I remember in eighth grade the day I felt like I belonged.
Oh, what happened? I got invited to Steve Lishawal's house after basketball practice. Was he the guy?
He was the kid who hit puberty before all of us, so he was 6'2". He was the center of the basketball team. I was the point guard. It was get the ball to Steve, and he's going to the point, but he was the man.
Yeah. And he invited me to his house, and I had never been invited there, and I remember walking in and all the guys that were in the group that I wasn't really in yet were sitting in his parents' family room, and the parents were gone. And as I walked in, they all looked at me, and Steve said, hey, grab a beer out of the fridge. And you were in the eighth grade. And I'm in eighth grade, and I'm like, what?
I never had a beer, and my dad and mom were alcoholics, so I was like, I don't do that stuff. But I remember feeling like that was the day I was in, because I was in Alisha Waugh's group. 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. What we're talking about in this segment is so important for families and parents, because every kid, whether it's eighth grade, sixth grade, twelfth grade, and every adult, wants to know where and where do I fit, where I belong. Well, we're specifically talking about teens today, because they are asking that question, where do I fit?
Yeah, we've even got a book called The Three Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, and we've got the author in the studio with us today, Brad Griffin. Thanks for being back. Oh, it's so fun to be here. I love this conversation. I see you over there smiling the whole time. What's that smile about?
About the refrigerator. I have a really similar story from middle school. There was a kid, Matt Mahone, and he invited me to his house in between school and the dance, whatever the middle school dance was.
There weren't very many of them, but they were traumatic, you know. But I went to his house, like, to hang out and get ready to go to the dance, you know, to slick back our hair. It was the late 80s, early 90s, you know, there was a lot of, there was a lot of, like, Moose involved, if you remember Moose. And I just thought, wow, he's actually my friend.
You know, I mean, I spent a lot of time in my elementary and middle school years, belonging was the question that was out in front for me, and I always felt a little bit or a lot on the outside. And when, when he invited me to his house, I thought, okay, that's it. Yeah. Like, I'm actually this kid's friend, and he was a cool kid. Yeah.
He was a cool kid. And that mattered. That's social status.
Yeah, it mattered. Uh-huh. Well, the interesting thing is, as we talked about previously with you and Kara, about your book and really your study with teenagers, because you both work at the Fuller Houston Institute, and more importantly, like I said, you're, you're, you're married three teenagers in the home? Yes. So you're living exactly this, but you interview these teenagers, and you ask them all kinds of research questions, and you discovered what you believe are the three big questions. I know we've already said it, but remind our listener, what are the three big questions? Because we just talked about one of them that our teens are asking.
Yeah. So that question of belonging, where do I fit? It is a huge one for many teenagers. It is the question that's out in front. The other two, the big question of identity.
Who am I? And the big question of purpose. What difference can I make? How will my life matter in the world?
Yeah, and we talked even yesterday about it. There are similar questions we ask as adults. Here's the real question. How are they answering?
Pick any one of those. Let's talk identity. How are they answering the identity question of who am I? So we spent a lot of time listening, and to give you a picture for that, in the interview phase of our research, we sat down with teenagers one-on-one with an interviewer, and we met with them for up to six hours over the course of three interviews.
Yeah. So not six hours all at once, but yeah, and we spaced them out a little bit, a couple weeks in between, and part of the purpose was to really to listen, and then go back and listen again, and then go back and listen again. And through that practice, we heard a lot, and we heard a lot of stories. And when it came to identity, one of the big themes we heard was about pressure and expectation. And so the dominant narrative we heard from teenagers was, I am what other people expect me to be. Other people have these versions of me that I need to live into and live up to, you know, often. My parents have a lot of expectations.
Sometimes it's, you know, people at church, my pastors, it's my friends have certain expectations, my teachers, my coaches, and everywhere I go I just feel this pressure to be. What I'm guessing too, that creates pressure and anxiety. Yes. And that's, I mean, a lot of teens, a majority of teens even, are experiencing that, and you think that's why?
I think it's a big part of it. Yeah. And anxiety is a word that this generation uses to define themselves. Yeah.
And it's one of the words we think is just an overlay. They're anxious. There's a lot to be anxious about in teenage, you know, experience anyway, just developmentally. You wonder, am I as good as other people? You wonder, is my body changing in all the right ways?
You have no idea what's going on. There's so much to worry about. You get into high school and then you worry about your future, and all of that. But this generation, it feels like, has a whole other layer of pressure. Some of that's about social media and expectations.
We can get back into that later. Some of that, I think, is about our parenting and the pressure and the expectations that we put on our kids to, quite honestly, perform to our expectations. And, you know, that all builds up.
It builds up. And then add a pandemic on that. And so, you know, I saw some research that during the pandemic, among young people, anxiety tripled and depression quadrupled. You know, the impact of that, that's gonna remain. You know, I don't think, and I'm one who's big on resilience. I think most kids and teenagers are very resilient. And I think they're carrying with them this built up, you know, anxiety that they don't totally know what to do with it. And in some ways, this season has even more pressure than ever.
Okay, so I'll give you another example. So I have a junior in high school. The last normal year of school is eighth grade. Freshman year got cut short. Sophomore year was, you know, very, for her, it was mostly remote.
And so this is junior year. And all of a sudden, it's like, I've got to live all of high school all at once. So when homecoming comes up, like it did recently, it feels so weighty, because she's never had that.
And she may not have it again. And so suddenly, it's like, every experience has this, you know, this extra layer of, oh, it's got to be really great. And I don't know about you, but you know, I mean, I have felt that as a parent, too, of, you know, we haven't been on vacation a while, this has got to be really great, you know, or my kids have missed this or that. And so it's got to be, it's got to be a game.
It's got to be epic. Uh-huh. Yeah. And I'm not feeling a game most the time these days. So then I'm missing my own, I'm not meeting my own expectations. So if you're a parent and you're seeing this in your child, and it could even happen before teenage years, obviously, but you're seeing anxiety, you're seeing stress, you're seeing things you didn't see earlier.
And even one of the stats was 75% of teens feel inadequate or not enough. So keep going with your questions. Yeah, I'm just saying, as a parent, because parents are listening, what do we do? Yeah.
How do we step into that? Well, I'll start with one thing not to say, and this is going to be counterintuitive, okay? I think we should stop saying, well, just be yourself. Now, on the surface, that sounds like a really great thing to say, right?
Yeah. It actually, to a teenager, it can sound like more pressure. It can feel like more pressure. Because here's the thing, they don't know who they are. That just be myself, what do you mean? You know, well, when I'm with my friends at school, I have to be this way. In class, I have to be this way. At home, I have to be this way. By the way, I'm trying on new versions of myself all the time, because that's what adolescence is.
That's normal, developmentally normal. And I don't know that I like who I am, you know? Or other people may not like. Other people may not like who I am. There's all these different pieces, you know? And so, to just be yourself, it actually feels like a standard they can't live up to. And so, we're giving them a whole other layer of something that they don't feel like they can achieve.
So, Brad, what do we do when our kids come back? Like, well, I'm failing in school. Yeah.
I have no friends. Yeah. I just posted this thing on Instagram. I have, like, two likes. Mm-hmm. I don't feel like I am enough to anybody else.
Maybe to you, but you're you and mom, and you have to love me. That's right. Yeah.
How do you respond to that when they don't feel like they are enough? So, in that moment, where my mind jumps to is, I want to fix it. Yes, me too.
Yeah, I want to fix it. I want to jump in with, oh, no, no, no, no, no. You know, you're so awesome, and you're amazing, and look at all your talents, and, you know, and who cares if they don't like your picture? You know, I think it's amazing. Look, I put it on my phone.
Lock screen. I want to fix, and that impulse is there because we don't want our kids to experience the discomfort that they're feeling. We want them to feel better. I think what they need is to know that they're heard.
So, one of our colleagues said that being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they're the same thing. Yeah, I read that in your book, and I highlighted that like, oh my goodness, that is so well said. Yeah. So, talk about that. I mean, that's true for us as adults, but it's actually for a teenager.
So, for that kid in that situation, I actually think what could be most helpful sometimes is for us to just reflect back, wow, that sounds really tough. That's a lot. Yeah, it sounds like you're really just feeling a lot of pressure right now, huh? And you say in your book, memorize these three words, tell me more.
That's what you're modeling right now. Yeah. Tell me more. I love those words.
I had a friend and a pastor who said, I think those might be the three most loving words that we can offer another person. Wow. Tell me more about that. Yeah. Tell me more about what it feels like when that happens. Help me understand.
That's another really good one. I love this wondering language. I wonder. I wonder what that's like. Even the kid who won't tell us. Right, what they're feeling. What they're feeling. I gotta just say this. As I'm listening to this, I just gotta add this. By the way, husbands, this works really well when you're communicating with your wife. And I'm sure it's the other way for a wife or the husband, but Ann has told me so many times, just ask me. Don't fix it.
Don't solve it. Just say, tell me more. Tell me, what did that feel like? I mean, I'm listening to you say that about us with our teen years, but let me ask you this. As a dad or as a mom, how do we stop ourselves from saying, yeah, but... Because they're gonna say things that we know are wrong. We know they should think they're... And there's a part of us that goes, yeah, I hear you, I hear you, but... And then we go right to the answer, the solution, the judgment, whatever. How do we stay away from that? Because that's a tendency for all of us to do as parents.
You know, somebody told me this secret and I love it. I have a bottle of water right here in the studio with us. And one tip that this this parent said was, when you're tempted to jump in with an answer, with a response, with a fix, just take a drink, take a sip, swallow, take a breath, right? Whatever that is, just interrupt yourself. I actually think it's a discipline. Whether it's water, whether it's taking a breath, whatever that is, the discipline of pausing and asking ourselves, why am I going to respond right now?
And what does this kid actually need right now? And sometimes in that pause, sometimes the pause is long enough for the kid to actually say the next thing. Where we might normally jump in with a fix or an answer. I gotta tell you, I wish I was better at this. I mean, I actually, I love having the answer.
I love it. I was getting teary when you were talking because I thought, this is my greatest parenting mistake. Because when they start expressing their pain or their feelings of not belonging, not knowing who they are, not feeling like they fit in anywhere, I get so fearful in my heart. And I love them so much that I want to fix them right away. This is the truth. That's wrong thinking.
This is right thinking. And I'm passionate out of my love for them, but that's not what they're needing right now. That's been, that right there, if our listeners and parents, youth leaders, could do that right there, it would change our relationship with our kids. And you're right, it's such a discipline instead of just jumping in to fix it. It's hard.
I like that step of take a breath, take a drink, and I would add, say a prayer. Jesus, give me wisdom. You promised to do that in James. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives generously. God hears that.
He'll give us wisdom of just being able to then to ask, take a pause. And I think it's hard with kids that don't open up. And I would add this, because I think there may be some wired like me, which would, the advice would be stay engaged. Because there's a part of me that when it goes there with, even with Ann, but with a son or daughter, they're going sort of deep. They're going messy. And I just like, okay, I'm out. You know, this part of me is like, I'm just gonna go work out. I'm just not gonna, it's like I'm uncomfortable.
And I know there's moms and dads that are like, yeah, that's me too. And I just bail. Don't bail.
Stay engaged. You don't have to answer their question. You just need to live with them and walk with them in that journey, right?
Yes. And to be okay with not resolving everything in the conversation. Because the other thing is, you know, I want, like, I want it to be fixed now.
I want the answer to come by the end of our conversation. I want that kid to walk away, you know, feeling whatever. Or for this conflict to be resolved, if it's conflict. And I would add this, because we said this in our in our No Perfect Parents book, a lot of times as parents we think our goal is that we have teenagers that walk with God with no sin, with no disobedience. That's not the goal. I mean, the goal is something bigger than that. It's like, man, I hope that when my son or daughter is 30 years old, they're following Jesus.
And you know what? It may take some really bad choices in their teen years for that goal to actually happen. I'm not saying that's the only way it happens, but often we like, oh no, we can't let anything that's that negative happen or, you know, let them wrestle with doubt and struggle in those teenage years.
We want to fix it right there. And sometimes we need to step back and say, God's gonna work in this. And what they need right now as a mom or dad just comes alongside, is the stable force they need, but lives with them in the journey. Hey, let's play a clip, because this is another thing that can happen with teenagers. We recently interviewed Bev Hendrix Godby, and she was talking about sometimes you really don't like your teenagers. And so, Brad, we want you to listen to this and maybe respond. Ideally, you don't want to start in adolescence trying to like your child.
Good boy. That's not the most optimal time to do that. I feel like we lose the magic of childhood so quickly. Like when we first find out that we're having a baby, when we first have them, it's just all joy and just, oh, this is amazing.
And so quickly it just kind of flattens out. And I would really encourage parents, wherever you are, try to get back into the joy. Receive the gift. Unwrap the gift. It's right in front of you.
It's happening. But it's like you can delight in that gift if you choose to, and figure out what's right with this child in front of me. And they'll help you out with that, because they can't not not be this person.
The word that comes to mind for me is curiosity, cultivating curiosity. In the teenage years, one of the reasons that maybe we end up not liking our kids is that we just get stuck in the everyday. It's logistics. And some of those logistics are not very fun. I have said that I kind of get stuck asking my kids the same handful of questions over and over again.
Which are? Well, how was your day? Do you have homework?
Are you going to practice? Do you have your stuff? Did you do laundry?
It's the ridiculous, did you unload the dishwasher? And those are not very fun questions to live with. They're not fun to ask, and they're not fun to answer. And they don't cultivate curiosity. They don't actually help me get to know my kid. They don't help us cultivate a fun relationship or anything of substance.
And of course they're necessary. I mean, there's this layer of life that is just, we have to function and we have to learn how to function as a family. But I think that's where we lose our teenagers, is we lose the wonder and the curiosity of who they are and who they're becoming. And I think sometimes when a parent ends up not liking their kid, it can be because we've stopped being curious about them.
So maybe a way to get back into that is just to start asking our kids some different questions. To say, hey, I wonder what you're into these days. I don't feel like I know what kind of music you like right now. Or I don't understand the music you listen to. Tell me about it.
That's good. Even I was thinking, even on social media, if they have social media, who are you following? Tell me about them. Why do you like to follow them? Or what are you listening to that you resonate with?
Those are good questions. I like that. Yeah, I judge a lot. So this is a discipline for me to is, as a parent withholding judgment is one of my biggest downfalls. Well, it's a discipline after practice to withhold it because my downfall is to judge. And when we hear something that we don't like, or we don't know if we like it, or we're not so sure we just jump straight to judgment.
And especially if it's just pure trash. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Brad Griffin on Family Life Today. We'll get back to their conversation in just a minute. But first, let me just say we'd love to send you a copy of Brad's book, Three Big Questions That Change Every Teenager. It's our gift to you when you make a donation of any amount this week to support the work of Family Life Today. You can do that at familylifetoday.com or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329.
That could be a one-time gift or a recurring monthly gift. Again, the number is 800F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, now back to Anne and how she struggled to respond well when she didn't like the music choices her kids were making. I was listening to a son, like this is back in the CD days, like, are you kidding me?
This is what you're listening to? I take it out of a CD player. I throw it into the trash can. That really opens up conversation. Like, my mom's insane. That's what he's thinking. But I mean, there's some music out.
The lyrics are crazy, like, bad in terms of what we're thinking. So another time, this could be you take a breath, take a drink of water. Yeah. Yeah. And you're asking questions about that. Yeah.
Tell me what you like. I think it helps, too, to remember some of what we actually listen to and watched. And, you know, and I certainly remember looking back now. I mean, even sometimes I'll hear something, you know, a song from when I was a teenager and think, oh, actually listen to that.
You know, like, I knew all the words to that song. Yeah. And that wasn't, you know, that wasn't very edifying.
That wasn't very whatever. And so under the surface, sometimes a kid wants to listen to music because they want to belong to take it back to the three questions. Right. We actually heard this in our interviews. When one young woman talked about I remember this one, she said, Okay, so sometimes I remember in middle school, especially, she said, when I knew a song, and I knew the lyrics to a song, I fit in. And then a new song would come out, and I didn't know and suddenly, it felt like I didn't belong anymore with these people.
And I didn't understand how that worked. And, you know, music is one of those undercurrents of teenage life. And actually, it can be a marker of belonging and in particular in, you know, sort of subgroups and clusters of kids who listen to particular music.
And so all of that, it's part of it, you know, it can be part of identity. Well, which am I an eclectic music person? Am I a, you know, am I a country music person? Am I?
What kind of music am I? What does that say about who I am? And kids are processing that they may not even be able to be consciously aware of it. But it might be about who I am, might be about where do I belong. And to us as parents, it's just like, oh, that's trash.
Are you kidding me? Even we listen to lyrics. Kids don't necessarily even listen to lyrics. I mean, you know, for some kids, it's like, oh, this is just fun to dance to. Like, well, did you hear what they're saying?
No. And yet, I think at the end of the day, as you think about the three questions, identity and belonging and purpose, if anybody is going to be the one to speak truth about those, it's us as parents. And again, we have to be, we talked about, we have to be very careful how we do it. We need to listen. We need to empathize.
We need to ask questions. But I also think, and Anne has shared many of her mistakes. She was the best and still is at speaking words of life and true Christ identity into our boys. Even now as men, she constantly reminds them in an inappropriate way, not in a mom, hey, you got, but just because they're not hearing this anywhere else. And I think we as parents need to make sure, and I would say even an action point for today, what if today's a day they heard from you, mom or dad, the truth about who they are and where they belong and what their purpose is in an appropriate, regular, consistent way. Dave, I would add to one of the things we did, and I would do this every night, is I would put my hands on them, their shoulder, their leg, their foot, and pray for them at night. And I'm praying those things over them. God, thank you that they're part of our family.
Thank you for the gifts. And I would name some of the things I see in them. And I would even say, like, they may not see it, Lord, but I do. And you do, Jesus. And just praying that over them, because they might not always receive, but just praying that over them and thanking God for them. I was thinking prayer when you said that, as you started to say that, Anne. You know, one thing I was thinking about is sometimes we tuck something away and come back to it later.
Like, hey, this conversation, this may not be the moment to correct, but I'm going to tuck that away and come back to it. And one of the ways we can come back to it is prayer. And I'm a big fan of praying for my kids at night.
We do. And it's just a practice. We started when they were babies, and we keep doing it, even though they're teenagers, and they haven't asked us to stop, and we're not going to stop. But praying for your kids at night can be one of those contexts where you can reinforce truth. I just text my kids things sometimes.
And, you know, I have a college student now. The other day, I just sent her a link to a song, you know, and it's just, the Lord bless you, right, and keep you, and the Lord make his face shine on you. And I just said, hey, just a Tuesday blessing for you. And it's little things like that where we can speak truth to our kids in incremental ways over time, and not in the heat of a argument. You know, I wasn't in that text, I wasn't disagreeing with her about music or about fashion, just a whole other thing we haven't even talked about, or whatever. You know, it's just, hey, I just want to bless you today.
Because I love you, and I love you. Yeah. That's David Ann Wilson with Brad Griffin on Family Life Today. His 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 1-800-358-6329.
That's 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. If you know 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'd 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 know that when our kids stumble through the day and fall down, God's still got them. 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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