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David Eaton: Engaging Your Teen’s World

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
October 12, 2022 3:00 am

David Eaton: Engaging Your Teen’s World

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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October 12, 2022 3:00 am

By age 15, over 40 million walk away from faith. How can we handle hard, awkward moments? Author David Eaton offers ideas for engaging your teen's world.

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Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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Building Relationships
Dr. Gary Chapman
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

Hey, before we get to today's program, I want you to know that Dave and I were perfect parents. Until we had a child.

Exactly. And we used to think there were perfect parents, but there are no perfect parents. And that's why we wrote the book No Perfect Parents.

And we're excited because now we have an online video course for you. And you can go through it as a small group, individually, or even just as a couple. And to get that, you can go to slash not perfect to find out more.

Again, slash not perfect. What would it feel like when you're a sixth grader and you don't want to go to school because you're afraid? What would it feel like when you're a sophomore in high school and you hear like a chair falls over or there's a bang out in the hallway and everyone's on edge?

What would that feel like? Because I didn't have to experience that, you know, when I was in high school. That wasn't the place I was in. So how do we embrace our kids with that love and that care? 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 the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. So let's talk teenagers. When we were parents of like eight and seven and five-year-olds and the teen years were, you know, on the horizon, older parents who had already gone through the teen years all said almost the same thing. Do you remember what it was? Yes. What?

Wait till you get to teenage years. Yeah, I mean, they were like freaking us out. With this dreaded doom. Yeah, like it was going to be horrible.

Yes. Was it horrible? Teenage years were probably my favorite span of parenting. I loved it too. Me too. It's weird.

I mean, I don't know. We loved it. But. But it was scary. And I feel like today there are some things going on that we didn't have to face. I don't want to raise teenagers today. I'll just say it right now.

I think it's scary. And I think parents are wondering, how do we do this? And we need help. And we need help. And we've got help in the studio today with us.

David Eaton flew all night, ended up sleeping in the studio somewhere in this building because his plane was delayed. But David, welcome to Family Life Today. Thanks for having me on. It's good to be here. Are you really happy to be here?

I am so awake right now. No, I'm ready. Let's go.

Let's do this. Yeah, well, you're sort of an expert on teenagers, not just because you wrote a book. I love your book called Engaging Your Teens World, Understanding What Today's Youth Are Thinking, Doing and Watching. But you really have a passion for what we're talking about today, right?

Tell us why. I love the rising generation. And so for all of you parents out there with teenagers, all you grandparents with grand teenagers, or if you may have younger kids or older kids, I just want you to imagine not dreading having a teenager.

I just want you to sit in that moment and just say, could it be true? I just heard Dave and Ann say that they really enjoyed having a teenager. And so AXIS, an organization that I co-founded, exists to be a parent's research assistant. We are there to be in your back office to help you understand what's going on in teenage land. So whether that's social media or cultural trends or screen times or mental health or sexuality, we are here to research and help you be equipped to have conversations with your kids. I started because I had three friends. I have a picture of it.

We're on a mission trip to Mexico. And it's when I stopped renting my faith to my parents and I started to own it for myself. How old were you? I was a freshman, a sophomore, a junior and a senior.

I went four years in a row for two weeks. I mean, like mowed yards and raked leaves. Did I rake leaves? We did odd jobs. You had to raise money.

And then this is before 9-11. So we hopped in a 15 passenger van and we drove across the border like that's a normal thing that you do. And it was just an amazing trip where I saw the Holy Spirit work and like we did like street evangelism.

I feel like cautious even saying that. But we were preaching the gospel on the street corner and I have a picture of three of my buddies like preaching the gospel on the street corner. And then they went off to college and their faith imploded and they're no longer following Jesus to this day.

And so that got my attention. The current scary stat from the Pine Tops Foundation says that over 40 million Christian teenagers in the United States will walk away from their faith by 2050. That's untenable. And when I was 23, I was just out of college and I just said, what could I do to help?

What could I do to figure out a way to reach my generation? And so AXIS does something we call culture translation. So if you just imagine if C.S. Lewis and MTV, if they made a baby, they would name their baby AXIS. So it just means we're looking at the timeless truth of Christianity and theologians and philosophers. And then also thinking about, hey, what's going on TikTok right now?

What does the word chug mean? Like Harry Styles, how should I think about his album? How should I think about him being very masculine but wearing girls clothing? And how do I have these conversations with my kids where I don't freak out and they're non-anxious? The thing that I'm so excited about at AXIS is when we started, it was just like traveling and speaking at schools and churches.

And I do that a little bit now and our teams do that a little bit now. But really, we realized that we're not the hero the next generation needs. Parents are the hero. We're not the missionary at AXIS the next generation. Parents and grandparents are the missionary. And so we used to think we were the hero. We realized, oh, the influence is just so small. David, do you think parents realize that they are the ones that have that influence?

I mean, parents have told me, my friend Brian has told me, he says, I just feel like I'm always losing and I'm tired of losing. Or I had a dad, he's out in Washington State, he says, I'm always three apps behind my kids. Or I had a mom named Sarah who said, man, when I just come across something, it's another thing that I'm behind and I'm embarrassed about or it's dangerous. Or, you know, in your kid's backpack, you pull it out and you're like, oh, this looks like a little thumb drive. You're like, oh, wait, that's a jewel.

That's a vape device. And you're like, I've seen things on the news. My kid's going to die. Their lungs are going to explode.

And yeah, that might happen if they're vaping aftermarket vitamin E acetate, but your kid's probably not doing that. So you always are living in these different levels of feeling like there's an emergency. So Sarah is like, whenever I come across something that I'm embarrassed about or I'm scared about or I'm angry about, she's like, I have two options. She says, I either feel silent, like I'm just going to ignore that. Actually, the phrases that come out a lot is like, they're a good kid, but, you know, I turned out OK. They'll turn out OK. And it's just like, I'm just tired of this fight, so I'm just going to ignore it. So that's the silent response.

Or the violent response was like, give me that. Give me your phone. Give me your laptop. Like, you're not going anywhere. You're shut down. No more video games for you.

And it's just this like war. And so at AXIS, we have to say, what if there's a third way? So instead of just feeling silent or violent, what if you felt confident? What if you felt ready? What if you felt prepared?

And that's what the team I work with does. We make parents prepared. You and Lindsey have a nine-year-old, right? Yes.

Shiloh Abigail. And a five and four-year-old. Yeah. So you're not there yet. Yeah.

In terms of teenage years, you're on your way. We're not experts on parents. That's what we'll tell you is like, you're the experts on parenting. You're the experts on grandparenting.

Yeah. So many things. Ask our kids.

We've got books that other people have written that are experts on parenting. But I mean, as you think about Shiloh turning 13, 14, 16, 17, you're not afraid. Why? Of course I'm afraid.

Good. There's just multiple times, even just thinking about mental health, thinking about she's only as safe as her friends' phones, thinking about maybe back in the day. You know, this is like, I was talking about the silent, violent dichotomy. One of the silent ideas is ignoring culture and just says, we're just going to raise our kids like it's the 1950s.

Had a mom say that to me, North Carolina. And it's like, God has given us our kids, not in 1950s. It's 2022.

It's 70 years later after that. So we have to raise our kids for that world. So, yeah, on one level, I feel that level of anticipation and also like, what is the world going to be like four years from now when she's an official teenager? But at the same time, I know that Shiloh is surrounded by a great community at her church and that Lindsay and I are thinking about her and that I have started an organization that exists to be a research assistant for me as I'm like traversing the minefields.

But also just the incredible joy of having a precious daughter that I get to be the father to. I think what happens is we as parents, I feel this even now. Sometimes you just feel dumb, like I don't even know what's happening in the world. My kids are talking a language. I don't even know half the things they're talking about.

Yeah, just go to, A-X-I-S dot O-R-G, and every Friday we send out an email called The Culture Translator, and it is parenting gold. It is. I get it.

It is gold. Just says, here are three things that are happening in your kid's life this week. I say read it twice a month. Read it every other week.

If you read that, you will be eye to eye with your kid. Me will even be ahead on some of these conversations. Give us an example. Okay, so I'll give you a couple of recent examples.

One is we'll do like a slang term of the week or a song of the week. So we talked about what is a cheug, and what does it mean to be cheugy? Before you even tell us, did you know? No, of course. Of course I didn't know. Sounds like a candy bar.

I have no idea. It's coated in caramel. It's delicious. It's very cheugy. It's the essence of being a cheug. And are you saying that many teenagers right now would know what you're talking about?

Oh, absolutely. There's like entirely different languages you were mentioning earlier. So it's a way for Gen Z, which is the current generation, to make fun of older millennials and older millennial styles. So there's like jeans that are cheugy. There's clothing that's cheugy. There's things that you can like that are cheugy. That means outdated, not cool?

Yeah. It's like trying too hard and just like kind of missing it and just being... You know, millennials are old now. So Gen Z has got to let them know.

If millennials are old, oh my goodness. So I should get a t-shirt that says I'm cheugy. No, you don't want to be cheugy.

I know, but I could at least admit it. Yes, actually you should. Yeah, I should.

World's cheugy's grandpa. So let's say I'm a parent of a teenager and I get this email and I read that. Do I go have a conversation? You actually do two different things. You either go in like full spy mode and pretend that, you know, like you just know these things and all of a sudden they'll be like, mom, how'd you know that?

Like unbelievable. Or you say, there's this thing called the culture translator and I love you and I want to understand your world. So I read it every now and then and it helps me understand what you're feeling and thinking and doing.

So another one is like Harry Styles came up with an album. And so you just go and you listen to the tracks and you'd be like, oh, I kind of like that. You figure out what you like about it or, oh, that's kind of interesting. You look at the album art, look at some of the articles behind it and all of a sudden, like that song comes up on the radio or your kid is playing this, you know, from their phone in the car and you like can have a conversation and know whether you should freak out about it or know if you can be like, oh, that's interesting. Here's some of the nuance and texture of that.

It's really powerful. Or the Roe v. Wade thing happened. And so culture translator actually spent an entire article or entire email talking about how that is being talked about in culture and who are some of the big influencers.

And then how can we think biblically about this, but also how can we have incredible compassion? Or there was a giant school shooting. Heartbreaking. Normally we talk about three things that happen each week. That week we just talked about one thing. And honestly, like anyone who's like going to read the culture translator probably has a pretty good idea what they think about gun control. So it's like, do we need to talk about that?

No. I'm sure you've talked about that with your kids already and have some thorough debates. Instead, we want you to empathize. What would it feel like when you're a sixth grader and you don't want to go to school because you're afraid? What would it feel like when you're a sophomore in high school and you hear like a chair falls over or there's a bang out in the hallway and everyone's on edge?

What would that feel like? Because I didn't have to experience that when I was in high school a couple decades ago. That wasn't the place I was in. So how do we embrace our kids with that love and that care? And also, this is the most hopeful thing that I can say. Here's the punchline. Culture translation is great. That's cool.

CS Lewis plus MTV, all that. But what's really great are you moms and dads out there. And so we had this young lady. She said to us, she says, I've only had one real conversation with my dad. And we heard that. We're like, oh, that's not good.

You're having like a thousand conversations a week on TikTok. How can you only have one real conversation with your dad? And turns out her dad's a pastor at a Christian university president for two decades.

And he was an axis board member as well. One of my heroes. So I'm like, oh, this is rough. How can you only have one real conversation with dad? And then the young lady smiled.

I'm like, oh, why is she smiling? And she said it again. She says, I've only had one real conversation with my dad. And we've never stopped having that one conversation.

It's good. It's one conversation that's continuous, that lasts a lifetime. I had a mom actually, she said this, her name was Tanya. And she's like, my teenage sons are leaving the home really soon.

They're moving out and they're starting to say things that make me really concerned that they don't share the same faith commitments that I have and the same beliefs. I'm scared. She says, my window, it feels like my window is closing. She says, how much longer do I have?

There's a dramatic pause. I said, Tanya, you have a 60 year window with those boys. You have a 60 year window. You are the most influential person in their life, period. Scripturally, that's true. Sociologically, it's true.

You get to have that one conversation. So if you feel behind, that's totally normal. I feel behind.

Most parents feel behind. Culture is changing rapidly. That's going to be a challenge. But know that there's no one who's going to be there driving through Chick-fil-A, getting that spicy chicken sandwich before the volleyball game and talking about sexting.

Okay. That's a scary conversation. There's no one who's going to be there when your kid is like, it's 11 o'clock at night. And all of a sudden, they're chatty. And they want to talk. And you're like, I just want to go to sleep. But the light's off in the room. You sit on the floor. You lean against the wall. And they open up their heart.

And they just say, I don't know if I want to be a Christian. And you're like, ah, that's scary. But you hold on to it. You realize you have one conversation.

You practice your I'm not shocked face, which doesn't even matter because you're in the dark, right? And then you say, well, let's talk about that. And like, there's nothing wrong with having those doubts. Let's figure it out. Let's chase this down as a family. You know, one of the cool things is, you know, we're old enough, we're making fun of it, but we're old enough to know what you're saying is true.

That conversation doesn't end. You know, our oldest is? Thirty-six. Thirty-six.

I was going to say 40. Oh, my goodness. And we're still having the conversations that sort of began when he was eight and nine, really began when he was three.

But all three, boy, don't you think? It's like, yeah, you're right. That conversation doesn't end if you stay engaged and intentional. Because I think when I hear you say this, I think a lot of us as parents, and I had a tendency to maybe want to go there naturally.

It's like, oh, I'm just going to pull back. I don't want to step into this crazy world they're navigating. I sort of want to stick my head in the sand and pretend they're good kids and they love Jesus and they're never going to struggle rather than let's walk in their bedroom at midnight and have a conversation.

Do you know what I'm saying? Yeah, because you, Dave, would have this tendency where I would say, I think they're struggling in this area. And he goes, no, they're not. They're great kids. And I've said, I know they're great, but I really think they're struggling. She was right a thousand percent.

Every time she was right. But I loved your belief in them, you know, because I would tend to freak out. Like, what are they doing?

What could happen? But I think the reason we love the teen years is exactly what you're describing, David. Those conversations where they say something and you hear and feel their fear or their insecurity or their hope or the fear of the future and then to have that conversation. I think what I would tend to do more than you, Dave, is I would tend to become fearful for them. And so I think as parents, we have this line of asking that question as they're starting to share to say, tell me more, tell me more of what you're feeling.

Tell me more of what the kids are feeling at school. And what I could do sometimes is I could get all judgmental about it. Well, shouldn't feel that, you know, or what do you mean they're talking about that or doing that? And that's the part as a parent, I really had to hold that back. As you said, don't show your shocked face.

Right. Don't freak out. We would go in the other room and just go, what? We didn't do it in front of them, but later we'd be like, oh, my goodness. But you're saying as parents, we're important and the kids do want to know us. You are the most important person in their lives. We would never say that. As parents of teens, most of us would not say that. That's why you have to say it and that's why you have to hear it.

And that's why you have to believe it's true, especially through that 8 to 18 year phase, because there are some times where it just gets rocky or hard. And look, fear is totally normal. But what you have to do is you have to hold that fear. Pretend it's like a volleyball or something. This is your volleyball of fear.

And you hold it in your hands and you visualize it and you invite the Holy Spirit into it. Because if you are parenting out of fear, your kid is not getting the best version of you. If you're parenting out of fear, you're going to do some things that are reactive. You might become silent or violent.

You might all of a sudden realize, wow, they're making some of the same mistakes I made. I'm a bad parent or I'm a bad person. And start shaming yourself.

And then you're parenting out of shame. And those are places that we need resurrection. We need reconciliation. We need God to speak in that spot.

Let us know that we're forgiven. Let us know that that's not going to be held against us and that we don't have to be the parent that parents that way and invite that in. Now, as far as parents being important, you have to hear this. All you parents out there, you have to hear it.

I'm going to say it out loud because I need to hear it for myself. There is a man named Christian Smith, Ph.D., at Notre Dame. Endowed chair of sociology. Got his master's and his Ph.D. from Harvard. He has studied teenagers for the last two decades. He ran the National Study for Youth and Religion. He is the guy. He is the guy with the team, with the endowment, with all this. And so he wrote a book recently.

Have it right here. It's called Handing Down the Faith. I want to let you know it's a rather boring book.

Yours is better. Well, I think they go hand in hand. Because what he does is he establishes the importance of one conversation with your kid. He lays the groundwork. So whenever you're in that moment saying, I just want to quit, you can at least say, intellectually, I know that I'm the most influential person in this kid's life.

And then access can help you with whatever's happening that week and the week after that and the month after that. That's always going to be changing. So this is what he said in an interview. He said, after spending two decades studying the religious life of American adolescents, among all possible influence, parents exert far and away the greatest influence.

The empirical evidence is clear. No institution comes close to parents, not churches, not youth groups, not faith-based schools, not mission trips, not summer camps, not Sunday schools, not youth ministers. What makes every other influence pale into virtual insignificance is parents, followed closely by grandparents and, if you live close to them, aunties and uncles.

And the best kind of parents, and it's always kind of scary to say best, but the kind of parents that we all aspire to is to have high expectations, which I'm really good at. Actually, who has higher expectations of the kids in your relationship? Probably, Ian. Okay. I'd say we're both pretty positive. Okay.

And so, I don't know. High expectations doesn't mean positive. That's true.

Yeah. It can mean demanding. So you have to balance it out with warmth. And so, you can get in situations where you can be super warm and be like, that's great, and be like, this is going to destroy you. And so, that's where you have high warmth but low expectations.

You can have high expectations and just be such a stonewall and not emotionally available. So when your kid does come across something, instead of saying, man, I would like to talk to dad about this, or I wonder what mom thinks. Oh, no, mom's going to freak out on me. Oh, no, dad's going to like take away my phone again. So I better just shove that one down and ask my buddies what they think.

Or maybe I'll just go to Google or maybe I'll see what's trending on TikTok in this area. And that's what we don't want because everyone's going to disciple our kids. That's just the truth. It's just who has the loudest voice, the most influential voice, or maybe even the quietest, most influential voice? Well, you know, it makes me think if Christian Smith, if he's correct, which I tend to agree a thousand percent, and he's got research to back it up.

You said earlier, you know, so many are going to walk away from the faith. What are we as parents doing wrong? Because we're the most influential and our kids are walking away. You know, it's very tempting to outsource.

And we live in a world where it's awesome. We can outsource everything. When our kids get better SAT scores, let's do training for that.

You can find all kind of tutorials online. And man, parenting's hard. So let's just outsource it to the youth pastor.

Or man, parenting's hard. Let's just hope that the church does it. And the church wants to do it. And the youth pastor wants to do it. But even more, what does the church want? Church wants you to do it, parents. And they want to equip you and to be in your corner and help you out.

That's not what the model looks like. But I think everyone deep down knows that parents are the way. Yeah, it's a partnership between all of us. That's Dave and Ann Wilson with David Eaton on Family Life Today.

Listen, stay with us. We'll hear an encouraging word for parents from Dave and Ann in just a minute. But first, David Eaton's book is called Engaging Your Teen's World.

Understanding what today's youth are thinking, doing, and watching. You can get your copy at And man, is David speaking our language here today? We know that family life in and of itself isn't going to change your family or your kids. That's God's responsibility. But he wants to do it through you.

That's how you'll see change start to happen. Family life exists to come alongside families. To point families to Jesus and to remind them where hope comes from. Will you partner with family life and help point more families to Jesus? All this week, when you partner financially, we want to send you a copy of Brant Hansen's book called Unoffendable. How just one change can make all of life better. It's going to be our gift to you when you give this week at

Or by calling 800-358-6329. That's 800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Okay, now back to Dave and Anne with an encouraging word for parents. I would just add as an older parent, now a granddad, I would say to the dad and the mom who's listening, don't outsource it. Just what David was saying. I mean, the church can help.

Christian school can help. All great stuff. You are the biggest influence on your kids. And here's what I would say. Your walk with God is more important than anything else that happens. It's more important than the three Bible verses you share with them this week.

Are they seeing an authentic man or woman really walk with God? Because here's what we've learned as grandparents now. They're going to copy what they see. And if it's real, that gets transmitted. If it's fake, they sniff it out.

I mean, our kids, you know, sniff it out better than anybody. So, I mean, my biggest admonition would be look in the mirror right now and say, what's my walk with God look like? Because that's going to be passed down to my legacy. Well, I remember saying to our sons, do you guys remember some of these great devotionals we did? Or some of the Bible verses we memorized? And here's what they said.

No. But here's what they did say. They said, but mom, I remember every day you had your Bible out.

You've got all these books out. I remember you being on the deck praying on your knees when I would come out sometimes. And they said, we knew that you depend on Jesus for everything. That's what we remember. Now, coming up tomorrow, the Wilsons are joined again with David Eaton, where you'll hear more about why we react in the ways that we do, how to restore trust, and how to show understanding with our teens. That's 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.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-11 20:55:25 / 2022-12-11 21:08:03 / 13

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