You Can’t Fix Your Kid
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We all make mistakes, and our children WILL make mistakes. Crystal Paine shares how to trust God when parenting our children.
You Can’t Fix Your Kid
Crystal: I don’t have to be more, do more, try harder, strive more to attain God’s love or to chase after other people’s love. I don’t have to get someone else’s approval in the way that I parent, because I am loved by God.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Today, we get to talk a little more about parenting and how to parent well. I think every parent—there’s no parent that doesn’t want to do well.
Dave: We want to do the best job we can; and the question we have is: “How? How do we do this?” and “How do we do this well?”
We’ve got Crystal Paine back with us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back!
Crystal: I’m so happy to be here again.
Dave: It’s been great having you here this week, talking about your book, Love-Centered Parenting, which is phenomenal; and I’m not kidding. We don’t say this every time I read a book. It was like very authentic, very vulnerable, but very helpful—
Ann: —and practical.
Dave: You even say in the subtitle it’s a no-fail—
Ann: It’s called The No-Fail Guide to Launching Your Kids. I liked, earlier, Crystal when you explained what that meant. What’s that mean?
Crystal: The No-Fail Guide: we really wrestled with what to subtitle this book. It’s because you can’t fail if you’re faithful. I think, so often, we view failure and success with the results. But as I share in this book, a lot of times, the no-fail situation is what God is doing in our heart in the process and how God changes our heart. That is why we titled, The No-fail Guide; because you can’t fail when you’re faithful and when you just walk with your kids and love them well.
Ann: I was thinking, the first time I heard you say that, “Oh, it’s like King David. It’s the way God views King David, in that He called him a man after His own heart; and yet, King David failed miserably. But because he continued to go back after God/to run after God, God didn’t see him as a failure. He says of him as ‘My son.’”
Dave: Yes; it is interesting, as we’ve already said this week, love-centered parenting is, not just loving your child, but it’s being parented by the heavenly Father, receiving His love. Again, I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. You wrote it; did I say it right?
Crystal: Yes, yes; and it totally changes the way that you interact with other people when you are coming at life from: “I am fully loved by my Creator. I don’t have to be more, do more, try harder, strive more to attain God’s love or to chase after other people’s love. I don’t have to get someone else’s approval in the way that I parent, because I am loved by God; and I can rest in that love.”
There’s so much freedom when you stand in that space. It doesn’t matter what other people think. There are people out there that are going to think you are failing, as a parent; they are going to question your decisions, especially someone like me, who is on the internet; and you have hundreds of thousands of people, who are following you. Every single day, people are telling me that I am doing the wrong thing.
I can’t listen to those voices. I can learn; I want to always be open. I want to receive if there’s something I need to receive; but ultimately, I can’t please everyone; that’s not my job. My job is to understand how much I’m loved by God—live in that love, rest in that love, live as loved—and then let His love flow through me to my kids and to everyone in my life.
Dave: How do you do that when—I mean, it’s one thing to receive the love and forgiveness from the Father when we fail—when your child is failing, let’s say rebelling/rejecting what you and your husband are trying to teach your kids—and they’ve just/they’ve blown it big time. How do we translate—“You’re forgiven; you’re loved,”—and at the same time, we have that tension like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa; wait. We’ve got to talk; because—
Ann: —we’re the parents.
Dave: —“we don’t want you to keep living this lifestyle you’ve been living or making these choices you’re making. We have to have some consequences here.” There’s this balance we’ve got to do, so how do you translate that in love-centered parenting?
Crystal: First off, I think you need to recognize that you can’t save your kids. If you feel like that’s your responsibility—and you’re approaching a situation like, “It’s my job to fix this, so I’ve got to do whatever it takes to fix this,”—then it becomes about you controlling a situation. But resting in God’s love means we don’t have to control our kids; we get to walk with them.
In Love-Centered Parenting, I talk about four life-giving choices that every parent can make. In this situation, if you—let’s say that you find out that your child has done something that just goes against everything that you stand for or everything that you feel like you’ve raised them up into—how do you respond in that situation? The four life-giving choices: “Lean in and love,” “Listen well,” “Lead with humility,” and “Let go.”
“Lean in and love”: “What does it look like in that situation?” First off, I encourage you not to just rush into the situation with this, like, “We’ve got to take care of this!”—like the fire alarm going off kind of thing!
Ann: Let’s put a name to it. Let’s say your teenager—
Dave: Oh, I thought you were going to admit that that’s what you do.
Ann: Oh well, I do; yes.
Dave: I thought you were jumping right in there, like, “I’ve done that!”
Dave: We’ve both done that.
Ann: We totally over respond.
But let’s just give it a name. Let’s say your teenager was out drinking and driving. That calls for—you get pretty—
Ann: —angry, concerned, and worried over that.
Crystal: First off, I really encourage parents to “Stop.”
Ann: That’s hard right there! [Laughter]
Crystal: “Stop” and send up a flare prayer.
Dave: What’s a flare prayer?
Crystal: In the book, I talk about how, a lot of times, we don’t have 30 minutes to go get on our knees and cry out to God; because we’ve got to handle a situation. Or it could be maybe you have young kids, and you just hear them in the other room fighting; and you got to go take care of it—
Crystal: —to stop; send up a flare prayer: “God help me to lean in and love my child in this situation,”—just releasing your child to Him, and reminding yourself of how much you’re loved and how much you want His love to flow through you. That changes the way that we approach our child when we approach it from: “I know how much I’m loved. God, let Your love flow through me to my child.”
Dave: I notice you’re saying it so calmly. [Laughter] You’re trying to help us feel that.
Crystal: Because you’ve got to; because you can’t be like [speaking loudly], “I’m going to lean in and love my child!”; you know? [Laughter]
Dave: I remember—
Ann: Wait, wait. Let her keep going; I want her to keep going.
Dave: How would you apply it to this situation?—so keep going—we got a call at midnight, maybe even later, and it’s a friend of my son, who says, “Mr. Wilson, just need to let you know: CJ has just been put in the back seat of a police car. He’s being arrested and taken to the—police station.
Ann: —“They’re taking him to jail.”
Dave: I mean, it’s right then.
Ann: And it’s at Thanksgiving, and all of our relatives are at our house, spending the night.
Ann: So in the morning, we’ll say, “Oh, our son spent the night in jail.” [Laughter] That’s enough to freak out about.
Dave: Again, in that moment, I remember standing there; and we had two different responses. Yours was like what?
Ann: I was so afraid; and I thought, “I know him; he probably didn’t do anything.”
Dave: I was like, “He probably did.” [Laughter] That’s how I—I don’t know why I was just like: “Okay,”—because our friend was like, “We didn’t do anything wrong. They got the wrong car; they thought this car was similar,”—I’m like, “You don’t have to lie. [Laughter] I don’t know what you guys are doing; but okay, we’ll come down and get him.”
But anyway, it was like that moment, where you have to sort of stop and listen. Okay, keep going.
Crystal: Approaching it from that posture of: “I want to lean in and love my child,”—not—“I want to fix this.” So then, “Listening well.” I feel like these, a lot of times, will go hand in hand.
One thing that I really changed in—let’s say we get a phone call, or there’s an email, or you find out about something—this happened just two weeks ago; we found out our child had done something and lied about it; it was a pretty significant thing. “Instead of just jumping to ‘Okay, here’s the consequences…’ let’s stop; and let’s listen first.”
So asking questions: “Can you tell me about what happened?” “Why?”—and just asking those curious questions; because a lot of times, I’ve found that it will be very different than what I actually assume from the get-go. There is something else going on there; and if I immediately just jump to correcting and consequences, I’m going to miss that opportunity to hear what’s actually going on in their heart.
Asking them open-ended questions and letting them talk—a lot of times, you just ask, “Why?”—that’s a really great question, just, “Why?” And just let them start to share. At first, lot of times, they’ll be closed off—but the more that they see: “Oh, Mom’s not going to jump just to shaming or shutting [me] down,” or just telling [me] how [I] did this terrible thing—there’s a lot that will come up, and the hurts and the heartache, and whatever is going on is going to come out. So much of the time, our kids don’t have emotional language to be able to share what they’re feeling, so it’s going to come out sideways in anger; it’s going to come out in this bad behavior.
Let’s get to the root if we can: “Stop”; “Lean in and love”; “Listen well”; and then “Lead with humility.” That is our space to be able to: “Let’s share about things that we’ve struggled with. Let’s sit with them in what they’re going through, and let’s let them know that they’re not alone,”—like—“We don’t have it all figured out; we’re not this perfect parent. We’ve”—maybe you’ve never been in the back of a cop car—but I’m sure you’ve made some mistakes.
Ann: —which, by the way, that son was innocent. It was not him that did anything.
Dave: Ended up they really did have the wrong car. His car matched the identification of a car they were looking for.
Ann: It was stolen.
Dave: It all worked out.
Ann: Yes; just so listeners know.
Crystal: Well, you see how that situation—if you just immediately just jump to just spewing anger at them—
Ann: Right; yes.
Crystal: —because it’s all about what other people think—it’s all about you’re afraid, so you’re just acting out of that to your child. How it could have turned out to be this terrible break in your relationship.
Crystal: But if you stop, and you’re not accusing them—but you’re also not saying [condescendingly], “Oh, my child would never do it,”—you know, it’s like you have to have that balance between both of you: one of you, “Yes,” and one of you like, “No.” [Laughter] You kind of have/our kids are capable of making some really bad choices and are not above that, [Laughter] but letting them process with you.
So hearing—for them to be able to share what they’re feeling—and then for you to be able to share. I/oftentimes, I’ll say to my child, if they’ve done something, “You want to hear about a really bad mistake I made when I was your age?” and to be able to share with them. That, oftentimes, will lead into a really beautiful conversation; and then, we talk about consequences.
One thing, as our kids get older, we will often let them help us make the consequences together. I feel like—now, this won’t work for every child—but if they have had some experience with this, allowing them to: “Well, something has to be done about this; what do you think?” Instead of us just being like—“Well, we’re taking everything away, and you’re grounded for three months,”—“Let’s work together,” so allowing them to have some ownership. Sometimes they think of better consequences than I would; and I’m like, “Okay, sure; we’ll go with that,”—so “Leading with humility.”
Sometimes, that also is going to involve: “We need to ask forgiveness,”—because we realize, in the conversation with our child, that there’s something that we’ve done that we need to go to them and ask their forgiveness.
And then “Letting go”: yes, we have the consequences—that’s an important thing—because actions have consequences, good or bad. I think it’s important that we very clearly communicate to our kids that: “This is the consequence…” or “If this happens in the future, this is going to be the consequence…”; and make sure that they understand that.
But “Letting go” in the sense of that we can’t control our kids; and we can only control our responses, and our response is our responsibility. But if we are just holding them with our—we just have these clenched fists, and we’re just trying so hard to control them—they’re going to probably rebel, because they’re going to feel so micromanaged and not trusted.
Creating that space—of love, and that environment of security, and that we value them, and we want to hear them, and “Yes, actions have consequences”; but ultimately, we love them—it allows me also to have so much more peace, and quietness, and calmness in how I respond to situations instead of just getting super angry and doing the things that I am going to really regret.
Dave: At the end you of each chapter, I love that you have two transforming truths.
Dave: The one you mention after “Lead with humility,”—this is so good—it says: “Some of my greatest parenting happens on my knees, with open hands, and trusting my kids to their Creator”; which obviously, gets into “Let go.” We’ve got to let go and trust God will parent them better than we will and handle them.
As we sort of wrap up several days with you, “How do you let go?” Because it’s easy to say, and it’s not always easy to let your grip loose when you don’t know what the outcome could be with your child.
Ann: And maybe, Crystal, take us back to our first conversation, when you had a child that was suicidal. That’s when, more than ever, as a parent, we want to clench and hold onto. How do you let go in those circumstances?
Crystal: I think it is a continual process. It’s not like you’re just going to pray and let go, and it’s all going to be good. But for me, it’s that stopping. A lot of times, it will be literally opening up my hands, and breathing, and then saying out loud, “God, I release this to You,”—and speaking the truth back to the Lord of—“I know that You love my child more than I do. You are in control; I can trust You. Let me trust You in this situation.” You’re just speaking that truth, and just doing that, and breathing, and taking a minute or two to just stop and do that.
And then when you start feeling/if you start feeling that tension rising again, do it again. Keep doing that until you can just feel that place where you have released it. And then you might have to go back and do it a few hours later. [Laughter]
Crystal: It’s just that constant being in that space of: “I’m going to trust You, God.”
It’s interesting—because I talked about how we’ve fostered—last year, we brought home a little boy from the NICU; he was at our home for eight months. And then we got to give him back to his mom; he re-unified with his mom. That was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done in my life—to fall in love with a little boy—
Crystal: —to love him as my own for eight months and then to let him go. All during those eight months, we didn’t know—“Was he going to go back to his mom?” “Was he going to stay with us?—with someone else?”—we didn’t know.
It was such a good exercise for me, of really opening up my hands and having to trust the Lord; because I had no control over this. It helped me to realize how much I think I have control over other things in my life when I don’t.
Ann: That’s a great word for all of us. It’s that continual surrender of our lives/of our kids. I love Romans 12:1,2—are some of my favorite verses in the Bible—it says: “Dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice, the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.”
I’ve always pictured giving Him my life, like laying my life on the altar. Sometimes, it’s harder to lay our kids’ lives on the altar; but I think that is exactly where we need to be—to give our lives away/to give our children to Him—and He is a good, good Father, who loves us more than we can even imagine.
Dave: You know, I was thinking, as we wrap this up, Crystal, would you be willing to pray for the moms and dads, who are maybe struggling. You’ve been there—to “Let go”; really, “to Lean in and love”; “to listen well”; “to lead with humility.” See how good that is? I can remember all those without even looking.
Crystal: That’s pretty/thank you.
Ann: Oh, honey; look at you.
Dave: And to “Let go.”
I think it would be beautiful if you just say, not a flare prayer, but a prayer for them, [Laughter] if you would.
Dear heavenly Father, I just think of every single person who is listening to this today. God, You know what they’re feeling; and You know what they are going through; I don’t. God, I just pray that each parent listening would know that they are not alone/that You are with them; You are Emmanuel, God with us.
God, I just pray that You would help the parent right now who just feels so overwhelmed with parenting that it feels like just a bigger job than they are capable of—that they would know how much they are loved by You and that they can rest in that love—that they could live as loved. And that Your love for them could flow out to their kids, that their kids would see and feel You through their parent; they would feel Your love through their parent.
I just pray for each parent listening, that You would help them to realize that it is not their job to fix, or to save, or to be their child’s Holy Spirit, to overprotect/to bubble wrap; but to release their children to You and trust You that You love them even more than they do, that You are a good God and that they can trust You and walk in that trust. They don’t have to constantly be correcting; they can spend more time connecting.
God, I just pray that You would help them to choose to lean in and love, to listen well, to lead with humility, and ultimately, to let go. In Jesus’ name I pray; amen.
Ann: Thanks, Crystal.
Dave: Thank you.
Bob: It’s hard for us to remember this, as parents, but our children do not belong to us; they belong to God. We are stewards in the years that we have to raise them to point them to Him, to love them; but ultimately, they belong to a heavenly Father who loves them even more than we do. There is comfort for us in that as parents. Crystal Paine has written about this in a book called Love-Centered Parenting that we have been looking at this week. In a time when parenting is—can feel overwhelming; it feels complicated—Crystal’s message can bring freedom, and hope, and healing.
We’d like to make her book available to you this week if you are able to help with a donation to support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today. You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. What you are actually supporting with your donation is the marriages and families of hundreds of thousands of people, all around the world, who come to Family Life, looking for practical biblical help and hope for their marriage and their family. You make these resources possible; you help equip them and give them the spiritual tools they need for their family. That’s what your donation is going to.
On behalf of those listeners, who will benefit from your support, we just want to say: “Thank you for your partnership with us.” A tangible way of doing that is by sending you a copy of Crystal Paine’s book, Love-Centered Parenting, when you make a donation this week. You can donate online—again, at FamilyLife Today.com—or call to donate at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, I know that between here and the start of the new year, it’s going to be crazy for most of us. We’ve got the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, here with us. David, in the midst of the chaos around the holidays, it’s so important for couples that we set aside time/that we are intentional about building into our marriage relationship and not let it just sit on the back burner and simmer.
David: You know, Meg and I were just talking the other week that we need, at least, do one marked intentional moment during the holiday season; everything starts moving so fast around us. It reminded me of the Dates to Remember box that we have, that we created this year at FamilyLife, to give couples an easy intentional date together that all the hard work’s done there for you. It sets you up for such great conversation together. It reminded me of a quote of a couple, who did the Dates to Remember box; they said: “The date gave us time to really talk about more than just the day-to-day running of our lives.”
I thought about it—because, man, the holidays/it is nothing but day-to-day running—you know, every day, you’re just surviving until the next day, sadly. We’ve marked off a day to really give an extended date in the beginning of December to look ahead and to build that time together before we enter into the craziness of the holidays. I want to encourage you to do the same.
Bob: Yes, the Dates to Remember box is a great tool to help you be intentional in your marriage. You can find out more about this resource on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, tomorrow, we are going to introduce you to a foundling. Joseph Wood learned, later in life, that he had been abandoned as a baby; was, ultimately, adopted. He’ll share his story with us tomorrow. I hope you can be here for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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