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Discovering Your Child's Unique Needs

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
February 10, 2021 5:00 am

Discovering Your Child's Unique Needs

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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February 10, 2021 5:00 am

Counselor Julie Lowe explains that, because every child is unique, the use of parenting formulas won't deliver the results that moms and dads are seeking. She encourages parents to instead get to know each of their children as individuals, and to rely on biblically-based wisdom for raising them.

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Good parents aren't perfect, and that's okay.

But there are ways you can grow every day. Focus on the Family Seven Traits of Effective Parroting Assessment gives parents an honest look at their unique strengths, plus some areas they could use a little help. Every mom and dad can help raise the next generation of healthy, mature, and responsible children. And this assessment will help get you started. Take the assessment at slash seven traits.

That's slash seven traits. And then I'm realizing, actually, it's always the Lord that has to be at work. I have a responsibility how I respond to my child's behavior, but I'm not responsible for the outcome.

And when I keep that focus, then it actually frees me. Some great encouragement from author Julie Lowe, and she's our guest today on Focus on the Family. She'll have advice about relying on God's wisdom in your parenting journey.

Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, if we're honest, we'd like our parenting journey to be easy, right? Like a formula. If you do A, your kids do B, then you get C as the outcome.

It sounds great, doesn't it? But man, it doesn't always work out that way. I think formulas can be predictive.

They can be helpful. But we've got this little thing that the Lord struggled with with his teenagers, Adam and Eve. It's called free choice and your own will. And our kids do tend to demonstrate that, and it blows the formulas up. I know for Trent and Troy, I mean, they're very different people, one a little more introverted, one a little more extroverted. And the whole way I would have to approach parenting in gene two was different. And we have learned that in watching their personalities grow.

Again, there are no formulas that are tried and true that work every time. And today we're going to talk to a special guest about how to put the formulas aside and put biblical truth into action in your parenting so that the outcome is predictive that your children will be following Christ, which is job one. Yeah, and she has some wonderful insights on this. Julie Lowe is an author and licensed professional counselor, and today we'll be exploring what she's written about in her book, Child Proof, Parenting by Faith, Not Formula.

And of course, we have copies of that in the episode notes. Julie, welcome to Focus on the Family. Thank you for having me. It's great to have you.

Thank you. I'm a non-formula person, so I love the fact that you've written this book about not really pursuing a formula, but go for the heart. But I think it's important for our listeners, our viewers, to understand what you and how you define what formula means. Everybody's got a different definition.

What does a formula in parenting sound like? I think it sounds like taking sometimes even good Christian principles and turning them into a formula that this is what a family must look like, a marriage must look like, our children must look like and act like. And we get so busy trying to run after the picture of an ideal family that it prevents us from loving and understanding our actual family and taking scripture and really saying, what does wisdom look like to love the family God's given you? Let me ask you the difference between that behavioral molding and then deep spiritual understanding. I think there is a difference because you can get kids, young people, that they do the right things, they behave the right way, they earn their sticker, but then they have underlying relational issues, maybe with the Lord, maybe with the parents, et cetera, where they know how to perform for their parents, but it's not who they are underneath that. Have you experienced that?

Yeah, absolutely. And particularly in counseling, you see people, parents coming, they're coming to counseling because they want behavioral change. They see problems, indeed problems in their children. And they're real, those behavioral issues.

They certainly are. And they want help. And sometimes help means just fix the problem. And the problem could stem and often does stem from what's going on in our hearts, right? What drives our behavior, what motivates us. And so we don't want to just change behavior.

We want the hearts to be an expression of love for others and love for the Lord. And I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I think we gravitate toward the formulas because they give us a sense of security as parents. The if then statement, right? If we do these things, but the caution there is that there's no guarantee. Right. And the disappointment can be quite high.

Right. Good kids come out of bad families and bad kids come out of good families. And what's the danger in that is you and I begin to shape our parenting based on an outcome rather than based on what God's called us to do. And I don't want to parent based on what my children may or may not become. I want to be faithful to what God's called me to do. So success doesn't look like what we imagine it to be.

Success isn't a certain outcome. It's faithfulness to the task of loving our kids well. And then what that does is it frees me not to care. I mean, I obviously do care the outcome of my children, but if my job's to parent well and in a godly manner, then the outcome's left to the Lord. And we're going to, through the program, we're going to talk about those tools and we're going to hopefully equip parents to get a taste of what's in your great book, Child Proof. And we'll continue that part of the discussion, but a little more setup. One of the other things that can be harmful to us as parents is the comparison game. You know, well, you know, Jean's doing all these things correctly and I'm not. And, you know, speak to the damage of having that over the top comparison attitude.

Well, pick on myself. If I were to look at other families and say, wow, look at how their kids are, look how they engage, look at this marriage and how well they interact with each other. And I take what they're doing and I try to apply it to my marriage. I assume that my husband, my children are exactly the same as that husband and those children.

And that's just faulty thinking. I can look at principles. I think there's wonderful principles to say they are doing this really well. And I need to figure out what they're doing well and what the principles are behind that and apply that and learn how to apply that to my marriage and my children. So we certainly can grow from watching how other families do things and have creative ideas for parenting and living life. However, it's the biblical principles behind it. And then we've got to contextualize it to our own home. I like that because really if comparison is leading you to bitterness or resentment, it's fueling the rotten fruit of your flesh. You got a problem, but if it's urging you on to something better that you're observing good habits and other parents, that's something to really look at.

I like that differentiation that you're referring to there. You and your son, AJ, again, this is a good example. I think you're very different people according to what you wrote in the book. I'm sure it's true, but you're a quieter spirit and he was a more verbose child.

What happened in that relationship and how did you get a hold of it? Yeah, from the time Andrew or AJ is what he goes by, by the time when he was little, I mean, he just talks nonstop. I could walk around the house and he would just follow me talking nonstop. I could leave the room and come back and he was still talking and answering his own questions. I like this guy.

He didn't need me there. He's my kind of kid. He is. And as he's gotten older, his temperament has not changed. And it was really interesting because I am, I'm an introvert at heart and I would be counseling and working with people all day long and I come home and I have this in my ear all night long and I'd say, oh my goodness, he's driving me insane.

But I had to look at it and I realized, you know what love means? I am willing to let him talk and let him process. And that's who he is. And I don't want to make him into me.

I want to let him be who God's called him to be. Now the flip side of that is he also talks so much that nobody else can get a word in edgewise. And I would have to say, honey, you need to be slow to speak and quick to listen. You need to be willing to let other people answer their questions.

You don't answer for them, which is notorious for doing. He'll ask the question and then I'll answer for his siblings. And so it was both, right? It was me learning to love him the way he needed to be loved, not the way I prefer to. It was also me speaking into his life and challenging him to grow to be more Christ-like.

Yeah. And again, that's a good example of learning your child, right? Not all children are going to be that way. Others are going to be wired differently in different temperament. In fact, you discovered kind of many attributes of your children. How many children do you have? We have five currently.

It's always changing. Yeah. But in that environment, I think you had a house fire or something and you observed how your kids were reacting to that. Explain what happened.

Yeah. So in 2013, we had house fire, lost the whole house, all of our pets. It was very tragic in that sense. Thankfully, nobody was home, but we all grieved very differently.

I grieved a ton, but our children were all under the age of 12 at the time. And it was very interesting to watch them all process it. And it was so key that we were already trying to be in tune with our kids and would ask them questions. And we say things like, how are you thinking today?

And what do you think about what's happening? And wow, these people gave you guys bikes after the fire. What a blessing that God allowed that. How are you processing that? So I was always trying to check in with them and figure out how they were internalizing it. And they were all very different. One was emotional and crying all the time. Another was over the moon about all the attention she was getting from people around her, just thriving on that. Another got really quiet and silent.

Then you have Andrew again, where he, he was really interesting. It's not an angry kid, but one day I asked him, how are you, how are you making sense out of this? Or how do you think everybody's responding? And he says, I, I think everybody's angry.

Yeah. You're angry, honey. So they're all having a different response. People, parents are hearing this obviously, and they're saying, well, yeah, Julie's a trained counselor.

What a great mom to have. I mean, but what about the average person, but you can learn these observation skills. You can learn to understand your child. You can learn to respond in their language, so to speak, emotional language. It doesn't take with all due respect. It doesn't take a rocket scientist. It takes intentionality, but speak to that. You need to want to, I tell parents, you are the expert knowing your child. I'm just going to help draw out what you already know. And I say in the book, you know, parents instinctively can see when their kids are lying, when they're upset, when they're angry, it would take me months to learn that by getting to know the child, what parents instinctively know from years of hundreds and thousands of observations about their kids.

And I want to work myself out of a job. I want to teach parents to be their children's wise counselor and equip them. And many times they, they instinctively know their kids better than I do.

Yeah. You know, one of the, one of the, I guess, disasters of modern family life, it's true in marriage. It's true in parenting is the busy-ness of our lives. You know, when you talk to many experts, they'll say the hectic pace for a marriage or for a family is really destroying relationships in the family and the normal course of just being family together because kids are off to 1400 things and parents have work responsibilities plus home. And so in that context, how have you guys managed that? I mean, a family of five is pretty big. So how do you guys keep things relational when you got so many time demands on you?

It's, it's an intentional decision. It's not easy and I could get sucked up in it. And I think occasionally I do get sucked up in busy life, busy work, but I would argue every parent makes the decision. Am I going to make this a priority and where will I sacrifice and where will I be more intentional? And where will I put down the electronics in my own phone to say, I want to pursue my child. Yeah. Now that brings us to the other phase of parenting. And that is you're recognizing you need to engage, you know, some, some of us laugh because it's our fix, you know, with our kids.

I just did this last night with Troy because I was on a fairly long trip and, and, uh, I I'd missed in the last four or five days I wasn't at home. So I really wanted to engage him and talk with him and, Hey, let's go sit down and get together. And okay.

So we got there at the couch and it was like, how you doing? Good. Great.

Uh, you know, what'd you do while I was gone? Yeah. You know, homework. Okay. Good. What kind of homework? Geography. It can be kind of difficult to engage.

I'm glad you said that because a lot of parents will say, well, they just don't want to. And I'll say, so what you still pursue, just keep going. You keep going. Yeah. Love moves towards people. It's persevering.

It engages and, and you've demonstrated by pursuing them. And so I get that reaction on my kids or they'll roll their eyes and say, not again, mom. Yeah. And I'm like, Oh, sorry. You were stuck with this mom. You have to deal with it. Um, but it is, it's so important that we want to pursue our kids and we don't let their own resistance deter us.

You know, there's been survey work that shown, uh, when they do the research on these children, teenagers, particularly, they'll say, although kind of, although I give that standoffish thing, I love when my mom or dad talk with me. Right. I mean, it does seem to show that, but they're just in this awkward stage of learning independence and, you know, but we, as parents can take that stuff a little too personally, I think because we're reading the fact that they're not verbose with us means they don't want to talk to us, but that's not necessarily true. Right?

No, you're absolutely right. And again, it's, if I focus on the outcome, look what they're doing, then I get discouraged. I get angry, I get frustrated and I approach them that way.

If I just look at my, I call to be faithful, to love them well, then it doesn't matter how they respond to me. Yeah. And Julie, you also mentioned in the book, uh, this idea about role-playing, which I think is great. I think what I need to learn from you is age and stage. So when they're five, six, seven, eight, and then maybe when they're 10, 11, 12, and then role-playing at 15, 16, 17 gets pretty tricky.

Yeah. Hey, let's role-play this, but how would you address kind of those three segments of your parenting experience? Well, I'll give you an example of how we do it in our home and, and families can do it. However, it's helpful, but we around our dining room table, we have meals together and we'll say, agree, disagree. And so it's not a role-playing, but it's agree, disagree.

Secrets are good. And everybody goes around the table and has to say why they agree or disagree. So they state they agree or disagree, then they have to say why that's role-playing for several reasons. We're teaching them the skill of thinking and debating out why they agree or disagree with something. We're also getting a picture into how they're thinking and whether we should be concerned or not. And they're all, they're all learning from each other.

They're learning from us and we really value that. So role-playing can take on lots of forms and our teenagers will still do it. We'll still ask questions. We have a little talk it out box on our dining room table that the kids will still say, Hey, can I pull the card tonight? And they'll ask a question.

Why? Because they actually enjoy airing their opinion and it fosters communication. It gives us a window into how they're thinking about life issues. I remember having lunch with Chuck Colson.

Of course he's passed away and yet he came out and had lunch with me several times. Right as I was stepping into the role, I cherish those times. But one thing that he said, if you're looking at the research, when it comes to parenting, he said, it's pretty clear that that child's moral compass is pretty much formed by 10 years old. And then from 10 on, it's trying to keep them, you know, the bumper guards and they learn to experience those lessons of good and wrong.

And I've always thought about that. So again, that idea that you're role-playing even at an early age, five, six, seven, eight, don't diminish the impact. It's actually having profound impact on the formation of your child's moral compass.

What would be some of those role-playing questions for teenagers again, where a lot of parents struggle. This is where formulas break down, right? It's the teen years.

Yeah. Well, there's tons of resources. So I always tell parents, you don't have to rely on coming up with your own questions. Like use all these resources.

There are apps. There's wonderful things out there to ask your teenagers questions and to say, what would you do in this situation? Whether it's from peer pressure or drugs or bullying or in college, what kind of things could happen in college? And I think the more I model this is safe to talk about, the more my kids will be comfortable talking to me about that. Do I think they're always honest? Do I think sometimes they'll give me the right answer versus what they really believe sometimes, but constant communication means I'm asking them, what would you do if you were in this situation? And as a counselor, I'll sometimes say, Hey, I heard this situation.

What would you say to the person? And what I'm really trying to do is find out what they think about the topic. Yeah. And it's interesting too. Don't be surprised when your teenagers go pretty deep with you. I mean, they, at that age, they can think much deeper than I think we as parents anticipate.

And I would dig for it. Yeah. And when they're hesitant to share about what they think and feel, they're certainly share what their friends and peers are doing and thinking. So that's a way window into figuring out how they're thinking too. Julie, what are you use that word safe and with teens there has to be some bridge building that goes beyond the instructions. So part of safe is not saying too much to instruct them, but to give them room to kind of express themselves.

What else goes on in a safe home with teens? I think you ask really good questions. So our tendencies to lecture or to tell them, um, where I'd rather be, I want to proactively shape my children's views rather than have to go back and debunk inaccurate views. But proactive means I can just be really thoughtful of drawing them out and asking quick questions. And so I think we need to be better at doing that.

Very true. Julie, we've kind of alluded to this a bit in terms of your fluctuating family, that kind of thing, but you, uh, have been an active foster parent even before you were married. And then when you got married, uh, you and your husband then adopted foster kids that you were actually taking care of. But why did you get involved in foster care? Some of it, I think is probably naturally my temperament.

I go for the underdog. My parents would say at a young age, I, I just like to, to care for people. And I think so some of that is naturally my temperament, my heart, I believe very deeply God calls us to care for the orphan too. And that's how my husband would answer if he were sitting here. So it's interesting how, uh, some people go into it because of their, their own natural desire to help people and help the orphan.

Others go into it because they feel they see very firmly that call in scripture. Um, and I think both were true in our case. Was there any hesitation if I could get a little personal in that regard with you and your fiance at the time when you were talking about getting married and then what are we going to do? You had one or two kids at that point already. Give us a picture of that conversation with your husband. Was he all in or did he have concerns or, you know, we're going to get married. It'd be nice to have time to know each other, get to know each other, a honeymoon period.

But with foster kids, that would be add some complexity to your own relationship. Yeah, it certainly did. But my husband Greg was very equipped for the task. He was all in right away. And that was probably one of the things that brought us together in dating is he had a heart for that. And he experienced as a teenager becoming a Christian and seeing how God adopted him and the value of that.

And so right away he was on board. Of course, we did it kind of the unconventional way. And I had two children going into marriage, which weren't my children. And it made for some funny introductions in churches some days when we'd walk in and neither of us were married and we had two kids with us and trying to explain that.

I got myself in a couple of funny situations. So and within the first year of marriage, so we, we adopted the girls within the first year of marriage, we were asked to take two little boys biological brothers. So within the first year of marriage, my poor husband went from being a bachelor to a homeowner, a husband and a father of four.

Wow. So that speaks a lot to his care. Well, and yours, to be honest, both of you doing that together and just having a heart for the orphan. I mean, you're living the book of James, which I admire so much being that former foster child. I mean, thank you, on their behalf, they're going to be so much better in their spiritual journey and their emotional journey because of you and Greg.

So Oh, I they will, there's no doubt. But this is an area and I think a lot of moms struggle, particularly with this, I, I have a book title, I'd love a woman to write because I can't write it. It's called the curse of Eve, fear and control. And I think a mom of teenagers, particularly what my observation with teen boys, is when a mom's fear level rises that our children are not behaving the way we want them to, then control goes way up. And it's really in those teen years, when that mom or dad starts exerting that kind of control, then you get a disaster because they're trying to gain independence, they're trying to stand on their own two feet, so to speak, and you're now trying to control them.

The phone, whatever it might be. So speak to that dynamic of faith based parenting in the context of letting go, which is the goal and letting God take care of the rest, right? Yeah, well, think about a formula feels so much easier, because I just punch in, I do the right thing. And the outcome should be there, right. And when the outcome isn't there, then we start scrambling for all right, what's going to work.

And that leads us down all kinds of unproductive and sometimes treacherous paths. When I go for pragmatism, but when I say, Lord, I need you, my child needs you, then I am looking for the Lord to intervene. I'm looking for the Spirit to be at work in my child's life. And then I'm realizing, actually, it's always the Lord that has to be at work. I have a responsibility, how I respond to my child's behavior, but I'm not responsible for the outcome. And when I keep that focus, then it actually frees me. It's a greater responsibility, because it means I have to be wise myself, I have to be biblical and godly in the way I'm responding.

So it's harder, what I'm advocating for so much harder than a formula, but so much more freeing and liberating. Well, and that's the kudos to Jean because she learned to let go. And as soon as she did, it was like the kids turned toward her. It was beautiful to watch. It's like the right outcome happened because the heart, the hearts were correct, right? Julie, in that regard, parents can be really self-critical, you know, if we don't see, again, the behavior that we thought we would get, etc.

Where did we miss it? How did it go wrong? Why am I such a bad dad? Why am I such a bad mom?

It's really not beneficial to go there. It's really how do we look forward and do the right things. And I want you to speak to the importance of relationship, especially in your own family context, how relationships have been strengthened, because in the end, that's what's going to be critical, having a relationship with your child.

And I know that there are going to be many people listening that they were so hard on the rules that their kids have run once they turned 18. And there's not a healthy relationship any longer. So I guess at the end here is speaking to both parts of that how to give yourself some grace and then try to find forgiveness with the kids that, you know, maybe you took a different approach, and it wasn't the best approach. Yeah, well, it's not about me, or it shouldn't be right. And so I make my parenting about me when I get upset that my kids mistreat me. And there's a place relationally to say, Hey, that really hurt me. And I will say that to my kids, because I want them to see I'm human.

I love you. This is a back and forth. And that's part of modeling relationship. But I also have to say, this isn't about me. They're not the mature ones in the situation. I need to be the mature one here. So it's so hard for us to get it.

It is, yeah. And the danger of comparison, comparing ourselves to other people, and the fear of what other people will think of me. And, you know, here I am, I wrote a book about it. What if all my children are out there doing crazy stuff? And I have to say, what if they are?

I have to look. Honest parenting looks at myself and say, Is there something I need to fix? But then I let go and say, Lord, just help me to love them through their their failures and their sin and their struggle. Yeah. Specifically, even I think you mentioned the book with your son, Andrew, the angst that you had, and the realization that God has given you this son, and your other children. He didn't give them to other people.

Yeah. And, you know, where you have birth children, he chose you in that way. And you have these kids. How do we learn to take comfort in the fact that we're the best parents our children could have, and that's why God has given them to us? Yeah, well, one of the things we say in our home, and we are a foster adoptive home, but I think this is true in every family. We say, Guys, we have always said, Lord, you bring into our family who you want in our family, and help us to trust you. And that's taken us a long way, because then it's the Lord who is at work.

It's not us trying to force our own agenda in our own ways. So if the Lord wanted you in our home, honey, you've got to trust that he gave you two imperfect broken parents to love you and help you. And we've got to trust that he gave you us to sharpen us too.

And there's all, all ground is even at the foot of the cross. We all need the Lord. We all make mistakes, and I'd rather model humility than perfection. That is so good. And I hope people are exhaling right now and saying, Okay, there's still hope. Thank you for capturing this, because there really is too little expressed in this area. Julie, thanks for being with us today.

Thank you. Again, Julie's book is Child Proof Parenting by Faith, not formula. And if you can send a donation of any amount to focus on the family today, we'll send you a copy of this great book. That's our way of saying thank you for supporting the work of the ministry. Together we can help equip more parents who want to raise godly children. So please be generous in your giving today.

We do look forward to hearing from you. So donate and get your copy of Julie's book by giving us a call today, 800, the letter A in the word family, or you can donate online. The links are in the episode notes. And Jim, we should also mention our free parenting assessment. It's an online tool to give a quick overview of what's working well in your family, and maybe a suggestion or two of areas in which you can improve.

You'll find that free assessment and more in the episode notes. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Find fun for your kids just a click away. And now, Adventures in Odyssey. The Adventures in Odyssey Club, where your eight to 12 year old can find trusted faith building entertainment in a safe online club. It features almost every episode ever, plus special monthly club only episodes and content and a Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine subscription. Sign up today. Just go to slash radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-25 22:53:28 / 2023-12-25 23:05:44 / 12

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