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Gary Chapman: Things I Wish I’d Known Before Parenting Teens

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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August 29, 2022 10:00 pm

Gary Chapman: Things I Wish I’d Known Before Parenting Teens

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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August 29, 2022 10:00 pm

Gary Chapman gets the rollercoaster of parenting teens. Grab his thoughtful ideas to help you evolve alongside your kids in a critical stage of development.Show Notes and ResourcesTake the test to find out what love language is most important to you.Dive deeper into the 5 Love Languages with this animated video.Checkout this week's donation offer Resource Sale: Resources on FamilyLife Today. Passport2 Mission: Get access to our family kits, Passport to Purity & Passport to Identity.Find resources from this podcast at 25% off all of our Small Group Studies & Getaway KitsFind more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.Check out all the FamilyLife podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network

Alex McFarland Show
Alex McFarland
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Focus on the Family
Jim Daly
Building Relationships
Dr. Gary Chapman
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

So do you know the love languages of our three boys? I think so.

Okay. CJ, number one. CJ's gifts, no doubt. He is gifts. He is still gifts. He's always been gifts. I feel like people, that's an easy one to give in terms of like, you know they're gifts, so it's just like, oh, I'm going to get this for him. I'm gifts too. I like that.

Keep going. No, you're not gifts. I think Austin is time. I think he is just like, time with you is well spent. And I think Cody is words of affirmation. And I think you are words of affirmation.

I think I'm all five. You know, we've got Gary Chapman in the studio today with us, the author of the five love languages. We were just talking 30 some years ago it came out, Gary, but welcome back to Family Life Today. Well, thank you.

Always good to be back with you guys. I mean, we're just talking about how that book has changed our life, our marriage, our parenting, and millions of others. And I'm not exaggerating. Tens of millions of others, which is unbelievable that God has blessed it in such a way that it sold a bunch in year one, but it's still selling more and more each year. You know, I'm amazed at how God has used that book.

Every year it sells more than the year before. It's been translated now and published in over 50 languages around the world, which really surprised me because my background was anthropology, the study of cultures. And when the first publisher came, it was Spanish. And I said to my publisher, I don't know if this works in Spanish, you know, I don't know. And they said, well, they've read it and they want to publish it.

I said, okay, then let's work it out, you know. And it became their best seller. And then it was the German and the French and it went on down the line, you know. I think it's on the human scene, it's because this is one of our deepest emotional needs is the need to feel loved by the significant people in our lives. And if you're married, the person who would most like to love you is your spouse, you know, and that book, the first book original was just talking about the marriage relationship. And so I think people read it and the lights come on and they realize, oh, that's what happened.

You know, we weren't speaking the right language. And then they want their brother and his wife to read it. It's kind of gone word of mouth, you know, all over the world. Well, I remember when the book came out, talking to my older brother, you know, we both are raised by the same mom and dad. And my brother said, man, I feel like so loved by my mom and dad and it's amazing. They always took us places. They did things for us.

They did this and they did that. I was in my twenties. I was going through a phase of really struggling with feeling unloved by my parents. And I remember saying to that brother, I don't even know how you can say that. They never told us they loved us. They never touched us. How do you feel like that?

He goes, who cares about that? They showed us. And the light bulb went off like, oh, it's because my love language is different than his.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. When couples get that in the marriage, they begin connecting and they fill up each other's love tank. The same principle, of course, is true in parent-child relationships. And that's why, you know, I remember a young 13 year old, he'd run away from home. He ended up in my office and he said to me, my parents don't love me. They love my brother.

They don't love me. I knew his parents. I knew they loved him. The problem is they had never discovered his love language and they weren't speaking his love language. They were sincere. You know, they did love him, but he wasn't getting it emotionally.

And that's why this is so important in terms of parent-child relationships. Jerry, how did this even come to you? Well, it came out of my counseling. They would sit in my office over and over again. And one of them would say, I just feel like he doesn't love me, you know. And the other one would say, well, I don't know why you wouldn't feel loved.

I do this, this, this and this. Why wouldn't you feel loved, you know? And I knew people were sincere and missing each other. And so I actually read through, I don't know, 12 years of notes that I made. And I said, when someone said I feel like my spouse doesn't love me, what did they want?

What were they complaining about? And their answers fell into five categories. And I later called them the five love languages and I started using it in my counseling. You know, if you want her to feel loved, you got to speak her language. You want him to feel loved, you got to speak his language. I'd help couples discover their love language, challenge them to go home and try it. And sometimes they'd come back in three weeks and say, Gary, this is changing everything.

So that's where it came from. And then later, of course, I wrote five love languages of children for parents of children, elementary age kids. And then later the five love languages of teenagers. So because people would ask me, well, now when they get to be teenagers, does their love language change? And I said, I don't think it changes, but you have to learn new dialects of whatever their language is. Because what you've been doing, they now consider childish.

So if words of affirmation is their language, you got to get some new words. You can't say you sweet little thing. You know, I just love you. You're so sweet.

That's good stuff. Don't talk like that to me. You got to get more and more adult words. And the same thing with physical touch. You demonstrated this in a program we were talking before when you said, you know, your 12 year old, 13 year old said, don't, don't, don't, don't touch me. And so, you know, when they're nine and 10, you can go out on the field with them and you can hug them after the game in front of everybody. They just eat it up. You do that when they're a teenager. They go, mama, don't do that. Don't do that.

Don't do that. You know, they still need touch. And so what happens, Gary, though, what we do is as parents, we pull away, we stop doing it. You're saying you just have to shift it.

Absolutely. If touch is their language, they still need touch. You just do it in private and you maybe give them high fives instead of hugging them every time. And another factor with teenagers is the emotional part of the brain in the teenage years is super, super active. So they're going like a roller coaster, you know, in the morning, if their language is physical touch, you can probably hug them and they'll just hug you back, you know, and in the afternoon you try to hug them and say, oh no, no, no, no, don't do that. Because you don't know what's happened during the daytime and their emotions are affected by their circumstances. So they had a bad day or something happened today. You know, they don't, they just don't want to be touched right now.

So we have to be sensitive to that. But I don't think the love language changes in the teenage years, but I do think you have to learn new ways of expressing, which I call dialects, new dialects of their language. Yeah, and you've written about it in your latest book, Things I'd Wish I'd Known Before My Child Became a Teenager. Let's walk through those five, you know. In fact, we had some fun before you came in here, Gary. Our team over there in the production booth, Bruce and Jim and Caitlin, they put together the five love languages that teenagers show toward their parents. And I might have thrown in a little help as well.

Teens throw back sarcasm, eye rolls, number three, procrastination, know-it-all-ism, or hiding behind my phone. Here's an extra sixth one. The bonus one is the dad joke, unappreciation love language. Under appreciation. Under appreciation, yeah. They don't appreciate our dad jokes anymore. Anyway, those are just jokes.

Yeah, I wouldn't call those love languages, but I would say they're true. Yes. And every parent just heard those and thought, yes, yes, yes. How do I get beyond that? That's what I get from my teen. But you've already talked about physical touch with a teenager is different than with a 10-year-old or a 5-year-old. Words of affirmation. How would you edit that or have a different dialect as they hit the teen years? Yeah, I think in the teenage years, you have to use more adult words to them. They need affirming words, but you're looking for things about them. You know, I noticed at the ball game the other night when John missed that shot, you went over there and you encouraged him.

Man, you know he felt badly about missing the shot. That's good, man. When you give an encouraging word to somebody, that's just super. So you look for things that they're doing that you can really affirm. You wouldn't have said that when they were five years old, but you're saying it now. You're looking for things that they're involved in now and affirming them for things that they're doing now. Or to say, hey, I really appreciate you taking the trash out. You know, that was very meaningful to me.

Just looking for things around the house that the teen's doing that you can affirm them for. So I think it's just looking for a different kind of words. So you've got the physical touch, you've got the words. Now with the words, how do you balance truth-telling? You know, it's going to come out negative or harsh, but their teenagers are making, like you said, they're up and down. They may be making some poor decisions. You need to speak not affirming words at times.

How do you balance that? Let's give an example. Let's say this teenager's in the kitchen. It feels like every time they're in the kitchen, they leave a huge mess. Everything's out. They made a sandwich. The bread's out.

That can't be one of our kids. All the cupboards are open. There's junk everywhere. And then they leave their dishes in the other room. I think what you do is you affirm them for something that is positive about them. You say, you know, John, I just want to share this with you. I appreciate the fact that you, and you tell them something that you really appreciate about them. And can I just give you one suggestion that would make you even better? And then you tell them the thing that you think would make them better about, you know, leaving stuff in the kitchen or whatever, you know?

So I think that way you've affirmed them. Like with adults I'm talking to, I say, if a wife's going to bring up something that her husband needs to change, tell him three things you like about him first. And then tell him. Does he ever go, okay. Okay.

It's coming. What's the negative thing? But you're saying it still helps. Yeah. It's exactly what God did. Remember in, I think it's Revelation 2, the church at Ephesus, God said, you're doing great at this and this and this. Told him three things that are doing right. And then he said one thing.

Serving the poor, caring for the needy, and then you've lost your first love. Yeah. Yeah. So it's a principle, you know, to do that with teenagers, just like you do with your spouse. Yeah.

Tell them something, two or three things you like about them and then say, you know, here's one thing that would make you much, much better or something that I would really, really appreciate. Now if you say the one thing and they go, all you ever do is your teeth and you're sitting there thinking, I just said three positives and one negative. Do you just keep coming back? Yeah. First of all, you let that response go. You don't clobber them on the head for having that kind of response. You just ignore it. They're being human. They're being human.

Okay. You let that response go. They're going to walk away and they're going to think about those three things you told them. And they're going to think about what you asked them to do, and probably they'll do it. But if you come down on them for getting upset, then you've lost the three positives. Yeah.

And you've sort of ended the conversation. But I think that's a great principle in our homes, and we've said this before, but start looking for the good. That really makes an impact. Yeah. Absolutely.

Absolutely. I was just thinking, we've already talked about physical touch, but I know as a dad of three sons, when they were little boys, physical touch felt easy to me. I didn't grow up with a dad that was even in my home, so I didn't really have that. But when they were boys, I'm jumping in the bed with them. We're crawling around on the floor, around the trampoline.

You're wrestling. I'm hugging them. I'm kissing them on the cheek. I remember as they became men, you know, 14, 15, and you got close to their cheek and there was a beard starting, it felt awkward. It's like, oh. And it wasn't even on them as much as on me. Like, oh, do I hug them like I did when they were kids?

Well, it's going to be different. But I felt myself pulling back like man to man, it's more of a, hey, fist bump, which obviously is okay, but they still want physical touch, right? Yeah, just in the right place. Yeah. In the right time.

Yeah. And I think here, since you mentioned that, a lot of fathers of teenage daughters will pull back from hugging them or kissing them on the cheek because they've heard so much about sexual abuse and they don't want to do anything wrong here, you know, and they pull back. And if their language is physical touch, I say to those fathers, if you don't give them hugs, they'll find an 18-year-old boy who will. Don't draw back. Don't draw back. Now, certainly, the sexual abuse thing, there's no place for that in a relationship. But giving them hugs, particularly if this is their language, giving them hugs and giving them a kiss on the cheek, they still need that from you.

Yeah. What was your daughter? Was it awkward as she started to mature, as she's becoming a woman?

Do you remember that phase? You know, her language was quality time, and I really focused on that. I did hug her and kiss her, but not as often as I would if I'd have known she was physical touch was her thing. But, you know, she would always want to take walks with me after dinner. That was her favorite request was, Dad, can we take a walk after dinner? That's so sweet. And we walked through the neighborhood and talked, you know, about everything, you know, and she loved it, you know, and I would take her out.

Once a month, I would take her to breakfast by herself. Of course, I did the same thing with my son, even though that was not his language. But she looks back and says, you know, Dad, those breakfasts that we had together and the walks that we took together, that's what I remember.

That's the highlight of what I remember. And kids will remember that. And if you don't speak their primary language, they'll also remember, God, remember that, Dad, you never touched me.

You never hugged me. So it's important to learn the love language of the teenager. And how would we do that with a teen if we've never heard any of this and we have a teenager, this is new? How do we go about finding what it is? Yeah, that's a good question. Teens can feel like an enigma sometimes, can't they?

Well, Gary Chapman will help us out in just a minute. This is Family Life Today. And if you've been listening to Family Life Today, you know how important it is to be a family on mission. We believe that God calls us into community and to serve each other with the abundance of resources that he has blessed us with. Right now, there are two ways you can partner with Family Life to impact lives for his kingdom.

First, you can bravely lead a small group study in your home or your church. Today and tomorrow are the last days you can get a discount on all small group studies with the code 250FF at Secondly, you can partner with us financially to help families grow closer and stronger together through practical resources like the art of parenting, or events like a weekend to remember, or broadcasts like the one you're listening to right now. It's your partnership that makes these available and makes a difference in the lives of thousands of families. You can donate securely online at And as our thanks, when you give today, we'll send you a copy of Jenny Allen's book, Find Your People. Again, you can give online at or by calling 800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. All right, now, how can parents better understand their teen's love language?

Here's Gary Chapman. Three simple ways. One is to observe their behavior. How do they respond to you and other people? If you hear them affirming other people verbally, then that's probably their language. If you see them giving gifts, then it's probably their language. If you see them spending quality time with someone else, then that's probably their language.

So, look at their behavior. And then secondly, what do they complain about most often? The complaint reveals their love language. If they complain that dad never comes to my ball games, dad's never here to talk with me, dad never takes a walk with me, dad never takes me fishing, dad never... They're complaining that they don't have any quality time with their dad. You see, we get irritated with their complaints, but they're really giving us valuable information. Listen to their complaints.

And then what do they request most often? See, my daughter was asking me to take walks with her. My son never would walk with me. He said, walking is dumb.

You're not going anywhere. If you're going somewhere, drive. He would request, dad, can we shoot some baskets after dinner?

And the way we shot baskets, we would touch each other in the process of all of it. So, you put those three things together, you can pretty well figure out a teenager's love language. But you can also go online and take a free quiz. The teenager can take a free quiz. It's at, the number five,

There's a quiz for married couples, there's a quiz for single adults, and there's a quiz for teenagers. I remember one of our sons, when he was a toddler, he was so clingy. I needed to hold him while I'm making dinner. I have to hold him when I'm doing things. But he would constantly, as he's whining, you know, that whining and I'm trying to get dinner. But he would constantly say, mom, play with me, mom, play with me, mom, play with me. You know, I'm thinking, I don't have time to play with you.

I have all kinds of things to do. But after reading your book, I remember thinking, I just need to give him my focused attention, even if it's for 15 minutes. And so, at a certain time of day, I would say, let's spend 15 minutes together, just me, just you, and let's just play. And it was amazing how that changed the atmosphere. I'd give him that time, and then he was content. He'd play on his own, he'd do other things, and he wasn't nearly as needy of needing me or having me hold him. And I thought that was really helpful to see what they're complaining about or what they need.

Yeah, absolutely. What about special gifts or gifts? You know, some of us as parents would say, every teenager, that's all they want. Buy him stuff.

But obviously, you know, that's not true. But how do you respond to a teenager where that's their love language? Well, I think this love language, gifts, can be tricky, because there is no question about it in our culture that teens are driven for things. And I say to the parent, if their love language is gifts, don't think that you have to give them everything to ask for. You're the parent.

You give them gifts you think would be good for them. That's what God does for us. God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

I'm grateful for that. He gives us what he thinks is good for us. And so don't let the teenager manipulate you and say, well, if you really love me, you know this is my love language, and you would buy me that. No, don't let them manipulate you. When they do that, you say, honey, I love you too much to give you that right now. I don't think you're ready for that.

Maybe in another year or two, but you're not ready for that right now, and I love you too much to give that to you. So don't feel like you have to give them everything they ask for. But I do think what you want to do is find out things in which they are interested in. If they're into sports, for example, and there's some cards that they, you know, they collect cards, you keep your eye out for cards that would be interesting for them or whatever their interest is.

You think you keep that in mind. They don't have to be expensive things. If gifts is their language, you can pick up a stone in a city parking lot and give it to a 15-year-old boy and say, hey, man, I found this today. I thought about you.

Look at the colors here, man. If gifts is his language, when he's 23, you'll find that stone in his dresser drawer, and he'll remember the day you gave it to him. So it's just things that I was thinking about you, and I want you to have this, you know. One of our sons' love language is gifts, and he remembers every single Christmas gift. I don't remember anything. I don't remember what I got two days ago, but he remembers every gift. And as we started discovering this, he was a teenager.

I think he was turning 16. Dave and I were going to be out of town for his birthday. We felt so bad. But he'd been wanting a game system, this video game system for ages. And we had finally saved some money. We thought, this is going to be the year we give him.

So we had a pro athlete, because Dave was the chaplain for the Detroit Lions, who lived close to us. And we had wrapped this game system up in a nice little package. And we had Luther Ellis go to the door where CJ was in class in high school, knocked on the door and said, happy birthday, CJ, and handed him this gift in school, in class.

The teacher let it happen. He will never forget that, because he liked gaming, and he'd been waiting for a long time to get this game system. He still talks about it. Well, I mean, now at Christmas time, gifts will show up from Amazon or whatever on our front porch.

And I'm like, what is this? He goes, oh, CJ already bought his Christmas present from us. So he just come to our house so we could wrap him. But we still can get him things. And you're right, it could be something that's not that expensive, but something that we've watched him and we know this would be meaningful. And he's so grateful, where other kids might look at and think, oh, thanks, but for him, it's a big deal. Oh, yeah, it's huge. It's huge. Well, what about we haven't talked about acts of service?

It's the only one I think we have left. Acts of service is doing something for the teenager that you know they would like for you to do. You know, we do this when they're children. You have to speak this language when they're little, because they can't do anything. So we do everything for them. As we get to be teenagers, we also speak this language by teaching them to do things for themselves. So you take their interest. If they're interested, for example, in cooking, then you spend time teaching them how to cook. That is a huge act of service. Our granddaughter at the age of 14 could cook a full meal.

And from that point on, she cooked every one of her birthday cakes because she wanted to decorate it her way. So teaching them to do things for themselves. Listen, I encourage parents to think in terms of what would I like my children to be able to do by the time they're 18 years old? Because at 18, typically they're going off to college or they're going to join the military or they're going to get a job.

You know, we hope they're going to do something. So by the time they get to be 18, what would you like for them to know how to do? And let the teenager tell you things that they would like to learn how to do. Maybe they'd like to learn how to change a tire on a car. They're not going to learn that at the university or in the military. So whatever their interest is, teach them to do these things. You know, I was speaking to a group of professional football players some time ago.

And around the table, there was just four or five couples. And one of them said, Dr. Chapman, you know, here's the thing. We've been thinking about what are we going to do when we age out of football? Because the only thing we know how to do is play football. Ever since we were kids, that's all we've known how to do. And every one of them chimed in and said the same thing. And one of them said, I'm teaching my son how to run a lawnmower because I never learn.

So this language is spoken not only by doing things for the teenager, and certainly there would be things you could do for them, but also teaching them to do things that they would like to learn how to do themselves. We've been around a three-year-old grandson a lot the last few days. And we both know this about him. If we have a job to do, he wants to be right with us. So we said, hey, Bryce, you want to wash the car with us?

He's ecstatic. You know, he's helping us. And he'll say this, what else can I help you with? What else do we need to do?

Do we have some jobs to do? So kind of watching that, would you say he probably has? Yeah, I would guess that's his language. Because Jenna, his mom said, if I need a little time for myself, I'll say to Bryce, do you want to do the dishes?

And he'll stand up there for 15 minutes doing the dishes, fully content, so happy. And so that's a really good clue. If you find your kids loving chores around the house or helping you do the laundry, that could be maybe their love language. Listening to you talk about that inspires me. Of course, my kids are older and so are yours. But if I'm a young parent or even have kids coming into the teenage years, I should want to be the expert on my kids. Absolutely.

No teacher, no friend should know them better than I do. And that's, like you said earlier, opening your eyes, watching, and then taking action based on what you see. I mean, that's a great step for a parent. You know, parents can learn the child's love language by the time they are three or four years old by observing their behavior. My son's love language is physical touch. When he was that age, I would come home in the afternoon. He would run to the door, grab my leg, and climb all over me.

He's touching me because he wants to be touched. Our daughter never did that. At that age, she would say, Daddy, come into my room. I want to show you something. She wanted quality time. She wanted my undivided attention. So it's there very early for parents of young children.

The love language is there very early, and you can discover it simply by observing their behavior. You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Gary Chapman on Family Life Today. His book is called Things I Wish I'd Known Before My Child Became a Teenager.

You can get a copy at Are you part of a small group? I love my small group because it's a place that I am known.

I feel loved, accepted, and cared for really in the ways that Christ has made me. Community is so important because we are not meant to do this life alone. We're meant to help carry each other's burdens, encourage each other towards Christ, and to experience God through our relationships. If you're looking for studies for your group that will help strengthen relationships, check out our small group studies at and use the code 250FF, that's 25 off, to save on all small group studies today and tomorrow. Now tomorrow, when Dave and Anne Wilson will be back, they're going to be joined again with Gary Chapman to demonstrate the influence our character has on our kids, our church, and others around us. That's tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-04 11:31:57 / 2023-03-04 11:44:21 / 12

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