Hey, Jim Daly here. If you like the Focus on the Family broadcast and haven't grown tired of this voice just yet, you'll love my Refocus Podcast. On Refocus, I take a deeper dive with a respected thinker on different aspects of culture. I ask those hard questions that maybe they don't get that often, and I don't shy away from challenging topics to help you share God's grace, truth, and love with others.
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That's leadership. The husband is to be a leader like Christ who said about himself, I did not come to be served. I came to serve and give my life a ransom for others. Dr. Gary Chapman sharing some important observations about characteristics of a healthy family. He's with us again today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller.
John, our conversation last time was so important. There are so many nuggets in there for married couples, for parents dealing with children, and trying to help them be the best adults in the future that they could be. But the world cannot function without healthy families.
I'm convinced of that. It's a big issue in the culture. How healthy are the families? Most people are identifying family as one of the critical crises in our country right now, and I'm sure that's true around the world. Dr. Chapman talked about some of the characteristics of a healthy family last time, and his great book, Five Traits of a Healthy Family, get down to some very practical nuggets for families to concentrate on. If you missed the conversation last time, get in touch with us. You can go to the website and download it, or on your smartphone, you can get the Focus on the Family app.
Yeah, and all the details to find and watch or listen to that first episode are in the show notes, or give us a call. Dr. Gary Chapman is author of the best-selling series, The Five Love Languages, and he's the director of marriage and family life consultants. He's a very busy man.
He's written a number of books, and one we're going to cover today is called The Five Traits of a Healthy Family. We had a great conversation last time, Jim. I'm really looking forward to today. Welcome back, busy man.
Thank you. Great to be here. Dr. Chapman, it's always good to have you here because you give such nuggets of wisdom, and you're a very concise communicator. I really appreciate that as an art form. Seriously, we have a lot of people that sit with us, and you truly are one of the best, and I'm grateful.
Well, thank you. Because it takes effort to do that and to answer a question with something relevant and something applicable in another person's life. It really isn't that easy. It may sound easy, but it's not, isn't it?
Hey, we're going to talk about parenting and strong male leadership today right at the end, so wives are going, yes, so hang on for that. But we want to start with teaching and encouraging your children and how we do that. Why do we need to teach our kids creatively?
You know, I think, obviously, children know nothing when they're born. They know a couple things, how to say no. But you know, the whole thing of teaching children and training children, those two words are really important, teaching and training.
One emphasizes words, and the other emphasizes actions, and those two need to go together. In our culture, people tend to lean to one or the other. There are parents who have the idea, if you simply explain things to children, then they're going to follow it.
They're intelligent. You just explain it to them. But if you explain it and the child doesn't do it, those parents explain it again. Now, let me tell you one more time, a little louder, and then a little louder, and they're verbally abusing their kids. The other pattern is, you don't have to explain things to children. You tell them what to do. If they don't do it, you whack them, you know? And those parents end up physically abusing their children.
Their attitude is, don't ask me, just do what I say. If you put those two things together, for example, a mother has dinner almost ready. She goes to the door. She says, Johnny, dinner. Little Johnny keeps on playing. Johnny comes back in three or four minutes and repeats it. Johnny keeps on playing.
She does that a third time. The fourth time, she says, Johnny, get home. And little Johnny comes home.
Why? Because he knows that if he doesn't come home when Mama says, get home, mother will come down there and take him by the hand and lead him home. And he does not want Mama in the neighborhood, so he comes home. So I say to that parent, if you want him to come home on number five, that's fine. But you can have him come home on number one if you put the action after number one. Just telling Johnny, I listen to a program on Focus on the Family, and I want to change things. And the next time I say, dinner, you come home, or I'll come down and walk you home.
You will not walk him home at one time, and he'll come. Yeah, and it's so good. And yet, at the same time, you talk about the importance of encouraging children. And so let me press on that one.
What does that look like? I think it's looking for things about them that you can honestly encourage. Encourage is trying to challenge them to go forward. You see, sometimes we don't encourage them for effort.
We're trying to wait for perfection. For example, you tell a child, pick up your toys now and put them in the box, and there's 12 toys on the floor. You go back in five minutes and seven toys are in the box and five are still on the floor.
What do you say? I told you to get these four toys out. Or, why not say, yay, seven in the box.
And I bet the other five will jump in the box. You see, we reward them, we encourage them for effort, not for perfection. Gary, we ended last time you were talking about the impact your alcoholic grandfather had on you, and how well your dad handled that to go get him out of a ditch, and the story of that, and also an accident you came upon where a person who had taken drugs had a motorcycle accident, and how that impacted you. I think the question following up on those stories is how many people don't fall far from the tree. In other words, a son who was fathered poorly often fathers poorly because it's what they learned. It seemed like, and maybe the difference was your Christian commitment, a commitment to God to be open to learning and doing things differently, but you were able to see those circumstances of your grandfather and the motorcycle driver and go, okay, I'm not going to drink, I'm not doing drugs, because of what you saw the impact of those things could be in a person's life. How do we apply that in our parenting, especially as dads, when we were brutalized somehow by our own fathers, verbal abuse, physical abuse maybe, how do we get far from the tree? Well, you know, we're all impacted by our parents, there's no question about that, either negatively or positively. I was fortunate to have a positive example in my father and my mother, not in my grandfather.
But I think if we grew up in a home which was dysfunctional, and let's face it, in today's culture there are thousands of families that are dysfunctional, and we are influenced by them, but we don't have to be controlled by them. And as we begin older and begin to look and observe other people's lives, and we see that what happens to people who follow the roads of alcohol and drugs and other things like that, we can make the decision, especially with God's help, to say, I don't want to be like my father. I've sometimes said to a young man like that, I say, I want you to write down anything you can think of that you appreciate about your father. Well, usually there's something, you know, he worked, he paid the bills or whatever.
Just write anything you can appreciate about him. Now, write down things that you do not want to be like him. Because you write them down, you get the picture, and now, okay, now then, let's work on not doing those things and not repeating those things. Because if you don't put some effort into it and some thought into it, you do tend to be doing the same thing your father did.
And then you're saying to yourself, now I know why dad did that, you know. And I do think that's one of the great promises of our faith, is that your life can change. You can break generational curses, as we say in the lingo, that, you know, if you lived in a very unhealthy family, you don't have to create an unhealthy family. You're given the power through Christ to live differently.
And that's what you're talking about too. Yeah, and that's one reason why I wrote this book. Because in my office, I've had so many people who said, you know, I grew up in a dysfunctional family. I don't know how to have a good family.
And so I'm trying to give a picture in this book of what a healthy family looks like, and then practical ideas on how to build these things into your family. You know, in fact, you encouraged your son through, I think, a baseball negative situation. I mean, again, for me, my dad showed up at my Little League game drunk, and I remember being at bat. And, you know, it was a ball outside, and I'm called to strike, and he'd yell from the stands right behind, you know, Little League.
It's not like a big place. Well, you strike, you know, just that drunken slur. And I just wanted to slink away, you know, and I think I struck out most times. I just closed my eyes, thinking I don't want to be here right now with that. It was very embarrassing.
But you were able, with your son, who had not that experience, but another baseball experience, what happened? Yeah, he just played poorly that night, just really, really poorly. And I knew he was down on himself, you know. When you do poorly, you're down on yourself.
So after it was over, we were riding home, I said, Derek, man, I know you felt badly about tonight, and I just mentioned a couple of things that had happened. I said, but listen, man, we're not perfect, and sometimes we don't do our best. But, man, you don't give up. You just keep on. You got it in you, man. I know you got it in you. So you keep on. You're going to be good. And so it's just little things like that along the way. And what that really says is I'm in your corner. Absolutely. I believe in you, even though you had a bad game. Yeah, you may feel badly about yourself, but I feel good about you.
Because I'm seeing the long run. That's right. And I remember visiting a 13-year-old guy in the hospital. He had ulcers at 13. And I asked him, how did you and your father get along? And he said, I didn't ever please my father. He said, if I made a B, my father would say, you should have made an A, boy. He said, if I mowed the grass, my father would say, you didn't get under the bushes.
And so I'm trying to help parents to say, look, again, give them positive affirmation. If he mowed the grass, look at all the grass you mowed, man. This is great. Next Saturday, if you want him to get under the bushes, you say, hey, man, this is hard to do, but I know you can do it.
You have to go in and out to get under the bushes. So he does it. But if you're never quite good enough, and I knew his father was trying to encourage him to do his best, but he was really discouraging the kid. Well, it's not motivating. That's right. Think of yourself. When do you get motivated by somebody telling you you didn't do it great?
Yeah. In that regard, you say that parents need to make sure we're not correcting behavior that doesn't need to be corrected. This may be one of the best parenting lessons right here.
I think it's really hard, because we're on everything, especially as Christian parents. We're on every detail where it's falling short, typically. So how do we refrain as parents from correcting things that don't need to be corrected?
And do you happen to have that list? I don't have the list, but I think, and again, it depends on the parent, because some of us are more precise than others. Everything has to be done exactly right.
And so we impose that on our kids. They load the dishwasher, for example, and they didn't load it the way we wanted them to load it. Now, son, this is not going to get clean here. You see, this is not going to get clean. And the kid worked hard.
I mean, they did it. Why not say, hey, man, I appreciate you loading the dishwasher. But next time when they start to load, then you can tell them the thing that you think would be better. Yeah, we've got to turn the bowls upside down. That's right. It works a lot better.
That's right. But I think we often discourage our kids because we correct them for something that's really not all that significant at all. Gary, it's kind of funny, because every question I'm starting with, now this is a great question.
They're all great. But this is a great question, perhaps the best question in the whole thing. But we do, as parents, we want our children to obey us. Yes, every mom's head is nodding yes that's hearing this right now.
How do we get there? And is that the measure of great parenting, that a child obeys us perfectly all the time? It feels like the answer to that would be yes. I think we have to start with the reality that in God's plan, parents are responsible for children. Parents are the ones who make the rules. Parents are the ones who teach children to do or not to do.
Three-year-olds are not in charge of homes, and ten-year-olds are not to be telling you what to do. And we have to communicate that to our children. And I remember there were times that I said to my son, especially when he was in the teenage years, Derek, I hear what you're saying, man, and I can see how that makes sense. And I can see how that's what you would like to do. But remember, I'm the dad, and the dad's responsible for doing what he believes is best for the child. So I can't let you do that, because I don't think that would be good for you. And I know I'm not perfect, and sometimes I might make a mistake. But I have to do what I believe is best for you. And he didn't necessarily go away happy, but at least he went away knowing that I was accepting responsibility to have the final word.
And I wanted to hear him affirm his ideas and his thoughts and see how he can feel that way. That, I think, is an important part of that process. It is, and again, it hits to this point of being complete in your answers and in your moment of instruction.
And I think that is often the greatest challenge, because we're running fast, and we're just hitting kind of the proverbial nail on the head. You know, don't do it, because I told you so, rather than the fuller explanation that you just gave. All of a sudden, when you hear that, it makes very loving sense, right?
But take time to do it. Yeah, and I remember, part of my learning to do that, I learned it from my son. Because I remember one time he said to me, he said, Dad, I'm going to do what you want me to do.
I just want you to hear me. And that made a tremendous impact on me. And from that point on, I really started trying to hear him and affirm his thoughts. How old was he when he said that to you?
He was probably 13. Yeah, that's amazing. That's pretty insightful.
And respectful, actually. Developing family rules can be a little overwhelming. How many of us bought the pre-made family rules that you can hang on the wall from Hobby Lobby or somewhere? To which my son Trent went, those are a lot of rules. So how many rules and what kind of rules, and are rules okay to hang on the wall?
I wouldn't suggest hanging them on the wall. Okay, we've got to take those down now, John. I do think that the fewer the rules, in my mind, the better. I agree.
The more specific the rules, the better. But I want to go back to something we mentioned earlier, and that is, whenever we have a rule, we should also tell the child the consequences of breaking the rule. Yeah, and I think, you know, children coming to recognize the parents as the authority in the home is going to set them up for a positive road down the road. School teachers say to me, the greatest problem I have in the classroom is keeping enough discipline that I can teach. Right. They don't respect the teacher as an authority.
Yeah. Well, and I think culturally, widespread, that's happening right now, whether it's police or whatever it might be. It's just a degradation of respecting authority in the house, outside the house, every which way. Which, again, you know, rather than hanging our head as the Christian community, let's make it an opportunity to share the light, and hopefully our families will be different, and people will be curious about that. How come your kids listen and obey, right? Hey, another trait of healthy families is fathers who love and lead. We promised wives we would talk about this. What are some examples of how to lead a family, both a husband with his spouse and a husband with his children? Well, you know, let me say, first of all, I think a lot of folks through the years have misapplied the biblical concept of the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. I've heard people say, well, what that means in our culture is he's the president, she's the vice president, he has the final word. Or he's the general, he tells her what to do.
No, no, no, no, no. The model is Jesus. What did the head of the church do for the church? He died for the church. That's leadership. The husband is to be a leader like Christ who said about himself, I did not come to be served.
I came to serve and give my life a ransom for others. So Christian leadership is that the husband takes the initiative to do everything in his power with all the help of God to serve his wife and to serve his children. Seeking to meet emotional needs, physical needs, social needs in everything he can do.
And also in the area of the spiritual, leadership in the spiritual. You know, the husband, I think if he takes the leadership of having a daily devotional time with the family, the wife's going to appreciate that. Even if she's a non-Christian, she'll probably appreciate that. And if she's a Christian, she's going to be clapping her hands. He's taking the initiative to lead our devotional time with our family. Or to pray with the children before you put them to bed.
All those sort of things spiritually and otherwise. A husband takes that kind of leadership. I have never seen a wife who did not appreciate a husband who took the leadership with that attitude. Not with the attitude of telling them what they're going to do. But the attitude of how can I serve you?
How can I help you be the person you want to become? That kind of leadership is always welcomed. You know, over the years you've talked about that father hunger.
That hole in people's hearts. You know, what's been amazing is how the research has supported that. And now we're seeing the impact that fathers have in the home with most of the dysfunction coming from fatherless homes. And I come from a single mom family. So I give credit to all the moms.
Don't get me wrong, don't hear that incorrectly. But, you know, dads play a significant role in the stability of a family. Especially the healthy ones, obviously. But when you look at runaways and you look at drug addiction and you look at alcohol abuse. And you look at kids that don't finish school. So often one of the key indicators with those outcomes will be there's no father present in the home. So there is a great significance coming from fathers.
The culture is so denigrated, dads, that it's even shocking to think that way, right? It's all about mom. And moms are tremendously important. Don't hear me?
Incorrectly. But dads also play a significant role. So speak to that hunger spot that so many children have, especially with an absent dad. I was at the cemetery recently. And after the service was over, there was a young man, the son of the man who died. I did not know the son. I had never met the son.
He was 25 years old. I engaged him in conversation and said a few things about his father. And I said, how did you and your father, what kind of relationship did you and your father have? And he said, I never knew my father.
I said, what do you mean? He said, my father worked outside the home all week long. He would leave on Monday and get home on Saturday. And he said all day Saturday, he'd get home Friday night, all day Saturday he played golf.
Sunday he slept till noon, and Sunday afternoon he watched television. He never came to a game I played. He was never involved with me at all. He said he paid my way through college, and he did all those things. He said, but I never knew my father.
I walked away with tears in my eyes. And I thought, you know, there's a father whom I probably assumed himself as being a great father because he provided for the family. Well, that is a wonderful thing to do for a family, but there has to be a relationship.
There has to somehow be time that we're with those kids, doing things with those kids and all of that. And you're right, and there are other fathers. There's no father in the home, as you say. He's not there, either by divorce or by death.
He's just not there. And what I encourage mothers to do is see if you can find a Christian gentleman in your church who might invite your kid to go with him on some of the things with his kids. You know, if he's going fishing, and he's got a son about that age, let your son go fishing with him. And there are fathers that would be willing to do that if they just knew there was a need out there like that. So I think if mothers can see the value in having a trusted adult and man to be a part of that child's life, they're doing the child a good service.
Yeah. You know, one of the most impactful examples of that father hole in the heart was a letter I received a while back, and this woman who was 32 said, When I was seven, my father and mother divorced, and my father took me out to breakfast, said that they weren't getting along, it wasn't my fault. I thought, Oh, those are all good things as I'm reading. And then he explained that, you know, they would have every other weekend together and that two weeks out of the summer, she would be with him. And she said all these years later, remember, she's 32, when she wrote the letter, she said, After that breakfast, I never saw my father again.
Wow. Think of the feeling of those broken promises. You know, every other weekend, we'd be together. So don't worry, hon. Twice, you know, or during the summer, we'd have two weeks together.
That never happened either. And she went on to say how many bad relationships she got into. You know, not the right guys. Yeah. Looking for that affirmation, probably as that little girl. Yeah.
That I'm good enough for you, that you can love me. That's the hole. You're right.
I don't know that anything is much more painful than that. That is it. I mean, I think if those of us who are fathers can recognize that and not live for ourselves, but live to impact our children in a positive way, we will work on a troubled marriage.
We will lean over backwards to try to find answers to that marriage so that we can become the father that we need to be. Well, and that's having a conscience. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Gary, at the beginning of this show, I mentioned how busy you are. And you've been busy throughout your whole life. How did you lean in and demonstrate to your own kids, I'm there more than just a provider, I'm plugged in?
Yeah. You know, I served as a pastor, of course, all these years on a pastoral staff doing pastoral counseling. And one of the good things about that is I can choose my schedule. So I would always go home at 3 o'clock in the afternoon because the kids are coming home from school. And I'd spend the afternoon. You know, they'd work on their homework, and then we would do some things together. And then at night, we would play games together and do things together. And of course, when my son got into sports, we'd go to sports things together.
Now, I know not everybody can determine their schedule like that, but that model came from my father, who worked on the third shift in a textile mill from 11 o'clock at night to 7 in the morning. And then he would sleep during the day when we were in school so he could be with us in the afternoon and evening. Of course, part of that was also so he could work in the garden, and he could get us to help him work in the garden.
But that was good. Working in the garden with Dad is good. So I had a model of that. But I think we just have to work at our work schedules to make time to be with our children, doing things with them, just fun things, or not so fun things, but doing things. And in the summer, you know, I would take my son. In the summer, he and I would do two days together up in the mountains of North Carolina. And then as he got older, I'd ask him where he wanted to go.
So we'd go to New York City, and we'd go to Dallas, and we'd go here or there, you know. So I think just making memories like that with our children. But we have to make time to do it. And I think, you know, so often what we as dads say is, I'm giving you time. And we used to say and still say, you know, it's quality time and the amount of time that matters, right?
It's not one or the other. We don't spend a lot of time together. But when we're together, it's quality time. Kids are looking for as much time as they can get from them.
And I found that to be true. Gary, this has been so good. Thank you so much for, again, putting in the hard work to really think about these human dynamics and then to apply a Christian application to it. What is he looking for? How does he treat us as his children? How does he ask us to behave in our marriage? These are all good reminders of how to do it well. If you're not functioning well as a spouse or as a parent, that's a great first place to look. Do I have a relationship with Jesus Christ?
Because that will change who you are. Gary Ginn, thank you for being with us. This has been terrific. Well, thank you.
I enjoyed it. And if you'd like to get a copy of Gary's book, it is in ministry for a gift of any amount. We'll send you a copy of Five Traits of a Healthy Family by Gary Chapman, as our way of saying thank you for helping us help families.
If you could do that monthly, it really helps. And a one-time gift, too. If you can't afford it, we'll get it into your hands. We're a Christian ministry. We want you to have great resources to help you along the way. And we'll trust others. We'll cover the cost of that.
Yeah, get in touch today. We're a phone call away, 800, the letter A in the word family. You can also donate and get a copy of this great book by Dr. Chapman, Five Traits of a Healthy Family. All the details are in the show 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. And we'll see you next time.
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