Revive Our Hearts Podcast

And Then I Had Teenagers: An Interview With Susan Yates, Part 2

Leslie Basham: If your teenager has never told you, "You just don't understand," sooner or later, they will. And you know what? They're right. This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss. It's Tuesday, April 23.

Even though we can't always understand what's going on in the mind of a teenager, it's important that we try. Somewhere along the line, they might surprise us and spill their heart. Will we be ready to listen and to respond with wisdom and love? Nancy is joined again today by Susan Yates, author of And Then I Had Teenagers. Let's listen as they discuss some practical ideas for communicating with teenagers.

Nancy DeMoss: We're here again today, talking with Susan Yates, who's the mother of five children, and [grandmother of] two grandchildren. And she's just written a wonderful, practical book called And Then I Had Teenagers. Welcome back to Revive Our Hearts, Susan.

Susan Yates: Thank you, Nancy. It's great to be here.

Nancy DeMoss: Yesterday, Susan, we were talking about creating an atmosphere of encouragement in our homes and how important that is--especially at times when teenagers may have something of an attitude, and what moms can do to help control that climate in a positive way. Today we want to talk about what I think is one of the toughest issues as it relates to teenagers. And that's the whole area of communication.

We did a lot of communicating in my family as I was growing up. We had six teenagers at once, and I can remember one time looking around the dinner table and realizing that every person at the table was talking loudly, all at the same time. We were definitely communicating! You have some thoughts in your book about how we can improve communication, and you start by saying that it's important for parents to get to know their children. How can you really get to know the heart of your teenager so that you can develop good communication?

Susan Yates: That's a great question, Nancy. One of the big issues in today's world has always been--is it quality time or quantity time. And the truth of the matter is that it's not either/or, it's both/and. Whereas with a small child, you can plan quality moments--you can have that bedtime story, you can have that craft time, that working-the-puzzle time. That's a quality moment of playtime. But with a teenager, you can't program when a teenager wants to share his heart. You just have to stand around and hope that the urge strikes them.

Nancy DeMoss: And when it does, it's usually going to be late at night.

Susan Yates: Late at night---you're absolutely right. It's going to be at an inconvenient time. It'll be late at night. It'll be right when you're in the middle of a project. It'll be when you have something else on your mind, but we need to be flexible--to stop what we're doing and be available to our kids. So the first answer to that question is that we need to be around teenagers, in case the urge to communicate strikes them.

Nancy DeMoss: What else can you do to understand the heart of your teenagers? They seem so incomprehensible for that period of years. How can you get into the heart of your teenager and really understand where they are?

Susan Yates: It helps to remember that you're going to hear the phrase--every parent's going to hear the phrase from a teenager--"Mom, you just don't understand." Or, "Dad, why can't you understand." The truth of the matter is that we can't totally understand what they're going through; it's a different world today. But we do want to communicate with them, more than anything else. Our teenagers respect honesty. A teen is not looking for perfect parents. He knows more than anyone else that there are not any perfect ones out there. What our teens need are parents who are honest, parents who are willing to say, "You know, I shouldn't have said what I did; and I need to ask you to forgive me."

I think, Nancy, probably forgiveness is the most important ingredient in the family. It's at the heart of communication. I can't tell you how many times I've had to say to my children, to my husband, "You know, I shouldn't have said what I did; and I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you forgive me?" Most of the time I haven't wanted to do it. I would rather say, "But if you had ..." or "But it hadn't..." After all, I'm the mom; it's embarrassing to go to your children.

We go, not out of feeling--rarely have I gone out of feeling. I go out of obedience and out of conviction because God has called me to ask for forgiveness. Feelings come along later. And sometimes it takes time for God to heal wounds, but that healing can't begin until we go to one another in obedience and ask for forgiveness. I think God will honor parents who are willing to go to one another and say, "Will you forgive me?" To take it a step further, we say "I'm sorry" when we back the car into the telephone pole, as I did recently. I had to tell my husband I was sorry.

Nancy DeMoss: You were very sorry!

Susan Yates: I was very sorry. But when we wrong one another, we have to go and ask for forgiveness because forgiveness demands a response. You can say, "I'M SORRY" and stomp out of the room--and your sincerity is questionable. It's a step further to ask for forgiveness.

Nancy, many have grown up in homes where they've never heard a parent say, "I'm sorry," or "Will you forgive me?" The good news is that you can be the first of a generation of forgiving people. You can be that person by taking that step. I think honesty and forgiveness are at the heart of building strong communications with your teenagers because they will respond to an honest parent.

Nancy DeMoss: I don't know about you, Susan, but I find the hardest place for me to ask for forgiveness is within the four walls of my own home--with my own family members, the ones I most need to be humble with and have good communication with.

Susan Yates: You are so right.

Nancy DeMoss: It's harder there than anywhere else.

Susan Yates: It really is--and it's our pride. We're embarrassed. Not too long ago I had to go my daughter, Libby, who's 22. I had said a really catty remark. It was at the end of a long day. I had scolded her for something that wasn't' her fault. I was embarrassed, but I felt like I'm the mother--you know, I'm sort of right here. We were trying to have a family dinner, and I knew I had to get it straight. I didn't want to. After all, if felt a bit justified. But I knew that I had to so I went to her room; and I said, "Libby, I shouldn't have responded to you in the way I did. I shouldn't have spoken to you in the manner that I did, and I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you forgive me?"

She said, "Oh, mom. I'll forgive you, but thanks for asking." She threw her arms around me. It was an important reminder to me that we'll never outgrow the need for forgiveness. Never!

Nancy DeMoss: What does that do to the atmosphere in your home and to the quality of communication--when you are seeking forgiveness and humbling yourself when you're wrong?

Susan Yates: I think, at the bottom line, it lets our kids know that we know we're not always right. They know that, but they need to hear us say it. It also points them to God because they see that mom needs God; dad needs God. It's in a subtle way, but the message is there: I need God.

One of the great things about teenagers is that as our children grow, our walk with the Lord--our journey--becomes a journey together. I don't really have very much over my kids except age and experience. They're not just my children; they're my brothers and sisters in Christ. I'm growing in my relationship with the Lord; and they're growing in theirs. It gives us more of a parallel walking together in this journey of faith. It's a continual weaning process of their attachment and obedience to us--to pushing them to be obedient and attached to Christ first.

Nancy DeMoss: Okay, you've talked about the importance of speaking humble words, of seeking forgiveness. What other kinds of words--what's important about our speech? What's important about a mom's speech, the way she talks to her kids? What is some wisdom you would have along those lines?

Susan Yates: There's the tendency, during the teen years, to come down really hard--to pick at them--because we realize we don't have very much time left. "Go clean up your room." "Can't you get an A instead of a B?" Et cetera, Et cetera, Et cetera. "Haven't you filled out your college applications?"

We need to take care that we also are speaking words of encouragement. One of the great things about older kids is that you can begin to see how God's packaged them. You can begin to notice their strengths and their weaknesses. Perhaps you have a very sensitive daughter. She's a sixth grader or seventh grader, and she's the one who's always hurt. She's the one who gets left out of the "in" crowd at school. She's the one, though, that can also sense when someone else is hurting. She's often in tears.

It's time to talk to her about gifts and weaknesses, to say, "Sweetie, I want to tell you that I notice that you have a great gift. It's the gift of sensitivity; but let me tell you sweetheart, every gift has a flip side or a weakness. The weak side of the gift of sensitivity is that you are easily hurt, and you can often overreact. For the rest of your life, you will have to learn to toughen up and not let someone else dictate how you're feeling. God can use this great gift."

Then if it's appropriate, tell the school teacher--who probably already realizes how your daughter is packaged--"My daughter has the gift of sensitivity, and I want to fan the flame of that in a positive sense. If someone new comes to school, would you ask her to be the one that shows the new student around? If there's someone in the class who's hurting--perhaps there's a crisis in the family that's public knowledge--would you ask my child to comfort her. I want her to begin to use these positive gifts."

One of the ways we build our children up is by asking God to show us their gifts--how they're uniquely packaged--and begin to affirm those gifts as we communicate with our children and encourage them to use them.

Nancy DeMoss: Susan, as you were talking, two scripture passages come to mind. The first, Proverbs 31:26 that's speaking about a woman of virtue, who's building her home. It says that she opens her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness. You're talking about asking God for wisdom and discernment to understand your children, to know how to listen to their hearts and draw them out--but then how also to speak words of kindness that will minister grace to meet them at that point of need.

Then as we've been talking about this whole matter of communication--not only with teenagers but with little children, and within the context of marriage and with older parents that we may be dealing with as adults--there's another passage that comes to mind. It's familiar to most of us, but I find this is a passage that I need to go back to over and over again. I'm reading from the last few verses of the fourth chapter of Ephesians where the apostle Paul says, "Don't let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only that which is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And don't grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

So if we want to communicate effectively with those in our families, we need to communicate with that spirit of wisdom, kindness, humility and forgiveness--as God has communicated His love to us.

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss and her guest, Susan Yates, have been discussing the value and power of communication in the home. This entire week-long series of interviews is available on a single audiocassette. What a great tool to have in hand to remind us of the many insights Susan and Nancy are discussing. The tape is available for a donation of $5.

Susan Yates' latest book And Then I Had Teenagers is another helpful tool for parents and for those who work with young people. We're glad to be making that book available this week for a suggested donation of $13. To order the book or the tape, visit our Web site at ReviveOurHearts.com or call our resource center at 1-800-569-5959.

Write us and let us know how God is working in your life. Also, consider making a financial contribution to this ministry when you write.

Tomorrow, we'll hear Nancy and her guest, Susan Yates, discuss the crucial difference between inherited faith and personal faith. Join us then on Revive Our Hearts 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministries.

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