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Parenting Struggles and What They Teach

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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July 31, 2023 7:10 am

Parenting Struggles and What They Teach

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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July 31, 2023 7:10 am

Parenting has its challenging moments, but the rewards and laughter can outweigh the struggles. Ken Swarner provides humorous stories and lighthearted spiritual lessons about parenting with humility and trusting God.


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God so loves my children, and He gave them free will, and He's got it. You know, our job is to love our kids unconditionally and understand that God's got the rest of it. That's hard to do sometimes as a parent. I don't need to change my kids.

But you're right. God's there. My job is to just love them, because in this crazy world and tough world, the kids need somebody who loves them unconditionally. And that's our job. That's Ken Swarner, and he joins us today on Focus on the Family.

Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. You know, John, as I look back on my life, man, I have really loved being a dad, probably more than anything. And it had challenges, of course. But, man, what great rewards there are in parenting, I think. And, you know, so often it outweighs the difficulties. It's never perfect. Don't get me wrong.

You're going to hit some difficulty. But I really, I just am so grateful the Lord blessed me with children. And a lot of our memories center around laughter and having fun together. I mean, to the point of laughing so hard, milk came out your nose. You remember that?

I mean, we had those moments, and it was so much fun. And today we want to share with you some humorous stories about raising children. I'm sure you've got your own. Hopefully we maybe send people to share those stories with us. Oh, that's a great idea. I hadn't thought of that, but it might be fun to collect some of the stories from our listeners and our viewers. And I imagine you're going to pick up on some lighthearted spiritual lessons today as you listen in. Yeah, Ken Swarner has some terrific stories. He'll be throwing his family under the bus this entire conversation with their permission.

I can't wait. He's a publisher and a writer and is married to Allison. They have four grown children and four grandchildren. And he's captured his hilarious stories and insights in a terrific book called Why Did God Give My Kids Free Will? He could have waited until they moved out. That title alone tells you where we're going today.

Get a copy of the book when you call us or the show notes have the details. Ken, welcome to Focus on the Family. Oh, thank you so much for having me. It's great we finally found the perfect parent, right? Yeah, right. That's the way we like to start this off. But you kind of got this parenting thing down, don't you? No.

Why are you here? I know, four kids and now four grandchildren. We're going to be talking to the producers after the show.

Now go ahead. Yeah, four kids and four grandchildren. I'm still learning lessons and figuring things out. No, that's good.

That's probably all of us, right? A lifetime thing. Hey, your wife had a pretty traumatic experience at the pediatrician with your son. What happened? Let's go right there.

Yeah, this is a good one. So I'm at work and my wife calls me and says that we need to find a new pediatrician. And I'm like, well, what?

Why would that be? And she said, well, she took our son for his annual physical. Now the thing is, is my wife is a clean freak. Okay.

Right? She has kept us all in line. You know, I say we have four children. She would count me as the fifth child. And so she's always on top of everything.

She's like a meerkat, you know. The one time she forgot to check out our son before he went to the doctor is the day they show up and, you know, and they bring it to that little room and they tell him, you know, strip down to your socks and underwear. The doctor will be coming in. And my wife suddenly realizes, oh my goodness, I didn't check him. And so clearly he takes his shoes off. His socks look like they belonged in a compost bearing.

They were horrible. And so I said, well, did the nurse, you know, what did the nurse say? And she said, I don't know. She had her hand over her mouth and nose. Anyway, so she leaves the room and my wife gets my son up on the, you know, that little sink the doctor washes his hands in. And she's getting gauze and she's wiping and washing his feet, taking the little tongue depressor and trying to get the dirt out of his nails. This is bad.

It was horrible. And the doctor walks in and he said, don't worry about it. He had four boys.

He raised four boys. He said, it's no big deal. Don't even worry about it.

And so I was like, well, then why do we need to get a new pediatrician? And my wife said, because I haven't gotten to the underwear part. Yikes. Let's not cover that. Right. We'll end the story there. No, that's that's traumatic. I get that for sure.

Absolutely. You also had a situation, I think with your daughter when she was little. And I love these moments.

These are a throw you under the bus kind of thing. But what happened with your wife? So my daughter was in kindergarten and it was show and tell. And you remember show and tell.

I mean, for a kindergarten, this is this is like their Oscar moment, right? They are so excited for show and tell. And it was her turn. And she decided, I mean, she went through all the things she wanted to bring and then decided she wanted to bring her. Hula Barbie to show and tell.

Now, in modern day schooling now, the show and tell is like a speech 101 class. So not only does she have to learn how to how to, you know, talk about her item, but the kids are all supposed to learn how to ask great questions. So a kid raises his hand and says, well, what do you like best about your hula Barbie? My daughter raised the dollop, took the coconut top off of hula Barbie, pointed to the little plastic bumps and said, I like these.

I happen to be PTA president that year. Oh, yeah. You're in the right spot. Hey, this is what happens with kids.

I mean, this is this is the practical stuff. I think you all said one. Did your wife lose your one of your kids? Like they walked out the door a little more tragic, right? So, you know, you as parents, you try to stay one step ahead of the kids as they're developing.

And at least at least right. And we had a deadbolt on the front door. Yeah. And my son, who was three, you know, he couldn't turn that deadbolt.

Couldn't even reach to it too high. Right. But we just miscalculated that he would he was at the stage now where he knew to drag the chair over.

Yeah. Whoops. My wife's in the back bedroom folding laundry or something, and he opened it and opened the door. And my 18 month old daughter walked right out. But he didn't.

He stayed in the house. Oh, he stayed in. That's pretty funny.

Yeah, exactly right. Why don't you go tell me what's out there. Bye. So my wife's in there and all of a sudden there's a knock on the door and she walks out, doesn't even know our daughter slipped out and opens the door. And there is a just this stranger holding our daughter in her hands with the most disappointing look on her face. Of course.

Now people listening are going, I can't believe that. I know. But it happens.

It does. And what's the, so what's the takeaways of all of these things for you? Well, it's how to deal with the humiliation of a moment like that. Right. How to keep those things in context, how to learn from them, but also how, you know, it plays into all that perfect parenting.

Right. We believe we're supposed to be constantly on top of everything. And we're reminded sometimes that God's actually the one in control, not us. So let me let me ask you this question.

I hadn't thought about it quite like this. You're saying humility may be the number one trait you need for parenting. Yeah, because humility is not humiliation.

Right. It's there is a humbleness there. I mean, clearly our daughter got out.

We weren't you know, we weren't protecting her ultimately. And it's OK to feel humbled by that. But feeling humiliated by that is going into just the wrong direction. And I don't know, I'm not a biblical scholar, but I don't believe God, Jesus wants us to be humiliated, but certainly humble.

Yeah, no, that's good. I hadn't thought about it that way. But humbleness works in so many aspects of life.

It does. It's probably the core character we need as human beings before the Lord and before each other. Yeah. And parenting brings us to learn all about. Well, maybe that's the plan.

Maybe. Maybe that's why God did that selflessness in marriage and humility in parenting. Speaking of that, I love the title of your book. Why did God give my kids free will? And I didn't stop there.

I mean, Jean, I read the second half. She started laughing, which goes on to say he could have waited until they moved out. And I think all parents laugh at that. So why didn't he do it? Yeah, right.

It would have been so much easier. Or at least why did he give my kids free will? I mean, you can give your kids free will, but why mine?

No, it's so true. But, you know, you've given some examples. Let's go to a couple of more examples of how free will showed up with your children. I think there's a slumber party story. There's chores.

I mean, you name it. It sounds like you kept stories on your kids' free will. I did. You know, because I'm always trying to be a better human myself and learn those epiphanies. And so through humor, I can reflect. Now, in those moments, all of those moments, right? I'm falling apart. I say, why me?

I'm trying to find the ice cream to, you know, to swallow my feelings. But later, when you have moments to reflect and want to be better, and you go through those instances, you find those epiphanies. And they bring you to humbleness. They bring you to, you know, greater expansion of your patience and greater expansion of your love for God who keeps our kids safe.

My daughter's showing back up on the doorstep with that neighbor. It's not lost on me how God watches over my family, you know? And there's such a powerful connection there and gratefulness to how the Lord has my back. Yeah, totally. That free will issue, though, you say the dads play a pretty important role in shaping their child's faith. I think you point to church-going as one of the great research projects that demonstrate the importance of a father.

Absolutely. It's a fascinating study they did in Switzerland where they have the actual percentages memorized. But I know this, that if mom takes her children to church, but dad stays home, those children grow up to, say, I think it's like three or four percent will become church-goers as adults. Only three or four percent.

Yeah, it's like really, really low. But if mom and dad go to church together and bring the children, it goes up much higher, like maybe up to 10 or 20 percent. But if only dad takes the kids to church, it's like 30 percent will go to church as adults. What dad does is so impactful. And it's what dad does, right? Not what dad says, what dad does.

The kids take notice. No, that's really good and a little convicting. But, you know, that's the right thing. I think we've, as a culture, so undervalued the role of father. Absolutely. That we've kind of lost our way.

I'll stay home and watch football. And instead of getting up and going to church. So let me ask you about this. Before you became a parent, you thought you pretty well knew patience. And we mentioned that a minute ago.

I mean, is that not the thing we gain being parents? It's shocking. I found it so shocking to find out that where I thought my patience was just endless.

Endless. You're good at that. It was so small in reality. Where did that show up? In like the grocery store situation? Oh, I showed up in so many, many situations.

I mean, every situation, you know, raising children and being a good example for them and helping them grow as Christians. You have to take the time to do that. And there are so many other distractions and things you got to do.

You got to clean the gutters, right? And go to work and all these other things. Even Father's Day.

I think of a Father's Day where I had to be, you know, patient. My kids, you know, I'm up in bed, right? I can hear them downstairs making a lot of noise. And I'm told through my wife that they're making me Father's Day breakfast, right? But it doesn't sound like it's going well down there. So they come up, you know, they got the little tray and everything's jiggling.

And first you got to be patient to make sure I just see it falling to the floor. So they hand me the cereal they've made me, right? And I put my spoon in there and put it in my mouth. And I look at my son and I said, son, is this grapefruit juice in my cereal? And he said, yeah, there wasn't enough milk for my cereal and yours.

I said, well, what was all the noise? And he said, well, I couldn't open the cereal. You know that plastic liner inside?

It's like with Industrial Globe. So he finally, he's pulling and pulling, he finally opens it and all the cereal just goes flying through the kitchen. Right. And he's telling me he's trying to scoop it into my bowl before the dog can eat it all up. And I'm looking in the bowl and there's like a dust bunny in there and a bread clip. And I pick up this object and I look at it and I go, son, what's this?

And he goes, oh, yeah, that's a lifesaver. And he said, can you believe all of that was under the refrigerator? And I had to eat it.

I mean, there's patience in that, right? Don't do it. No, you didn't. Why'd you eat it? Well, I took the dust bunny out of the way.

You're braver than I would have done it. They were so sweet to make it. Ken, again, some of the great stories in your book. One was about slumber parties, if I remember correctly. Now, Gene and I were pretty hesitant on slumber parties. We were like mega careful.

I think we may have done only one and we decided never to do it again. Did you have that same experience? Yeah.

Like the next time I was going to have a slumber party, I wanted to send the invitation that I had the words, all children must be accompanied by an adult. Right. And you break you by. Yes. Oh, it's because I mean, talk about patience. I mean, it's so chaotic. It's enough with your own kids and the noise they make and the wild ideas they have about sliding down the stairs on something. Right.

Or whatever else. Big ideas they get. But you bring you bring six, seven kids together.

I don't care for boys or girls. They start. It's it's crazy. And, you know, my wife and I, we're a good team.

You know, we're we're always we're most of the time on the same sheet of music, you know. But I think sometime during the first one, I think I found my wife hiding in the backseat of the car in the garage. Why? Because you came home late. Yeah, right. I'm knocking on the window. Honey, you got to come out.

It's like Lord of the Flies in there. I'm done. I'm done with this. That's sad.

That's really good. Did you ever do slumber parties? We just for reasons like probably you had, we avoided them at most costs. There's only a downside to slumber parties. There's only a downside.

Only a downside. I was laughing when I read your story about school supplies. Now, school supplies. This is the bane of my school parenting experience. They had a pen every year on the school supply sheet that we could never find. I mean, we went everywhere. Walmart, Target, you name it.

Walgreens, CVS. Nobody had this this felt fine point, super fine point pen you needed to get. And I would spend hours hunting this thing down.

Never found it. Never got a note that we didn't include it in the kit. And we had to, what, buy 14 boxes of tissues. I think the school was in a resale business on wet wipes and tissues because you had to buy like cases for them. I never understood the tissues either because my kids use their sleeves. They were selling them out the back door of the school. That's how they were getting their lunch money. And that pen you're talking about, it probably cost $27.

The extra fine point. I haven't thought I would start a business just prepackaging this and selling them out of my trunk to all the parents. I've already done all the work.

Give me 50 bucks and it's yours. But school supplies were horrible. Oh, yeah.

My wife stopped even letting me come because I just sit there and complain about every item and what it costs. You know, it's like, what do they don't they just need some crayons? You had an experience, too. I mean, your book is filled with funny stories, which I love. And I think we all can relate to most of them, really. But I think this is teenager time now and your son's gym clothes were not coming home regularly. So is this the same son with the dirty socks and other parts? No, I have three boys, so it's really a different son.

It's all of them. I thought this is good to know that the young one may have grown out of it, but his brother, obviously, you had to go to his gym class. Yeah, some of the stories happened to multiple children.

I moved it into one character. But yeah, all of my boys, the gym clothes went the first day of school. And by about Christmas time, I'm wondering about them. You know, I just imagine the whole locker room is some EPA Superfund site. Probably. Haven't seen those clothes in three months.

No. And you know, back in our day, we had to shower in gym class. Kids don't do that anymore. So all I imagine is the clothes are just slipping off their sweaty body.

The clothes are sweaty and their bodies are sweaty. Yeah. So what did you do? Well, one time I went to the school, went into the office and asked to see the gym clothes. It totally humiliated my child. I just had to let it go. I figured, well. Did you gather them up and take them home? Yeah, I did the first time because I was, I don't know. Did that solve the problem? Did you bring them home? No, they didn't come back home till June.

We had one reset. That sounds so disgusting. Well, boys are disgusting. I was an orphan kid and I brought my clothes home. Because back then the gym teacher made you, right?

You get hacked. That thing reeked after two or three days. Absolutely. So I mean, you know, a little bit of hygiene is good. Yeah. So Ken, at that moment I can picture that there are some moms who are really freaking out.

Oh, for sure. And some dads who are saying, well, actually I was just like that. How important is it for us to keep a filter that says, oh, I was once that age and I did stuff too?

Yeah. First of all, when I'm complaining about my children like that, I don't let my mom be in the room at the same time because then I get to hear all the things I did, right? I think that the filter is, you know, we're raising adults, right? We're not raising children.

We're raising future adults. And so it's always the focus is on do you really want to grow up and offend your co-workers? I mean, do you really want to be that smelly person?

Do you ever want to get a date in high school? You know, no. I've had my boys say, no, not really. Oh, no.

What's your next trick, dad? It's true. Do you want to get a job? Not that important. Okay, then smell. Which is where they're driving you toward. Exactly right.

They want you to give up. Or do you want me to hose you down in the yard? Because I will.

Yeah. We talked a lot about the boys' behavior. You do have a daughter. So how did your daughter teach you about trust? You know, daughters and sons, even, you know, they're different genders, right?

But sometimes it's just kids are kids. And so my daughter is one of those kids who was always very distrusting. Like her parents really couldn't handle what was going on.

Not in any some unsafe way, right? But just somehow she came into the world believing that her parents were, you know, just needed to be checked on a little extra carefully, right? So she's always questioning our understanding of what's going on. So she's the kid that wants to be the parent. She's the kid who wants to be the parent. Okay, I got it.

Yes, exactly. So there was a time where there was possibility of snow. And my daughter was saying, well, there's not going to be school tomorrow, right? You know, she was doubting the fact that I told her school was happening tomorrow.

Because you go on the website, right? The school tells you if there's school tomorrow. And the school was saying, yes, they had school tomorrow. But my daughter didn't believe it. I was showing her the website, and she still didn't believe it. So they get up in the morning. There's snow on the ground.

The website hadn't been updated. And so, again, she's saying, Dad, I just don't think you know what's going on. I just don't think you know. And I said, and so I'm being sarcastic. And so, yes, I know, you know, just I know what's going on. I am your father. I am your father.

You know, I am older than you. And so you're going to go to school. And so I get them all packed up, and I send them out to the door to the bus stop. Five minutes, no, about ten minutes later, they come walking back. And my daughter announces, with her hands on her hips, right? All of eight years old. Yes.

There is no school today. I told you. I said, well, how do you know that?

She said, the lady who lives next to the bus stop told me. And she doesn't even have kids. That's how pathetic you are. Well, that's another great example of humility. Humility.

And what you need. Ken, as we close out today, you know, there's the parents that have really not allowed patience to be their number one parental attribute or humility. And it's always friction. And you know what happens over time with that friction is the child's heart tends to close. And for that parent, what would you say to help shake some of that out of them, the exactness, the behavioral pressure that they're putting the children under? Maybe too much to bear for that age.

You never know. But it ends up being so fractured and so disconnected that they're in the beginning of losing their child, and they don't even realize it. Through the course of four kids, right, this is not how I was when I started. But as I've gotten older, I think there are two things I've learned that have guided me to have great relationships with my adult children.

And that's how I measure it, right? I mean, that's how I know it went okay because I have these relationships. One is show, don't tell.

I'm not a fiction writer, but any fiction writer will tell you good writing is showing the story, not telling the story. And what I mean by that is you can lecture all day long to your children, but it is white noise. They look like they're listening, but they're not listening. But what they are doing is watching you. And they can they they're seeing how you live your life. So if you want children to develop good Christian behaviors and be great people, well, then guess what? You've got to show that because kids, especially teenagers, they know a hypocrite when they see one.

In fact, they'll call you out. That has really helped. Second is the whole free will lesson for me or what I've learned about that is God God so loves my children and he gave them free will.

And he he's got him. You know, our job is to love our kids unconditionally and understand that God's got the rest of it. And that's hard to do. So I don't need to change my kids. You're right.

God's there. My job is to just love them because there is in this crazy world and tough world, the kids need somebody who loves them unconditionally. Yeah. And that's our job. I talked about that in a book I wrote called When Parenting Isn't Perfect. A friend of mine said, why did you use the word when parenting isn't perfect?

That was a good point. But in that, I use that tetherball analogy that in parenting, you've got to keep the rope attached to the ball. If the ball is your child and you're the pole, you know, how do you through love and through acceptance and through that unconditional love, how do you keep that child tethered to you? And so often, you know, parents are working at that kind of cutting that rope through their demonstrative demands rather than understand these are kids. They don't have adult brains.

They don't have the length of time in a relationship with God. You got to love them. And that is going to be the thing that actually keeps them tethered, in my opinion, to the pole, to your influence in their life.

And if you sever that, you're in some deep trouble in that relationship. And their kids are in deep trouble, too. This has been so good. Man, these are great stories, funny stories.

We're laughing. And I hope you pick up a copy of this great book by Ken. Why did God give my kids free will?

He could have waited until they moved out. My emphasis added, of course. But what a wonderful book, refreshing, full of humor. Ken, you did a really good job with this. Thank you so much. And man, as always, we want to make this available to you. So get a hold of us if you can make a gift of any amount. We'll send it to you as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. It helps if that's monthly.

But a one-time gift is good, too. So also know that it's really important to remember this about focus. We have 45 years of collecting information, especially on parenting. That's the cornerstone of this organization.

So you're not going to shock us if you're going through difficulty or struggle. We have counselors. We have a mound of resources that we're adding Ken's to now to be able to help you through your parenting crisis. And we're a phone call away, so get in touch when you call 800, the letter A, and the word family. Or find details about Ken's book and other resources that we have for you at our website, and the link is in the show notes. 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.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-31 08:14:02 / 2023-07-31 08:25:46 / 12

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