The heart of Christianity is that we are sinners saved by grace, and so, you know, what better way is there to infuse our home with what it means to be a follower of Jesus than to have us as adults, as parents, be quick to apologize for how we reacted, for our tone of voice, for our assumptions, whatever it might be. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. So we've raised three teenagers and you, Dave, especially. I'm not saying we did it well, but we got through three boys who are now men who are actually, you know, we're grandparents now. Yeah. And you've ministered.
We've ministered to probably hundreds of teens and others. But what would you say is the number one? No, no, no. I'm asking you this question. No, I'm asking you. What's the number one question? You don't get to ask me. Number one question teens are asking.
What do you think? Number one question. I know where this is going. My first thought was relational. Like, who am I going to marry?
What's my relational life going to look like? But I know it's deeper than that because you're so much deeper than me. So you know what the real answer is.
No, I think I would have even asked, am I loved? What does that mean? You know, there's so many different things. But what we're talking about today is the number one question is? Well, I think it's really important what we're talking about today because we're parents.
Yes. And we're a family ministry that tries to help marriages and families and impact legacies for the kingdom of God. And so as parents, we need to know what are our kids asking? So we have, I don't know if we could get two better people in the studio today to answer this question.
They wrote a book about it called The Three Big Questions That Change Every Teenager. So obviously these two have studied this. So we have Brad Griffin and Kara Powell with us today. Brad and Kara, welcome to Family Life Today. Thanks for having us. It's wonderful to be here.
We really are talking not only to two experts because you guys have written about this. You're at the Fuller Youth Institute out in California. This is your life work. But more importantly, I think is your parents of teenagers, right?
Yeah. My kids are 21, 19 and 15. So I have two college students and a 10th grader. Brad, what about you? How old are your kids?
19, 16, 13. So you really are in it. We say this is our golden year of parenting. We're all teenagers at once. We feel like the teenage years for us, our kids are grown, married and have kids now, were our favorite years. I agree. I mean, the older our kids have gotten, the more my husband and I have enjoyed conversations with them and doing fun things with them, experiencing life together. So that would definitely be true for me.
How about you, Brad? Yeah, same. I just love I love a great conversation. And while I enjoyed the conversations with my kids when they were little in a certain way, there's just a whole other level. And I love I love when abstract thinking starts to kick in.
And that for me is just a lot of fun. I think we really start seeing our kids and discovering. Maybe that's where discovering who they are, what they're passionate about. And I think you guys probably relate to this.
That's true of their friends, because I loved having their friends in the house. But I think as parents today, there's a lot of fear and anxiety because the world feels so tumultuous and uncertain. And with your book, the subtitle is Making the Most of Your Conversations and Connections. And I think as parents, we long for that, but we're not sure how to make those connections.
Yeah. So talk about this book. I know you did research with some teenagers and you sort of developed, OK, here's the questions they're asking. Help us understand what those are. Well, in some of our previous research, we've seen how important it is to empathize with young people, to not judge them, but to journey with them. And so we wanted to help parents, caregivers, grandparents, leaders, mentors, pastors know how to better empathize with young people. And in many ways, we were inspired by a young person who told a friend of ours, a 15 year old who told a friend of ours, I wish the church would stop giving me answers to questions I'm not asking. I wish the church, now you can fill in another noun for that. My parents, my family would stop giving me answers to questions I'm not asking. And so that really stimulated us to figure out what is it that young people are ultimately asking under their questions about technology and what should I do on Friday night?
You know, where am I going to go to college? What are the questions beneath those questions? And so we worked with our team at the Fuller Youth Institute to look at interviews with over 2000 teenagers, interviews, surveys, focus groups. But then we did deep dive, deep dive interviews with 27 very diverse young people from all over the country to try to figure out what are those top questions. Well, here's the question as a pastor for 30 years, I feel like we did that. We answered questions our kids were not asking and maybe even our congregation. But let's talk about as a parent, we do the same thing. The question is, why do we do this?
Are we afraid to go there? I mean, I mean, when I read that in your book, I mean, I would right away I leaned in. I'm like, oh, my goodness, I did this. I hate to admit this. No, actually, other churches did this, not mine.
That's what I want to say. But no, we did this. So as a parent, we tend to do the same thing. We're answering questions our kids aren't even asking.
Why do we do this? I think we want to lean into our own competence. And I mean, you know, you used the word expert earlier, which is sometimes makes me a little uncomfortable. But I think we all want to be experts in a way. And as parents, we want to lean into what we know. There's so much about parenting that's so uncertain. There's so much that leaves us feeling from day to day like we're just flying by the seat of our pants.
And so if we can feel like we know a few things, we kind of lean on that because it's more comfortable, it's more stabilizing. And I think we end up avoiding some of the things that our kids really want to talk about. Well, it's interesting because you guys say every teenager is a walking bundle of questions.
That's so good. And I'm thinking as parents as well, and maybe even as youth leaders, we're always giving answers. Yeah.
So talk about that. What does that mean, Kara? How do we get to those questions? Well, kids' curiosity is part of the long list of what Brad and I love about young people is they are wondering new things. They're starting to think abstractly.
They have more engagement with the broader world. Social media opens up all sorts of new frontiers for them to wrestle with and to try to understand. So I think the role of a parent is to journey alongside that young person and try to help them navigate the most pressing questions that are maybe top of mind.
But then these three deeper questions. And let me just say, I mean, literally this morning, as I was processing an interaction that I had with one of my kids, who shall remain nameless. Literally this morning, I realized, oh, my goodness, this child is trying to answer this one question. And so instead of my feelings being hurt, which quite honestly, what my kid had done was hurting my feelings.
I empathize with him. Oh, you know, my kids trying to get an answer to that big question. And it changed how I felt about them. It changed how I felt about myself.
And it's going to allow me to journey with my kid more effectively. So so keeping these three big questions in mind has been game changing for me and understanding my own kids, young people in general and often myself. Yeah. So every parent right now is like, OK, what are they? What are the three big? They've got their pen out. They got their phone out.
They're ready to take them down. So tell us what the three big are. So we believe the questions underneath the rest are who am I? The question of identity. Where do I fit? The question of belonging.
And what difference can I make? The big question of purpose. Certainly there's a swirl of other questions there.
But as Kara said, these kind of sit underneath the rest. And for many of us, I mean, these are human questions. You know, these are questions we have as adults. For adults, they might be kind of back burner simmer questions that every now and then you turn up the heat, you know, when something happens. And but for teenagers, these are front burner rolling boil questions every day for many of them.
And, you know, when I hear that, I think back to our earlier thing, why don't we talk about this? I got to be honest, as a pastor for 30 years of thousands of people, I would say. Almost most of our congregation doesn't know the answer to those three questions for themselves as a parent. And so for me to go talk to my teenager, I'm not sure I know. Of course, I'm not talking about me.
I'm perfect. But, you know, people in our congregation, I don't think a lot of us adults could particularly say, I do know my purpose. I do know where I belong. I do know my identity. So talk about that a little bit. How important is it for a parent to be able to wrestle with those, to be able to dialogue with our kids about it? Well, I think we're all in process.
Right. And part of how Brad and I and the Full Youth Institute team are starting to think about discipleship is discipleship is the process of moving from our current answers to those identity, belonging and purpose questions to more Jesus centered answers to our identity, belonging and purpose questions. So, you know, one of those Jesus centered answers for the question of identity, I honestly pray for myself every day. It's one of my 10 major prayers for myself because a lot of my struggles have to do with identity.
And so I need to like daily marinate in Jesus's best answer for me to that question of who am I? You know, let alone that 14, 16, 18, 22 year old who's experiencing so many transitions, so much upheaval, all the more so in the midst of the pandemic and what we've experienced these last 18 months. And so so, you know, the good news about teenagers and young adults is we as parents, we can talk about our journey with our kids. And so, you know, the interaction that happened yesterday that hurt my feelings that I was processing this morning with one of my own kids. You know, the tension was this child is hungry for belonging and made a choice in how they spend time with friends that ended up hurting my feelings. And so it's tempting for me to distance myself from that child or somehow try to cope myself. And what I realized this morning is, again, oh, that child's after belonging. And that's nudging my own identity insecurities, because when they want to spend time with their friends, then that makes me feel like I'm not a good enough mom. And with this particular child, I think I'm going to debrief how I was feeling and how these identity, belonging and purpose questions were in play for the two of us. So, again, that's part of the beauty of teenagers and young adults is we can actually we don't have to keep this a secret from them.
We can talk about the ways that God continues to change and stretch our own identity, belonging and purpose, just like God's doing the same with our kids. So, Kara, walk us through that. Like you're going to have that conversation. You'll share what you are feeling, how that maybe even triggered you with your own insecurity.
Totally. But then what will you be asking her to get into some of those questions you think that are at the root? I like how you said her because she said it was a him. I'm trying to be gender neutral so as to not reveal which of my kids it was so their gender will remain anonymous.
But that's a great question. And so, you know, my husband and I, we have found it very helpful. If there's something we feel like we need to say to one of our kids, like I probably will say to this child, I'm sorry for how I reacted. You know, you know, I sometimes struggle with identity and feeling like I'm not a good enough mom. And so when you made the choice that you made, that just made me feel insecure as a mom. And I'm sorry for how I temporarily pulled away from you. Will you forgive me? So I would say, you know, that's going to be my first question to my child is, will you forgive me?
Because I don't like how I acted toward that child. But then, you know, in talking more about how I'm looking for identity and this child is searching for belonging, something that Dave and I have found is really, really helpful if we need to share something with our kids is then to ask them, what do you disagree with in what I've just said? So give them a chance to critique us and share what they think we're misunderstanding or not aware of. And then to ask, well, what do you agree with? Where do you think I may be right in what I'm saying? So first I want to ask for forgiveness and then I'm going to give them a chance to share what they think I'm missing in my understanding of them or our interaction.
And then give them a chance to share what they agree with. And let me just say, my kids, if they have the chance to critique me, they're often way quicker and stronger in their agreement with where we do overlap and what we can stack hands on. Well, you just said, Kara, I think blows away a lot of myths that a lot of parents don't understand.
Number one, you said you admit vulnerability and mistakes like I'm not perfect and I struggle even in my own identity. And then you ask your kids to critique you. Brad, do you do the same thing? Because that is a lot of parents never do that.
And yet you and I both know our teenagers long for that. Yeah. Yeah.
Isn't that counterintuitive? Yeah. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Brad Griffin and Kara Powell on family life today. We're going to hear their responses in just a minute. But first, we'd love to send you Brad and Kara's book, Three Big Questions That Change Every Teenager. It's our gift to you when you partner with us and make a gift of any amount this week to support the work of family life today.
We are, as you may know, listener supported. So if you've been blessed by family life today, we'd love for you to consider paying it forward. You can partner with us at family life today dot com or you can call with your donation at 800-358-6329. You can give a one time gift or become a family life partner with a recurring monthly gift. Again, the number is 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right. Now back to Brad and Kara on the importance of humility in parenting.
Here's Brad. You know, I'll say Kara and I have been working together for 16 years now, and this is one of the ways that, you know, even our research has shaped our respective parenting in ways that and that's a challenge for me. And the word that was coming to mind as Kara was talking is it's humility. This takes a certain kind of humility that as parents, you know, we want to be right because we're supposed to be right because we're the parents. But in those teen years, what kids need is not actually the parent who's always right. They need the parent who's willing to be humble and vulnerable enough to say, I think I was wrong there, you know, or what I did there, that's not the parent I want to be for you.
And that's not the kind of interaction I want to have. Well, and I think that's the heart of Christianity is that we're sinners saved by grace. And so, you know, what better way is there to infuse our home with what it means to be a follower of Jesus than to have us as adults, as parents, be quick to apologize for how we reacted, for our tone of voice, for our assumptions, whatever it might be, and asking our kids to forgive us. That just sets the tenor for who God wants us to be in all relationships, people who are quick to apologize, ask for forgiveness, repent in front of each other. And so, you know, Brad and I have found that it's never too early to start apologizing to our kids. And so, you know, parents, grandparents, caregivers of preschoolers, elementary age, you know, we encourage you to ask your kids to forgive you, to talk about mistakes. In fact, one of our dinner questions when our kids were in elementary school and middle school was, what mistake did you make today? Because we wanted our family to be a place where we could talk about mistakes. And, you know, I'll tell you, sometimes our kids would point out the mistakes that I had made during the course of the day.
It's like they were keeping their own list. And that's just fine. I want us to be able to talk about how we blow it, whether it's a small thing like not filling the soap dispenser properly, which I have a perennial problem with. So that's often a mistake I make. Or whether it's something more major, like how I reacted to my child last night.
I think with our kids or with really anybody, if we're hoping they'll come to us with their questions, they've got to have a sense of trust that we're honest enough and vulnerable enough to receive their questions. You know what I'm saying? What Kara modeled, Brad, what you're talking about is when we admit our mistakes, apologize, that opens up a connection. They're struggling. They've admitted it. They've apologized. There's humility there. I'm not going to go to somebody else with my question, although there's nothing wrong with that.
I want to come to mom or dad. Is that true? Yeah. You said the word connection. And I think that's right at the heart of it.
That connection requires vulnerability. Vulnerability is how we build trust. And I'm hearing a question in my mind coming from parents right now who are listening. And that question is about, but wait, what about authority? What about my leadership of my kids? Like I need to parent, not just be their friend.
Yes. And that's absolutely true. And I want to say our vulnerability and humility does not necessarily undermine authority. It actually can undergird our authority in a way that as the relationship changes in the teenage years in particular, it boosts our ability to speak into our kids' lives.
It boosts our believability. So you may have positional authority with your kids and you're, you know, you can hold that positional authority, but to have relational authority in the teenage years, it requires us to have connection. And that connection is only going to be as deep as our ability to be real, be honest, be vulnerable and appropriately vulnerable. And at age appropriate times, what we tell a 17 year old, you know, that that can be different than what we say to our seven year old. You know, we shouldn't be vulnerable in certain ways to a seven year old, but you know, our kids who are almost adults, they're ready to hear the real stuff. And the more we hold from them, the less they're really able to see us as true friends in their life, which, you know, as they move into adulthood, that is more of the role we move from being full on authority to being the parent who is guide, the parent who is companion, who is friend, who wants to be mentor. You know, I want to be a mentor of my young adult kids, but I've got to earn the right to be that mentor, because I don't have the positional authority anymore, because they're making adult decisions. I was thinking as I listened to Kara, I thought, well, that's so genius that she's saying, you guys, that just triggered me in terms of my own identity and some of the stuff of the past, just that comment right there.
And because it wasn't about her, she's just saying, this is why I reacted that way and I'm apologizing. But I'm thinking of all the kids that are struggling with those questions of belonging and identity. I think that what that would do, because there's so much anxiety going on right now, and I think that would just ease them thinking, oh, mom and dad aren't perfect.
They're still kind of struggling with some of those questions. And it allows me now to open up, as you're saying, Brad, to have that connection with my parents because they've displayed their own vulnerability. Yeah, and you sort of, I mean, what we've all said is you want them to come to you.
I mean, not that you don't want to go to somebody else, but I want to create a culture in my home and a relationship with my teenage son or daughter that they want to. And I tell you, I love doing this when they were teenagers laying on the bed at night. You think that ends at seven or eight, right? And it sort of does. It's different, but still being able to lay on bed or lay on the floor while they're laying in their bed as a teenager, going to bed at night and being able to talk about these big questions of identity and belonging and purpose. Again, you don't always frame them that way. But as you're listening, you're like, oh, my goodness, they're asking the same questions I'm asking. And there's a sense that I do have some wisdom. I've lived longer. So there's a respect for that.
But at the same time, I struggle. And so when I share both, like you're saying, Brad, sort of the authoritative and the wisdom, but also I'm a fellow traveler with you. And I still ask those same questions, but I know where to go for the answers. That opens them up, right? Yeah. And part of what we're doing there is we're creating relational safety. So, you know, this big question of belonging, where we need to belong first is in our family.
Yeah. And of course, we lay the pathway for that in the early years. You know, we lay all the groundwork. But in the teenage years, in some ways that that foundation is really, really important. But it also gets, you know, hacked at.
And it's a little more unstable. And in some cases, we kind of have to rebuild that foundation of trust and safety. So safety is essential for belonging. And in fact, when we talk to teenagers and those interviews we talked about, you know, we heard over and over, I feel like I belong when I'm safe, when I'm safe to be myself. And there were young people who talked about really feeling safe to be themselves and their families. And there were those who said, you know, home is not a place that I feel safe. Home's not a place I feel like I can really be myself. And that, you know, I think that's a tragedy for a kid.
Yeah. And I would say, I don't know what you would say, Ann. I'm thinking of a dad, an action step for today as you think about, OK, what am I going to do? What if tonight you laid on the floor in your son or daughter's bedroom, I'm guessing they're a teenager, and you just listened? And you may have a strained relationship.
You're going, I can't do that. Just start there. Just like, hey, man, so what happened today in your life? They may not be able to talk about it.
But if you started there, I bet you if you listen, you're going to hear one of these three questions sort of rise to the surface. And you know what I would say? Don't tell them anything. Don't preach at them tonight.
That's good. Just listen and let God start to rebuild a relationship with them. That's Dave and Ann Wilson with Brad Griffin and Kara Powell on Family Life Today. Their book is called Three Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Making the Most of Your Conversations and Connections. You can get it at familylifetoday.com or by calling 800-358-6329.
That's 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. If you know of anyone who needs to hear today's conversation, be sure to share it from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, it really help us out if you'd rate and review us. Now, tomorrow, David and Wilson are going to be talking again with Brad Griffin about how we can help our kids know they belong in the confusing times of adolescence and teenage years. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David and 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.
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