In those early years, when I came to know the Lord, he and his family were so against it that they actually advised him to divorce me. Joy spent many lonely years trying to trust God and love her husband well. Thankfully, she found the support and encouragement she needed. I think that God just really used Focus on the Family and your guys' ministry to grow me and prepare me and guide my heart to live out in front of my husband what it means to follow Christ. And the best news of all is that Joy's husband also became a follower of Jesus.
I'm Jim Daly. When we work together, we can strengthen more marriages like Joy's and give families hope. Please call 800 the letter A in the word family or donate at FocusOnTheFamily.com slash hope and your gift will be doubled. So do you understand now that your teenager is not an old child? He and she are a young, they are a young adult.
You should think of a teenager as an adult in training and your task is to move them on. Well, today we're continuing a great presentation for parenting preteens and teenagers. It's a best of 2022 edition of Focus on the Family featuring Dr. Ken Wilgus.
Thanks for joining us. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller. John, this is really good stuff and I need to tell you, I mean, Jean and I applied Dr. Wilgus' approaches to Trent and Troy and they really worked.
And I would want to give that seal of approval that it helped our family. Dr. Ken has been talking about progressively giving more and more responsibility to your child and allowing more freedom so that they can learn how to become competent adults while they're still under your roof. And he's also emphasizing the importance of good communication, which can be a bit different when you're dealing with teenagers. Ken Wilgus is a psychologist who specializes in adolescent behavior and he's the author of the book called Feeding the Mouth that Bites You, a complete guide to parenting adolescents and launching them into the world. And we highly recommend it.
Indeed we do. Get a copy from us here when you get in touch. Again, our number 800-A family. Here now, Dr. Ken Wilgus speaking at an event sponsored by Christ Church of the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona on today's Best of 2022 edition of Focus on the Family. If you listen to my podcast, one of the episodes, I'm interviewing my own children. Dangerous thing to do.
They're like 30 in the late 20s. And one of the questions I asked them was, I said, now, as you know, I tell parents not to make speeches. Did I ever make speeches? And all three of them went, oh, yes, Dad, you gave speeches. And so I'm grasping at straws.
Right. So I'm like, OK, but but were there at least some things in my speeches that were helpful? And my middle girl, the sweet girl, said, and I quote, Daddy, I remember that you made speeches.
I don't remember anything you said in any of your speeches. OK, that's not communicating. Many of you need to learn two things that will be important.
One is the art of giving advice. Giving advice is mostly what you're trying to do, but you try to crank it up like, listen, listen to me, don't. Now, I'm telling you, and it sounds like it's coming from here and an adult that is seeking to be equal to you.
It feels like you're talking down. So instead, you take the big pill of what you want to tell them and you chop off the front and the end. Like I did with one of my kids, I shall not say who. And I said, you know, I know that you're going to break up with your boyfriend by the end of the summer. And I said, but you know, this is none of my business because you handle your dating fine. It's your deal. But I was just thinking that you're going to be kind of worried about this all summer long. And I just thought maybe it'd be better if you just ended it now. But I'm sorry I even said anything. You know me, I'm a shrink. I probably worry too much. Did you hear me chop off the front and the back?
I owned it. I'm only talking about specific, and I definitely signaled you can blow me off if you want to. Broke up with her boyfriend that day, so thank you. You're welcome. It does not always work quite like that. The point is that is more effective. Very often when you're worried, you want to actually crank up. Well, listen, I have lived a few years, and you think that's going to make it easier for them to hear you.
They won't. Advice giving is very important, and you stick with that. So that's the two things, the not yelling and the advice giving. So that's how it helps your communication. You need to know that. That if you understand that your teenager is an adult in training, if you start with planned emancipation and working openly in your house, if we are for your eventual being out from under us, you will not need us, and you're working toward that, then communication opens up hugely.
Got it? The other thing that will happen is how you discipline your teenagers. Because number one, with communication, you probably will not need as much discipline. But when you do, this is funny, when I talk about emancipation, people think I'm kind of like, let them do whatever.
And then when I talk about the discipline part, everyone's like, whoa, that's a little rough. Well, when you are saying these are the things that you don't need to answer to me about, then that helps, because then when there's things that you do answer to me about, and there will be consequences, you need to not kid around about that. You need to set, so in my book, for example, you'll have one list, you'll make two lists. One is a freedoms list, where you literally are writing out, you no longer answer to us, use your own judgment in keeping your room however you want, in choosing your own friends, all of these things. And then on the other side of that page is some responsibilities that goes along with that. The second list will be the expectations and consequences list. And those are very clear statements of, for example, you need to be home by 10 p.m. on weekend nights. And then on the other side is consequences for that. And it's critical that you write that in, because if you don't write in consequence, you might as well write in, then I'm going to get real mad and yell at you. A lot of you that are yelling at your teenagers is, believe it or not, because you're not pulling the trigger on consequences. Many of you think that by yelling and getting real intense, that helps. It actually makes it worse, you just look like a bully.
What's really scary to a teenager is when you smile. I mean, picture it, you're like, hey, Brandon, I need the phone, I need it right now. I'm not giving you my phone, it's my phone, give me the phone. No, I'm not giving it, okay? A, you run over there and get into some bizarre keepaway fight that might end up with the child protective services on your doorstep.
Or B, you smile. There's nothing scarier than a parent that's going, really? Not going to give me the phone, he's not going to give me the phone. Because when you discipline your teenagers, you're not trying to control everything. You're no longer a policeman, you're a judge. A policeman has to make sure things happen and bad things don't happen.
We've got to monitor, we've got to check all this stuff. You're backing out. Instead, you're a judge.
When things happen that go against what our expectations are, I will issue a consequence for that. Because here's your real power over your teenager, ready? You own everything that they have, everything.
I love reminding teenagers of that. Oh, they can't take my Xbox because my grandmother bought them. Really, so if your dad takes your Xbox, who are you going to call?
Hello, police, my father took my X, hello, hello? No, it's yours. And that's powerful and you need to know that. Because it helps a lot so that you won't overreact on things that you don't need to.
That's real power. So you would instead, in that example, go, OK, not going to give me the phone. I'll tell you what, I'll give you five minutes to have it on the counter. And if you do, you'll only lose it for tomorrow. And then in about ten minutes, if it's not on the counter, it's going to be three days. And after ten minutes, just keep it because I will brick it and it will be off and you won't have the phone. Do you hear?
That's much more powerful. Many teenagers love to learn, they want to freak you out. If you're this mad, I'm in trouble. But if I can get you this mad, then you'll just go on for an hour and then in two hours you're apologizing, you're arguing with your spouse. And I'm off free and clear.
You stay, you're a judge, you're a judge. And you let those things come across your desk and you issue consequences. Does that make sense? So you first have very clear expectations. The chores, make them clear. You do trash on Tuesday. I don't know why trash is always our kid's thing, but fine. Instead of just take care of the trash, it is by Tuesday and Thursday, it needs to be out at the curb before you leave for school and if not, you will lose a buck and then you have to, whatever you do, set those consequences for that and do it.
Don't do more than that, don't do less than that. By the way, it's not a contract. Parents, oh, we already tried that and she wouldn't sign it.
They don't need to sign it. This is you promising that if you don't do this, we promise we will do this. And so you do that. You're going to get most pushback about phones and you need to be clear with yourselves that you're going to let it, it'll drift back, you'll have it clearly set and the next thing you know, it's back in her room all night.
How did that even happen? And just dust off like in baseball, dust off home plate again, here's the deal, you got to bring it back out. So that you make clear limits on what they do with the phone and they will hate that, they will hate that. But you need to be firm about what the requirements are that are changing each year, getting more free to do that as they get older. But when it comes to limit setting, you're a judge, not a policeman, because when you are continually giving over, then you're not trying to be in their life. You're even apologetic. Dude, I am so sorry, but you lost $7 for that little cussing spree yesterday. And I hate that for you because now you don't have much allowance left. Can we talk about it? You're not trying to get in there. So many teenagers think, oh, my parents are trying to just... You're not.
We've told you. We are trying to work ourselves out of a job because I'll finish with this. If you think about it, many of us are really good parents to children. You know, the age when your kids need to be cuddled and secure, a lot of times they're really cuddleable and cute, and it's not really that hard because you want to do that. Then when they get older, grade school and so forth, they really need to learn things, sometimes sports and skills, and many of us like to do that.
I want to get out there and coach and help you, and that's easy. When it gets hard is when your young adult gets to the point where they need to not need you. That's a difficult thing because you don't get anything out of that. Your reward out of that is simply for them. And I think that you believe that you love your children.
One of the biggest tests of that is how will you do in this last stage when you will be giving that which does not give back to you because you will teach them to not need you anymore and you'll be out of a job and done. That is feeding the mouth that bites you. Make sense? You're now enlightened. Congratulations. All right, so we'll now do some questions to apply a lot of this stuff. Have a seat, sir.
Yes. I've got questions for you. I'd like you to superimpose the planned emancipation premise over these a little bit and help us think practically. Okay. So let's start with dating.
Help us understand the dating world and how to have conversations with our kids about dating and what age dating should enter the equation. Say older, please. Say older. Twenty-seven.
There we go. Is that what you're looking for? Do you have a daughter? Do you have a daughter by any chance? I do. Yeah, that's what I thought. I do. Just roll into the dating world for us.
Well, okay, so you've seen it, but you may not know it. The pattern of dating has really gotten chaotic. The standard senior in high school dating pattern is like an eighth grader 30 years ago. So we don't do dates like we used to.
It's still going on, but it's very chaotic and not as simple to track. However, I will tell you that if you want to start in the dating thing, the first thing you need to talk to your teenagers about is when will they have the freedom to choose that for themselves? And really, I recommend 16.
You can do 17. There's no need to do earlier than that. And I'm talking about when you can go away in a car alone with someone that you're dating.
Then 16, I told my kids at 16, you're now, if you want to, you're free to date, I don't recommend it. Because, you know, right, high school dating, anyway. But that's the first thing that always needs to be answered. Is this up to me or is this up to you? And all of these things, if you skip over that, well, I'm not saying it's up to you or me. Just let me tell you this, that all is empty then. Whatever you say after that, the first thing is, is this that you're telling me an advice or have to? And once you've made it clear that that's up to you about dating and who you date, then you're much more free to have discussions that are important, like, is that guy, I mean, he honks and you go out to the car.
He doesn't even come in. Do you like that? And there's a reduced defensiveness about that. You can even, a lot of you dads, have your speech that you want to make to a boy. You know, dads love that.
I'll be holding a shotgun and I'm going to just, you know. Here's the big trick, is that it depends exclusively on your relationship with your daughter. If you are close to her and she is close to you, number one, then you'll be talking to a boy that she's fine with you talking to him. You don't talk to a boy that she didn't want you to talk to. And number two, it doesn't matter how scary you are, you want to sound dangerous, you do this. You tell the boy, I'm really hoping you all have a great time because my daughter and I are very close and we'll be talking about the whole evening. So I hope it goes great. And if that's true, that's scary.
That's not fun because, so you can't substitute for that. That means for you dads, you really need to start intervening in your daughters as soon as possible, taking them kind of on dates and show them the kind of value that they are. For single parents, it's critical, especially moms, that you also look for good male involvement in your daughter's life. That's a big part of what church is about. I met with the youth workers here.
I call them professional cool guys. And they are, they're very cool, they're very aware, and they can really input in your teenagers' lives in something that important. So like anything else, you want to have a conversation.
It starts, the first thing is making sure your teenager knows is this up to me now or is it up to you and when will it be up to me? And then everything else comes easy. Yeah.
Different category. What do we do when our teens don't want to go to church? Yeah, okay, so church would be a thing that it's not, no, you have to go, it is not yet.
Everything is not yet. So you should have a plan for at some point in your house, they would have the freedom to choose not to go to church, and you need to announce that to them. I suggest senior year, maybe spring of senior year. The answer to why do I have to go to church is because it's what our family does. It happens to be the most important thing in my life and, silly me, we want you to come with us. What you want to emphasize is we get it that you don't agree with us and we can't make you see it this way, and that's really important that you establish early. You could drive home with an 11-year-old even but start by, hey, we thought today's lesson, well, teenager for sure, we thought today's lesson was great.
What did you think? What? Ask them what they thought about it and certainly give them the message that you are free to think differently from us. The inside scoop here is that when you do show them that we understand you have the freedom to disagree, you cannot say no to something, yes to something that you're not allowed to say no to. If you give them the freedom to say no, it's much more likely that they will be prepared and own it themselves, and that's what I started with.
You can't afford to have kids that obediently, passively just do the religion thing. You need to be asking them, what do you think? Where are you in this?
And making sure they know that they're free to tell you. All right, last category. This is your time to shine. You've got your soapbox. You want to pontificate about isolation. Yes, there is a thing that he even asked me, is there a thing you really want?
Yes, so bear with me. My biggest concern for your teenagers is isolation. I cannot believe in 30 years what's happened to social relationships. I even have to explain the importance of friendships. I have to explain this to girls. You never had to explain. That's what drama is, you know, girl drama.
She came in, tried to steal my best friend. That's just good stuff of connection, and girls have always known that. Now, even many of our girls are losing that. And it's funny because before COVID, I taught something like this, and I had a slide.
I looked at it. This is five years ago. I'm concerned about the pandemic of isolation.
That was before COVID. And now I'm really concerned that you need, first of all, you need to be connected. I hope that you're connected in your church and with your people that you live around and real friends, because I can't imagine, and you can't believe how many families come to see me, and they don't go anywhere, and they don't know anybody, and their teenager knows nobody or worse. And here's the thing.
I want you to encourage your teenagers to really focus in on the one or two people that they really feel closest to and stick with that person. I had a girl in college I was talking to just the other day, and she said something about her friends. I said, well, what about Stephanie? She goes, yeah, no, we don't talk anymore. And I said, wait, she was your best friend six months ago. You don't just not talk to her. You need to go talk to her. I said, you're living a life like a sitcom, and you're in the third season, and all the supporting cast have shifted, and you're still playing the part of you.
And she did. I said best friends go and talk things through, and she did. So I would encourage you to not groups.
Your teenagers will be very discouraged if they're seeing snaps from they're all out and I'm not. But you don't make friends with a group. You do make friends with one or two people that you're close to. And by the way, guys and girls can't be best friends. I don't want to even argue that. It's just true. But the one or two friends and encourage them to stick with that.
I don't even care if you don't like that friend. It is important that if they have shared that intimacy, that connection, that you really encourage them to do that because I mean it, as you can tell them a little bit. It worries the heck out of me that we are isolated.
Our teenagers blink and look down, and they don't even know how to shake my hand. It's critical. You know, that's a huge part of our faith. It's part of whatever the entire depth of when Jesus says, when two or more of you are gathered in my name, I am there. Why two? What about just me?
It's critical that the body of Christ isn't us. And so that's my soapbox. Let's really try to encourage your kids, your teenagers, to get out there and connect. And last thing, over the Internet is not really being there. Dr. Willis, I get with my friends every afternoon. You do? Where do you meet? We play Call of Duty. No, no, dude.
A headset and a screen is not there. And you know what they'll do? They'll go, what? Never do they go, good point. They literally don't even know. I have to explain.
This is three dimension. I'm here, and you're here. So it's really important that you try to encourage that as best you can, because COVID has even added, especially our marginally anxious kids that never really liked getting out there anyway, push it.
Get them out there as best you can, because the isolation is really worrisome to me. Could you just, you said something to me talking about how our parents today put so much pressure on themselves. Yes. And you said something that was really encouraging in there about us being, we're better at it than we think we are.
Yes. You guys are putting, that's good to finish with. I guarantee you virtually all of you are doing better than you think.
There's so much pressure. Parenting was not a word when I was growing up. My parents did a good job of raising us. They never thought about going to a parenting class. They just raised their children like raising livestock.
You just raise them, and you just sell them off. It was just, you're done. But there's so much microscopic focus on are we doing it right, so much are we helping the neurons to connect. Just take it easy.
You're probably doing fine. It's not math. It's more like sailing.
You're trying to get to that goal, and you tack this way, and you tack that way, and you get there. So I definitely want to tell you that, and it's a good goal. At the very least, just think about, are you a better father than your father? Are you a better mother than your mother? And for many of you, that's an easy one. For some of us, it's not. My dad was a very cool guy, and I think so, but that's it. You don't have to fix everything all of a sudden.
Just you're doing fine. And especially as Christians, it is our privilege to participate. It is not up to us.
God would never leave our children up to us. I mean, no offense, but really. So yeah, I'm glad you reminded me. That's important. Thank you.
Yeah. Thanks for being here, guys. Give Dr. Ken a big round of applause. So helpful, so thankful. Our thanks to Pastor Dustin Tappan of Christ Church of the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona for allowing us to broadcast the event that they hosted featuring Dr. Ken Wilgus.
It was one of the most popular programs of the year here. Yeah. A lot of parents are hungry for help with their teens, and we were only able to skim the surface of the question and answer time, so we're going to post the rest of those interactions online. Dr. Ken covered some pretty sensitive subjects like sexuality and mental health issues, so I think you'll want to give that all a listen.
Yeah. We'll have a link to that extra content in the show notes. And let me recommend that you get a copy of the book by Dr. Ken Wilgus called Feeding the Mount that Bites You. It will help you understand your child's needs as an adolescent, and you'll get ideas on how to respond to those needs that can make the parenting process so much less frustrating. Right, and this would be a great book to go through with your spouse so the two of you have kind of a united front as you interact with your kids. It really is important to be on the same page whenever it's possible.
Right, and kids are really good at the divide and conquer strategy, so get a copy of Feeding the Mount that Bites You from us here at Focus on the Family. And when you do, we'll send that out to you for a donation of any amount. And please, give generously here at the end of the year to help us bring help and hope to families. We're a nonprofit ministry, and we are determined to provide helpful biblical resources to parents. Just one example is the evaluation tool we've developed called the Seven Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment. It's free, and it will help you discover your strengths as a parent and also identify areas that you may need a little work. After completing the quiz, you'll be directed to articles and other resources that will help you grow as a parent. Here's one endorsement from a mom named Ruth. She said, I took your parenting assessment online and was surprised to see that I scored lower on grace and forgiveness.
I thought those were easy for me, but in reality, they're not. I'm looking forward to focusing on these areas of weakness and letting God do a work in me. Thank you for the insight and resources. Well, I'm so glad Ruth took the assessment and appreciate her honesty there.
I can certainly identify with what you said that a survey points out those areas we can grow in. Almost 400,000 moms and dads have taken the assessment, so please join them and see how you might improve as a parent. So true, and don't be afraid to do it.
I mean, this is the most important job of your life is raising your kids, I think. So come and visit the website, get started. And I hope you'll join with us in ministry as well. Yeah, donate as you can and look for the free assessment called The Seven Traits of Effective Parenting, as well as details for Dr. Ken Wilgus's book, Feeding the Mouth That Bites You, and some extra content that we're posting online of the entire presentation, including the more sensitive questions and answers that we couldn't include in this episode.
Those are all online, and the link is in the show notes, or call 1-800-the-letter-a-in-the-word-family. Next time, Pastor John Burke explains why it's so important to stay connected to God. A branch doesn't have to work hard to produce fruit. All it has to do is stay connected to the trunk, the vine, and fruit happens naturally. I'm the vine, you're the branches, stay connected to me and you will bear much fruit.
Apart from me, you can do nothing. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us for this Focus on the Family podcast. Please take a moment and share this episode with a friend and leave a rating for us in your podcast app. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. Just like a warm fireplace when it's cold outside, the joy of the Christmas season gives comfort and draws us closer to loved ones. I'm John Fuller and Focus on the Family is excited to let you know about our Christmas Stories podcast. Each episode brings heartwarming conversations to bring your family closer together and remind you of the hope we have in Jesus. You can enjoy that podcast at focusonthefamily.com slash Christmas Stories. That's focusonthefamily.com slash Christmas Stories.
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