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

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
August 29, 2022 12:00 am

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 12:00 am

No one feels prepared for raising teens. But you can do this! Author Gary Chapman reveals What I wish I'd known and ways to redefine your relationship.

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Apologizing is essential to a healthy marriage or a healthy parent-child relationship. And the reason it's essential is none of us are perfect. You know, all of us fail from time to time.

You don't have to be perfect to be a good parent, but you do have to deal with your failures. 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 or on our Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. So we have our youngest, Cody. He called us, said, Hey, I'm thinking about coming down. And then we said, Yeah, that'd be great. Well, I'll be there tomorrow.

And he shows up with his two kids. I was so excited. I did not fall asleep till 3 a.m. That's how excited I was. I mean, you screamed.

I was in the garage, and I thought something tragic happened. But the reason I bring up Cody is because when he was how old, you crawled in bed with him to do what you normally do as a mom. Well, this boy, as he was younger, he had a couple love languages were very distinct.

One was touch, and the other one was words of affirmation. And so every night he would beg me, Mom, get under the covers and just lay here and talk to me and kind of, you know, like, put my arm around him and hug him. And so I would do that. You know, some nights like, Oh, I just want to go downstairs. But you know, I'd get underneath and we'd talk and tell him like, Man, you're great.

And we'd pray. And this one night, I think he was probably 12-ish, 13-ish. And we had talked and I just automatically lifted up the covers to just lay with him for a few seconds. And he said, What are you doing? And I said, I was just gonna lay down with you. He said, Mom, get out of here. Oh, I walked out of the hallway and I said, Good night. Love you.

Walked down the hallway. I sat and I cried because he was our youngest and it made me so sad. You're getting teary now. No, I'm not. I'm not.

I'm not. But it made me sad that he was pulling away a little bit, which is normal. Yeah. In some ways, that's a welcome to the teen years moment, which we're going to talk about today.

How do you navigate the teen years as a mom and a dad? And we've got Gary Chapman in the studio, the first time ever Family Life Today in Orlando. Welcome to Family Life Today, Gary. Thank you.

It's great to be here. Yeah. And you've written, I mean, people know you from the five love languages. I think it sold a few copies, you know.

It has sold a few copies. But recently you released a book that I wish we had 20 years ago when, you know, when Cody was that young. Things I'd wish I'd known before my child became a teenager. So you know the teenage years. Well, you've been married how many years Gary? Married? 60 years.

My wife says she has no idea how that could possibly be because she's only 49. That's right. Exactly. And then you have how many kids? Just two. Boy and a girl.

Girl came first. Grandkids. Four years later. Have two grandkids.

Boy and a girl. Yeah. Just went through retirement at your church after 50 years of pastoring. Yeah. 50 years at the same church. That's pretty good, especially for a Baptist church. Yeah.

It's amazing. You must've been good if they hadn't run you out by year 10 or whatever. Well, I survived, let's see, four senior pastors.

Did you really? And I was the interim pastor twice. Once for two years, once for 15 years. But other than that, I was doing marriage and family counseling and working with college students and singles and married adults and just, it was a great, great time.

50 years. Yeah. That's awesome.

That's incredible. And you've blessed and helped so many listeners, us, so many people around the world with this concept of the love languages. But what prompted you to do the things that I wish I'd known before my child became a teenager? Well, you know, I wrote, first of all, it's a three-book series.

The first one I wrote is Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married. Yeah. Yes. Twelve things that I know now, had I known then would have made my marriage much easier.

Yeah. And then it just seemed logical to write one, Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Had Children. And then after that, I thought, well, you know, oh man, the teenage years. Because, so this one's on Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Had Teenagers. So those are always the books I pick up too. Like, oh, they learned something.

Let's hear what they learned. Yeah. And a lot of parents, you know, when we talk to them are afraid of these years. Yeah. The teenage years.

Should they be? Yeah. Well, yeah, probably. I remember the mother who said, what has happened to my son? She said, it's like his brain has changed. He's just totally different, you know? And I said, well, you got it right.

His brain has changed. For us, we loved it. It was fun, but it is also that scary feeling of, oh, I'm not sure who they are. I've heard parents say to me, will they ever go back to the person that I used to know before they were teenagers? Let's talk about, you mentioned 12. I don't know if we'll get through all 12, but you know, as you think about, okay, the first thing that came to your mind, we think what I wish I would have known about raising teenagers. Well, I wish I had been prepared for the change that does take place in teenager brain. I mean, I knew nothing about that, but the reality is the brain is reorganizing. The brain is shifting around. And one of those things is they're learning how to think logically.

I notice I say learning. They're not logical, but they're learning to think logically. And that's why they question things that you've taught them for years and it blows parents away. And I wish I had known that that's normal.

They're processing things now. They've accepted it when they were children. Whatever you taught them, they accept it. But now they're thinking, is this really true? And so normally we say they're argumentative. That's the way we see it, argumentative. But if we understood that they're developing logical thought, we would cooperate with that rather than trying to say, well, you know better than that.

Now don't talk about that. We stop the flow and we lose the influence. So we have to learn how to receive their questions and ask them. Now, that's an interesting perspective.

What made you think that? Engagement conversation. Now we're helping them develop logical thought rather than stopping the flow.

I wish I had known that. Less arguments. I mean, that's wisdom. I mean, one of the things we wrote in our No Perfect Parents book was the teenage years are the live in the question years. Like you said, not always telling them, but asking and drawing them out. I remember, maybe you're familiar with Shonta Feldhahn wrote a book called For Parents Only.

And it was really research from teenagers and parents. One of the things she said is just what you said is like, when they're small, you sort of give them the building blocks of what you believe and what life is about. And it's like, you're building this castle with them. And it's like, we believe in God. Okay, okay, we go to church.

We are people character. They have all these blocks. She said when they hit teenage years, they'll pick up each block. And they'll sort of look at it like, I don't know if I believe in God. And most of the time we as parents just freak out like, oh my goodness, you're saying that's normal and we should just draw that out?

Absolutely. And lead them to things outside yourself because they know what you think. I mean, they've been listening to you all these years. And so if they're questioning in spiritual things, for example, you say, well, that's an interesting thought, you know? And I know there are people who actually believe that. So why don't we study that a little bit?

You know, why don't we read some stuff? Why don't we see, you know, and like if they're thinking, well, you know, why is Christianity the only religion? You know, I mean, these other people are good people and, you know, okay, well, let's look at their beliefs, you know, let's study their beliefs. And so you just walk them through, you know, because they've got to make it their own.

They've got to make Christianity their own. It's not, you can't just give it to them. I think Dave really welcomed that when our kids were asking questions. I tended to freak out a little bit more like, oh, no, what's happening? And what you're saying is it's really normal. And it's probably a good thing for them to question because what it can do is open the door of conversation with parents. And so by asking the question, I love what you said, tell me more.

Tell me what are you thinking about with that? And even Dave used to say, that is a great question. I've dealt with that myself over the years. So it does open the door to conversation.

Absolutely. But I think so many parents, when they don't realize that this is normal, what's happening is normal, they do become defensive. They say, now, you know, you know, we've talked to you that all these years.

Now, you know, that's not, you know, that's wrong. They just get that out of your mind, you know? And so then the kid stops talking to the parents. They go talk to somebody else. And that's the last thing you want. Absolutely. Because they're going to talk to somebody else and get input from not another parent, probably another peer.

Tell Google that. Talk about this. If you're saying that the brain is starting to think logically, I also read that they often will make poor decisions because of that. So they're pulling away. They're making bad decisions. As a parent, how do we navigate that? Because, you know, we're watching it happen, but it's sort of normal.

Yeah, well, it's really hard, especially if I make poor decisions. And because we know that we're losing really far too many teenagers by the time they get to be 18, because they've been pulled off in drugs, alcohol or other behaviors that are destructive. And this is really, really painful for parents. There's no question about that. And that's why if we, on the early stages of that, if we sense that something's going on there, we need to be on top of it and be talking to them about that and exposing them, like in the drug thing, exposing them to the reality. I mean, there's tremendous material.

All you have to do is go on and look at all the results of whatever drug it is. It'll frighten a kid if they read it. You actually did that with your son.

Yeah, right. And the other thing was with my son, I would go once a month on Saturday night to the juvenile detention center. And I'd play ping pong with the kids and I'd just talk with them individually, you know. I started taking my son, he was a teenager, with me and we would play ping pong and then we'd talk to the kids and then riding home and they would tell us their story, how they got there. And riding home, I'd say, Derek, isn't that sad, man?

Those guys are your age and they made poor decisions. And that's all, you know, that's more powerful than my preaching. Oh, that's so good. If I could only stop there, I'd have gone on and on. But you just dropped a little nugget.

Yeah. And sometimes I would clip a little thing out of the newspaper and say, Derek, you might want to read this, son. This guy was your age. It's really sad.

He was a teenager who had been driving under the influence and to kill somebody. You know, I just said, you might want to read this. He'd read it. I didn't say anything else. Just let him read it. Let him see. How were you able to just drop it and let it go?

You do the same thing. Hi, are men better at kissing? I'm asking for my wife. No, really, you're so good at that. I don't know about that. But I mean, as you look back on your, you know, years with your kids as teenagers, were there any hiccups? I mean, did you feel like, man, one of the things I wrote about is because I blew it in this area. Yeah, the whole area of anger.

Yeah, that was huge. I remember, I don't know, he was probably 14 and he and I got into an argument and I was yelling at him. He was yelling at me and I was saying hateful things and he was saying hateful things in the middle of all of it. He walked out the door and slammed the door. And when the door slammed, I woke up.

Really? And I said, Oh God, I thought I was further along than this, yelling at the son I love. And I wept. I just sat on the couch and wept and just confessed to God, you know, how horrible it was. And my wife tried to console me.

She came in and said, honey, I heard the whole thing. That's not your fault. He started that. He's got to learn how to respect you.

And you know, she was finally, she gave up because it's kind of hard to console a sinner, you know. And so when he finally came back in, I said, Derek, could you come in here a minute, son? And he sat down and I just apologized to him. I said, a father should never talk to a son the way I talk to you. And I said, I said some horrible things and that's not the way I feel about you.

I love you. And I hope you can forgive me. And he said, dad, that was not your fault.

I started that. I shouldn't talk to you that way. And when I was walking up the road, I asked God to forgive me. And I want to ask you to forgive me. And we hugged and we cried, we hugged and we cried. And then I said, Derek, why don't we try to learn how to handle anger in a better way?

What if we try this? The next time you get angry with me, you just say, dad, I'm angry. Can we talk? And I'll sit down and listen to you. And the next time I feel angry, I'll say to you, Derek, I'm angry. Can we talk?

And let's learn to talk our way through anger rather than yelling at each other. It was a huge turning point. I've sometimes said that was one of the saddest nights of my life in raising my teenage son and one of the happiest nights. Sad because of my own failure.

Happy because he just demonstrated to me, he knows how to apologize. That's so powerful. I'm thinking of the listeners that just thought, I yell at my children all the time, my teenagers, like, this is just a constant thing where they're yelling and I'm yelling. How do I even get out of that cycle?

You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Gary Chapman on Family Life Today. We'll hear his response in just a minute. But first, if you've ever been the parent of a teen or know someone who is, you know, it can be a super stressful time for parents. You can have all the best intentions in the world, but sometimes you just don't know how to help your team. You can feel desperate. Well, we're going to be talking about family life today.

Sometimes you just don't know how to help your team, you can feel desperate. Well, when you partner financially with family life, you're helping that desperate parent. Dennis Rainey says, God loves the prayer of the desperate parent.

Wouldn't it be amazing if you were part of God's answer to that prayer? Your support could provide just the right article or podcast at just the right time for just the right parent. You could be a part of the solution and partner online with us at You give today as our thanks. We'll send you a copy of Jenny Allen's book, Find Your People.

It's our gift to you when you give at or by calling 800-358-6329. That's 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, now back to Gary Chapman and how parents of teens can get out of the cycle of yelling back and forth. I think first of all, you have to recognize that it's not productive. You know, you're teaching them to do what you're doing. And so as a parent, we need to apologize when we recognize that we have failed our teenager. And some parents have said to me, well, if I apologize, won't they lose respect from me?

I said, no, no, they gain respect. They already know what you did was wrong. But when you apologize to your teenager for anything that you know you've done wrong, you're teaching them a skill they're going to need forever because they're going to fail too. They're going to need to learn how to apologize. They'll never have a good marriage if they don't learn how to apologize. So I think that's the first step is just recognizing, you know, I'm teaching them something I don't want to teach them.

What I'm doing is wrong and just apologize to God first and then to this teenager. You know, it's pretty amazing as we hear that story about Derek that he's 14. And I think we underestimate he acted, responded like a man, like a full fledged adult. We often think, oh, they're 12, 13, 14. They're just a kid. In some ways, maybe they are. Other ways, they are fully a man or woman, right?

Yeah. They're thinking more. They're moving toward adulthood. And so they're not thinking as a child now, they're thinking more as, you know, moving toward, I say moving toward, they're not there yet, but they're in process. But this is where the time that we have been with them before that in the childhood years are so important because, you know, he had been in a Christian home.

We wouldn't read the scriptures in the morning and night and pray with them and, you know, all of that. So he's fully aware of this apologizing thing, you know, and confessing our sins to God. But you know, if you didn't start when they were children, you have to start when they're teenagers.

That's okay. Well, you are where you are, you know. So you just start there and start learning what we need to be doing. Well, some of our listeners have little kids, and you just blew by what you did.

I'd love you to talk a little bit about, okay, if you've got a five-year-old, six-year-old, what are the kind of things they can be doing to prep for these teen years coming ahead? Yeah, what we did, my wife is not a morning person, but she fixed a hot breakfast every morning. I did that too. Yeah. That's like Mother Teresa. It's on that level.

I don't know about that. But when you have hungry boys... Oh, hers are amazing. Yeah. So she did that because she wanted to be... She committed herself to this. She thought that was a motherly thing to do, and she did it for all those years.

Now, as soon as the kids went off to college, that was over. Me too. She doesn't get up and cook you a hot meal every day? I'm with her.

I'm right with her. So what we would do at breakfast, I would read just a brief passage of Scripture. We'd just discuss it a little bit while we were eating breakfast with the kids.

Anything heavy duty, but just awareness that our life's going to be based on the Bible. How old were they when you started these weeks? They were old enough to sit at the table and talk, probably, I don't know, five or six years old.

Yeah. And then every night, we would have a little devotional time, which we were basically younger. We'd read a Bible story to them out of a Bible story book. And then we didn't pray as a group. They would go to bed.

And my wife, where I won, would go to the bed beside of them and get on our knees. And we would pray. And when they got older, they started praying. And my daughter says, that's where I learned to pray. So we'd pray every night. Those were the two things that we did consistently through those childhood years.

And of course, we took them to church because I think we recognize that if they can be exposed to other Christians out there in their classes at church, that's just adding to the impact on their lives. I was thinking if Derek had come home and you had apologized, I was impressed that you didn't say anything like, well, how about you? Is it your turn? And what you did was wrong. But what if he hadn't apologized? What would your move have been then?

I think I would have probably just dropped it there. I think after I sat hoping you can forgive me and hope that he would forgive me without preaching a sermon to him, because our model is powerful. When he heard me apologizing to him, he would walk away and think about it. If he didn't confess it there, he'd walk away and think about it. And he may come back later and apologize.

But if he didn't, he still got that model of apologizing. It's good. Yeah. I think you wrote about it. There's power in an apology.

I mean, just that move by anyone. I mean, Ann and I did a little thing about how to rekindle love in your marriage. And as we're sitting down, like, how do you stoke the fire of romance back in your marriage? You know, the first thing we thought of was that. Which you would probably think, wait, wait, wait. When you go to your spouse or your child and say, I'm wrong, I'm sorry.

Here's what I'm wrong and sorry about. Something happens in the soul of that person. It doesn't always come out the way we hope, because maybe it doesn't. But something softens, doesn't it? Well, it's even the proverb, a gentle answer turns away wrath.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think when we apologize to someone, they're hearing us deal with our failures. And in fact, I sometimes say apologizing is essential to a healthy marriage or a healthy parent-child relationship. And the reason it's essential is none of us are perfect. You know, all of us fail from time to time.

And you don't have to be perfect to be a good parent. But you do have to deal with your failures. And when we apologize to our children and request forgiveness, we don't demand forgiveness because forgiveness is a choice. But we request forgiveness of them. We're teaching them how to apologize, and they will eventually forgive us, likely if we're apologizing, and we're teaching them how to forgive. So it's a huge thing that every individual needs to learn is how to deal effectively with our failures, because we're all going to fail.

And apologizing is a huge part of it. I think what we do with teenagers is we feel like we're failing. I know that as my friends and I have gotten together before, we had committed to one another, like we're nagging our teenagers constantly. And realizing that, and I think it was pushing our kids away.

Like who wants to be someone around someone that's constantly criticizing? And so when we do that, it's harming the relationship. But that apology, as you're saying... Well, tell them what you guys did. They made a pact not to what? They made a pact not to nag our teenagers for one week.

I mentioned this recently on an episode. It was one of the hardest things because we realized the conversation that generally is happening with our teenagers is the mom is critiquing their kids for all the things they're doing wrong. Not just moms. Well, dads probably, but it was with us as moms specifically. But then we decided to, and you'll appreciate this because a lot of it's that love language is verbally affirming our kids. We tried to do that in the midst of it instead of the criticism. And it's not that we don't criticize or point out or try to help our kids, but we can get in this rut of constantly seeing the negative.

Why are you... Clean up the dishes or put your toys, not your toys away, but put your stuff away and get your homework done and get to bed. That kind of wears on people. It would wear on me if Dave did that to me constantly.

Absolutely. And what happens, those children who get constant criticism, they go into adulthood and they don't have the ability to give affirming words because they've never heard them. And so we're doing them a tremendous disservice. All they've ever heard is criticism. So what will they do? They will criticize. So Gary, what do we do if we see our kids, 14, 15 years old, and they're just making bad decisions. They're not listening to mom and dad. We don't want to criticize them.

What do we do? I think what we do, every time we have a rule or a guideline that we have for teenagers, which we should, there should be boundaries with teenagers because they need to have boundaries. But whenever we decide that this is going to be a rule or something we're going to do or not do, let there be consequences and tell them what the consequences are going to be before you do it. For example, let's say they're 16 and they're going to be driving now. So there have to be some guidelines here and responsibilities. So one of the things, if you're going to drive the car, either our car or if we help them get a car, whatever, you're going to watch the car every week on Saturday before noon, you watch the car.

You know, if you're in a setting where you can do that. And if you ever break the law, you know, if you get caught for speeding, you will lose the car for a week or you, you know, you said it. So now the kid knows and you know what the consequences will be if they break the rule. And so all you have to do, you don't have to get mad. You just have to say, well, son, you know what happens? You know, have to lose the car for a week. Well, dad, but this week, I know, son, I know.

But you know, when we break the rule, there are consequences. And so you stick with it. You don't break down when they cry, you know, you say, but all my friends are going to be over there.

Well, I'll drive you over there, you know. I like how you remain cool during the whole thing. That's a big thing. And if you, if you have already told them what the consequences are, you're more likely to stay cool. You see, because otherwise we operate on our emotions at the time.

If we feel strongly, then we come down hard on them, you know, or if we just, you know, then we kind of let it go this time. And the kid doesn't know whether they're going to get consequences or no consequences. But if we all know what's going to happen before they break the rule, then all we have to do is just enforce the rule.

I remember being a young parent hearing that and putting that into action. And I remember thinking, this is amazing because they already knew the rule. They broke the rule. And then I could empathize with them.

Oh, I'm so sorry. That probably makes you so mad or frustrated, but you knew the rule, you know. So it was almost like, we've already set this in place.

It might've been a little more intense than that in the kitchen, but... Maybe. But the times that I applied it, it was like, oh, this works. It's easier for the parent and for the teenager. But you have to be intentional to put those in place before. Absolutely. And mom and dad needs to agree on them also. Exactly. Otherwise dad's going to let it slide. Mom's going to come down on them, you know, but we both agree on it.

And now it doesn't matter who's at home and who's administering, mom or dad, because everybody knows what's going to happen. 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 And while you're there, you can also save on Family Life small group studies when you use the code 25OFF. Again, that code is 250FF to save 25% on all small group studies at through Wednesday. Tomorrow Dave and Anne are back in the studio with Gary Chapman talking about adjusting our language and how we treat our teens as they evolve into adulthood. That's tomorrow. 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.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-12 15:19:09 / 2023-01-12 15:31:56 / 13

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