Revive Our Hearts Podcast

And Then I Had Teenagers: An Interview With Susan Yates, Part 1

Leslie Basham: Do you have teenagers at home? Don't be afraid. They'll grow out of it! It's Monday, April 22; and you're listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss.

Mothers of teenagers often say the emotion they feel most is fear. They just never know which child will walk through the door--one that's happy and content, one that's fragile and needs reassuring, or one that's independent and wants to be left alone. This week Nancy interviews Susan Yates, author of And Then I Had Teenagers--a book that describes her own experience of raising five teenagers. Let's join Nancy and Susan in the studio.

Nancy DeMoss: Today you're going to meet a woman who says that her favorite season as a mother was when her kids were teenagers--believe it or not! If your children are teens or preteens, I think you're going to be very encouraged today as we talk with our special guest. Susan Yates and her husband, John, have five children; and they were all teenagers at one time. Now they're grown and all married. Now they have the five children and two grandchildren. They live in Falls Church, VA--in the Washington, DC area. Susan has written several books. Her first one was called And Then I Had Kids, and now more recently she has written another one called And Then I Had Teenagers. This week on Revive Our Hearts we're going to be talking about this matter of teenagers. Susan, welcome to Revive Our Hearts.

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

Nancy DeMoss: It's good to finally meet you. I've enjoyed reading your book--and a lot of the stories that you share. It's a very practical book, and one I think that will be a great encouragement and help to a lot of moms--not only moms who have teenagers now but moms who have children who are going to be teenagers.

Susan Yates: That's right, that's when you need to read it, as you're approaching those years.

Nancy DeMoss: You need to be preparing for those years. You say in the book that when you faced the thought of having teenagers--when your children were younger--that you found it was period of challenges and fears because you knew there were a lot of changes coming.

Susan Yates: You are so right, Nancy. I remember having coffee with a bunch of friends who were at the preteen and teen level. We went around and we shared--what is our main emotion as we contemplate having teenagers and walking through these years because some of us already had them. Pretty much hands down, the main emotion was fear. The expectations don't always measure up.

One of the challenges for raising teens is that you don't know who's going to walk in the door. You don't know if your daughter's going to be on a real high because the "right" girls asked her to sit with them at lunch, or if she's going to be in a funk because a certain boy didn't speak to her in the hall. You steel yourself at that front door and wait for this child to come in, and you don't know if she's going to be up or down. It's a crazy season in our life. But you're right, it was my favorite season.

Nancy DeMoss: You talk in the book about how, in spite of the atmosphere that teenagers can create in the home--that moms have a special responsibility and opportunity to affect the atmosphere of the home. You talk about how important atmosphere is in the home.

Susan Yates: You're so right! Atmosphere is important. I think that what happens when we get with a bunch of other moms and dads of teenagers--we start talking about the hot issues: How are you going to handle curfew? What are you going to do about parties and movies and dating and driving and sex?--all these hot issues.

But the truth of the matter is that how you handle these issues is based on your relationship with your child, is based on the atmosphere in the home. We have to take a few steps back, and we have to look at the atmosphere in our homes. I've found that as our kids reached those teen years, I had to assume the responsibility because often the mom dictates the atmosphere in the home. We might not like that...

Nancy DeMoss: Would you say that sentence again?

Susan Yates: Often the mom will dictate the atmosphere in the home. If mom ain't happy, nobody's happy. It's a burden, and we know we fail. I have a vivid picture of it that I liken to a pot of potpourri. Often you'll be cooking in your kitchen--maybe you're cooking chicken or something that smells kind of crummy. Your house will begin to stink. I won't realize it until my kids come bounding in the door and say, "Mom, the house smells. You need to put your special potpourri on. It stinks in here." Out comes the pot on my stove with a little bit of water, some whole cloves, whole allspice and sticks of cinnamon. I let it simmer, and pretty soon it changes the aroma to that wonderful cinnamon-y, homey smell that goes throughout the house.

Nancy DeMoss: I can smell it now.

Susan Yates: It taught me a great lesson--that often the emotional atmosphere in my family can degenerate into a season of tension if I'm not careful. I have to ask what am I doing to make my home a place where my kids want to come to, a place of encouragement because it's out of this that we'll handle the tough times in our families.

Nancy DeMoss: So, you're saying that there are things you can do as a mom so that your children's attitude isn't controlling the climate of the home.

Susan Yates: That's true, and let me give you a real specific illustration that I learned from my dog. We are dog lovers and we have a golden retriever. We've had a string of golden retrievers, and one in particular--Duchess--would get up whenever I'd hit that front door, coming in from running errands, from being around. She would meet me at the front door, and her tail would be wagging like crazy. She celebrated my homecoming.

As Duchess got old and it became too painful to get up off the basement steps, I would hit that front door and no one would be there to greet me. As I looked at my dog, I realized how easy it was in my life when my children came in to keep working at my desk, to keep cooking in the kitchen, to keep folding the laundry in the laundry room or working on whatever project--rather than to put down whatever I was doing, to race to that front door, throw my arms around that child and say, "I'm so glad you're home." It's a little thing--the greeting--but we can celebrate the greeting as the beginning for making our homes a place that our kids and our husbands want to come to.

Nancy DeMoss: You're saying that having an atmosphere of encouragement in your home doesn't just happen.

Susan Yates: No, it has to be planned. We have to be intentional about it. Here's another example: During those teen years--it's tough on our kids. Your daughter doesn't know who she wants to be. It's frustrating for the siblings--dealing with this personality change every day. Often, she doesn't like you, her parents. It can be helpful simply to write to her a note, and put it on her pillow. Say something like, "Dear Sweetheart, I want you to know that I understand what you're going through right now. This is a hard time for you, but I want you to know that God loves you and that He's got a plan for you. I'm not worried; one day we will be friends with each other"--because the main thing teenagers need, Nancy, is a sense of hope. They don't need a panicky parent. They need a parent who's confident in the Lord, who can give them hope.

Nancy DeMoss: It's so easy for us as women to let our spirit--our temperament, our attitude--be controlled by somebody else's negative attitude. I thought of the verse in Proverbs as you were sharing that illustration, Susan, that says that a man has joy by the answer of his mouth. It's not that we have joy by what other people say to us or how they treat us. If a mom's going to let her spirit be controlled by her teenager's attitude, then that mom may find herself in a funk for a number of years while her child is a teenager. But if a mom can realize that her joy can be independent of her teenager's spirit then she's going to have a kind of attitude that will maybe improve the attitude of her teenager.

Susan Yates: That is so well said. You've hit on the most important piece of all, and that is, where are we getting our attitude? It goes back to our relationship with the Lord. I think God gives us the exact children we need--in the exact birth order with the exact personalities--not just so that we can raise them; but in order that they would be His tools in our life, to grow us up into the men and women He's created us to be.

Nancy DeMoss: Kind of that "heavenly sandpaper"?

Susan Yates: Right, that "heavenly sandpaper"--and they drive us to our knees. They drive us back to the Lord. One of the frustrating things for a parent of teenagers is that we find that we can't fix them. You can fix a toddler. They throw a temper tantrum, and you discipline them and it's done. But you can't always fix a teenager. That's hard because we want as parents to fix them, but we can't. We have to run to the Lord and let Him do the fixing.

Nancy DeMoss: What are some of the other ways you've found that you can create a climate of encouragement in your home?

Susan Yates: It's important to continue to build the sibling relationships during these teenage years. They can be a bit abrasive in terms of sibling friendships. We have to remember that it's not what our kids think of us now that matters nearly as much as what they'll think of us ten years from now. We're always in the process of building toward sibling friendships. I'm sure your mom just pulled her hair out with the seven of you.

Nancy DeMoss: Oh, surely not!

Susan Yates: She was normal like the rest of us.

Nancy DeMoss: You're absolutely right!

Susan Yates: She always had her eye on the future. She had perspective. She was building in things with the prayer and the hope that one day you'd be friends with each other. You have to keep doing that. That means you have to say, "no" to a lot calendar opportunities in order to sit down together and have a family meal. At the dinner table, you try to have positive conversation. I think we can control the conversation at our dinner table.

Perhaps even at a five minute breakfast in the morning, you might have each person share one concern that's on their heart for the day. Have one person pray for another person's concern so that we begin to share our hearts with one another and minister to one another. It only takes a couple of minutes--usually breakfast is grab it and run so you wouldn't have a lot of time.

Nancy DeMoss: One thing that I appreciated as I read stories about your years as a mom of teenagers was that the Lord somehow gave you the ability to create an atmosphere of joy and celebration in your home. Can you quickly give us a few thoughts about how you can have a spirit of joy in your home?

Susan Yates: I think we take ourselves too seriously, and we need to nurture a spirit of humor. Pray for God to give your children a sense of humor. If you don't have a natural clown in the family, go to the library and check out some of those books that have good clean jokes. We need to take care that our humor is never sarcastic; that's very important. It needs to be pure, clean humor.

We need to do funny things. We had an old pickup truck that occasionally my husband would say, "Oh, I hear an imaginary groan." It was supposed to be the pickup truck. He would say, "I hear it! I hear it! It wants ice cream." No matter what we were doing, we all had to stop, pile into the pickup truck and go get ice cream. To this day, the children tell the story of the crazy truck that had ice cream attacks.

I think doing some wholesome, unexpected things. Pull out the cleaning equipment. You can do this when your children are young. The Windex--all the other jars--set them up as bowling pins and get three tennis balls and go bowling in the kitchen--just crazy, fun things to give your family a sense of joy.

Nancy DeMoss: And when you create that kind of atmosphere, you have a greater chance that your children are going to want to spend time with their family, and that increases the opportunity you have to influence them as they're becoming young adults. Susan Yates has been talking with us about how to create an atmosphere of encouragement in our homes, especially homes where there are teenagers.

Leslie Basham: I think we'll learn a lot this week as Nancy DeMoss interviews Susan Yates. This is a week-long series called And Then I had Teenagers, which is also the title of Susan's latest book. We're making that book available this week for a donation of $13. And Then I Had Teenagers is filled with practical suggestions for raising our children to be difference makers. Susan Yates offers valuable insight on a variety of teenage issues, including creating open communication, setting limits, and using peer pressure to an advantage. To order visit our Web site at ReviveOurHearts.com or call our resource center at 1-800-569-5959.

To all who have supported Revive Our Hearts with your prayers, notes of encouragement and finances, we say a big thank-you. We'd love to hear how God is using this ministry to help women and their families. Write to us at Revive Our Hearts.

Tomorrow Susan Yates joins Nancy again in the studio, this time to discuss the unique art of communicating with teenagers. Be sure to listen to the next Revive Our Hearts 

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

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