Dealing With Problems Before They Begin
About the Guest
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Chap BettisChap Bettis is the author of The Disciple-Making Parent, The Donut Date Journal, Parenting with Patience: Overcoming Anger in the Home and numerous other resources for the family. He is passionate about helping parents disciple their childr...more
Our words are so important in managing our households, but sometimes our words get us in trouble. Chap Bettis discusses the need for a strategy in the home and some practical ideas of what that can look like.
Dealing With Problems Before They Begin
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 16th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Are there parenting strategies we can employ that can help us to respond rightly and use the right words when our kids provoke us? We’re going to talk with Chap Bettis about that today. Stay with us.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re going to do a little test here at the beginning of—
Ann: Oh, no! I hate tests.
Bob: Not for you; this is for the listeners.
Ann: Oh, good.
Bob: Although, you can play along if you’d like. [Laughter] Those of you who have children in the home—that lets us off the hook on this one—but if you have children in the home, when was the last time you got irritated or angry with them?—has it been less than 24 hours?—has it been within the last three days?
Bob: Have you gone a week without getting angry or irritated?
Dave: I thought you were going to say, “Has it been in the last ten minutes?” [Laughter]
Bob: The reality of parenting is that frustration is always kind of easily in reach; and it can be that the kids are just out of control, and we don’t know how to bring order into the chaos; right?
Ann: Exactly; because that can be the atmosphere of the home, especially when your kids are little.
Bob: I know, when we have our kids come visit us and bring the grandkids, which we love—kids, listen: “We want you to come; we want you to bring the grandkids,”—it’s always a joy to have them there, but we do have to become mentally prepared for the house is about to change for the next couple of days.
Bob: The level of activity is going to increase; the level of disruption is about to increase, and we have to be emotionally and mentally prepared for that; right?
Dave: I find that I have to go to the bathroom more. [Laughter] It’s the only place I can shut the door, lock it, and be alone for some minutes.
Ann: Yes; I’ll go in the bedroom; I’m like, “What are you doing?” He says, “I just need a little time.” [Laughter] We love it, though.
Bob: We’re talking about how we deal with frustration, and anger, and impatience as parents. We have a/we have a recovering impatient parent, who is joining us. [Laughter] Chap Bettis is with us, again, on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Chap: Thank you.
Bob: Chap is an author. He is a conference speaker, speaking on parenting; wrote a book called The Disciple-Making Parent and a book we’ve been talking about this week called Parenting With Patience that, as you’ve shared, came out of your own reality/your own observation—your wife’s observation, actually—that your anger and impatience was creating the wrong kind of culture in your home. You began to go to work on this in your life.
If you were sitting down, with a young mom or a young dad right now, who is saying, “I just, every day, find myself losing it with my kids. But Chap, you don’t know; they are throwing stuff,” “They are doing this…” “One of my kids—I just put up this new thing—and they tore it down.” You understand the frustrations; it’s a fertile field for anger to manifest itself. What’s the process we go through to try to get to where we can bring peace to the home and peace to our own heart?
Chap: Well, for that specific instance, I think what you are getting at is really—and I actually cover this in some of my other material like/I call it Parenting with Confidence, Parenting 101. God has given us the right and the responsibility to rule our home well. First Timothy 3 says: “A leader needs to manage his household well.” That’s really everybody; that’s not just pastors and deacons. So to say, “Okay; actually, anger here is a frustration; I’m not leading my family well. I need to get a strategy to deal with those particular issues.”
On the one hand, anger is a foe in the sense that I need to fight it; I need to repent of yelling; I need to, as I walk in the door, expect that my kids are going to be yelling or whatever that is; or wake up in the morning—the “parenting paradox” I call it—we expect our children to obey, because God commands that; we expect them to disobey because they are sinful. I’m going to wake up and expect that they are going to disobey; whatever happened yesterday is going to happen again. Having said that, God has called me to lead my family well to come up with some consequences.
Children are to obey their parents; I need to be okay with that as an authority. Now, let’s go with one or two of those and let’s have a plan—say: “The policeman—he doesn’t get upset—he just writes a ticket”; you know? When he goes out, he’s not/he expects people to speed today; and he’s got a consequence for it; it’s all thought out. I think, sometimes, we are trying to parent on cruise control rather than saying, “Children are going to misbehave.
Bob: “That’s what children do.”
Chap: “That’s what they do!” And that’s okay. “What I can’t do is yell or be frustrated, and I need to come up with a consequence.”
Ann: You also talked about “no trash talking.” Words really do matter. Talk a little bit about that, too.
Chap: That’s right in Ephesians: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth.” That’s just an incredibly convicting verse. When I’ve taught on that, I say, “Look in your Bible and see if there is a little asterisks there that says, ‘…unless you’ve had a hard day at work,’ or ‘…unless it’s that time of the month,’ or ‘…unless something.’” Are there any other exceptions?—no—“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth,”—no trash talk. Having said that, that’s going to motivate me to say, “When this happens, what will come out of my mouth?”
Jesus is our example there; 1 Peter tells us: “When He was reviled, He did not revile in return, but He blessed.” So to say, “Okay, this is the putting on: when my child says, ‘No,’ to me again, what am I going to say; what am I going to do?”
Bob: In the moment, when—
Dave: I was going to say the exact same words.
Bob: Were you really?!
Chap: Oh, boy!
Dave: I was literally going to say, “Yes; but in that moment, it’s so hard—
Bob: Yes; right.
Dave: —“to have that kind of self-control.” I mean, sitting here right now, it’s like, “Yes; I can do that.” [Laughter] When I’m in the family room, and balls are flying, and a chunk gets taken out of my drywall—or how about this?—when your youngest son takes a rock and carves his name in the side of your minivan.
Dave: Of course, where were Mom and Dad for that amount of time?—I don’t know; but we came out—how old was he?—I don’t know; four or five?—and there was his name. The paint is gone all the way down to the metal.
Ann: He’s kind of marking his name in everything.
Chap: We had that same thing, where—
Chap: —we finally got a new-to-us van. I come home one day; my six-year-old and my four-year-old have a stick, and they are just like beating the van. I’m like, “What are you thinking?!”
Dave: Well, there is this situation; so in that moment, a level of anger is expected.
Dave: You can have, actually, righteous anger without corrupting talk.
You can trash talk—you can end up there as well; done that many times—but is it possible to be self-controlled?—have a level of anger, and still be in the moment, and be honoring God?
Chap: Well, that’s Ephesians 4:26; it says: “In your anger, do not sin.” You are feeling that emotion—you come home: and they are beating/they’ve carved into your car—you’re like/and so yes, “In your anger, do not sin.”
Bob: So how do you do it in that moment? I mean, if your kids are wailing on the car with a stick—[Laughter]
Chap: I don’t think it’s wrong to go, “What in the world are you doing?!”—which is exactly what I did—I didn’t confess that as sin. But I think—
Chap: —when you, then, take that and attack—so really, yes, if that had turned into a personal attack—
Ann: —like, “You’re an idiot.”
Chap: Yes; yes. So words/words— especially, words that attack their identity—are just satanic.
Chap: So that’s—kids are going to be kids, and a car is a car. Of course, they realize later, “That was wrong”; but I don’t—I think, in that moment, I don’t see that as sin—in the moment, I didn’t attack them personally; yes.
Bob: You were stopping destructive behavior. I do think, with moms and dads, we have to pull back and go, “Did we ever teach our kids not to beat the car with a stick?” [Laughter] I mean, we think—
Ann: —or “…write their name into the car?”
Bob: Right; I mean, “Did we ever say…”
Bob: I used to do this with our kids. We’d go to the grocery store, and I—they had acted up at the grocery store before—so I realized, “I need to have the little huddle before we go into the grocery store: ‘We’re about to go into the grocery store, and here is what is going to happen. You’re going to want to pull stuff off the shelves. Do you know how tempting that is?—you see this stuff; you want to pull it off the shelves. I’m just going to tell you: if you do that, here is going to be the consequence… So when we are in the store, and you see something and go, “I want to pull that off the shelf,” just think to yourself, “Here is what is going to happen if I do that.”’”
I would have that coaching moment with our kids so that I trained them. I think a lot of parents expect kids to behave and they’ve never been through the training to teach them: “You don’t carve your name in the side of the minivan,” “You don’t beat on it with a stick”; right?
Chap: See, I think in that case, you’re showing wisdom in that you’re looking ahead.
Chap: You know the temptations for them, and you’re looking ahead.
Then I think, for us, then also, is to say, “Okay, when they execute—when they do that/when they grab the candy or whatever—then you’re like, ‘Oh, honey, sorry,’ and then I’m going to follow through with the—
Bob: —and the consequences; right.
Chap: —“follow through”; right.
Dave: I’ve just got a brand-new idea from you, Bob; thanks. The next time we go to a woman’s clothing store, I’m going to say to Ann, “You’re going to have the temptation to want to pull that dress off the thing—
Bob: —“to buy three of them instead of—[Laughter]
Ann: I think you’re a little more tempted than I am sometimes.
Dave: —at the Harley-Davidson store; maybe, a guitar store.
Let’s go back to Ephesians 4:26, because you mentioned that. I think there is often confusion like, “What exactly does it mean?” I’ll read it to you.
Dave: You be the expert and explain it. Paul writes: “In your anger, do not sin,”—which you talked about—“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” and “Do not give the devil foothold.” Break that down a little bit—as a husband, or as a dad/as in marriage or in parenting—what is he saying? Obviously, he saying, “In your anger, don’t sin.” In other words, it could lead to sin; but it doesn’t have to. Then he talks about the sun and the devil. What’s going on?
Chap: Well, I think for many years, my wife and I took that literally.
Ann: So did we!
Chap: And it just led to worse things; because when you’re trying to resolve a disagreement at 11 o’clock at night,—
Ann: Oh, ours were 3:30 in the morning.
Chap: Okay; you’re not thinking/you’re not thinking clearly; you know?
Dave: Yes; but it says, “Don’t…before the sun goes down.” Is that not what it means?
Chap: I’ve got that in the back/I’ve got that in a little Appendix in the back.
Dave: I saw it.
Chap: I have taken that—and others may disagree—but I would say, now as an older person—I need to release that anger, trusting that we are going to resolve it in the morning when we are both sane. I’m going to, as far as possible, not go to bed angry—in the sense, still harboring that—because I don’t know about you; but what happens if you go to bed angry, then you get up—you’re in the shower; you’re like, “Oh! I should have said this,” “I can’t believe she…”—on and on and on. You’re just like rehashing it all over; then you start again.
But praying, and giving it to the Lord, and saying, “Yes, we need to resolve this.” It’s—it can’t go on for weeks—but in the sense that/that is metaphorical in the sense of: “You need to resolve this quickly.”
Dave: That’s the principle.
Chap: It needs to be resolved quickly. I do think that, if you don’t, then actually, you allow bitterness—you give/and the devil’s got a place—when there are all sorts of bitter people, who have these unresolved issues that they’ve never forgiven.
Ann: You and your wife strategized together in parenting, even probably going through some of these issues with anger.
Ann: Tell us what that looked like.
Chap: I think one of the things, really, that—it’s a practical application of coming up with a plan with four kids and two years apart. Our time to communicate was getting less, and then we’re having more issues than we are having to talk through. We found ourselves disagreeing.
One of the solutions that we hit upon was we kept a little notebook, where we would write down things to talk about. Rather than sort of correcting the other in the moment: “You’re being too hard,”—or whatever—or “We need to talk about this; I don’t know what to do about this issue,”—we would keep a little notebook; each of us/same notebook—but we’d write down. Then, once every two weeks, we would go out for coffee.
Ann: I’m picturing, like, “Oh, you just did something wrong. I’m going to write this in my book!”
Chap: No; but it was the sense of: “I want to talk about that.
Ann: Good; I think that’s great.
Chap: “I think you were a little over the top that time. And it’s several times; I want to talk about it.” In the moment is not the time to talk about: she’s not beating the kids; or I’m not beating the kids; you know? In the moment is not the time to talk about it, but we can talk about it later. What a coffee date does is it pulls me in, as the dad, to say, “Hey, you’re supposed to be responsible here.” It sits down to say, “We need to come up with a plan.” That was really helpful for us.
Again, it slows down. It prevents anger because now we can say, “Okay, we’re going into—we have problems; we have issues—now, we have a plan that we are going to execute.” Then we can calmly do it [plan for next time]; we can say, “Okay; wait. You didn’t do your chore. What was the consequence for that?”—“Oh, it’s on the chart. Oh, I get an extra chore.” Okay; no big deal.
Bob: I thought the character chart—and that’s a great part of this strategy—you talk about the anger journal, and how you were using that to counsel your own heart—but this character chart was a great tool. If parents want to set one of these up, they can get the book; you give them guidance there. What would you suggest?
Chap: Well, I’ve used this quarantine time—I’ve actually worked on another video series, Parenting with Confidence; it’s the Parenting 101. It’s this idea of: “It’s okay to be an authority: authority and affection.” I think the younger generation is nailing the affection part maybe better than I did. But you also are okay being an authority; then, there need to be consequences.
Bob: Okay; so let’s not rush past that, because I think that’s a key. What do you mean when you say the younger generation is nailing the affection but not realizing they need—
Chap: They are more emotionally-connected—love their kids/grace. There is not this harsh, “You shall obey me,”—just identifying with the kids/just—I mean, just really, really well.
Having said that—and Spurgeon talks about this about our heavenly Father, but this is true for us as well—there also needs to be authority. We, as parents, are the authority. God commands, out of His goodness, children should obey us. That’s not a power trip for us; that’s out of God’s good plan they should obey us. Since we know they are not going to, we need to have a consequence; and that’s okay, because training is action.
Bob: I just have to jump on there, too, because it’s not just about your kids learning to obey you. It’s about your kids learning that authority exists in the universe, first with God, then with human authorities. They need to learn how to obey authority. The home is the place where you teach them that; and if you’re not teaching them that, they are going to have problems in school, or with the police, or with an employer. This is/you’re really discipling them when you say, “You’ve got to learn to obey Mom and Dad.”
Ann: It’s a gift of showing them there are consequences to their good actions and their poor actions.
Ann: That’s biblical.
Bob: Back to the character chart: I want to set one of these up; what do I do?
Chap: You have a coffee date/go out—well, first of all, I think you just record—record what is going on in our house: “What am I getting upset at?” They are saying, “No”; “They’re not doing a chore.” My pastor/he was wrestling with his second grader and kindergartner; they would come home and potty talk, as he called it.
So what are/take a list and then figure out a couple of those things. Don’t try and do everything.
Chap: Then figure out: “What is the consequence?”
Bob: Would you tackle a single issue at a time, and do it over a three-week period?
Chap: Well, I think it depends on the age of the kids. I try and do a lot of talking: “We’ve been letting you do this; but we’re/now, we’re going to implement some principle or consequences.”
Ann: Give an example, like delayed chore obedience.
Ann: So you have—who is doing this—
Ann: —you have your child; what to put off—
Ann: —and that would be it. And then you have consequences.
Ann: You have that on your chart.
Chap: Yes; so they knew, if they didn’t do a chore right away, they got an extra chore.
Ann: Then you put what to put on, and they are supposed to put on immediate obedience.
Ann: Then you had Scripture.
Chap: Right; right.
Ann: So how did you walk that through?
Chap: Well, I wanted them to see that I was not just making it up; that this was rooted in God’s Word, whether it is Proverbs wisdom or [other] Scripture as well.
Bob: You would have a training time at the dinner table; and you would say, “Hey, look, kids, you haven’t been doing your chores. Here is what is going to happen, going forward”; right?
Chap: Right; right. “Mom and I have not been honoring the Lord in this area. We’re going to honor the Lord.” Depending on the age, you might have grace time, where you say, “Hey, you did it again. We’re not going to implement the consequence, but it is coming up”; or depending on the age—if they can handle it—say, “You did it.”
I think, also, in my mind, it’s the expectation. This circles back to the anchor: it’s the expectation that, just because I said it at dinnertime, then I’ll expect, “Oh, well, now, they are going to do it.”
Chap: Well no; they’re not!
Chap: So you’re going to say, “I’m actually going to expect to have to deal out one of these consequences.”
Bob: One of the other things that we did with our kids, that is in the same vein—when they were two years old/three years old—I’d say, “Let’s play The Obey Game.” That’s what I called it—“The Obey Game”—and they’d go, “How do we play?” I’d say, “You go over there; and in just a minute, I’m going to call you to come over to me. When I call you, you jump up and say, ‘Okay, Daddy,’ and you run over to me; okay?” They’d say, “Okay, let’s play that.”
They’d go over; and they’d be sitting and doing something. I’d go, “Katie, will you come here?” She’d jump up and go, “Okay, Daddy,” and she would run over to me. I’d go, “You won the game! Way to go!” I’d give her a big hug. “Do you want to play again?” “Yes; let’s play again.” We’d do this for ten minutes. Well, I’m playing a game with them; but I’m teaching them a pattern/a habit that I want them to be in when they are four or five. I don’t want it to be a game; I want it to be a way of life for them; right?
Chap: That’s solid gold.
Ann: That’s genius, Bob. Why haven’t you shared that with us before?
Bob: Because it didn’t work; okay? [Laughter] They continued to disobey—no, it did have an impact and helped them with this—but then, don’t expect that it’s just going to fix everything and, when they are four, they always obey.
Dave: It’s really the same game, in a sense, when they are 16,17,18; and you say to them, “The curfew is 11,”—“…10,” “…nine,”—whatever—and they don’t: “Okay, Daddy”; they don’t show up. There is a consequence; there has to be; right?
Dave: It doesn’t even have to be meted out in anger; it’s just: “There is a consequence.”
Chap: Right; right.
Bob: Getting a handle on how we exert our authority, without anger being the catalyst for that, that’s really what is at the heart of this book and this series that you’ve put together. I think this is going to help a lot of moms and dads.
Ann: Me, too.
Bob: We’re glad you’ve been here to talk with us about it. Thanks for coming. Good to have you here.
Chap: My joy.
Bob: We’re also glad that you’re making available for our listeners the 12-part video series that you’ve done on Parenting with Patience. This is a resource you are making available, for free, for listeners. Now, you can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; and the information about how you can access the videos is available there—again, a 12-part series on Parenting with Patience—who couldn’t benefit from some time on that subject?
The information about the video series from Chap Bettis is available online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Access to the videos is free right now; go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information. Chap has also written a book called The Disciple-Making Parent, and we’ve got that available on our FamilyLife Today Resource Center, along with Dave and Ann Wilson’s new book, No Perfect Parents. Again, information is available on the website at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can order the books from us when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, we’re pretty excited around here because we have a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway happening this weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana. It’s been a long time. Well, we had one last month; but it’s been a year since we’ve had a full schedule of Weekend to Remember getaways. David Robbins is here with us. David, our commitment/our goal, here, at FamilyLife® is to do whatever we can do to help couples connect well with each other around biblical truth.
David: Yes, Bob; our setting is obviously limited at Weekends to Remember; and our team has done an incredible job coming up with a creative resource called Dates to Remember, where you get three moments together with your spouse to have really intentional, rich, spiritual conversations together that lead to greater intimacy.
Just on Instagram® today, I saw a post by Emily, who said, “Steve and I seriously talked for like three hours straight doing the first moment of our Dates to Remember box. There were no distractions; it was just us, and it was so awesome.” She goes on and says, “This is for all couples, no matter how long you’ve been together. It’s so great to be intentional.”
Bob: Yes; and if you’d like more information about the Dates to Remember date box, you can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; the information is available there. You can order it from us online.
If you want to find out more about the handful of Weekends to Remember that we’re going to continue having this month, May, and in June, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; and the information is available there. Those of you in Indianapolis, who are going to the Weekend to Remember this weekend, have a great weekend.
In fact, we hope all of you have a great weekend. Hope you’re able to worship together with your church family this weekend, and I hope you can join us on Monday when we’re going to talk about the special bond between dads and daughters and what dads can do to help deepen that bond. Conversation Starters for Dads and Their Daughters—Michelle Watson Canfield will be here with us to talk about that. I hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch; got some extra help this week from Bruce Goff. And of course, our entire broadcast production team is involved in all of this. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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