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David Eaton: How to Love Your Teenager

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
October 13, 2022 3:00 am

David Eaton: How to Love Your Teenager

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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October 13, 2022 3:00 am

Overreacting with your teen? Author David Eaton knows the anger is real and stakes are high. Grab ideas on how to love your teenager even when they blow it.

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Check out David Eatons Ministry, Axis to get the latest tools for your child's teen years

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Clearview Today
Abidan Shah
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Focus on the Family
Jim Daly
Truth for Life
Alistair Begg
Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb

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.

We have a God who stepped into reality and stepped in to our world and said, no, you're forgiven. 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 we've got David Eaton in studio today. David is a teenage expert.

Not really. He's an expert on raising teenagers because he started a ministry called AXIS. David, you tell me, you communicate with 200,000 parents and teenagers a month?

Oh, yeah. About what? No, we equip 200,000 parents who have 400,000 tweens and teens in their life. And we help them have non-anxious Christ-centered conversations about culture and about TikTok and about fashion trends and about Jesus and about technology.

And we want Jesus to be at the center of a family. So that's what AXIS is all about. I hope every parent listening just lean forward and thought, I need this program. I knew they did. I was like, they're all like, how do I get this? How do I get this?

Yeah. And go there and check out the culture translator. It comes out every Friday. It says, here are three things going on in your kid's world. And it is awesome. Oh, I get it. Every time. I have no idea what you're talking about when I start reading it.

I'm like, I don't have teenagers in the home anymore, but it's like, we need to be on top of this, understanding culture, especially if you're parents of preteens or teenagers, you want to be able to talk their language and understand what's going on and start conversations. But one of the reasons I brought this up really early, you said you have like three, what, trick questions? Oh, yeah. I am hijacking this radio show right now.

Oh, all right. Let's see it. It's like, enough interviewing me. I'm interviewing you now. So the tables have turned.

This has never happened. Watch out. Game on. I guarantee my wife will be able to answer all three of these. No, I will not. And I won't be able to answer any of them. Okay. Well, there's three trick questions and they're scenarios. They're situations.

So bear with me. So the first one is you were looking for something in your 17 year old's room because clearly he took something of yours and maybe you lost it. And you're just like looking.

You were an innocent, awesome parent looking. So you're looking and you can't find it. So you're like, ah, just I'll look in his closet.

Maybe it's in his closet. So you open the closet. See, oh, there's a box down there. So you're like, maybe it's in the box. So you pick up the box, you open the box.

And as you look inside the box, you find a half consumed bottle of whiskey and an open box of condoms. What do you do, Wilsons? I say, Ann, you might want to have a conversation with our sons about this. No, I mean, honestly, here's my answer.

I'm not saying it's the right answer. I'd love to know what Ann would do, but I would go to Ann and we'd go, hey, look what I found. Let's sit down with whoever's son's room it was. All three of our sons were in the same room.

So it could have been any one of the three. I'd probably choose the oldest one first and say, you know, is this yours? And, you know, can we talk?

I mean, we did find porn on our home computer when our oldest was 13. And that's exactly what we did. We sat down and first Ann said, is it you? And I said, no, it's not me. And then we had a conversation and he admitted it was him. And it led to a really good conversation that is ongoing. You know, well, actually, that's what I would do. I have two questions about that.

First of all, I'd love to ask another one. Oh, yeah. Oh, it's on.

It is on. You thought this was safe. How would you feel when you open the box for the first time and you see those things down there? I would have just a pit in my stomach, especially if you were non suspecting, like if you had no idea and you find that. I would cry, honestly.

My first thought was the same thing. I would take it to Dave. If he wasn't home at that time, I'd probably, and I did this many, many times, I'd get on my knees.

I'd tell Jesus everything I'm feeling. I'm afraid, Lord, what's happening? I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say.

What should I do? James 1 says that he will give us wisdom and generously, generously. And I would pray, like, Lord, we need wisdom. These are scenarios that we actually did. I was laughing because I thought you were going to say what you did when one of our sons came home drunk. She kicked him out of bed because he said, you know, I drank too much last night and crawled into bed. She kicked him out of bed, said, you're going to do the front yard right now.

And she yelled at him in the front yard, like, who do you think you are? And I said, this wasn't a good moment. It wasn't a good moment for me because it had happened before. And this time, I mean, he came home reeking of alcohol. And so he's like, I just need to go to bed.

It was prom night. And so I reacted instead of responded. I didn't pray. I didn't do anything.

I'm like, get out of bed because you are working today. And so, yeah, I was not calm or cool by any. Did he do a good job on the yard? How was the, was it nice and level?

Straight lines? It was super sad thinking back about it. Like, he was crying.

This 18-year-old boy was crying the whole time. I think sometimes as parents, we do, like, I had to apologize later. Probably wasn't the best way to respond in the moment. But I did say, like, I was so, I'm so afraid.

I'm afraid. And my fear caused me to react. So we had that conversation. And then I feel like God salvaged it because I remember saying to him, like, you're amazing. And I can see that God has so much for you. I can't wait to see all that he has for you.

And I get scared because I think, oh, don't waste all that he has. You know, so I said so many wrong things. I might have said a few good things. But as parents, we do, we make mistakes.

And when we're in it, we don't always respond. God did redeem the moment. And he's an amazing man and father. And he hasn't made a mistake since. That's really, really great.

Just like his dad. And there's one final, like, clarifying question, because everybody who's listening to this wants to know. You mentioned finding something on your computer. And you said you kind of teamed up, talked about it. The conversation went really well. So why did it go really well?

What happened? Because that's not... Hey, you're hijacking the show. You really are. I told you.

This is not a surprise, because I made it clear. I'm hijacking it. I mean, when I look back, I can see us sitting there in the basement having this conversation.

Because it's one of those parenting moments where you hope it will never happen, but you know it could happen. And here we are. I think we listened. We said, tell us your story. Tell us what's going on.

Why did we find this? Wow. He was very honest. But Dave, I think the thing that really I feel like was so impactful is you started to cry, because you said, this has been my struggle when I was younger. And man, I hate for you to have to experience what I've gone through. And so I think that was so impactful for you to relate, like, man, I've struggled with this too. And I think his response then was, he cried too, and was basically saying, what do I do? Yeah, and honestly, it wasn't tears of, oh, my kid messed up. It was tears of, I know this battle. You are stepping into a war zone, dude. It's a hard journey.

I'll walk it with you. But that was my tears, like, oh, man. And that happened more than once in our home.

Lots of times, stuff like that. Anyway, back to the trick question. Well, first of all, it's kind of just a metaphor, a parable for like, how would you react? How would you respond? How would you feel?

So thank you for giving us beautiful insights into your story. It's a real story. It happened to a friend of mine. But then I have a parent say, oh, you wouldn't believe what I found in my son's glove compartment. Or our plumber is in the house and he's fixing something in our kid's bathroom and found something behind the sink. Yeah, we've had friends that they found pot in the backpack and found out that their son was selling it.

And this is before any of it was legalized. Wow. Yeah. Here's the trick question, the aspect of this. One is that whatever is the box and what's inside the box can become an adversary between you and your kids.

And then that is just really tough if you're not on the same team and you're like opposing each other. But the real punch line with the box, the real punch line is that what's inside the box, that cultural artifact, that marijuana, that self-harm, that cutting, that perfectionism, that personal shame, that will kill your body. What is inside the box will kill your body.

But the box, that secrecy will kill your soul. This says, I've got to hide this from my parents. I've got to hide this from God. I've got to hide this from other people.

Where are my fig leaves? I don't belong here. Like I am unworthy or this is my secret special sin.

As they say in AA, we're only as sick as our secrets. And so, and guess what? The box isn't just in the closet. It's in our pockets now.

It's called a smartphone. And so there is a brand new box in town. Okay. Second question. You ready for question number two? Drum roll. Here we go. I don't know. Thank you again for your vulnerability honesty.

Second question. I'll frame this up as an awesome youth pastor failure because I was a youth pastor and I had an awesome youth pastor failure. There's a family. They invited me over to their house because I was supposed to mediate first problem between a mom and her teenage daughter.

And her teenage son. Here I am, Axis. I wrote the book, Engaging Your Teen's World, have the culture translator.

Actually, the team does all that at Axis. So they're fantastic. And so I was like, I can help. I can really help with this. So you knew going over that that was when I wanted you there? Oh, yeah. Okay. That was the, I fell for it. Yeah, you had answers. You could do this. I had all the answers. Quite the debacle, if you will.

So I go over and try to help with smartphones. Ended up like writing an entire book based on that interaction because if you can get out ahead of it or there's some great ways around it. But as it was total failure, wouldn't make, they wouldn't even look at each other like so mad, mad tears down this young lady's face. Mad, mad, not sad tears, mad tears. Why was she mad? You don't understand my mom. And is from a divorced family. So what ended up over the smartphone fight is that this young lady got two smartphones, one for her mom's house and one for her dad's house. So that now her parents can effectively show who's the better parent is. And so she's effectively triangulated them. And then there's also a challenge here that the mom would take the smartphone away and wouldn't say what the kid could do to get it back or when they were getting it back.

And if they asked, she held onto it longer. So there are some challenges, right? As we all have challenges, it's hard. Smartphone is hard. But as I was walking down the steps of this house, there are some nice flowers I remember to my right.

Stone steps, gravel driveway, little circle in front of the house to get in my car. The young lady said to me a phrase I will never forget. And this is my second question for you, Dave and Ann. She says, David, she said, the stricter the parent, the sneakier the teenager. My question to you, true or false? I would say that's true if there's no relationship going on with the kids.

Meaning if it's all about rules and regulations and toeing the line, then the teenager would become sneaky. What do you think? I agree.

I think it's true. So when you say relationship, what do you mean relationship? Of course there's a relationship there. What kind of relationship?

Tell me more, Ann. If the kids feel loved, encouraged to talk, to share their heart, to share their mind, to share their opinion, to share their fears with their parents, that's what I mean by relationship. That the door is open for communication. I feel like that's one of the things I did poorly at times as a mom of a teenager. I became so fearful of what they were doing that I wasn't as concerned about their heart. And this is from our kids telling us now as adults. My one said, Mom, you were more concerned about my actions than why I was doing the things that I was doing. Like, you weren't concerned about me, you were concerned about what I was doing.

Yeah, more concerned about behavior than my heart. Yeah. Is that sort of what this daughter was getting at?

Yes. I mean, when I heard the statement, it feels like it was a paradox. Because it's like, of course that's true. The stricter you are, the more one tries to control, the other one will try to control back and it's a control fight. So control begets control. But then it felt deep down like it was like some type of illusion or like a magic trick or like a sleight of hand.

Like, no, that's not true because of some type of relationship thing. So if you could unpack bad strict versus good strict, Dave, that'd be helpful. And then I'll share what I believe is a potential answer, not to the strict, but to the actual paradox. I feel set up. Like, I'm going to fall into this trap.

You are doing so good. You know, we wrote a book on parenting and we tried to get a little bit into that idea that rules are good, strict is fine. You've got to lay down boundaries for your kids when they're toddlers and when they're teenagers. It isn't like the greatest parents are the most permissive and there's no rules. In fact, as you interview teens, they want rules. They really do. I had one 14-year-old say, my mom and dad have never given me one rule in my life and I feel like they don't love me.

Wow. Which was really interesting for a 14-year-old to say. Yeah, so I guess I'm going at the idea that, yes, you lay down rules, but it has to be in the context of a loving relationship where they're feeling heard. They can push back on those rules. Let's have a conversation.

And they feel like mom and dad really will have a conversation. It may still end up the rules not getting pushed at all, but I feel heard and seen. Again, I'm not saying that's perfect because those can be really messy and ugly, but the key, I think, is if the rule's a good rule, then keep it, but make sure your teen understands it, is able to push back on it. Has an opinion about it.

And you hear that, and sometimes when you hear it, you go, okay, I'm going to adjust it a little bit. Rule's still here. I mean, one of our sons said to us, because we had a conversation at the dinner table, I think we've shared this here before, and said, hey, tell us some things that you don't like about our parenting. This was when they were teenagers. Maybe some rules that you just think, it's dumb.

Like, that's a dumb rule. Which, by the way, is a great conversation to have at your dinner table or wherever. Ask your kids this. A lot of parents are like, I don't want to know. No, you do.

You should know. And one of our sons said, I think it's stupid that when you guys are gone, I can't have a girlfriend over here. Well, tell us why you think that's stupid. Well, I'm mature enough, blah, blah, blah, and at the end of the day, we're like, you know what? That's not a stupid rule.

You're not going to have a girlfriend over here when we're gone. Well, we kind of explained our side of it. Here's why.

Here's what we're thinking. He also said, I think it's dumb that you guys give me this bedtime. Like, I'm in high school now.

I should be able to determine. You know, and it wasn't that we had a strict bedtime, but what I would say, like, man, you should get to bed. He's like, I can figure that out. And I said, you're right. Yeah. So we let that one go.

It's like, you know, but I think at the end of the day, he would say, I felt hurt. Even though they kept the one rule, they still let me push back. So is that what you're saying?

Yeah, you're building that trust, right? A great sports analogy for this is playing soccer by a cliff without a fence is not very fun. Because what are you fencing out, plummeting to your death?

What are you fencing in? A very enjoyable game. Right.

So this young lady says this to me, strict with the parent, sneaky with the teenager. I agreed and disagreed simultaneously. And then I realized this is a great question to ask. So I'd ask it to my friends. And then it really brought some great vulnerability from that.

And so at a dinner party or every now and then I'd talk to somebody. I was trying to figure it out. Like, where's the answer? And so a grandfather actually solved the riddle. And do you know how he solved it? He solved it by answering my question with a question. And he went like Jesus on me with that one.

So I'm like, you got this. He said, David, to answer the question, he says, you have to say this. He says, are you raising a sin concealer or are you raising a sin confessor? So one, I just want to say thank you to the people at Family Life because the person who brought that up to me was Bob Lapine. Really? It was his answer.

And maybe he got it from somewhere else from all the years of doing radio shows like this. It's a collection of wisdom that he is. And so Family Life has been very good to access.

So thank you even to have me out today is such an honor for me and the team. But yeah, that idea of sin concealer versus sin confessor is the heart of the gospel and how we deal with forgiveness. Like you said, Ann, you asked for forgiveness from your kid for overreacting before. And so how do we know if you're raising a sin concealer versus sin confessor is are you modeling confession? Is it OK to say, Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner? How do we understand that we're supposed to forgive as we've been forgiven? Forgiveness is still hard for me.

It doesn't fit the math, the calculus of reality. You know, we want to have karma. We want to have like you reap what you sow in many ways. But we have a God who stepped into reality and stepped in to our world and said, no, you're forgiven. And it's important, don't you think, to confess your sin to your kids? I mean, the sin that you've hurt them, you know, I disciplined you this way. It was hard. Whatever it is, it's a healthy conversation to say I'm sorry.

It's actually a really it requires wisdom that we should ask for God and he will generously give. We do not doubt on how to confess and who to confess to and what to say. And even the question of like, how much do I tell my kids about my past and when? Well, they need to hear because there's a reason where you said, trust me, nothing good is going to happen at our house. After nine o'clock at night, we're not there with your girlfriend or 10 o'clock or whatever.

It's just right. And so, well, why? Well, you're just not going to do it right now or I'm going to tell you later or we're going to go out for coffee. We're going to figure this out. OK, so here's the deal. Sin concealing versus sin confessing.

I knew Bob Lapine would end up back in the studio. Sounds like a pastor's sermon. Yeah, that'll preach, right? Well, I have preached.

Literally, I can see it in my sermon notes. Conceal equals death. Reveal equals life. You know, I was obviously talking about our relationship with God is if we all conceal, we all hide, we all have fig leaves.

And it always leads to death because if you're playing something in the dark, the dark's going to win. But if you bring it to the light, which is the scariest thing ever to tell your spouse or a teenager to tell your parents or a parent to even confess something to their teenage son or daughter that they've done wrong is scary, but it always leads, the light always leads to life, right? So tell me how. How do you raise a sin confessor? How have you done it? Have you done it right?

Have you done it wrong? Well, you're the guy who wrote the book on, you know, understanding teens. You must have an answer. I just like to lob these really amazing philosophical conundrums wrapped in enigmas. I mean, my only thought, and Ann's sitting right here so she can say it's a lie or it's true, is modeling in front of our kids what it looks like.

Yeah, that's what I was going to say, too. To confess sin. And our kids have not been perfect and we have not been perfect. There are many times that they have hidden their sin, we have hidden our sin, but there's a beauty of being able to confess it. And we're big confessors of saying, you guys, we messed up.

And so I think that modeling is probably the thing that we've done wrong. All right, I want to actually hear this. So you mess up and then it takes a full like week for you to come around or it's just like 30 minutes later, you're just like, I messed up.

Like what did you? I would say for me, often weeks. Okay. I mean, and there were probably times where it was pretty immediate, but a lot of times it's like I concealed that sin secret for a while. You know, it's like, I'm going to beat this on my own, whether it's a struggle with a phone or you name it.

And then it's like, no, I'm not winning this thing, I need help. So Ann's one of the first partners that knows the truth and then my guys I'm doing life with. That's the other thing. I think my sons, we just had three sons. They saw dad in relationship with men that were his accountability partners and soldiers beside me.

So that's a modeling as well. So they knew I was saying that to these guys and that hopefully helped them to say, this is how a man lives. You don't conceal, you reveal. We're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with David Eaton on Family Life Today. Well, here are three specific things you can say to your kids when you mess up.

That's in just a minute. But first, David Eaton's book is called Engaging Your Teens World, understanding what today's youth are thinking, doing and watching. You can get your copy at And, you know, one way to help your child open up with you and not conceal their sin is to be a parent who models discerning vulnerability to them with our sin. Easier said than done, right? But that's the kind of culture we believe in here at Family Life. Being honest, owning our failures and forgiving lavishly. Well, one of the ways we can do that is by being learners of how to forgive well. And to help you with that, 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 our gift to you when you financially partner today with Family Life.

You can give online 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, here's David Eaton and three things you can say to your kids when you mess up. I will say, again, this is something that will make you address your own shame.

Access is going to help you with social media and smartphones and video games and all the other stuff. All of those are kind of artifacts that are out there, constellations of issues that are out there. But oftentimes it comes back as, do I believe what God says about who I am and how am I dealing my personal shame? Because if you're parenting out of shame, that's a hard parent to be parented by. So again, it is modeling and I think, especially if you blow it with your kid, to come back to them and to say, I'm sorry. And this is something we do with our kids and it's just like, I hope they remember this and I hope this just becomes part of their vocabulary. I'm sorry I was wrong, we forgive me.

Those are three things. And sometimes it's very heartfelt and then I'll hear my kids say it back to us and they'll be like, I'm sorry I was wrong, we forgive me. Or I'm just sorry, we forgive me. Or I was wrong, we forgive me. All three of those components are really important to really own it and realize it and then to invite them.

And honestly, to say that you don't have to forgive me. Yeah, it may take time. Yeah, like I'm okay with the time on this because this is one of those things that it just doesn't always solve itself. All right, so you got a third question? No, I do.

You said there were three. I do. This is a doozy. So the third question is, and this is the number one question we get asked, is at what age should I get my kid a smartphone?

You know what, we're out of time. Gonna have to save this one for tomorrow. You have to stay tuned, we'll answer that tomorrow. Your kid's teen years should have an instruction manual for cell phones, right? Oh my goodness. Tomorrow, the Wilsons are joined again by David Eaton to talk about the road we need to be taking when giving our kids phones. 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 / 2022-12-06 21:06:53 / 2022-12-06 21:18:49 / 12

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