When we talk about recipes for faith in our children, what we're really saying is we want to control this whole scenario and make sure our kids have faith.
And it is not up to us. And so there always has to be this element of trust. God, I'm trusting my kid to you. And I got to know when to back up and when to slow down.
And I can't try to do all this myself. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at familylifetoday.com or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today.
Well, a few weeks ago, we did a series of programs with John Marriott on deconversion, which they were so good. It was so helpful for families and for parents, you know, talking about when our kids maybe walk away from the faith and every parent wants their kids never to walk away. We want our kids to take our faith and make it more vibrant than anything. So to talk about in our culture, that's the world we're living in.
It's happening everywhere. So that was so helpful for so many families. But there's a group of families that look at this in a whole different way. It's the families that have a child that maybe lives between two different families. I was that child.
Yeah. I had my mom and then I had my dad and my stepmom. And they're very different influences.
And my experience was a totally different experience at my dad's house compared to my mom's house. And so we brought Ron Deal in, who's our director of blended families here at Family Life. And we thought, let's have a conversation with the expert on this, because this is a big deal in any family, but especially for a family that has that dynamic going on. We have two different influences. So Ron, welcome back to Family Life Today. Thank you, guys.
Always enjoy being with you. So, you know, obviously I'm setting up something that you deal with every single day. You've written about it.
You have a podcast about it. Help us understand that. I mean, I knew it as a child that it was really a different environment spiritually, emotionally and everything in my life between two different families.
That's the reality for a lot of people. And so when you talk about deconversion or helping your kids have a vibrant faith as they grow into adults, how does this play out in that kind of environment? Yeah, you know, in the best case scenario world for parents, we get to control everything that they're exposed to in life and in the world and every value and it all comes from a Christian worldview and like we control it and then therefore we control the outcome. And we all know that we don't have that much control in life over anything, but at least we're trying.
But life is often messy for kids that are moving between different households. Dave, you're one of my favorite illustrations. So let's just start with you. I'm your favorite illustration.
You're mine too. You just mentioned that your parents were divorced. And so you moved back and forth between dad's house and his new wife, your stepmom and mom's house. Let's just take something simple. Was there ever anything that was clearly different in those two households? And it could have been opinions about food or decorations at Christmas time or, you know, something really benign like that. But can you think of an example of something that it was just obvious they didn't see that the same? Ron, the first thing I thought of immediately were rules in my mom's house, curfew.
I'm thinking teenage years, high school years. And again, my situation was a little different. I wasn't like at my dad's house every other weekend. It wasn't every other Wednesday. It was, you know, he lived in Florida. We lived in Ohio. So it was, you know, a week down in Florida and most of the time with my mom. But when I went to my dad's, no rules.
I thought at the time, this is awesome. I can take the car. I can go anywhere I want. I can maybe be home at midnight.
I can maybe be home at two or three in the morning. There's no real rules. My mom, are you kidding me? If I'm coming in the door a minute after 11 p.m., I'm in trouble. So again, that was just one area, but that I felt like I had freedom at my dad's, not as much at my mom's.
Okay. So as an adult, this question I'm about to ask you probably has a pretty clear answer, but as a kid, who was right, mom or dad? As a kid, of course, I like dad's rules. Because it gave you lots of freedom. You can do whatever you wanted.
And you know what? I got in trouble. And so how did you feel towards your mom? Because she didn't give you those same freedoms. I just thought, she didn't trust me. She didn't understand I'm not just a boy now.
I'm a man and I can make these decisions. Dad gets me. Dad understands.
You don't understand as much. So yeah, I felt like I was being restricted from the fulfilling life God wanted me to live. Were you resentful of your mom? I wasn't until I experienced the freedom with my dad. But then, yeah, when I came home, I was like, this is how, come on, mom. You know, wake up a little bit.
You're a poor mom. I feel that would be hard. And Ron, you talk to families a lot that probably deal with this very same thing. Okay, so let's apply this little scenario to our situation.
Right. So we're talking about passing faith to our kids. Well, what if one home is actively doing that? And that's sort of like, in your case, Dave, mom's house with rules. There's expectation that come along with these family values. There's behavior that is right and wrong.
And you're disciplined if you do the wrong behavior. And that's rooted in our belief about what God wants from us. And by the way, that creates structure in your world. And, you know, that's harder to live up to. And then you go to the other home and you have complete freedom and you can make your own choices. And as a kid, selfishness wins the day.
Oh, yeah. And so all of a sudden, what kind of values are you moving toward in your affections? Well, you're moving towards the values where you get to do what you want. And so you have this bind between your two worlds and you're left as the child to try to determine which of those values is the best values to adopt.
The ones that give me freedom, those are pretty attractive. These rules over here, I don't know, something about mom, I don't know what this is all about for her and this is not really that big of a deal. And come on, believe in Jesus and you want me to believe what now? What shape does this faith take? Well, that's kind of hard.
I like easy. OK, so before we were just talking about, you know, sort of expectations around behavior around the home. But when you magnify that into the spiritual realm and now we're talking about faith and we're talking about matters of eternity, we just ramped up. But it's the same dynamic. There's a difference between the homes and the child is left to be the one to try to figure out what's right. Now, that's a burden for I'm 56.
Thank you very much. It's a burden for me to figure that out day in and day out. What if I'm six? Yeah.
What if I'm 11? Wow, that's a challenge. Plus, now let's add a little loyalty element. I love my mom. She's great. She's awesome. I love dad.
He's awesome. But they're clearly not the same people. The identity question is, so what does that make me? Who am I?
Am I this kind of person or am I that kind of person? And how do I love my mom? And I don't necessarily buy everything that she believes. And how do I love my dad?
And I kind of buy most of it, but not everything that he believes either. So like, who am I? Where do I fit?
Where do I go? And then, Ron, add this to the equation at certain times, where the mom is speaking negatively, in Dave's case, about the dad being so lenient. Like, your dad is wrong and I'm so mad at him for doing that. And then you have the dad talking into Dave, possibly, saying, your mom's ridiculous. She's always been like that. She's super controlling and fearful. Now you're waging war with that piece of it as well, where now you have parents going and speaking against one another as well.
And I'll tell you what, Ron, I had one other dynamic that's a really important one, especially this discussion. At dad's house, because there weren't as many rules, we didn't go to church. I went out Saturday night and came home late and we slept in. At mom's house, you're going to church no matter what. And my little equation in my mind in high school was, I want dad's life, and church life and God life has a lot of rules and there's not a lot of fun and there's not a lot of freedom. Dad's life, he's living it.
He's got more money. He's got parties and things going on, the kind of things I want to do as a young man, and the Christian life doesn't allow that. So that was a tension in the spiritual realm as I was trying to process, what am I going to believe? That's the dual influences that you're talking about, right?
It is. When a child's parents live in two different homes, the parenting process gets diluted. That's one of those hard things I really hate to share with single parents, for example, or with couples in blended families and their children moving between different households with a previous spouse. It's hard to say, but I really think it's true. And I think it's a truth you need to acknowledge so you can decide what you're going to do about it. You have less parental influence given that they go to another home that may be teaching values the polar opposite of yours. Often it's not the polar opposite. It's somewhat of a different version than yours and maybe they're believers and they just go to a different type of church and so there's different religious expressions or practices that come along with that.
So it's not always total opposite, but the bigger the gap, let me say it that way, the bigger the gap between the value systems of homes, the harder it is for children who are stuck in the middle. You know, Ron, when we were talking to John Marriott about this, and he's sort of the expert on this. He's written about it.
He deals with college students every day. He made a comment. I'm going to play a clip where he talked about outside influences.
He was not talking about what we're talking about. But as you listen to this clip, I think you can see the resemblance. It's like, yeah, outside influences can really challenge our child's faith. Here's what John had to say about it. I think this comes down to discerning the needs of your children. So when I think of my own two children, I can think of one of them who talking to them about the Bible, where it came from, how we know who wrote it, the context that it was written in, will be really meaningful for one of my children growing up.
And I need to be able to, or I need to, but I don't think everyone needs to be able to, but I need to sit down with one of my children and go through the history of the Bible. Did Constantine really cobble it together for political purposes? And are there all these other books out there that should be in it but aren't because they don't line up with the official story? And how do we know that Matthew is the author of the Gospel of Matthew? What about 2 Peter?
Did he really write it? Because when they find out things like that are debated from sources outside of their Christian community, it can be really, really devastating. Okay, John was making the point that our kids are going to enter the world at some point. Go to college is a really good example and discover that there's another way to think about religious topics that a child has learned all their life. And sometimes that really throws kids off and they're all of a sudden like, wow, wait, there's debate about who wrote the book of Matthew? What are the implications for that for my whole Christian worldview? And it's unsettling and sometimes kids deconstruct. And I'm saying, yes, that's absolutely true. And it happens naturally when children are younger, moving between different households, where they go to another home and there's a different worldview there.
Except here's the difference. When I go to college, it's some professor that I don't really know or care about, but maybe intellectually I'm being influenced by. But when I go to mom's house or dad's house and they buy into this, well, I love my dad. I'm deeply loyal to my father. Like, I want to be with him and about him and he's part of me and I'm part of him.
And so now there's added emotional pressure to adopt the values of that parent or to at least not reject them. I mean, put yourself into that 11 year old's shoes. You go to dad's house and he's going, hey, kid, no rules. Here's some of the things I do. Why don't you come join me in some of this? And an 11 year old has to say, no, dad, I don't think that's the right thing to do.
Oh, my goodness. How many 11 year olds can do that? I don't know many 50 year olds that can do that.
You know what I'm saying? That takes an incredible amount of emotional energy and wherewithal and I have to know who I am and my identity has to be strong and firm. And my goodness, that is a challenging posture for a child.
So the principle that John shared is absolutely correct. The home that wants to bring Christian influence just needs to be mindful of this process so that you can try to help your child navigate this terrain. But let me just make something overt here. So let's just say it's the biological mother who is trying to teach their children faith and to understand and walk with God. What she can't do is, like Ann was saying earlier, add even more pressure by being negative about dad. You know, your dad's a horrible person because he's not a person of faith.
Well, just think about that statement for a minute. Now, who's the horrible person? In that moment, mom is the horrible person. So mom is undoing her own influence by being negative about the other household. It can't be a posture of judgment. It can't be a posture of or a message to the child of, hey, you agree with me, right? It's you and me against your dad.
Now we're doing alliances. Now I'm playing games emotionally with my kid, all because I'm afraid that they're not going to adopt faith. The fear I get, but don't parent out of fear. Instead, let's try to be proactive.
Let's try to do some things. First, so have a grace posture about the other home. If anything, encourage your child to have a strong relationship with their parent in the other home. Be all about that relationship. But also understand that there's going to be some influence that comes with that relationship that you don't necessarily feel good about.
Ron, I'm just going to share, like, I'm just thinking of this for myself. If I was in this situation, I've talked to a lot of moms actually that are in that situation. It would be hard to be grace-filled in that moment.
Yes, it is. I mean, I would want first to go over to my former husband and say, what in the world are you thinking? You know, I'd be so mad at him and then I'd be so worried. And when I get worried and fearful, I become controlling and then I'm kind of manipulating what I'm saying to my children. How do you have that grace-filled attitude? Take a breath. Starts with a deep breath. And in the middle of that breathing in and breathing out, you're praying. God, help me.
Calm down, slow down, and trust you. Because remember what I said a minute ago about when we talk about recipes for faith in our children, what we're really saying is we want to control this whole scenario and make sure our kids have faith. And it is not up to us.
John talked about that. There are certain things that are absolutely not up to us, variables we don't get to control. When you go for more control in an uncontrolled situation, you just make things worse. And so there always has to be this element of trust. God, I'm trusting my kid to you, and I got to know when to back up and when to slow down, and I can't try to do all this myself. Yeah, that's scary.
I mean, thinking about the fear that families that have a child going back and forth. I remember before my dad was remarried. Again, he lived in Florida, so I went down there.
I think I was a freshman in high school, and I had a buddy with me. My dad put us up in a condo because he had a couple, so we're there all by ourselves. And Dad comes over.
He's an airline pilot, and he's sort of playing the field. He's sort of a ladies' man, and he says, hey, let's go to the bar and find some women. And my buddy and I, Bob and I, look at each other like, you've got to be kidding me.
And we went to a bar, and I remember sitting there and him poking me in the shoulder and saying, hey, see that one over there? Go get her. Yeah, that just makes me rat. I can't even imagine. My mom is terrified.
She's terrified. Like, what'd you do down at Dad's? You know, down there? Well, what'd she think when I tell her what I really did? I'm sure you didn't tell her. I did not tell her. No.
Let's go with that for just a second. Let's just pretend like you did tell her, and I'm going to be your mom. Okay.
Okay. So what'd you guys do this weekend? You know, Dad took us to whatever that club was, and we learned how to pick up women. Well, first of all, I would just chase with you for a second what that felt for you, what that was like.
Tell me some more details. I would try to listen, and the whole time I'm praying and breathing and taking deep breaths and saying, Lord, help me, because this is one of those moments where the rubber meets the road. And then I'm probably going to pull back and say, yeah, I know that's the way some people approach life and approach relationships and how you think of another person, a woman, and what her value is to you.
Here's some things I'd love for you to consider as you walk through life about a woman and how you think of her and how you treat her. As a matter of fact, here's some things God has to say in His Word about relationships and how we value one another. Okay. Now, notice what I'm doing there. I am presenting another side. I am not berating your dad or that whole relationship. I am talking about some people believe, and in this case, that's your father and your friend and anybody else that you meet at college or in high school that it's part of a worldly climate.
So, I'm depersonalizing the conversation, but yet you have to know you know this is about dad. Right. Absolutely. You're not dumb.
Yep. So, we're talking hard things right now, and in effect, I'm asking you to make a choice, and I know I'm putting you into a hard place as a child. It's impossible to avoid that. But at the same time, I'm doing it measured with grace, seasoned with salt, being gentle in my approach, because I'm just trying to help you see God's point of view about this. I mean, all of us as parents do this with any child, whether they're moving between homes or not. We are trying to help our kids take hold of faith so that they carry that with them in whatever environment they step into. And so, in this case, that's what mom's going to do. She's teaching. She's talking. In effect, she's doing some inoculating.
John Marriott talked about that. It's a great little tactic, and inoculation is when you give somebody a thought from the other point of view so that they can chew on it and think about it and sort of formulate an answer. This is what Jesus did in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, You've heard that it was said, but I say to you. So, he gave them a little dose, and then here's the inoculation against that. That's one of the things parents can do, knowing their child's going to go to the other home and hear that other thing, that other perspective.
Well, if they're carrying with them, yes, and here's God's point of view about that, maybe that empowers a child to maintain their sense of faith and their point of view, even in the climate, in your case, where dad is influencing you in a different direction. But that's messy. That's not a clean, black-and-white process. That's why we've got to bathe this sucker in prayer. And here's what hit me, Ron, even when you were saying that, is I look back on that period of my life. I think a thing that would help us as parents to pull back and remember is this.
You can trust God in the middle of that chaos, because at some point, I can remember probably a year, year and a half later, thinking to myself, wow, look how dad lives, and he's alone. That lifestyle has led to this. You know, it looked really appealing to a 15-year-old, 16-year-old kid, and then you're 17 or 18, and it's like, I don't want that life. That life looks all glittery, and it's pretty dark and empty.
I want a different life. And that's where, as a parent, you've got to trust God's working in your son, your daughter's life, behind the scenes. And I'm coming to that conclusion because I experienced both sides, and mom was always telling me the right thing, and I was probably saying, whatever, mom, but it got through. It was a shot.
It was inoculation. And yet, at some point, you're on your knees as a parent saying, okay, I can do only so much, and I've got to trust you, God. You've got my son. You've got my daughter.
And he does. And it's a comfort to remind parents, even though there's a different influence and maybe a really bad influence in their life, and it could be your former spouse, God can still work in the middle of that to bring something really good out of it. And that's the ray of hope that I want people to hold onto, because in those moments where you feel like you don't have much control and you're sort of losing touch with your own child, remember that with time, wisdom and God's grace is very attractive.
Like, as soon as that, for you, that moment of waking up and going, wait a minute, wait a minute, this doesn't compute. Dad's way doesn't. I can see that truth really does make sense.
Like, that's attractive. And think about it. A lot of kids go to college, and that's the first time ever there's a different point of view in their world. Well, there's one advantage that children have in this scenario that we're talking about is they have to try out and test out different values when they're younger, and they adopt it, and they can embrace those Christian values and hang onto them when they launch into college. Hey, Ron, is there a point, like Dave was a teenager, you know, 16 to 18 when his dad's taking him to the club, but is there a point when the kids are younger and it's such a different worldview and polar opposites in their values and morals?
Let's say there's a dad that wants his son that's eight or 10 years old to watch porn. I mean, is there a point that we do step in, and what would that conversation look like? It is worth a shot. And we talk about this a lot on the Favorite Life Blended podcast. We've done another episodes when you have a difficult co-parent in the other home, so just want to refer people. If you want to get more on what I'm about to say, please come and listen to our podcast.
So, for example, it would be worth a mom in that situation calling her former husband and saying, hey, look, it's come to my attention. You're watching porn with our 10-year-old. I would like to ask you to rethink that.
And here's why. Exposure to porn is going to shape his mind, his brain, his thoughts about relationships. It's going to create distortion, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
I'm asking you to think long-term about the negative consequence for him. Now, that's worth a shot. And somebody listening to me right now is sitting there going, you know, I think I could have that conversation. Boy, would that be hard and awkward, but I think we could do it. And they just might hear me on it. Other people listening to me right now are going, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. It'll never work.
That'll just be World War V and no, not even worth a chance. Yeah, maybe not. In that case, it may not be. And what you're going to have to do in that is teach, talk, influence when that child is with you. That is your opportunity to influence them over time, praying like crazy, knowing that there's exposure and things happening in the other home that are really not healthy. That's your point of intervention. You can go directly to the other parent and always, always, always influencing the child as best you can. But what you can't do is turn it into a competition.
You can't berate the other parent, either publicly or with extended family or in front of the child, because you will end up losing your influence by doing that. I think the application for me in this, even in our life, is take a breath. Yeah. Pray.
Sometimes maybe take a day. It might take a day for me to get my anger or animosity under control, but continue to take a breath and talk to God about it, because He's always there and it's a good reminder that He's with our kids and we can trust Him. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Ron Deal on Family Life Today. Now, if you're an anxious parent, which I would say that's everybody, at least at one point in time, and me quite a bit of the time, Dave's got some words of encouragement for you and me in just a minute. But first, if you're trying to figure out parenting and step parenting in a step family, you won't want to miss the blended and blessed live stream on April 29th. You can join Ron Deal, John Trent, and more as they unpack marriage and parenting principles specifically for your family.
You can learn more at familylifetoday.com. Okay, here's Dave with some encouraging words for anxious parents. This is what I would say to myself as a parent and to any parent who's feeling the anxiety about their child, whether it's because they're going to another influence of their other family or going off to college or walking into a high school or middle school, any situation where you're just feeling anxious about it.
Here's what I'd say. Don't be anxious about this. About anything.
About anything. And I know it sounds crazy, but make a list and pray and thank God for your son or daughter and list that prayer and give it to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. You may think I'm just making these words out of nowhere. I paraphrase Philippians four, six and seven. And there's a peace that we long for as parents. And I'm telling you, there's only one place you get it.
It's not when your child does the right thing or the wrong thing or comes home or leaves the home. It's when you just get on your knees and say, God, I am so worried about this. I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to give it to you. And I'm asking for your peace. And there's a peace that you can't explain.
It's available in Christ. And guess what? You get on in five minutes and you do it again. Ron, thanks again for being with us. We love being with you.
Thanks for having me. You know, with Easter coming soon, we wanted to deep dive into the resurrection of Jesus, of course. Well, tomorrow, Dave and Anne are joined by a New Testament scholar, Jeremiah Johnston, where he gives us tangible evidence to back up our faith. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Anne 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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