Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: As you help your children navigate a minefield of temptation, Josh McDowell has this reminder for parents . . .

Josh McDowell: Rules without relationships leads to rebellion. Computers without relationships leads to rebellion. Cell phones without relationships leads to rebellion. Texting without relationships leads to rebellion!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, September 4.

Yesterday, we began a two-part series called "Raising Children with a Heart for Purity." I think Josh McDowell startled a lot of parents by describing how prevalent pornography is among children at younger and younger ages.

Today, he’ll talk about one of the most important things you can do as you help children deal with temptation . . . develop a close relationship with them. Josh has written about these topics in books like The Bare Facts and Straight Talk with Your Kids About Sex.

Here are Nancy and Josh to pick up their conversation.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I have a sister who has five teenage children, so I’m freshly burdened for this subject. I know parenting today is even so much different from when you were parenting your kids. Certainly the same principles can be applied, but I know you have a heart for this teenage—this digital—generation.

One of the things I’m seeing is how much influence their peers have on these kids. If you were parenting teenagers and children today, how would you keep the channels of communication open so that your kids want to talk to you and not just get their influence from their friends?

Josh: I would do it the way I did it with my four children over the last thirty-four years . . . why?  I document this in the book. One of the first parts of the book is, “Parents, you are the key.” All the research shows that kids want to learn about sex, love, relationships, everything, from mom and dad before their peers, anyone.

I document in here where a major organization—university—wanted to help parents. They saw when parents started having children seven, eight, nine years old, they really thought, Am I going to lose my child? The hormones are kicking in, the peer pressure, friends, high school, college . . . will I lose my child?

So they did a major study, which is all documented in the Straight Talk book. They wanted to find out, “Is there anything greater than their hormones, their peer pressure, everything?” After millions of dollars and some good research, they found only one thing that overrides a child’s hormones kicking in (now think of that), a child’s peer pressure, high school, all the way through college . . . what do you think it is?

The only thing they found that was more powerful was a loving, close, intimate relationship with their daddy—not the mother—their daddy. That overrides the hormones, everything. Guess what they concluded? Up to twenty-five years old, the relationship with their daddy . . .

This is why I wrote the book How to Be a Hero to Your Children. How do you build that loving, intimate relationship with your children? I have a huge chapter in here on it—seven simple principles. I also wrote on how to build a relationship with your child where they will respond and not rebel; that can produce a relationship greater than their hormones, greater than their peers. How to build a loving, close relationship with mom and dad will override the peers.

Nancy: I’m thinking about the era when the kids are closing themselves in their rooms. They come home from school. You ask, “How’d your day go?”

“Fine.”

One-word answers, rolling eyes at the parents, not opening up. What are some of those principles that can help parents—dads and moms—establish an open relationship with their kids?

Josh: One, you’ve got to start young. My son and I did a conference three days ago, an interview by radio. They asked my son, “How did your parents do it?”

He said, “Whenever we sat down at the table or whatever, my parents and us, we always talked. They always asked us about our day and everything, and we learned to respond. In fact, one time my dad got up from the table—there was something he needed to do—and we said, ‘Dad, where are you going? We’re not through talking yet!’”

These were my kids. If you start young, it becomes part of them—where you’re listening to them, you’re sharing with them.

But here’s the key, as a parent, not to become judgmental, not to shame. Normally, when something would come up that was not really healthy, I wouldn’t address the issue right there. I would wait, I would listen to them, take it in, and then later say, “Remember, Kelly, when you brought that up? Is it okay if I share with you how I view that?” And my kids would always say “yes.”

Nancy: So you’re not hyperventilating at the dinner table.

Josh: Never. Never. You’ve always got to be even-keeled as a parent.

Nancy: I’ve got to say, I don’t know how that is for dads, but that’s really hard for moms.

Josh: There are seven simple principles. I’ll state them.

Unconditional acceptance. When a child feels unconditionally accepted, they have a security. And the more secure my children became, the more open they became. I could hear things from my children most parents would never dream of hearing . . . why? They weren’t afraid of the hammer coming down, the judgment, the shame coming down on them.

Nancy: Hold on. Some parents are hearing you say this, and they’re asking, “So am I supposed to accept these wrong choices my kids are making?”

Josh: No, unconditional acceptance means that your child needs to know that the basis of your relationship is not their behavior or anything else. My kids heard this over and over and over again, “Honey, you’re created in the image of God, with infinite value, dignity, and worth.” My kids heard that all.

“My acceptance of you is because I am your father, and you are created with infinite value, dignity, and worth.” Then when it came to things they were doing wrong, I would say, “Honey, this is not healthy for you, because it will rob you of who you are, created in the image of God.”

Nancy: But it doesn’t affect my acceptance of you.

Josh: That’s right. Your performance does not affect my basis for accepting you. But let me get to the other principles, and it will come to the performance and other things.

Affirmation. I learned I need to always affirm my children’s emotions. For example, in Romans, Scripture says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” The New Living Translation says, “If others are happy, be happy with them. If they’re sad, share their sorrow.” 

My kids would come home, and if something bad had happened or something exciting had happened, I had  to step in and affirm that emotion. It gave them a sense of authenticity, that it’s okay to feel that way.

Then another is appreciation. I learned that I needed to catch my kids doing things right first, and express appreciation. It didn’t mean I didn’t catch them doing things wrong, but that meant that—underneath the overall umbrella—catching them doing things right and expressing appreciation.

“Thank you, Kelly, for putting your clothes in the hamper. Your mom will appreciate that.”

“Sean, thank you for sweeping off the porch; I appreciate that. Now, would you do the other half?”

“Katie, thank you—I appreciate that.”

“Heather, I heard what you did at school today, the teacher called me. I just want to say, I appreciate the attitude you have.”

That is one of the most powerful things in a child’s life . . . instead of catching him in doing things wrong and disciplining him, you first catch them doing things right and express appreciation. For every time one of my children did something wrong and I would discipline them, there were at least twenty-five things they had done right.

If I don’t take the time to catch them doing those things right, I have lost the right to discipline them.

Another thing is, express affection. For my children, they needed to hear me every day, ten times to each one, say, “I love you.” Sometimes I would get home and think, Oh, I didn’t do it today! I would go in and whisper in my daughter’s ear, “I love you, honey.” I wanted them to hear it.

Nancy: You just kept saying it.

Josh: That’s right.

Another is, approach your child’s world. Always look for a time, “When can I step into my child’s world?” When you do, it says to them, “What I’m interested in, my daddy, my mommy is interested in. What I care about, my mommy cares about.” So I always find out, where are my children, and step into their world.

For example, my son was into comic books at about eleven years of age. When I’d go on the road, I’d take a list of the books he had, and I’d go into a trading store and say, “Do you have any books on that?” He always had four or five different ones on Superman, Spiderman, and The Hulk. 

So I’d buy four or five and go home and say, “Son, I have a surprise for you.” I’d give him one of the comic books, and I’d have three left for the next three trips. We’d sit down. He’d always be on my right on the floor, my arm around him, and we’d read through the comic book together. 

You know what that said to my son? “My dad travels all over the world speaking to people, writing books, leading people to Christ, serving God, but he cares about my comic books. What I care about, my daddy cares about.” 

Nancy: Which also illustrates another point you make about relationships, and that’s availability.

Josh: When we’re available to children, it says one thing . . . “I am important to my dad.” There’s no other way to communicate importance, except for availability. For example, I always taught my kids, “You can interrupt me at any time.” So I would say, “Excuse me, pastor, my five-year-old son needs his dad’s attention. Yes, what is it, son? Sure, okay, be sure to tell your mom. Now, pastor, where were we?” 

Do you know what that says to my kids? “I’m more important than anyone else in my dad’s life.” I did it with the President of the United States. He came to hear me speak, and one of my family members came in. I said to the President of the United States, “Excuse me, sir, a family member needs his dad’s attention.” I turned around, and then went back and said, “Now, where were we, sir?” 

He walked out of the church, never said anything. I thought, Boy, is that being rude, but there must be something there, because we have the relationship . . . Later, I got a little note on White House stationery saying,

Please forgive me for leaving so abruptly, without saying good-bye, but you made me feel so guilty. I went out to my car, asked my security to get out, locked all the doors, and called my two daughters. I told them I loved them and talked to them for an hour.

You see? Even the President of the United States needs that. But what did it say to my kids? “I’m more important to my daddy than the President of the United States!” 

How did I show that? Availability. “You can interrupt me. You do it respectfully.” You don’t say to your child, “You go over there and sit down!” No. You know what I found out? The adult needs to hear that more than the kid needs to hear it. That pastor needs to see it. You know, I need to treat my child that way. I need to be available to my child. 

Another principle is accountability. (They all start with A’s.) If we truly love our children then we will give them reasonable limits, guides, boundaries, and hold them accountable. I do not believe any teenage child can really truly, in the gut of their being, believe, “Mom or Dad loves me,” if those parents haven’t given rules and regulations and held them accountable. I could write a whole book just on that. 

It says to a child, “I’m responsible . . . self-control . . . and, I am loved.” Accountability within the context of a relationship. Rules without relationships lead to rebellion. Rules within the context of relationship leads to response and love. 

Now, there had to be times when you felt the restrictions were reasonable but your kids didn’t. Kids won’t, necessarily. You have different definitions of “reasonable.” 

Josh: This is why I always negotiated with my children. Most parents think this is horrible. No. If I don’t negotiate with my children, they don’t learn how to make decisions for their own life. They don’t learn how to set boundaries in their own life. 

So, I would go back and forth and say, “What do you think would be the time to be home?” 

“Well, Dad, I think midnight.” 

“Why do you say that?” 

“Well, Dad, this and this have been happening, and I’ve been trustworthy with everything else.”

“Well, honey, I was thinking 10:30, because of this and this . . . I tell you what—let’s make it 11:15.” 

See, my children, in that context, heard why I would prefer those boundaries, and I was able to understand my daughter. Often, my kids could convince me I was wrong. If I am wrong, I want to change. How do you do that? Negotiating with your children. 

Now, I am the father—they know that. Once I say, “No, honey, I want you home at 10:30,” they know that’s it. But that almost never happened without negotiation. Why? It was part of my mentoring my own children, to show them how to set boundaries for their life—what they look for.

That’s what I love as a dad, negotiating with your children. Most people think, Negotiating. Well, that’s so negative. You’re giving in. No, I’m mentoring; I’m molding; I’m creating a true follower of Jesus Christ. 

Nancy: And when they overstep the boundaries, what happens then? 

Josh: You must have discipline, you must follow through. My children always knew, when I would a limit on something . . . You never set discipline when you’re upset or angry or emotional about something. It's like you never go shopping when you’re hungry, because you do it wrong . . . you buy wrong because you’re too severe.

So, they’d always know . . . Their mother would come and say to me, “Honey, let’s go in the other room and talk.” She never, ever said anything in front of the kids, “Honey, don’t you think that’s a little too severe? Sixty days grounded for coming in fifteen minutes late?”

I would say, ninety percent of the time I backed off. I’d go back out—and my kids would always be waiting right on the other side of the door—and my kids knew their father would probably say this, “You know, I was too severe, and I’m sorry for that, and this is what it will be.” 

I always wanted to elevate my children’s mother in their presence. I’d say, “Katie—or Kelly or Heather or Sean—you’d better go thank your mother, because you would really be in trouble if it hadn’t been for your mother.” So I always wanted to build up my wife in the presence of my children, but often in discipline I was too severe.

Nancy: And yet she supported you.

Josh: She always said, “Honey, no matter what you do, I will support you.” 

Nancy: Let’s talk about social media, something you really didn’t have to worry about when your kids were teenagers, but something every parent has to be concerned about now. It’s everywhere, it’s ever-present, it’s 24/7. How do you encourage parents to think about managing social media with the kids? 

Josh: You’ve got to realize, one thing that will override the negative impact of social media is relationships. It comes back to that, Nancy. Social media without relationships leads to rebellion and unhealthy involvement.

Nancy: And yet, social media (and by that we’re talking about all forms of Facebook and cell phones and texting—and things I’ve probably not even heard of yet) can have a way of crippling relationships and stealing relationships. You don’t have conversation at the dinner table . . .

Josh: Usually that happens where you don’t have a relationship to be stolen. When a child grows up with you and you’re always interacting, and they really feel, “Boy, mom and dad are thinking about me and my best in everything,” it’s a little different ballgame, Nancy.

And then this . . . we need to instill (and I point this out in the book) . . . One of the greatest barriers to sexual involvement are values. The kids say it themselves, they are the values their parents implanted within their lives. I’ve always wanted, from the time my kids were born, to impart values into their lives, principles to live by, healthy guides for life.

First of all, they had to see it in my life and my relationship with their mother. Because if I taught them one thing—respect—and I showed disrespect to their mother, I just negated everything I’d taught my kids.

Nancy: They’ve got to see it modeled.

Josh: They listen more to what I do than what I say. They hear it more. Second, I always need to show how that principle is biblically based and show how it can bless their lives. “God has given this principle—why? Let me show you, son, let me show you, honey, because if you don’t listen, this could happen . . .”

When it comes to the social media, you want to handle it in a positive way, not a negative way. If you’re always putting it down, “You’re not going to do this and that,” kids aren’t going to listen to you. You establish your own values as a family, and then you live those values out.

And then you take the social media, Facebook, everything, and say, “Well, let’s look at this.” Negotiate with your children. Say, “Is this healthy, here?”

“Well, yeah, Dad, because . . .”

“Well, let me share with you what I see here . . .” and back and forth.

Nancy: You’re seeing it, and I’m seeing it . . .  these four-, five-, and six-year-old kids who can’t even get their eyes off the iPad or the iPhone. You can't get the iPhone out of their hands or the earbuds out of their ears. There is no communication. It’s a whole world that they’re living in. How are parents to think about this?

Josh: First of all, they’ve lost control, and they probably haven’t established a really loving, intimate, caring relationship. You’ve got to start out when their young by limiting their access to it.

Nancy: So, that’s okay?

Josh: Absolutely! For example, if I were raising my kids right now, with everything, when friends would come over, I would have a box—padded—right at the front door. All cell phones and everything would go there, right when they walk in.

Boy, I could write a book on the negative things if you don’t do that. They all go in, right there. "Well, I need to call my mom.”

“Well, go down to the door, call your mom, and put it back in there. Any of your friends that come over . . .” Have it that after eight o’clock or nine o’clock, iPads, computers, whatever, is put in the master bedroom until the next morning. I would be hesitant to have a computer and iPad in a child’s room with the door closed.

Nancy: Would you tell your kids, “I have to have access to your Twitter account, your Facebook account?”

Josh: I would, yes, absolutely. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Nancy: And would you let them know, “I’m going to be looking at it.”

Josh: Yes! And here again, you would negotiate that Nancy. You wouldn’t draw a deadline. Say, “How would you think, as a mom, I should look at this?” My kids are pretty smart—the first three were valedictorians. They’re not dumb kids. My one daughter, at five years old, could argue her mom right into a corner. She could make a great lawyer today.

So, I negotiated with the kids, and I was always able to bring them around to where I was. But often I learned things that would let me give a little here, give a little there. Maybe it was nine o’clock instead of eight o’clock when you’re this age, etc.

But if you don’t start early doing that, by the time they’re thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, you can’t change it for the most part, because it takes years to build that relationship with that child. Yes, negotiate, and I would say the phone can be off limits if I see you misusing it.

Often, it must be turned off, and you have tracking features and everything else. When you’re at school it is turned off, or you don’t take it to school with you. Also . . . you set the healthy guidelines. We’ve got to be in control.

But if you’re in control without the relationship, you’ll have rebellion. You can still have rebellion with the relationship, but nothing to the same level. Rules without relationships leads to rebellion. Computers without relationships leads to rebellion. Cell phones without relationships leads to rebellion. Texting without relationships leads to rebellion. You’ve got to start with that relationship, and then negotiate with your children. That’s positive.

Nancy: And when it comes down to it, as a parent, and now for you as a granddad, you’re totally dependent on the Lord to connect the dots, to make it make sense to your kids. Talk for a moment about the role of prayer and faith.

Josh: I’m dependent on the Lord and my wife. With my children—first, forgiveness. How can you teach a child forgiveness if they don’t see you forgiving them, asking forgiveness, forgiving others? My wife, Dottie, was the most popular kid at school. Why?

If something happened in the morning like she was a little too sharp, she was wrong with the kids and she didn’t seek forgiveness right then, she’d always take three candy kisses. She’d go to school and take that kid right out of class and say, “I was wrong. I owe you an apology. Will you forgive me?” Then she'd give them three candy kisses. All the time. She was known for that.

One time, Katie’s little friend (Katie must have been eleven or twelve years old) said, “What’s your mom doing here again? She’s here all the time.”

Katie said, “Well, my mom did this, and she came and asked for forgiveness.” And the little girl said (this stuck in Katie’s mind), “My mom has never done that.” See? We taught forgiveness through modeling forgiveness. If you don’t model it, it’s pretty hard to teach it and have the kid grasp it.

Love for other people. Every Christmas we would do something special. There was this woman whom we all loved. She was a waitress, quite sickly, probably about fifty-five or sixty years old. She lived in this rinky-dink little trailer there in California. We took a beautiful, little Christmas tree all decorated with the lighting. We took Christmas gifts. The kids took their own money and bought them.

We went and told her how much we loved her and how much God loved her, and we wanted to celebrate Christmas with her. We set up the tree for her, left the gifts under it. That built in to my kids’ minds, when you love someone, you show it.

You teach through modeling. You have to for children. Especially for them to grasp it at five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten years old.

Prayer. They need to see us praying with them. They need to see us praying. They need to see our dependence upon Christ. They would pray so specifically. I learned to pray specifically from listening to my children pray specifically that God would come through!

It just blew my mind, because I would pray generally—that way I would always see answered prayer. My kids would pray so specifically, and then when the answer came, we would sit down and discuss it and then thank God for answering our prayers.

Leslie: Josh McDowell has been talking about why your relationship with your children is so important. When you enter their world at a young age, you really can have more of an influence than the media or peers. Josh has written a book, along with our friend Erin Davis, called The Bare Facts.

This would be a helpful book for you to review and then give to your children. Or, better yet, use it as a springboard for talking with your kids about important issues. The conversations that come out of this book will help your children prepare for waves of temptation in a digital age.

The time you spend together will help forge the kind of strong bond we’ve been hearing about today. We’d like to send you The Bare Facts, by Josh McDowell and Erin Davis, when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount.

Ask for it when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Each weekday Revive Our Hearts is helping you find freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. Please join us again tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

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