Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Your Children's Friendships

Leslie Basham: Rebecca Ingram Powell says it’s easy for parents to drift into their kids’ middle-school years, but this is a time for parents to engage.

Rebecca Ingram Powell: When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So as parents we need to be intentional. We need to be purposeful in what we’re doing.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Thursday, July 28.

Young people spend a lot of their energy focused on relationships. How can a parent steer them toward healthy relationships? Well, Nancy is talking about that with Rebecca Ingram Powell, author of Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose.

Rebecca’s daughter Danya is also part of the conversation. We’ll pick up with a statement Danya made at the end of yesterday’s broadcast.

Danya Powell: I just want to say to all the young ladies out there: Have some dignity. You are worth waiting for. You don’t need to be the one pursuing the boy. You need to understand that God has someone out there for you, and when it’s time, God will bring them into your life. You are beautiful, and you’re worth such value to God, and He wants to use your life.

So don’t spend your time chasing after someone that should be chasing after you, because you’re worth it. One day they will be chasing after you, and if they’re not right now, 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.” And let Him do great works in your life.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So, Danya, I admire you so much for having lived out that philosophy. You are single; you’re attractive; you’re talented; you’re in your upper teens. Do you have a desire to be married?

Danya: One day, yes, I would like to be married. If it’s God’s will, I think I would enjoy being married, yes.

Nancy: Do your emotions ever get out of control on this and you start having a hard time living out the philosophy you just told us?

Danya: Not so much living out the philosophy. I think it’s more of deciding, “Is it time or not?” I graduated high school, and I had made it through high school without dating, without having that distraction.

Nancy: Were you okay with that?

Danya: I was okay with it. I had very good friends who were guys. We hung out in groups. We spent a lot of time together, and we were able to be friends. I think I even got to know them better being friends because they weren’t trying to necessarily impress anyone.

Nancy: But you’re a girl; you’re a female. Is there part of your heart that wants to be pursued by those guys?

Danya: It’s always fun—I don’t know if fun is the right word—but it was kind of fun to know that a guy was interested in you, that you were kind of at the top of his list. But at the same time, you have to be careful, and you have to protect, because even at 16 years old, 17 years old, you still don’t really know, and you don’t really know if it’s time yet. Really, honestly, you still can’t do anything about it. So you still have to understand that you need to protect them, you need to protect yourself, and you need to know that if they are “the one” that God has planned for you, they will wait.

Rebecca: I remember a conversation that we had when Danya was about 16. There were boys interested in her, but yet they respected her and her choice to not date. There were actually two young men that she was real good friends with, and she would have probably at that time, if she had chosen to date, she would have considered dating them.

We had a talk one night, and she told me that she kind of did like both of them. I said, “Well, here’s the thing: One of them might be your husband, but one of them definitely won’t be.” That put it into perspective.

Danya: It’s all about protecting the other person’s heart. Now that I’ve gotten older and I’m interested, now is the time when I keep having to pray and keep telling myself, as I said earlier, “I am worth being pursued.” I don’t have to chase after these people. It’s their job. We have to let them be the man. We have to let them take control of that situation and trust that in God’s timing it will happen.

It’s not up to me. I can’t just look at a guy and go, “Okay, here, come on, let’s go.” That’s not how it works. I hope that when it does come to that time and I’m saying, “Okay, this person’s interested in me. I’m interested. Let’s see what God wants to do with this,” that I’m not the one calling them; that I’m not the one saying, “Let’s go do something.”

He’s the one pursuing because I want to make sure that he is the leader and he is the strong man of faith he needs to be and that I’m not manipulating the situation. As girls, we’re manipulators. We can sometimes make people do what we want them to do simply because we’re girls. I want to make sure that I honor God in the way that I treat whoever is interested in me.

Nancy: I want to just affirm you in that, Danya, and say that you will never regret taking that course. It may be harder in the short run, maybe more limited in the short run, but in the long term, all of us older women are saying you will spare yourself so many regrets and have so much greater freedom and joy in the long run because of the willingness to be controlled now.

In the book your mom has written called Season of Change, about parenting middle schoolers, your mom talks about something she calls “Drastically Different Dating.” Do you know what she means by that?

Danya: The world’s way of dating is a guy and a girl going out by themselves, and they have permission to hold each other’s hands; they have permission to get all close to each other. There’s a physical aspect with the culture’s way of dating. It’s saying, “I like you. I want to be close to you, and I want to experience . . .”

Rebecca: Affection.

Danya: Affection—that’s a good word, I guess. It’s all about: “My focus is now on you. You’re the person I love; you’re the person I devote my time to.”

Drastically Different Dating is about making sure God stays the head of the relationship. The way that you act toward that other person, the way you act around your friends when you’re dating, you should still be showing the love of God.

  • It’s not being so exclusive that you lose other friendships.
  • It’s not being so exclusive that your family always hears about the guy but never sees the guy.
  • It’s spending time working together, ministering together.
  • It's still staying around people and getting to know each other in the real world, not just the candlelit dinner table with just the two of you trying to out-impress the other person.

Nancy: Which this illusion will burst shortly after marriage, if not sooner.

Let’s broaden beyond just dating relationships or boy/girl relationships, but the whole thing of friendships.

Rebecca, you know the friends we have that we’re close to have such an impact, influence in our lives. We think about peer pressures being a huge issue for middle schoolers—going back to that.

Rebecca: Yes.

Nancy: How did you think about the whole thing of your children’s friends and who they could be friends with, who they couldn’t be friends with? We’re saying we’re supposed to be a light in the world; we’re supposed to be salt; and yet we say you shouldn’t be too close to ungodly people. How did you and Rich steer your children in relation to their friendships?

Rebecca: Well, it was always important to us that our children’s most intimate friends, the people they were the closest to, were people who were likeminded. What I mean by closest to, I mean the friends we could trust them with, the friends we could have over to spend the night, and we could go to sleep and know that the unsupervised conversations and things that the kids did were still going to be okay.

Nancy: Danya, your mom tells a story in this book about a girl she calls Mandy that was a friend of yours when you were in middle school, a young teen . . .

Danya: Yes, twelve or thirteen years old.

Nancy: It taught you a lesson through that about the kind of friends you would have over to spend the night. Tell us about that situation.

Danya: Well, at that point and time, she was one of the only friends I had who was not a Christian. She was very outspoken. She seemed shy at first, but get her in a conversation, and she was a talker. We didn’t know a lot about her home life or what she did with other friends.

When I asked if she could spend the night, Mom just said, “I’m not sure. I think this just needs to be something where she can come over for the day, but she probably needs to go home that night.”

I don’t remember if I argued or not.

Rebecca: You asked me "why." That’s when we coined our term of a “spend-the-night friend.”

Danya: Right, right.

Rebecca: So the kids understood that their friends were welcome in our home. We consider our home to be somewhat of a mission outpost, and friends are always welcome. But the spend-the-night time is when I as a parent close my eyes—I try to stay up with them, but I can’t always do it. So the spend-the-night friends had to be kids that we trusted.

You asked me about it, and that’s how we talked about it.

Nancy: And what was it, Rebecca, that made you in that situation feel that perhaps this wasn’t a good idea to be a spend-the-night friend at that point?

Rebecca: Well, this little girl—her parents were divorced and her dad lived a homosexual lifestyle. She spent weekends with him and his partner. Her mom was a Christian and had remarried a Christian man, and so she spent alternate weekends and through the week with her mom.

As a typical “Daddy’s girl,” she really believed that her dad could do no wrong. She was completely fine with his lifestyle, which, as a Christian, when we look in God’s Word, we know that is a sinful lifestyle.

My daughter was at an age when friends were becoming very important, and she admired this little girl. Because of the age she was, and because of how I knew that little girl felt about her daddy, which I understood because I’m a “Daddy’s girl,” too, I just felt it was best that we limit the time they spent together to be daytime and not a spend-the-night friend.

She was never excluded from any kind of parties or anything, but to be a spend-the-night guest, we just didn’t go there.

Danya: I needed to be a little stronger in my faith before getting into such a deep conversation about things that I wasn’t used to, that I hadn’t necessarily decided my opinion on yet because I wasn’t around it. I didn’t know that much about it.

Nancy: But the time did come several years later when—it was a different friend . . .

Danya: Right. Three years later, I was 16. She had actually come into town to see me and attend one of my first concerts.

Rebecca: She ended up moving.

Danya: Yes. She ended up moving, and she had come back into town to see one of my very first concerts. She asked me if she could come and stay over that night. I still wasn’t sure what mom thought. I was 16. I was able to make my own decisions, but I said, “Well, can you ask my mom?” She said, “Yeah, sure.” That surprised me because I didn’t know she was going to be okay with that, but she was.

She just went right up and asked Mom, and Mom asked me if I was okay with it. I said, “Well, yes, I’m okay with it. Of course I’m okay with it.” So she came over.

That night the conversation was more influenced by me being able to share my faith with her since I had more of a firm foundation, and I knew what I was talking about now. It turned into a conversation that I believe influenced her more than the conversation would have when we were 13.

Nancy: Rebecca, I’m listening to this and thinking, “As a mom, you have to be so on your toes, so intentional.” I mean, can you ever just really coast?

Rebecca: That’s a great question. I think that it’s probably the times when you think you can coast that you can’t. I think that about middle school because, as parents, we feel like so much of the hard part is over. They can feed themselves; they can dress themselves, and they’re not running around in the car yet. They haven’t hit the hard high school study time and that kind of thing. They’re not trying to get a job. So we tend to think that with middle school.

Instead, those years are critical. We have to be on our toes in that our kids have to know that the entire time that they are with us, we have a goal in mind, and that is to produce kids who love the Lord and love people and try to bring the two together. If we’re not on our toes and we’re not intentional—when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So as parents, we need to be intentional. We need to be purposeful in what we’re doing.

Nancy: Let’s talk for just a minute about this whole thing of the Internet, social networking, texting, and how you think about that with your middle schoolers.

Rebecca: Before our kids even got to be this old, Rich and I had discussed it and said, “Okay. When they’re sixteen, they can have a cell phone.”

Nancy: Wait a minute. Are you all dinosaurs or what?

Rebecca: Yes. That’s probably what people think.

Nancy: Don’t ten-year-olds have cell phones now?

Rebecca: Not my kids.

Danya: A lot of kids do, though. A lot of much younger kids even have cell phones.

Rebecca: A lot of them do.

Nancy: So are your teenagers feeling really out of it if they don’t have a cell phone at twelve?

Rebecca: I don’t know if she felt out of it or not, but our rule had been at sixteen because we thought, “When they start driving, they’re going to need one—not to call their friends—but for insurance. If they needed us, they would have a phone.”

Danya: When I was twelve, it wasn’t that big of a deal yet. The cell phone craze really happened in the past five years.

Rebecca: So when she turned fifteen, or was about to turn fifteen, she came to us with a plan of how, if we would let her get one, how she would manage those monthly payments.

Nancy: So you’re not paying for the cell phone?

Rebecca: Not when she turned fifteen. We didn’t plan to pay for it until they were sixteen. So she came to us with this very well thought out plan and how she could swing the money and everything else, because of the way she approached it, once again, to do our best not to be prideful, we talked about it. We said, “Well, we said sixteen, but here she’s got this all thought out, and she’s really done her homework.”

Nancy: You’re honoring responsibility.

Rebecca: Exactly. So because she’s the oldest, she set the precedent. So the older of our two boys just turned sixteen, but he got his phone at fifteen because he came to us and said, “Okay, here’s how I can pay for it if you let me get it at fifteen.” Right now the only one who doesn’t have a phone is our thirteen-year-old, and because he’s seen the other two, he knows he’s not going to get one until he’s fifteen, and then only if he can pay for it.

So I tell people a lot that if you invest a lot into that first child, into your oldest child, you’re going to get a lot of run-off down to the other kids.

Nancy: What about not just having a cell phone, what do you teach them about how to use it, in terms of the texting and Facebooking. Do your kids have Facebook accounts?

Rebecca: Let’s talk about that for a minute. Danya’s eighteen, so, as far as we’re concerned, she’s an adult. She doesn’t have these restrictions on her. But our sixteen-year-old, he was allowed to get a Facebook account when he turned fifteen. We had held off on that, too. We wanted him to be fifteen. My husband had a lot of talks with him about Facebook. We had also talked about, “You don’t click on ads that say, 'Click here.'”

We have had the pornography talk many times with our boys.

Nancy: What about the people they "friend"?

Rebecca: Here’s my son’s rule: He can friend people he has met personally. He cannot friend people that he has never met just because another friend knows that person. He has to have some kind of personal contact with that person.

Nancy: Does he have to have you be his friend?

Rebecca: Oh, yes. That’s one of the first things they have to do, of course, is be Mom’s friend, and my husband has an account, too. We’re all friends on Facebook.

The other rule for David is he cannot be friends with adult women. That just seemed like that would be easier because we do have some friends who are single women, and they get a little carried away on Facebook. So we decided that the best thing is to make this a rule.

Nancy: What about teenage girls? Are you concerned about that?

Rebecca: Well, when they make friends with David, a lot of times I’ll go and make friends with them, too.

Nancy: So if you’re going to be my friend, you’ve got to be my mom’s friend, too?

Rebecca: Well, they don’t have to be, but most kids really like to collect friends.

Nancy: Even if they are moms.

Rebecca: Right. But we look at his account, and we have fun with it, too. I’ve posted some stuff that he’s said before on his Facebook just for the entertainment of my friends because he’s pretty witty.

Nancy: So do your kids—your younger kids—I’m thinking about middle schoolers in particular—do you think it’s wise for them to be able to have social networking outlets that you don’t have access to?

Rebecca: No.

Nancy: Danya, you’re shaking your head.

Danya: I’m shaking my head. Well, when I got my—it was MySpace when I was fifteen—when I got on MySpace, my daddy had my password, and we kind of shared the account. At random times he would come in and make sure the messages were appropriate, and he would get notified on his email account who was requesting to be my friend, who was messaging me, and who was leaving me comments. If he saw the name of someone he didn’t know—especially if it was a guy—he would go, and he would make sure he knew what they were doing.

I appreciated that because when it was this random adult person sending out this mass messaging. I still thought it was weird, and I was glad I had my daddy there to protect me from that.

For me personally, I don’t think it was wise to let me just have total privacy there because teenagers and middle schoolers can make their own little world online and sometimes that can be very dangerous.

Nancy: Clearly there are some parents who are not vigilant enough. They don’t know what their kids are doing. Kids have got their computers in their bedrooms . . . which I assume is not happening in your house.

Rebecca: Oh, no. That’s not a good idea. I really think, as parents, we cannot be guilty of assuming. It’s just not wise for any of us—adults, too—we don’t need to have private time with the computer. It’s just best—especially if you do a lot of social networking—to have those computers in a very public spot in the home and for everyone to know the dangers that are inherent to the Internet.

There are people who are out there intentionally looking for kids, and they prey upon our kids.

A lot of parents have said to me, “Well, I don’t know how to work it. I’m not technologically savvy.”

Nancy: You better learn!

Rebecca: My answer to them is exactly that. You need to learn. You need to get on there. You need your own account. You need all the passwords. Parents have told me, “Well, my daughter won’t let me have her password.” To that I just say, “Well then, she doesn’t get the computer.”

We have to be the parent. There’s no being shy about this. Your daughter doesn’t let you have her password? Well, then you don’t let her have the computer. You don’t pay for the Internet service at your house.

Nancy: I want to encourage mothers of middle-school children or mothers of children who will one day be middle schoolers to get a hold of this book by Rebecca Ingram Powell. It’s called Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose.

Rebecca, I thank you for writing this book. I think it’s going to be a great help. There’s so much more in it than what we’ve been able to cover. I think it’s going to be a great help to many of our listeners.

Before we wrap up here, Danya, I want to give you the last word, and I want to ask you, because you’re the one in this room who has most recently been a middle schooler . . . It’s been several years ago, but now you’re moving into adulthood. We’ve got a lot of moms listening today.

They’ve heard you talk. They say, “Wow. I’d like to have a daughter or a son who has a heart for the Lord that God has put in you at this point.”

You’ve got the mic. What would you like to say to these moms of middle schoolers, teenagers, kids (they’ve got kids at different ages), from a daughter’s heart, teenage daughter’s heart, what would you like to say to those moms?

Danya: Don’t ever give up on your kids, and don’t ever think that you’re a failure. Always keep praying and always keep trusting that God is going to work on their hearts. I think that the most important thing you can do is pray over your kids.

Sometimes you may not know why something happened. Your kid may learn something, and you think, “Well, I didn’t teach them that.” Or they may say something, and you think, “Well, they didn’t get that from me.” They’re getting it from God, and He’s putting things on their heart.

So just keep praying and don’t give up, and know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. When you get tired—it’s okay to be tired—just bring it to God. I know my mom has really benefitted from the friends in her life. Find those friends who can walk through it with you.

Even when you go through hard times, we’re going to get over it. We’ll go through phases, but we’ll eventually get over it. Just don’t give up on us and keep encouraging us through it.

Nancy: Danya has just given you a word of encouragement. She said, “Don’t give up.”

Get some friends around you who will pray for these kids and ask the Lord to put in their hearts as only He can do a heart, a hunger, and a love for Christ, to the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been offering encouragement to parents. We admire parents who are embracing the challenging role of raising a generation of young people with a heart for the Lord.

To help you in the process, we’d like to send you the book by our guest Rebecca Ingram Powell. It’s called Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle-Schooler with Passion and Purpose. We’ll send you a copy when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

Just ask for Season of Change when you call us. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Make your donation there, and we’ll send you the book.

Well, when a young person comes to you with challenging questions about your faith, what happens if you don’t have all the answers? Nancy will offer some practical advice for addressing tough questions tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

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