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November 23, 2021 5:00 am
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I reached out to my children on various occasions, including the death of the grandmother and there's been no response. Have not spoken to my dad in two years and haven't seen my mom since last year. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to repair our relationships. A broken relationship between a parent and adult child is a painful reality. Far too many families today.
Sometimes those relational challenges lead to estrangement with very little or no communication today on Focus on the Family were going to be exploring those kinds of tough situations. Our guest is psychologist Dr. John Townsend thanks for joining us your hostess focus president Dr. Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller, John, every family has to deal with differences and difficulties because were falling people. I mean, we don't live perfectly and therefore we create chaos in some way. Some create more chaos than others, but one of the top calls we receive from our counseling team comes from parents of adult children. It's a growing category for us where these relationships are broken for one reason or another, but you can apply it to you know every relationship that you have been marriage relationships with your adult children probably are teenagers to the point is we hear often about feelings of resentment, sadness, anger, grief between the parents and their children, and it's heartbreaking because it makes life feel so much heavier and today were to focus on giving attention specifically to those areas of relationship and I think again, these principles are applied in every direction. Let me say this, God has created the family as the key social unit you know this is an institution created by government or by man. It's created by God, and that's why we had Focus on the Family defendant vigorously because we believe this is the beginning. This is where you learn as a child. Those moral values. Those principles about God and then how to treat others and we have a wonderful guest today. Who's going to help us do that. Even better yet, Dr. John Townsend is a nationally known leadership consultant psychologist and best-selling author and is the founder of the Townsend Institute for leadership in counseling. He and his wife have two adult children and he's written a number of books including the one will talk about today called boundaries. It's a best-selling book that he cowrote with Dr. Henry cloud John, welcome back to focus thanks now on this the boundary bundle if I could call it that. All the boundary materials you've hit 9 million units sold.
That's incredible 9 million is been a blessing.
The funny thing is Henry and I always thought we wrote that stuff in the beginning. 25 years ago that okay people learn about boundaries.
They'll have good boundaries will move on, but it's work to do and so they're selling more than they were then and now the 25-year-olds are getting the book because their parents raised them at boundaries and they're trying to teach their kids the same thing. Yeah, let's move to the estrangement issue and what we set the program up to talk about this conflict between parents and their adult children.
I mentioned that focus were getting a lot more response with people that are experiencing that are you hearing the same and why do you think the intensity of that relationship. Breakage between parent and a twentysomething child is happening. I am hearing on seeing a lot of Jim and I think there's reason for is that you know God created us to be people who were full of grace and truth. Like he is like a talks about in Ephesians and that means to be able to connect but also to be able to talk directly when you need someone without freak everybody out were supposed to be loving people, buttressing people, but there's been some family breakdown of the last 30 years were a lot of times the parents don't feel like they should do that that might be a main thing I want to keep the self-esteem good and all that. And so that's sort of like shied away from hard truths with their children and we got a call to this, the same way that if you say something that you disagree with your out of my life. So the €25 get. They had a background maybe will there was a lot of truth in love, we call integration in the clinical work truth in love or integrated so maybe that background wasn't very much that way and also the culture, saying yeah right anybody off that you disagree with. Instead of let's have a talk about that skill is no longer present like it used to be, yeah, which is so sad because that's how conflict gets taken care of ramps and is the only one dealt with.
You speak to that issue. You do a lot of counseling with people describe that person in the why, how you could have this disconnect. This estrangement between you and your adult child and it's kind like that saying when you keep hitting your head up against the same problem and you deal with the in the same way and you get the same result which is where you want to be definition of insanity right what why do we do that is God's creatures and why are we learning from those mistakes.
Jim, I think there are a couple reasons for that one is a thing that we call in the clinical role defensive hope and defensive hope, says if it's first you don't succeed, try, try again other words, there are sometimes word doing the same thing several times into being an island in the wall can help. And so we do that, but then we take it to an extreme thinking well is just not loud enough I'll tell them a million times and ended at that adult child just alienates more. The other is because I think that they feel a bit helpless like… No other skill here and I feel like I'm going even if it threatens tail unit you I want you back, so that I'll even do the wrong thing because that's better than doing nothing, because the helpless is for an adult parent is so sad because this is the personnel of the most and that that's the thing. I mean, when you care about that person so much and you see I guess then you can't reach him is so hard to be a parent and you can't wait to many well and maybe that's a good question describe what has been the precedent there that has allowed this relationship to become so sour and you get to the point were nothings working now you have heard all that I would think so. What happened 10 years before that in eight years before that in five years. Before that, yeah, and it's always a combination in varying ratios between what I did as a parent and what my adult child did right from 10 years ago was their part was my part is never 100% very very rarely is hundred percent anything. A lot of times in the parents part is either when it was time to discipline little Sammy.
I didn't do it at all because it want to make him feel bad. And then that means hard talks later they don't have the ability or I came on too hard with Sammy and I discipline into the punishment didn't fit the crime and I was way, way too strict with him and he's alienated so that's kind of meal. The parent part in all Sammy's part. It's like okay I didn't get perfect parenting but I don't want to forgive and it's a lot easier to blow them off and here I am also developmentally in the launching staging of the Bible says in Genesis 2 about leaving and cleaving here I'm in the leaving cleaving stages. My mom and dad are at the center of my life anymore try this conflict because I'm living it right there, like oatmeal to me this is not interesting anymore. I've got all these friends of things I want to do and I will travel sup got that pressure in my head. Plus, kind of like an odd to some issue is way too much brain damage for me to try to go in about have the heart talks I'll just live my life so that got that launching energy saying is just too much trouble.
Notes are true at the one thing to and I think this would be the most common issue is you know when were raising our kids in the single digits. There 589. There's a lot of control.
You don't don't run out there don't like that on fire. Don't you work word dictating behavior right don't do this don't do that and then they get into the teen years and they're trying to express themselves and become more independent in their choices, etc. and were still using controlling younger parenting approaches that inflame that situation subscribe that controlling parent I guess is the question yeah I think it's really clear to say that the way you phrase is what way I look at it. Jim is I call the years 1 to 11-ish maybe 12. As the you know really control parent years and that's a good thing and that's a good thing because they don't know the rules of life. The brain is informed they need to know don't run out in the street and if you do, pull you back right, but then the other years are what I would call the more gentler deep parenting years.
I'm going to give you choices now.
Not every choice, but I want to let you know start to think about values and consequences because I'm looking at the launch euro leaving cleaving long so I parent with more control, first half, the deep parenting with less control and that by that time they know they are. God is the know with the skills of life are yeah it's so critical. I would think that's probably one of the greatest parenting errors that we make, yes, and that's that's a good thing for us to describe the other thing there is, then we hit those teenage years and because we don't know how to de-escalate or decontrol as you're saying we can tend to then manipulate and boy teenagers have a nose for Van rental shadow. So when did you shower last to take a shower. It feels so good. I'm guilty of that with two boys and the staff and we we really think that the child's not go great thought of that know you know that it's time thanks for the reminder. I didn't usually get that response.
But what about that manipulation and how dangerous that can be as apparent I think is actually worse than direct control is not as bad as abuse nothings been abuse but in terms of direct control.
When the verse manipulation because if you're directly control the child can say where are you too harsh or not harsh enough, but I know where you are.
I can trust you because you this solid object saying you will be in timeout for this. The manipulation of my favorite is when the mom says do you know how long I was in labor with you.
I've never heard that before arch which you want to go out with your friend. This is my wife actually had a friend say that it was a very effective tactic with her child to say I gave birth to you. I can tell you what to do and at some point in time that doesn't really party or a classic is I brought you into this world and I can take it out of all that stuff but but in terms of manipulation and the child goes like and trust you. You're going to gain me and I don't feel like you're gonna be honest with me direct control site you're crazy or not crazy but they trust manipulation. The goat had on a what you say is for my benefit. So it's it's at things he said, but I guess the flip side of that is then how does that adult child again was just the picture, 24-year-old whose parent is manipulative or controlling. How do they self assess how do they protect themselves would speak to the other side of it, not just parent side what what mechanisms do they have two minimize the impact of that manipulation yet. Suppose your listen to the program and you're thinking I'm that agent. My parents have been doing that to me the best approach is to go to them with love and honor and say I want to make things better in AC all the way through the Bible talks about you know you speak the truth in love, and this sort of thinking from your brother sister to go to them and say you know. Thank you for what you done for me, but there's some things that don't make it but always total deposit is not as good as it could be. Could we communicate in a different way here could be my part and a lot of people didn't. Their defenses will go down because you're not saying you're the person at fault. You understand this at the ground level at the cross here.
Here's what I've been doing this crazy. Here's what you're doing. I want to make it better. It's really hard to say no to that invitation. John let me play a clip that is from a mom who has struggled in her relationship with her daughter and have you respond to Townsend.
I do question for you in the past I have been divorced and there's no lack of communication within the family and so I have an estranged daughter and adult daughter who can't seem to find a way to forgive me send my question is, there is just how can I get that trust back and for her to find grace and mercy within herself for me. My heart dislike when I heard her story is one that I hear way too much. I'm sure you'll hear way to where a parent is in those years were you want to enjoy the relationship and your growing up and flourishing. If on your way, she doesn't have to.
In all these years single. I built a structure for situations like that and it's pretty simple. It's not easy but is simple and when she said will how to get her to trust me there's a step you got to do before trust and it has to do with building a bridge to sell you build a bridge in whatever way you been adult child is a strange whatever way they get communication phone call, text snail mail and Zoom were having lunch and if they will meet you in any way you send in that communication and you say something like the following.
I'm so sorry about where things are about how you feel about our relationship and I miss you and I would like for us to be connected again and I want to be sure that I know what I've done to hurt you, so I'd like to propose this, I'd like for us to meet phone zoom in person and I want you to tell me everything in your experience I've done to hurt or alienate you and I'm just going to be sitting there with a legal pad and a pen and I'm going to write down everything you say and you can take as long as you need to, because if it's a lot I want to know a lot and one thing I promise you is I'm not going to interrupt you and say well you misunderstood that part or will I was having a hard time or will have about the things you did. I promise I won't do any of those things I might say things like, how did that feel or tell me more, or is it more information but I want to hear from your heart, what your experiences of the hurt cost and then I want to take that and I'm go home when you're going to go and I want to sit down and pray and write and think through and everything you've narrated that I've done that's true. I want to change it and I want to change about the time we meet again. If you give me a second meeting in the second meeting on the show you have changed and want to stay changed and that is all I ask if you and that's because you're worth it to me.
Is that something you would be interested. What I have found with this approach is that if there is any hope at all. That's the one is that they feel like you're not done to change me you're not saying well here's my side of it. Hear your side of you do have a site and that comes later. Once you build the bridge and you've taken a few hits and and you've repented some things that comes later. That's fine, but is not your day because you're the ground and they say they've never asked him how it fell or they've always interrupted all they've always made excuses and then they really want to know is the best chance you've got yeah John that I mean it sounds so tender and so right, and being the parent swallowing resolution for yourself and absorbing how you can repair the relationship is a great first second third step and then hopefully eventually you can get to some of the things that may have hurt you.
I love that speak in a first second second third dust on a lot what Jesus said about the first, second and 3rd mile you're going to know the way the grown-up Chicago so true. But we also need to cover that that parent that you know they haven't perhaps done things that are egregious, yet their child is there adult child is in some serious trouble and could be drugs that could be promiscuous relationships. Whatever might be it.
I would think that that situation might be a little different when there's harm self harm occurring. How does a parent engage that adult child in that discussion without damaging or severely damaging the relationship yet is one of those kind of no-win situations in a way Jim because you think about parent that means I got a certain amount of leverage and control, but I'm a parent of this person, who is also an adult right so authority I'm your dad I'm your mom this kind out the window. Now I'm just this older person that you got a history with that hope that you love France. All I got. And so the leverage has to move from will and the dad or the mom to influence an influencer relationship.
So let's suppose you got somebody out of the home. For example, there's out of home problems and there's in the home. Problems depending on where do you know the the young adult is out of the home and you see them. Like you said maybe their own drugs. Or maybe they're acting a promiscuous lifestyle. Lots of other things the best approach you've got is to certainly meet with him because well the responsibility minute is not just the responsibilities of parents also responsibilities of the Christian who love somebody and all the passages there apply and you go to them and say I always say you have to have a dedicated talk you don't do it while you watch a Netflix or rock climber.
You look at each other and you have to look each other and you sake so you said it. I believe in setting it up and you say I'd like to have a meeting with about some things more than be about was is about making things better between us and I'd like to go to it by the way, take the principles from a book that Henry cloud and a road called him how to have that difficult conversation you been avoiding because about a difficult conversation Karen, and so you go to them and you say first off you visit. How's life they still imitate why were meeting and and thank you for being here, and by the way, I always start with, and by the way, if I ever do anything to alienate you upset you, make you feel not good, or whatever. I would want you to tell me what you feel free to tell me I must attend adult travel, say, sure, and that's good so they know that this is in a one way thing I want to know what I'm doing well here are some things I want to talk about that concern me. One is your ex and first off I want to know the why I'm interested in you.
So before I go ~change out of the wife why are you taking drugs, why don't you get a job.
Why are you promiscuous desk will take a while because they have lots of reasons.
They probably thought it through Christian or not Christian. They're all over the map. These days, but you listen well and don't taken a pin use one understand. I want to get to the why. Then once they get to these they think do I get it and you have to make sure they say you got it and I said no you don't get you keep preaching at me. Going to try to get sound like you do because you don't think there's anything wrong to make your life better and you're under stress. Do I get it.
Yeah you get when they see you get you got permission to say the following can I give you my perspective on that. Not to be controlling person but I owe you that perspective. 1/100, will say no.
The rest of us that you kinda earned you said here.
Listen to me talk and here's my perspective, and you do your homework before you do that you find out what the Bible says if I know what good psychology says he find out what reality says get statistics if you need to.
I'm concerned about your life and I love you and I'm looking at down the corridors of time over the you that you go to become a 30 3540, and here's what it says and I don't want that for you. I don't think is good for you is nuts because it's right or wrong.
Certainly that, but it's also bad consequences and fruit for your life. I would like you to think about it and then you cite. Regardless, your dad in your arm, your mom and I want to be friends again. I'd love to have other dialogue. If you'd like to know that your best first approach is good and relationally driven, which is good, respectful, and outcome driven yesterday thinking about time and John in that scenario after that conversation as the parent you have to walk away and not worry if they change or not. That's not easy.
Well you can worry okay okay I let go. Darrell yeah we have to walk away knowing that they may say all my crazy mom all my crazy dad. That's just who they are limited go back to my ways and you have to walk away from that and whenever people tell me that and I feel it's always say the following yeah you know how God feels he tell you the truth, he does everything he can for you.
He makes it winsome and then he walks away and says the right choice. Choose you this day is assessing Joshua. It's so hard, but he goes through it every day Johnny I'm sorry I'm kind of jumping around a little but I'm thinking of the parent of a teenager right now so there 1012 years away from potentially having a broken relationship with her adult child speak to the importance and the application of healthy boundaries in that time so that your kids can learn the right thing, speak to that. Yeah, a little more. While there sort of in wet cement in their present he has not hardened yet because in those years you if you look at the neuroscience they kinda don't know who they are and and they know a lot more about what they don't want which is controlling parents than what they really do want that in the sort of developmental sort of a slushy time for them. So when I wrote boundaries attains I gave four steps for the parent. No matter what the problems is if it's anything from disrespect to eye rolling to drugs to you know acting out to violence to little things and big things. There's four steps that you have to take that really work. The first one is called love. Well that's kind of a obvious one. You had to convey that you love and care for someone and convey that you love them on their terms, and that means listening that you care because you can't tell him the rest the stuff until they know that you do.
Second one is past love is truth and truth means here's our house rules in the Smith house. We don't do drugs in the Smith house, we don't do promiscuous sex we don't do disrespect to your parents you can disagree with the press, but slamming doors in the sort of thing, whatever it is that's in our house wasn't something to have parents, right on the fridge.
I'm a big believer in the writing on the fritz thing to do 30 years so there won't be any misunderstanding because teenagers are kind of attorney still say what you didn't put it on so it is up there to got the love now that the house rules and in that and you also know the consequences if you don't do this if you do do these things well happy good grades and your baby well if you don't think you lure these privileges and you make sure the consequences for the crime things that are important to them, whatever things are that you're taking away a lot of times is easy because the social stuff in the digital stuff they are addicted to take that away and that's a big deal after couple times. The third was the hardware for Christian parents and something called freedom, meaning you can disobey these if you choose, you can break I can't monitor to you was up with a nightstick around the house at night you can break out and go do stuff and you can do these things. I won't stop you. Now, a three-year-old.
You gotta stop problematic traffic issue, but at 1415. I just can't monitor all the time so you're free to do this in Christian parents don't be talking about so will hold my system here. Here's the fourth, the fourth one is reality. We will give you the reality consequences.
I will follow up. I'm not just going to threaten the neck. I'll follow up with taking away the phone anything digital. The car keys, social, or whatever and you follow – their training. So if you do the four steps love truth, freedom, in reality you got your best shot, then that is good. I want to speak for that parent that has to brace for the response. Yeah, you have to put on your big parent pants and have no need for the child to like what they're hearing. I often tell tell parents you got into the support sandwich here.
I'm going to talk to Susie about the hard thing and so would you pray for me and tell me I'm a good person and so they'll say yeah.
Go Florida believing all is going to cycle things the cannot coach you in a good way get ready and I know you're ready for that and you normalize it and you say I know from 100 times during this she's going to be mad and blame me and exploding get emotional, so you normalize it so you got the support and you've normalized then you have it with her and you still feel bad right so then you call your support person afterwards his own call and you said it was awful. I felt like a bad parent. She hates my guts will never be good, and the person says give it time. I love you be praying for you. You gotta have that sandwich and you got a normalize and that is good advice. John and this is been so good this is day one we want to come back tomorrow. If you're willing continue the discussion and actually give parents even more hope that it's not lost. We just need to apply the right principles. And if we can remember that inside the heart of every teenager and adult child is still a part that says I want a relationship. It may be so far inside they don't have access to it, but that voice is still saying at some point under all the rebellion all the hatred and all that they don't get me. I still want that we have to capitalize on that and that is such a good reminder and an encouragement really and to the listener. Let me encourage you to get a copy of boundaries. This is a New York Times bestseller.
I think again the whole bundle we started there mentioning that about 9 million copies of boundary materials have been sold, so people have resonated over the years with this content. It's evergreen it's for every generation. These are tried and true principles that Dr. John Townsend has identified in the biblically rooted and supported by science. And you can't get any better than that if you make a gift of any amount will send the book is our way of saying thank you to join the support team today. Make monthly pledge of decanter one-time gift and will send a copy of that book boundaries to you her number is 800 K in the word family 800-232-6459 or click the link in the episode's John again.
It's been great having you here with us. Let's come back and keep you talking and on behalf of Jim Daly, and the entire team here. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time. As we once more. Talk to Dr. John Townsend and help you and your family thrive in Christ