Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Teaching Discernment to Your Children

Leslie Basham: Danya Powell’s counsel to ladies in junior high and high school is, “Don’t feel like you have to take initiative and rush dating relationships.”

Danya Powell: Just have some dignity. You are worth waiting for, and you don’t need to be the one pursuing the boy. When it is time, God will bring them into your life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, July 27, 2011.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We are talking this week with Rebecca Ingram Powell who has written a fabulous book called, Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose. Let me just say this, if you’re not intentional in seeking the Lord about how you parent your middle schooler, it is going to overcome you during that season. So this is a book with a lot of practical hints and tips.

One of the things I liked about it a lot is that Rebecca includes throughout this book what she calls “tool boxes” (I think there are fifteen of them), and they are full of practical tips for purposeful parenting—real practical things. So, Rebecca, thank you for writing this book. Thank you for your heart for our kids, for your own kids first and other’s kids.

Rebecca Ingram Powell: It is a blessing.

Nancy: We are glad to have you on the broadcast and also this week we’ve been joined by your daughter, Danya. Danya, welcome to Revive Our Hearts.

Danya: Thank you.

Nancy: You are the first of three children, so the last chapter hasn’t been written on this or any other family. But the proof is in the pudding. I was just saying as we were talking before recording this session that what you’ve been describing for us this week in terms of the parent-child relationship and the heart and hunger for the Lord, it is so rare to find that and your response.

Rebecca: It shouldn’t be a rarity. It should be something that as Christians we are constantly striving for, but it is difficult because of the culture that we live in. I am not making excuses . . .

Nancy: And we have an enemy who is doing everything he can to make sure this next generation does not love Jesus.

Rebecca: I think that sometimes we don’t give the devil his due, per se, in that I have told my kids you have an enemy, and he hates you. We just don’t mince words about it because that is the truth. When you look at it that way, then I think you are not as surprised at the things he does.

Nancy: We’ve been talking over the last couple of sessions about communication between parents and kids and cultivating a heart and a hunger for the Lord and spiritual things. But today I want us to talk just about a number of specific issues because there are moms listening saying, “Okay, stop all this general stuff. I want to hear about some specifics: How do you handle this, how do you handle that . . .”

We’re not saying in any of this that the way you have parented is exactly the way somebody else needs to parent their kids, but I think it would be helpful to just hear from you, Rebecca, how you have processed some of these specific issues. So I’m going to throw some tough ones at you and Danya. I want to hear from your perspective what you think about how your parents processed some of these issues. Now as a young adult yourself, what your thinking is on these matters.

In one of the earlier programs, I know you talked about dating your daughter and going to movies. I want to come back to that subject and say as it relates to entertainment—television, movies—what kind of grid do you use for what you let your kids watch? What you let them listen to? How do you process that?

Rebecca: Well one of the things that I thought about when we were talking about that is when our kids were little, under ten, Rich and I either saw the movie first, or we would read a review and be pretty sure we knew what we were getting into, or we waited until the movie came out for rental and we would watch it with remote in hand.

When Danya was right at that middle school age, eleven or twelve years old, we were in Texas. I was out there speaking and we had friends there, so she was staying with our friends. She called me on my cell phone, and she said her little friend had this movie. We had talked about possibly going to see it, but we had not had time so far. She asked, “Can I watch it with her?”

I said, “Danya, I don’t know because we still haven’t seen it. I’m not sure about it.” Of course, her timing was off a little bit there because I wasn’t ready for that question. So the answer was no. She was fine with that, and we got off the phone.

As soon as we got off the phone, the Lord began to nudge my heart that this kid is eleven years old, and I need to step up my game. As I began to think about it, I thought “She didn’t argue with me.” If that had been me, I would have said anything from “Well, you know Ms. Vickie thinks it’s okay because she bought it,” or “My friend is younger than me, and she’s already seen it.” I know I would have come at my mom with an argument, and she didn’t do that. The Lord emphasized to me that she had honored me, and I needed to honor her in return.

So I called her back within five minutes, and I said, “Danya, you honored me because you didn’t argue, and you took my answer.” I just expressed to her how much that meant to me. I said when we get home, which was the next day or so, so I said, "We will go together, rent the movie, and we'll have a girls night." And that is exactly what we did, and the movie turned out to be fine.

But the fact that she honored me in that helped me to understand, here we are at that middle school age, and there is new ground to be gained and there is a respect issue here on both sides. I needed to respect her too for showing the maturity to not argue with me.

Nancy: Was there ever a time with any of your children, you don’t have to name which one, but on an issue like this where there was push back? Where it wasn’t just, “Yes, ma’am.”

Rebecca: Oh sure, they push back a lot!

Nancy: So how do you handle that?

Rebecca: Well, I think what I have told my kids is that there are certain ways that are permissible to push back. One of those is that you can acquiesce to obedience, as in you’re going in that direction and I know that you intend to do that, and pause to ask a question. As long as we both know that you are going in the direction of obedience, then it is okay to stop and question because I know you ultimately you are going to do what I’ve asked.

Sometimes when they do push back . . . Sometimes as parents we need to let go of our pride. Just because I said it the first time, if I said it without thinking, that means I might need to go back and rethink and make a new decision.

Nancy: So you have to be willing to do that if the situation warrants it.

Rebecca: I think it is critical because parenting is not about who wins. I mean, it is with a two-year-old—don’t get me wrong. But as they get older it needs to be a win-win on issues that have to do with things like hair, painting your nails, shaving your legs. Those are things where parents need to let go of some pride.

Nancy: Pick your battles, too.

Rebecca: Exactly.

Nancy: Okay. Let’s come back to this thing of movies and entertainment because that is a huge influence in so many people's lives today. How do you decide about some of these really popular movies that are built around romance? How do you decide if you are going to watch it?

Danya: One of the things I do is talk to my friends about it. I talk to friends who have seen it; I read reviews on it, and I read what people write about it. Because sometimes if I want to just try it out for myself, things can still get in my mind, and I might see something that I don’t want to see. But if I get a warning about it beforehand, then I don’t have to put myself through finding out I really didn’t want to see that.

I also know that if it is something that I already know I struggle with . . . For instance, if I know that when I’m alone by myself at night, I get scared, I’m not going to go watch a horror movie. Sometimes I’ll hear a bump in the night, and my mind will go crazy. But if I’ve kept myself away from things that scare me or things that are not beneficial to me, then hear a bump in the night, I can turn over and go back to sleep.

Nancy: As a single, young woman, are there certain kinds of movies that you find that are not healthy for you to be watching in terms of your desire for marriage and romance?

Danya: Definitely. There are some out there that portray relationships in an unhealthy way. God is first. I’ve taken a stance on purity with a ministry that I have and the testimony that I have around my friends and my peers. I don’t want to go watch a movie that is going to make me second guess my commitment to God.

I don’t want to go watch something that will make me think that a relationship other than my relationship with God is more important. Because what happens is we can surround ourselves with what the world wants us to think. We can surround ourselves with what is popular, and we can sometimes convince ourselves that is better. But when it comes to the end of it, we know that it really is not.

Nancy: So let’s talk about relationships, dating, the “D-word.” Let me come back to you Rebecca. Is this something you thought through as a mother when your kids were really little? When did you start thinking about it? How did you lay the groundwork for how you were going to approach this with your children?

Rebecca: Well, I did start thinking about it when they were really little. One of the things that we did was when they turned five, they started to pray for their spouse. Again, that might sound premature.

Nancy: They started to pray, or you started to pray?

Rebecca: No, they started to pray. I started to pray for their spouse when they were in the womb. Rich and I had them praying for their future husband, in Danya’s case, and future wives, in the case of the boys.

Nancy: Like, “Lord, help me find this person?”

Rebecca: When they were little, I just wanted them to understand that there is a real person out there, Lord willing. We prayed they would be growing up in a Christian home; that they would have a good day; they would not get hurt. Things that when they were little they could identify with. We did this just to get in their minds that, yes, there is one person out there for you.

One of the things that I noticed other women doing, which thankfully the Lord let me as a young mom have mentors in my life. I saw some women with kids that were three and four years old saying, “Who is your boyfriend? Who is your girlfriend?” I had some really wise women in front of me who were there to point out to me and say, “This is what we should do as Christian moms. We are sabotaging our kids if we are implanting boyfriend and girlfriend in their minds as little children.”

Nancy: So you didn’t go there.

Rebecca: We didn’t go there. When the kids were really little, when my son was about four years old, there was a little girl who was about four or five, and she loved him. I mean, she loved him as much as a four-year-old girl could love. I just saw it in her eyes. She would just look at him, and you could just see she admired him so much. She could not help herself, and yes, she kissed my son.

Nancy: How did you hear about this?

Rebecca: He told me about it with a lot of giggles. He told me what had happened. I talked to the mom. They were missionaries actually home on furlough. I don’t know if they’ve been back to the states since. We talked about it, and then we talked to the little girl. I just encouraged her to save her kisses for her daddy. It wasn’t time to kiss boys, but she needed to give all of her sweet kisses to her daddy.

So we talked about it that way from an early age, that there is a certain time when it is going to be appropriate to think about boys and girls as a future husband or a future wife.

Danya: I think one thing that was also important as I went to middle school and everyone was pairing up. It just happened all of a sudden. One of my best friends at the time hit twelve years old and got a boyfriend. She had that boyfriend until she was sixteen. So she wasn’t very much help to me in my middle school years.

I started to feel a little left out when all my friends were pairing up, and even one of my best friends got a boyfriend and they were always together. Whenever she was around, he was around. It was really weird that he was everywhere. So I started thinking, “Is this normal? Should I do this?” I didn’t even like boys when I was eleven and twelve years old. I had little brothers, so that is what I thought of boys—as little brothers and people I could boss around. I mean, honestly, I was a little bossy.

But mom encouraged me by saying, "Every boy you meet is someone else’s future husband except for one of them. But you don’t know who that is, so you need to treat every boy you meet as if he is going to be someone else’s husband one day. You don’t want to look back with any regrets thinking, 'Oh, I wish I hadn’t told him I loved him, or I wish I hadn’t gone out with him this time because now I feel awkward because he’s with someone else.'” So we really were encouraged to live in a godly way so that we could protect other people.

Nancy: Were you having this kind of discussion with your mom when you were a middle schooler?

Danya: I was, actually.

Rebecca: That is when the conversation started with things like that. Another thing that we discussed was just because you like somebody doesn’t mean that you tell them. That is what I’ve heard from different friends of mine. “Well, he likes so-and-so, and he wanted to know if he should tell her.” Well no, he shouldn’t tell her because odds are next week he’s not going to like her; he’s going to like someone else. So rather than just start into all the drama of "he likes her or she likes him," when you "like" somebody, you keep it to yourself because the feeling is going to fade. That way no one gets hurt, you included, because you don’t have that embarrassment in case they don’t like you back.

Nancy: I hear from a lot of parents about really aggressive young women today—girls calling boys or texting them now. How do you handle that with your sons? How do you prepare them to deal with that?

Rebecca: We have had to deal with that with one of our sons. One word of caution to girls out there . . .When you leave a message (I can speak for myself personally for my son on my phone voice mail at home), you need to hang up before you continue your conversation with your friend.

We had these girls who were on a three-way call that called the house for my son. They left a message; however, they did not hang up. So they continued their little conversation, and it got recorded on the voice mail. It would have been very embarrassing to them had they known, so that is a word of warning.

We don’t call boys, is what I would tell those girls. What my son has done, and he did it in a very gentlemanly way, he came to my husband and said this young lady had written him a note and told him how much she cared about him. He said he really didn’t know what to do with this.

Rich, with respect for my son, said, “How do you feel?” (Our kids have feelings.) He said, “Well, I don’t feel the same way.” Rich said you need to tell her that you just want to be friends, and so what he did. He wrote her back and told her exactly that. He said he just wanted to be friends and, “My parents don’t want me to date right now, and I agree with them.”

Nancy: So if he’d had feelings at thirteen or fourteen, how would you counsel your son or daughter?

Rebecca: Well, if he had had feelings, we would have gone back to the discussion of these feelings, however strong you think they are right now, odds are you are not going to feel this week next week. So that would be one thing we would talk about.

As a middle schooler, your feelings are all over the place. The next place we would go with that conversation is to say, “Okay, what are you going to do with these feelings? You are thirteen. You can’t get married. You can’t get engaged. So where does that leave you?" And then we would go into if you allow the feelings to begin to take root, then that is going to lead to emotional and physical challenges in the days to come.

I think that as parents, one of our biggest mistakes is that we look at something like that and we see it as being very innocent, which at the outset it is. But we need to understand and respect the fact that our kids are growing up in a very sexualized culture. You cannot give them clearance on validating those feelings understanding the fact that, as you said, you are risking emotional health and their sexual well-being.

Nancy: And potentially setting yourself up for a lot of regret.

Rebecca: Exactly.

Nancy: I know Danya you have challenged young women—middle schoolers, teenagers—to have a different focus than dating in their teenage years. Tell us about that.

Danya: Well, your relationship with God should be your first priority. When you really fall in love with God, really let Him work in your life, then you see everyday miracles happen. God wants to do great and mighty things in your life, and He wants to use you in a powerful way for the kingdom. If you let Him, sometimes it will just surprise you how everything will fall into place.

God wouldn’t have given you dreams if He didn’t want to use them. You don’t just want to be a basketball player or an actress or a dentist because it is cool. You want to do that because God put it inside of you. So when you let Him take that dream and use it for His glory then it becomes even so much more than you originally thought it could be.

When I set my focus on God at a young age, as I said earlier in my testimony, I gave over to Him my music. He started using that and I was performing in places and leading worship in churches professionally when I was fifteen years old and on after that.

Rebecca: I think it is really important what Danya is talking about. At the middle school age, your kids have a great opportunity to develop their gifts, and you as a parent have a great opportunity to help them. The Bible instructs us to train up a child in the way he should go. One way that I’ve heard that interpreted is God built your child to go a certain way, with certain leanings, certain giftings. There is a certain way that He hard-wired them in order to glorify Him.

Whether that is through the arts, through great technological savvy,or whether that is in being a great friend. Some people God has just hard-wired to be a great friend. So there are all kinds of things that you can ask the Lord. "Open my eyes to this child’s strengths and weaknesses and show me how to train him or her up in the way that he or she should go in order to please You, in order to glorify You."

Let’s look at these years as a great time of just exploring. Not a time when you are worried about being a couple, or you’re worried about excluding yourself from other people and other activities. These middle school relationships when they are left unleashed can really eat up not only a person’s time and energy . . .

Nancy: . . . but their soul.

Rebecca: . . . but their soul.

Danya: I just want to say that I tell the young ladies out there just have some dignity. You are worth waiting for, and you don’t need to be the one pursuing the boy. You need to understand that God has someone out there for you. When it is time, God will bring them into your life.

You are beautiful, and you are worth such value to God. He wants to use your life, so don’t spend your time chasing after something that should be chasing after you, because you are worth it, and one day they will be chasing after you.

If they are not right now, then just say, “Okay, God. I understand you want to use me for something different right now, and you want my focus to be on something else.” Let him do great works in your life.

Leslie: Danya Powell has recently been through her junior high and high school years, and she’s been giving wise counsel to the young ladies entering that season of life. Danya and her mom, Rebecca Ingram Powell, have been helping moms of teenagers understand how to approach media and relationships.

ReviveOurHearts.com is where you can get a copy of Rebecca’s book, Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose. Reading the book will help you set expectations about dating and media. It will help you communicate those expectations and will show you how to encourage your children to have a heart for the Lord and embrace His mission for their lives.

When you donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, we’ll send you Season of Change, or ask for it when you make your contribution by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959.

Rebecca Ingram Powell and her daughter Danya will be back with us tomorrow to pick up today’s conversation on relationships. How can you steer your children towards healthy friendships? Be back again tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

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

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.