, to make us think we will never be better than we are today; that we will always be a failure as a parent--as a mom, you’re just always going to yell; as a dad, you’re always going to be short with your kids—that you’ll never somehow become more like Christ.
We’ve got to cling to that promise in Philippians that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until Christ comes back again.” That’s a promise from the Lord that, even when you feel like a failure, the Holy Spirit is still transforming you just as He’s transforming your child.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
How can you continue to be aware of the strategies of the enemy as you seek to raise your children? We’re going to spend time thinking about that today with Brian Housman. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I guess I didn’t realize our guest this week was just as libertine as he is. He never scolds his kids; never grounds them. [Laughter] Never does. . .
I’m just kidding!
Bob: I’m just kidding!
Dennis: Well, Brian Housman does join us again here on FamilyLife Today. Before I introduce him to our listeners, I just want to say “thanks” to Legacy Partners. I just want to say “thank you” for making broadcasts like these. We’ve had a great conversation this week with Brian around how to approach discipline with your children, and what the end game is for a parent. How should we view this whole assignment of parenting with our kids?
I just want to say “thanks” to Legacy Partners for making it possible.
Bob: Legacy Partners are the folks who, each month, will make a contribution to help cover the costs of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. We are grateful for our Legacy Partners, and we’ve just recently added some new ones and so it’s always good to have new Legacy Partners joining the team.
Dennis: It is! And if you haven’t heard previous broadcasts that we did with Brian Housman, we did a series that was just outstanding from his book, Tech Savvy Parenting; a great resource for knowing how to handle this digital age as parents (plenty of great thoughts to equip you as a parent). He has come back again, and he’s written another book called How You Always Meant to Parent.
Bob: And I was just kidding when I said that you don’t ever discipline your kids. You are very focused on wanting to make sure that the relationship with your son and your daughter is kept primary and that you’re not doing anything to sabotage or undermine that relationship.
Any discipline that would do that is wrong-thinking discipline, right?
Dennis: But it doesn’t mean, by the way—because I can hear some parents who might hear that statement and say, “Well, then that doesn’t mean I should ever. . .”
Bob: “That means all discipline is bad.” And you’re not saying all discipline is bad.
Brian: No, we are commanded to discipline, just as the Lord disciplines us. But the Lord disciplines us in the context of a relationship with Him, not as an authoritarian, far-removed figure that just comes in to zap us with lightning bolts.
Bob: You don’t want to be the drill sergeant dad.
Bob: You don’t want to be the police dad who is just coming along and slapping the handcuffs on your kids. You want to make sure your kids know, “Dad loves you, but there are some things that just aren’t going to work around here that you may want to do.”
Brian: Yes, yes.
Dennis: The Bible is about boundaries.
Dennis: And, in fact, I keep thinking back, as we’ve been talking this week, about King David and his son, Absalom. It’s said that at the end of his life, looking back, Absalom was a spoiled brat as an adult.
It said the reason was, “His father David had never pained him.” He had really not disciplined him around the consequences of violating boundaries that had been established. At the end of his life—well, it cost him his life, it seems, a bit early, because he hadn’t obeyed and hadn’t been trained in discipline.
Bob: Brian, one of the areas that you address in your book as it relates to parenting is how we help our kids when they fall, and when they fail. Kids are going to mess up, and you believe this is a critical place for mom and dad to engage and to approach that failure or that fall in the right way.
Brian: Yes, there are several different kinds of failings that our children are going to go through. All of our kids are going to have failings in their life.
Just like when you’re trying to teach your child how to ride that bicycle, and, you know, you go out in the front yard. For my kid, it was when we finally took the training wheels off and, I remember, I had my hand on the back of the seat, and I was instructing Bailey where to go, how to do it, how to steer; everything. And he went about ten feet, and he rears his head around because he realizes my voice has gotten further and further away, and when he reared his head around, the handlebars turn, and he crashes into the curb.
So I come running over and I pick him up and he looks up at me and he says, “You lied to me!” I said, “Why?!” He says, “You said you would not take your hands off of the bicycle!” (Because he’s a very cautious kid.)
Brian: I said, “You’re right, Bailey, I did; but I had to take my hands off of the bike, because you’ve been watching me do it and it was time for you to learn to do it on your own.” I said, “Okay, let’s get up! Let’s get back on the bike.” He says, “Oh, no! I’m done.” I said, “No, no! You can’t be done, or you’ll never have the joy of being able to ride a bike around the block by yourself.”
So, you know, he didn’t want to, but I put him back on the bicycle, and we did it again. You know, this time he goes fifty yards and he crashes. Sure enough, just like your child, they’re going to crash half a dozen times before they finally make it down to the end of the street, but once they do, then you get to celebrate that win! You know, you don’t get to celebrate until they go through all of those failings.
Some of those failings our kids are going to go through are things like unprovoked circumstances—they’re just life experiences that happen. Maybe, you know, your kid has been waiting to finally get onto the competitive soccer team and then you get a job promotion and have to move. Now they don’t get to be on the team, and they have to leave all their friends behind.
It was nothing bad that they did; it’s just a hardship that they’re having to go through, and we get to partner with them in it. Either we can partner with them by saying trite things like, “Well, buck up camper! It’ll be okay,” or “Things will be better tomorrow,” or we can choose to say, “You know what? I’m going to be with you in this!”
Some of those failings are things like unmet expectations; maybe that you’ve always, as a dad, dreamed of your kid playing high school football, and he tried and he tried and he tried, but he’s ridden the bench every single game since seventh grade. Everything in you wants to go to that coach and say, “Man, you don’t understand how good my son is!”
Or maybe the teacher that you feel like is never quite fair to your kid--you want to go to that teacher and reprimand them instead of helping your kid understand that sometimes we’re going to work hard and things just don’t work out in the end.
But I think the hardest failings for us as a parent aren’t those. It’s the moral failings our kids go through, and us figuring out, “How do we partner with them in their moral failings?” Because you better believe that God partners with us. He comes down into our muck and mire, which is really a picture of what Jesus did, right?
When God says, “I’m so desperate for you to understand my love for you as my creation that I’m going to send my only Son to come”—that’s what the whole book of Philippians is about, that He took on the very nature of a servant. He came down into our brokenness and into our shame, so we’re going to model, as a parent, what Christ did for us by me coming into my child and meeting them in their sin as well.
Dennis: You know, I so like what you’re talking about. I am thinking of the book I’m holding in my hand. I’m sorry, Brian; it’s not yours. [Laughter] It’s the Bible.
Brian: A little more authoritative.
Dennis: Yes, a little more authoritative. I’m thinking: what is this book about? Is it mostly about people’s successes?
Brian: Oh, no!
Dennis: Or is it mostly about how people failed and how they responded to failure.
Dennis: It’s how God tutored them through the process of dealing with their failure and what happened in their lives. Think of King David. Talk about a major moral failure!
Dennis: What did God do to him? He disciplined him. David felt the pain; he repented. And it was said of David that he was “a man after God’s own heart.”
As a parent, isn’t that what you want with your children? You’re not going to get perfection. We wish we would, but they’re related to us! How many of our children’s failures could we trace back to the DNA they got from Barbara and me?!
Dennis: I mean, it’s a part of the paradox of parenting that what you’re disciplining your children for, they got from you.
Bob: But when a son or a daughter does fall or fail in an area of moral compromise, the fear we feel as parents—the pain we feel as parents—is pretty profound. I think a lot of parents respond in parenting out of that fear rather than responding in parenting in a God-like way.
Brian: Yes, I think because when we see our children in sin, we start to think so often, “It’s always going to be like this.”
My wife, she would admit she’s guilty of this. If our children do the same wrong thing two or three times . . .
Bob: “This is where they’re headed.”
Brian: Yes! Immediately, she sees a pattern: “Oh, no! We’re creating a habit here!”
Brian: I’m like, “Whoa, wait a minute! This just happened twice. Let’s step back and take an honest evaluation of what’s going on here.”
Bob: So if you are a mom or a dad and, let’s say, this is a situation where you just checked the browser history and you saw some sites that have been visited that you didn’t visit, and your spouse didn’t visit, and nobody should have been visiting, I’d call that moral compromise, right?
Brian: Yes, absolutely.
Bob: Your 15 year-old is the most obvious suspect for that.
Bob: How do you help your child who has failed in that kind of an area, and get them to a place where they are pointed in the right direction.
Brian: That’s a great example, Bob.
Because we know that 80% of all adolescent boys admit to struggling with digital pornography at some point in time. Roughly 55% of all grown men struggle with it. The average child’s first exposure is going to be between the ages of nine and eleven. So it’s really not an issue of, “Is it going to happen?” It’s, “When is it going to happen?”
Dennis: And it’s going to happen to the girls, too.
Dennis: There are an increasing number of girls—isn’t it approaching 50%?
Dennis: They’re looking at “relational porn.”
Brian: Right, yes.
Bob: So this issue. . .
Brian: So back to you.
Bob: More than likely. . .
Bob: This is going to happen in most homes.
Brian: Yes. It has happened with us.
Bob: You’re either going to find out that your son or daughter’s done this, or you’re just not paying attention. What do you do?
Brian: So, Bailey—and he has shared this story on national radio, so he’s given me permission to share it; which, by the way, I think, often, mom and dad, we are guilty of going to other parents when our children are in sin and sharing our children’s sin stories with our friends.
We need to be very careful of that, because we would never want someone else to talk about our personal sin with someone else. Your child’s sin is their story to share, not your story to share. So, Bailey has given me permission to share this. He was 14 when we were driving to youth group one day, and he says, “Dad, can we have one of those conversations that’s just between you and me and we don’t have to tell mom about it?”
Well, I pulled the car off the side of the road into the Taco Bell parking lot. It was the quickest place. He didn’t know it, but I already knew, because I had found it two days earlier. As soon as I found it, I was frustrated. I was devastated. I was angry. Most of those feelings—all of those feelings—were not directed at him. Those feelings were directed at the enemy.
I knew I had done my due diligence. We had had a number of conversations ahead of time, where I was marking the boundaries, which I think so often, as parents, we have expectations that we never clearly communicate to our kids.
So when we reprimand them for sin, they don’t understand where this is coming from because we never had the appropriate conversations. So, anyway, we had had several conversations, and we had had protective software. They’re not allowed to have their screens in their rooms. I mean, we’re doing everything we can to protect them, and yet it still happened, because our enemy is incredibly cunning and will do whatever he can in order to worm his way in to our families.
So I pull the car off to the side of the road and almost my exact words to him were this—I said, “Bailey, unfortunately, this will not be the last time that this happens, because now the enemy has gotten your attention.” Regardless of what the sin is with our kids, once they venture into that sin, then, for the enemy, we’ve opened up a foothold. Many times, the enemy is going to exploit that in our children’s lives.
Whereas we might see a pattern of disobedience in our kids, what I see is a pattern of spiritual attack on my child.
So they’ve chosen to listen to the wrong voice. It’s not that my kid is intentionally trying to disappoint me or dishonor God; it’s that they haven’t learned to listen to the right voice yet.
Brian: So we’re in the car, and I said, “This won’t be the last time this happens.” And I said, “We will continue to have many conversations about this.” I said, “But I promise you this: I will never, never, never shame you.” I said, “I know what this feels like; what you’re going through. I know the burden of sin, and I will never publicly embarrass you for your sin; I will never call you out in front of your friends for your sin. When you sin, we will handle it in private.”
I think that’s huge, mom and dad! Because we are guilty, especially and even when our kids are little, and they’re being disrespectful in the grocery story--we will swat them or yell at them or take the candy away from them, whatever it is, thinking, “I’ve got to deal with this right now!” Instead of (realizing) the Lord disciplines us in the context of a relationship of love.
I want to do this same thing with my child. Then I said to him, “Bailey, no matter how many times you fall into this pit, I choose to jump in it with you, because you’re not just my son; you’re my brother in Christ. You and me, we are a band of brothers, and I will never leave you to fight this fight alone.”
So regardless if the issue that your child is struggling with is selfishness or disrespect or lying or cheating, we have to figure out a way of, “How do I jump in this with my kid so we can find our way back to Jesus together? Not me just point the way, but walk the way with them back to wholeness and holiness.”
Bob: We’re talking to Brian Housman, who’s written a book called How You Always Meant to Parent. I’m just going to ratchet this illustration up one more notch because some parents are saying, “I’ve gone to my child and they’re aware of this, and I’ve confronted them, and my child has said, ‘Mom, Dad, I know that you believe in the Bible and God, but I don’t.”
“I know you believe this is wrong. I don’t. So I’m basically just saying: I know these are your rules, but I don’t have a problem with this. My friends are doing this, and we don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I appreciate your concern, but I’m on my own on this one.”
What do you do in that kind of a situation?
Brian: The things that we read when we read through the Proverbs, and we read through these stories that Dennis was talking about, of just brokenness and dysfunction in families. . .
By the way, do you know that there is not one single family in the Scriptures. that we see of, that’s a whole family? They’re all broken and dysfunctional! Partly, that should give us hope, shouldn’t it?!
Dennis: In a strange way, it does.
Brian: You know, yes! When I look at the life of Peter, I want to say, “Yes!! I’m going to be okay.” [Laughter]
When this guy constantly puts his foot in his mouth!?
Brian: I think I’m doing alright! [Laughter]
But I think, when we look at these Scriptures, that God gives us principles. They’re not—many times, they’re not necessarily—promises that, “If I do this, it’s always going to turn out this way.”
So I’ve got to always have that in my mind, that just because I teach my children truth doesn’t mean they’re going to walk in truth. But let’s say that I do have a kid, or maybe you, mom, your child is saying just what Bob is saying: “I hear you, but I’m not buying into it.” As hard as it is, my job is not to beat truth into them. In the end, I’ve taught my children, “You have to own your own sin. Your sin, if I have walked in truth, I’ve taught truth, and I’ve modeled truth, and you willfully walk outside of God’s design for you; outside of God’s best for you, then I’m sorry, son, that’s on you.”
“There will be a consequence from the Lord, and probably a consequence from us as well, but I’m not going to own that as some kind of badge that I’m a bad dad because you willfully walked outside of God’s design for you.”
I think one of the primary objectives of the enemy for us, as a parent, is to constantly knock our legs out from under us, to make us think we will never be better than we are today; that we will always be a failure as a parent.
As a mom, you’re just always going to yell; as a dad, you’re always going to be short with your kids—that you’ll never somehow become more like Christ.
We’ve got to cling to that promise in Philippians that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until Christ comes back again.” That’s not just a principle there! That’s a promise from the Lord that, even when you feel like a failure, the Holy Spirit is still transforming you just as He’s transforming your child.
So there may be a time where you have to say to your kid, “I can’t let you go to that dance, because you’ve already told me that you don’t buy into my principle that we are not going to partake of alcohol before the age of 21, and you’re telling me that you have no intentions of obeying that boundary. So unfortunately, I can’t give you the privilege of going to a place that that’s probably going to be happening.”
Brian: “I can’t let you go hang out with these friends if there’s a high possibility of that happening.”
Brian: “And It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. My job is to protect you and to guard your heart.”
Dennis: And, Brian, as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking back to a passage of Scripture that talks about how God does this with us. It’s kind of an unusual passage, because it’s talking about what the Scripture does in our life. In 2 Timothy, Chapter 3, verse 16, it says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for [four things]: for teaching. . .”
That’s what you did with your son: you taught him the standard; you trained him in what was right. He couldn’t plead ignorance; he had been taught.
Dennis: But it doesn’t stop there. It says the Scripture is also given (for teaching and then) “for reproof.” What’s reproof? That’s pointing out when we’re wrong.
Dennis: And that’s what a parent is to do to the child. He’s to help a child understand the right and the wrong of their choices.
The third thing the Scripture does is “for correction.” Picture your child driving down the road and they get off in a ditch. What correction does is come like a wrecker.
Dennis: It gets hooked up to them--alongside them, as you described it—and pulls the child out of the ditch, back onto the road.
Brian: When we fall into sin, the objective is to put the bar right back up there where it was.
Brian: We always continue to raise the bar.
Brian: You know, if you fall over the high bar, the coach doesn’t lower it by six inches and say, “Oh, I bet you can get it this time.”
So when our kids fall into sin, we always have to put the bar back up. The bar is not me, or mom or dad. The bar is Jesus, and how we’re being transformed into Him.
Dennis: Yes, and the fourth thing that the Scripture does—it says the Scripture is given “for teaching, for reproof, for correction”--pulling us out of the ditch, and then it says—“and for training in righteousness,” which is continued direction down the road of life that they’re headed down, where you’re training them in knowing how to live; how to make great choices the next time they’re faced with a temptation.
If they fail again, the same Scripture that reproves us, pulls us out of the ditch, and puts us back on the road; the same love of God does the same thing for a child when he or she makes a mistake.
Bob: You lay all of this out in your book, How You Always Meant to Parent, and we should just let our listeners know that we do have copies of Brian’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy or call 1-800-FLTODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can call to order at 1-800-FLTODAY, and the title of the book is How You Always Meant to Parent.
Dennis: I think what you’re talking about here, in parenting, is really, really important. We can’t just teach our kids how to succeed. We must teach them how to process failure, because they will fail as human beings, just as we have failed. I love your illustration of how you did that with a child riding a bike, and I’m thinking back over the life of a child. They learn how to walk by falling down.
Dennis: You wouldn’t really help your toddler if you kept him from falling down. He’d never learn how to walk! So a lot of that transfers all the way into and through adolescence into adulthood. I’ll tell you, as one who has experienced this, it’s even a bigger challenge to watch your adult children go through life having to learn some of the same things you learned, except that this time, you can’t put your hands on the handlebar and train your child.
You’ve got to keep your hands off the handlebar, you’ve got to pray for your child, and you’ve got to trust that the God of heaven, who loves our kids, is going to finish the process of raising them.
I just appreciate you, Brian, and your book; all your books: Tech Savvy Parenting; this one, which is challenging parents to rethink how they’re going about this and to address the issue of the heart. I think it’s good stuff and I think parents need to dig in this—both moms and dads—and make this a part of their daily lifestyle with their kids.
Brian: Hey, thank you guys so much for having me on again!
Bob: Well, we should also say thanks to our listeners here, because they’re the ones who make all of this possible. Anytime we have conversations like this, it’s listeners who call or who go online to help support FamilyLife Today who make these kinds of conversations happen. So thanks for your support of this ministry. Those of you who are Legacy Partners, we appreciate you. Those of you who call occasionally, or who go online occasionally, we are always glad to hear from you.
You can donate at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. And our zip code is 72223.
Speaking of people who support the ministry, happy anniversary today to Alejandro and Lissett Menendez in Spring, Texas. They are celebrating their anniversary and they are Legacy Partners. We appreciate you guys linking arms with us. Happy anniversary as you guys celebrate today!
And, to all of you, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday, when we’re going to hear a powerful message on the importance of forgiveness and the reality is, every relationship you’re in is going to require forgiveness at some point, so we better figure out how to do it, right?
We’ll talk about that Monday. I 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 host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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