Giving Your Teen Freedom to Become an Adult (Part 2 of 2)
Hi, I'm Jim Daly with focus on the family. Did you know today is a global day of giving since two thousand twelve the giving Tuesday movement has encouraged people to support ministries, a nonprofit organizations like focus on the family and today only we have a goal of raising two hundred and fifty thousand dollars which will be matched dollar for dollar by friends of the ministry. That means your gift will be doubled to help us reach more hurting families give today by calling eight hundred a family. Now with freedom always comes responsibility. So by letting go of one thing, you also lead them to their own consequences of the things that they're doing my favorite. He's always the easy. One is music that you can give a teenager you. Now have the freedom. It's up to you to make your own decision about music. What you listen to this tree you and God. However, if your little sister is caught on your phone listening to some of that stuff, then you can lose your phone for that you need to make sure that's true of any adult. You have to be held responsible for your own behavior. Let's Dr Ken Wilga is describing how you can help your teen. Grow up and successfully make that important transition from childhood to adulthood, and he's back again today on focus on the family. I'm John Fuller. And that was Jim daily in the background focused president and author in aspiring bear well firing launching parent. Right. I mean boys are right there. Yeah. And so you have couple of kids at that. Same point. Don't you? I do. Yeah. It's gonna be good John calm down. You're gonna launch. Well, all right. Thank you. Hey, we had an excellent conversation last time with Ken about dealing with those teen years and all the unique challenges that go with the that period in your family's life. That's normal. And I think it's wonderful to start talking about this. I as a couple be talking about how we're going to launch successfully and have a plan. That's part of what we're talking about last time. And today there are so many rapid changes that teens experience physically emotionally, socially cognitively. Sometimes it seems like they transform overnight and sometimes from night to night, and those changes take some getting used to his parents, and we're going to discuss that today. And in the middle of all of that is your teens. Incredible drive for more independence and freedom. Which is probably freaking you out as a parent, right? But we want to put some tools in your hands to be thoughtful about it be. I think in connection with God on this on the direction, you're going and the way you need to go. Dr Wilga is an expert in adolescent behavior. I didn't know there was such a thing in this world expert and Adaleta v eight year, do they really exist? And we have again started a great conversation. Well, thanks for joining us for this episode of focus on the family and check out the show notes. To learn more about our guest and his book feeding them out that bites you a complete guide to parenting adolescence and launching them into the world. Ken, welcome back. Thanks, okay. Serious. You're an expert analysis. You can actually attain expert hood in daily interesting. Interesting. That's the position of envy for all. Parents and really understand how these young people think I actually tried to get away from the lessons when I started. But there was just a logic to it that I couldn't ignore. Let me ask you that often. I think why did my dentist want to become a dentist? Why did you want to do this? Well, I was trying to work with adults. But when you're a male in psychology training like in Chicago worked at Michael Reese medical center, and if they had they had an intensive adolescent unit, and man, you gotta have a guy in that unit because it can be intense. So I ended up getting thrown in there. This is how the Lord works complaining that. Oh, no. That's not what I want to do. But I remember sitting in group with parents that would you know, be essentially a patronizing they're teenagers in talking to them. And I could just tell that this was really hard on that teenagers. So it turned out. I had an ear for it. Essentially, never really quite grew up from my own since I suppose, so. Coming off of what we talked about last time. And we've said it already two or three times if you missed it get it because the content was so good. If you're looking at one silver bullet, I know this is a very unfair question. But for the parent that has been as you described last time that typical Christian parent varying gauged, very parental maybe up until sixteen seventeen eighteen years old where decisions were really with you. And not with that growing. Adolescent. What is something I could do to reverse course to say, okay? I have blown it. What I heard today on focus on the family really challenges me because I've been so over engaged so decision oriented for my seventeen year old. What can I do? Okay. That is an unfair question. But I do think that that's again, it starts with our faith knowing debt. We don't blow stuff. Jesus is never going. No. This is too much of a mess for me now. So I think starting with that kind of conversation, but it is a conversation with your teenager. And I would think the conversation needs to be about your own. Fear as a parent you what you had tried to do. But really taking responsibility for the possibility that what we've communicated to you as our son or daughter that we might have ended up communicating that we don't respect your own ability to do stuff. And if we've done that we really wanted to let you know, we're sorry about that. Make sure you let them know that you've prayed about this. And that's why you feel the freedom to tell them that. Because again teenagers are all eyes and ears, and they can tell that what we teach about our faith, whether it really impacts behavior or not and nothing teaches teenagers that the Christian faith is not real quite like a parent that is freaking out over everything that they do is it ever too late for the restart button. I mean, if they're twenty three twenty four no, I don't think so I think again, if you count the restart button, as let's talk about what I may have signal to you as disrespect because you can definitely I know adults that are fifties in with their own adult, parents that are still trying to teach and control and manage and that can be tense. So there's it's never. Late for that. Kind of the interesting thing is healing. That relationship is what God would want labs London. Mentally, whether your child is thirty or forty if you haven't had that healing in that relationship that is what the Lord's after that good communication. We did talk about emancipation how to emancipate your teen. We got into that, right? At the end of the program last time. Let's pick it up there. You introduced us to that concept of planned emancipation you described it as a strategy where parents can help their teenagers right around starting at age thirteen or so to make the transition from childhood to adulthood for those who missed the conversation. Give us that quick summary of planned demands a patient, how it works plan events of patient is getting ahead of the adolescence primary need you need to know win. And how you're going to rive as an adult, and here's the answer to that. And it is a parents basically roadmap from wherever you start to the end, which for the vast majority of parents, the end is the end of high school pretty much you need to be prepared for them to pretty much be making their own decisions by the time they finished high school, but the step to do that as I suggest you make a freedoms list, which is actually on a sheet of paper left hand side. Is a list of freedoms that say we think you should use your own judgment in the following areas. And there's a on the left side of the paper should be freedoms. Like in our house at thirteen. You got the freedom to listen to whatever music, you felt you needed to you could keep your own room as cleaner dirty as you see fit that always freaks mothers out, I've gotten literally photos of do you mean, this is it so? Well, it so if they choose to have it dirty is that. Okay. Well, again, it comes down to with freedom always comes responsibility and responsibility means in here's the washer. Here's the dryer. You don't want us wandering in taking care of your clothes for you. And then otherwise, you handed like you would an apartment like there's a smell coming out of your room. You're going to do something about that and pay for that. And if there's food in your room, you can have that as long as you can afford an exterminator. But if you can't we're gonna find you for an so basically different I like this. Good question money and twenty bucks with freedom that may be high. I don't know depends on you wanted to I did have a couple whose son makes quite a bit of money, and they're charging ten bucks for copper glass. So depends on your cover everything left in the. Here's me get all excited about the restrictive bar. Just thinking how many dirty dishes around the house? Well, there's a big difference between saying that your freedom. We want you to freedom versus your freedom shouldn't mess with us. It should not cause us a problem. Yeah. I might be able to make two hundred bucks tonight. What's the balance? There Ken between your freedom as a teen, and my home, and your responsibility in that. Well, most teenagers understand that. For example, the difference between saying you can't keep your room this way because cleanliness is next to godliness. They're tired of hearing that besides I've looked it up in the dictionary and goggles is next to godliness since not actually cleanliness. But Secondly to say, but listen, you're we don't want to mess with you. But this or that thing in your room is causing us problems. Like the bugs perhaps all that most teenagers get that. And they're much more willing to cooperate or at least understand that. But that doesn't mean they'll always do it. And then you get to the next part, which is setting expectations and restrictions, and parents really should not have hesitation in pulling the strings they need to to expect the minimum respect that you need to give us which in. This case is a fine. If you refuse to, you know, follow the real about food, and you're. Room things like that. So that's all laid out. So it's understood it's all of these concepts in your book feeding the mouth bites you you lay these out so well, let me go a little deeper philosophically because you talk about the importance that parents need to understand this idea to trade control for influence. Yes. Okay. That's a panic button for many parents, you know, control as the tool I have dots right in right? But you want me to give that up for influence, which is not concrete. It's only something I suggest again as a matter of recognizing that from thirteen to the end of highschool. You are having whether you want to or not you are having less and less control. And it's a matter of recognizing it. It's really embarrassing to sit in an office with a teenager in their parent who proudly announces that will in our house. You know, we keep track. We know what she's doing where she's going. She looks at me. And I look at her because just last week she, and I talked about a number of things their parents don't know about. So they just look silly to pretend like I have an kind of control that I really. We don't have. So it's really not giving up as much as you think to acknowledge that freedom for what is again. So commonly not there, which is real influence. Yeah. A relational communication influence. That says listen, I'm I'm not here to tell you how to keep your room anymore. But can I just ask you this is really depressing in here, which is almost a conversation. I had with my son one time who asked me twice. This is Mr. ADD boy who really living in regular life. We do you hard launches in our family. But my son and his wife and two kids. You know, there was some points where his room got pretty bad and twice. He asked me. Could you come help me clean my room? So I was like sure now in all fairness it lasted about fifteen minutes. He got to a shame with my questions of how long have you had this out here is like never mind never mind. So we stop. But you know, he had much more ability to talk to me about that. Then he would have we had done that h- usual yelling thing that goes on for years just to try to get a clean room. And then if you visit any freshman dorm in this country, you'll see that you know, it's not exactly working right now. But the irony is we keep coming back to the same methodology, exactly. Which is the most common problem of parents using childhood parenting techniques with teenagers, and it just doesn't work this concept of not knowing what your kids are really all about or not really being able to control their decisions. I mean that comes home at about fifteen sixteen seventeen and we've even had that discussion with one of our boys, you know, who. Really was honest. And just said, you know, mom and dad, you can't in the end, I will decide these things, and that's a good thing. It's a good thing. He felt comfortable saying, correct. You're not always comfortable with the decisions though. And that really is the crux of the issue, right, especially if those things aren't lining up to spiritual truths that you want kids to bide by akin in your book, you mention the need for teenagers to feel grownup. But it's a desperate need is the word you used actually I don't think parents connect with this. What is this desperate need to feel grownup? And then how does that express itself in unhealthy ways? And then in healthy ways. That's a good question because the primary need of teenagers is what we call individuation, which is essentially to the people that I know see that I'm grown up. Are they am I going to arrive at adulthood, and if they're not getting it in healthy ways from the parents, then it's very common for teenagers to seek it an unhealthy ways, for example, one of the most common answers to the question of teenagers. Why do you drink alcohol? Is to feel grownup is part of that. So teenage will go and do the thing that seems grownup as if pouring alcohol down your throat makes you somehow an adult, but it at least has that feel to it. Because again, in some cases, overprotected teenagers feel like I need some way to feel that adult nece, and what we want to provide as parents is that ability that you can grow up here in our house. You don't have to just get away. And that takes fortitude and thinking that through in terms of the paces, I'm reminded of so often, you talk about the pastures kids, the pastor's daughter, the pastor's, son. They oftentimes can be those kids that are doing those destructive behaviors disproportionately truth who others explain why. And I think this fits in with this area of identity. I think you're 'cause they're seeing their kind of in this fishbowl fishbowl, and I've talked with a lot of pastors kids about that very thing that it's extra difficult for a pastor. Because of what can be seen as the expectations of everyone else that. They expect this pasture child. No matter what the age to be sort of goody goody, essentially. And there's nothing wrong with choosing moral good behavior unless that seems to advertise that I can't think things through and I'm really about a six year old even though I'm seventeen or whatever. So it's critical that they be given the kind of messages, particularly from their parents that despite what you may think other people are looking at in the church, we want you to own more and more of your own life, and it can be hard. A lot of times you have to push back against against since. It's a cultural confusion, you can hear really, well, meaning people say, well, but shouldn't. Yeah. If they're not ready after that senior year, maybe you should keep them home for you is if you can keep them home for or if that's going to be some good for them. So yet to push back even against well-meaning people giving you advice when I think that's the underlying issue here, and you've hit it. Well, and feeding them out that bite. You is that relinquishing of your fear. In your control. It seems counter intuitive. You wanna protect you want? They're not ready yet. You know, just like the opening thirty five and still at home, and some parents I'm afraid to say might find that comforting to them. So we're actually using that relationship to sue their own fears, and I want to be real clear. I mean fear is part of the air that I live in breathe. I mean, it's hard. I don't expect parents to not be fearful, but what I heart is that it can be sometimes lifted up as almost a virtue that apparent that is letting go is the one that really doesn't care as much or or isn't informed. If you knew what I knew about the suicide rate, you wouldn't allow these whatever that so fear masquerades as authority as some more passionate. And that's the part that I think has to be you say that teens want freedom. But they also want their parents to give them that freedom. That's right. Why is that distinction? So important. I'll always remember we. Adolescent day hospital. There was a an we're having a group therapy of teenagers, which you can imagine is filled with a lot of my parents, don't get what they don't let me, you know, there was this one really depressed girl thinks she was about fifteen and she finally looked up. And she said, you know, I have everything you guys wish for I wish someone would ask if I'm coming in at night, but her family pretty much exploded. There was not. So she desires she had the freedom. But she did not have the message from someone who cared. It's time for you to have this freedom, and it's really important because parents will say, hey, we w we do find until we say, no, he just wants us to leave him alone. That's not exactly true. What she wants to hear is. Why are you still telling me what movie to go to? Why are you still in telling me when to come in what? Parties to go to all those things they want to hear from the parent. Hey, it's now time you're thirty seven. It's time. You know, whatever the point that you can really give that real answer that it's time for you to make that decision yourself talk about communication challenges with your teen's. This seems to be the one in our household. I don't know if you've struggled with this, John. It's like, hey, do you have a great day at school? Yeah. Hey, what do you want for dinner anything which can happen overnight? It's like I thought we were talking just last week. And now it used to be QNA all the time. Hey, look at that dog dad in that cute dog. I'd like a dog like that dad. Can I take dot com that was years ago? Talk. Yeah. Okay. Those are the times happening control battle. You have a young Adum who feels like instead of your questions being good natured. You're a cop asking how was your day? Let me just check and see if there's anything I need to intervene that soda check in. And so unless you make that really clear like, why am I asking this? What are my purposes which is really about planets patients stepping back and saying listen at your age, you don't really have to talk to me about these things. I miss talking together. And I'd like to know, but you don't have to answer all these things if you don't want to can vary often pretty quickly opened up a lot more communication. So you're saying to in the book that teenagers really want to communicate. It doesn't feel that way for a parent. So offense, really true. And if it being a psychologist is a rare opportunity to get to talk to teenagers when you really be open, and it's not unusual for parents to assume that their teenager does not want to. They really do if they can trust what they say to their parents. And that's the key question. How do you create that bedrock a trust that it's not going to be the lecture? It's not going to be the ticket from the policemen. It's going to be a conversation. And then how what kind of triggers do you use as a parent not to fall into that trap of the lecture? Well, I think that's a hard task. I think it starts by really recognizing. You have young adult. It's really recognizing that they are thinking for themselves. And sometimes it means taking ownership of what you've done before. And recognizing that listen I'm sorry yesterday. I blew up again just because you said that you didn't do on a test. I'm really trying to back off from that. That's not about you. That's about me taking ownership of that. And then pursuing forward with really what the teenager really is wanting to talk about and really listening to what are the things that are important to your teenager and trying to process that with them. And so taking ownership is important, but also respecting and recognizing the stage of development that your teenager is in you know, one thing that people need to walk away with is. Is this idea to agree to disagree especially for teenagers with their parents? Because again, parents especially Christian parents, we want this alignment, we really value alignment are how we even have rules are household beliefs. So if you don't believe that rule, you're not part of the household. That's what we communicate. And why do we need to develop that ability to agree to disagree, especially as apparent with teenager and vice versa because families that are really close especially had the hardest time with this. Because in the past. We've had as you mentioned kind of group think we're all sort of. It's great that we all kind of like the same things we're about the same things, and we're used to being able to talk to this one child or more that doesn't seem to quite get. It we explain and then they're back in line by the time, they become an adolescent. Nothing's bad has happened. But they changed formal operational. Thought is actually a real thing in cognitive development where teenagers can and need to think for themselves and. The goal of learning to agree to disagree is critical and being able to really process through where you differ where we differ in. So that you can avoid what is very often some pretty severe arguments that simply start with the goal of white. Honey, I don't think you understand let me repeat this thing. Again, let me show you an article let me just this. And the next thing, you know, you're a normal parent, and you are screaming or almost literally getting physical because you're scared to death that I can't seem to get this point across like we always used to. And it's simply matter of learning that it's okay, we need to agree to disagree. You and your son had a good example of this. What happened with your cell? It was actually the point that I really knew he was a teenager. And this is what's so rough. It, you know, it's hard on my my children have worked out. Well, they're good kids. But I'll be honest. They were not bad kids to start with. They were not that hard. But my son was thirteen and he went to mow the lawn and he came in done, and I said, well, no, there's this other part back there that I told you you need to do also. He said, no, you didn't tell me that. I said, yeah, I did. And so he he's decent Katie walked out. But instead of going to get on the more I looked out the window, and he is pacing and talking to himself, and he comes back any never done this before he's a dead. You did not tell me to do that we agreed upon. And I remember suddenly realizing that I can't talk him into stuff. Like I used to this is the weird part. And I realized that I said we're just going to have to agree to disagree. And this is what's so weird about being shrink? I started to choke up because I got tearful because I knew this is my adolescent, he's my oldest. So now, we're in analyst and stage. Well, you can imagine my kid is going UK dad on. On just. Great for my poor kids. But it was a real moment of recognition that, you know, his thinking had changed, and he really could think for himself, and he fully his experience was way different from mine. And I needed to accept that. Even though the end of the stories, I did say, look, I think I told you and if you don't they'll be this consequence for it. So didn't work out great for him. But we didn't get into a big argument either. Yeah. It can I'm thinking of the parent that has the twenty four twenty five year old and in that case they did over manage. It didn't go. Well, it kind of that. Josh McDowell statement, you know rules without relationship even billion, and that's been the story in this hypothetical case when I'm painting, how does a parent reach back to that adult child. Now and say, hey, we've got some things we gotta talk about what can they do that? Makes it real makes it then official doesn't turn into another lecture opportunity. That's a. Great question. And this may surprise you. But if reaching out to that twenty four year old means walking down to your own basement and getting them out of there because that's where they are. Then there's the first step that needs to be taken. Anyway, which is need to set a point where you're going to let them know. This is it you're gonna be out of here, not immediately. But you need to set a point where you let them know it's respectful to let young adult know that you're not welcome to live here know without limits. But outside of that, then I think the other part is to address that you know, and we're worried that we have given you the wrong message that what we've tried to be loving and caring. But I think we've communicated that we don't respect your ability to make your own decisions about things and really take ownership of that. It's not an overnight decision. That's not an after school special where they start weeping. And we ended up hugging. But it is a starting point that I think is important to let them know that we are now going to stop just thinking about giving you sort of a loving kindness. We're going to give you respect. And that brings this today conversation with Dr Ken Wilga to a close for this focus on the family. He was addressing some really important principles that are found in his book. Feeding the mouth that bites. You a complete guide to parenting, adolescents and launching them into the world. At one reason why this topic is so important is because we sometimes hear from families who are struggling with this transition from childhood to adulthood, and I think many families do we do we have to teenagers were right in that space right now where we're trying to launch Trenton Troy for some parents. It's hard to let go and let your kids make their own decisions maybe decisions that you don't always agree with, and that's especially hard. If your adult child turns away from the faith and young adults struggle to they're trying to figure out what life's all about and may have some financial burdens student loans, all this kinds of things or maybe other reasons why. They may need to stay with mom and dad for a little while until they can get out on their own those issues can lead to some serious tensions between you and your children. And if that's a challenge for your family, and you've got any other issues you'd like to discuss with us. I hope you'll contact us here at focus on the family. We have lots of resources for you. Whether you're going through crisis or simply needs some practical tools to get through the day. One of those resources is our counseling team. Call us or go online to set up an appointment with one of our Christian counselors who will listen to your story. Pray with you and point you in the direction of help don't hesitate. Don't delay. Contact us today. Check out our show notes to learn how to reach our counseling team or order other resources like Dr Wilkinson's great book. Feeding the mouth that bites. You we'll send a complimentary copy of that book when you make a generous donation of any amount today to the ministry of focus on the family. Donate and help us reach others. And please give us a review on I tunes or wherever you access this content. Coming up next time. We'll hear from a couple whose relationship seemed doomed. I realized I was in a battle. We were in a battle to save disabled marriage. That's next time on focus on the family. And remember when you get in touch, let us know how you're listening on our website through our mobile app or on our podcast feed. I'm John Fuller and on behalf of gym daily and the entire team. Join us next time as we help you and your family thrive.