The teenage years can be tumultuous. Suddenly we wake up and find that we have an angry and unmotivated teen. Where did that come from?
We’re talking with Dr. Rick Horne about the contents of his book, Get Outta My Face: How to Reach Angry and Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel.
The interview and his book will give you some very practical advice on how to speak with troubled teens.
Resources From This Podcast
Get Outta My Face, by Rick Horne
Get Offa My Case, by Rick Horne
Topics Covered In This Week’s Podcast
02:53 How Get Outta My Face came about
10:17 Wise wants
19:37 Connecting consequences with behaviors
39:09 Get Offa My Case
I’m Chap Bettis, and you’re listening to The Disciple-Making Parent, where we seek to equip parents and churches to pass the gospel to their children.
The teenage years can be tumultuous. Suddenly we wake up and find that we have an angry and unmotivated teen. Where did that come from? And more importantly, what do we do?
Hi, my name is Chap Bettis, and I’m the author of The Disciple-Making Parent. The teenage years can be difficult. My wife and I used to say “Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.” But also, big opportunities. This person who’s not a child but not yet an adult is living in our homes. We know that the Lord is watching over our situation, and he is good, but man, it can be hard at times.
How do we engage a teen who seems dead set against doing what we want, that that’s actually for their good? And how do we give counsel that slides past the walls that they have up? Well, today we’re talking with Dr. Rick Horne about the contents of his book, Get Outta My Face: How to Reach Angry and Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel. I think you’re going to find some very practical strategies for your conversations with young people.
Rick holds a D.Min. from Westminster Theological Seminary and has done school and church counseling for more than 35 years. He’s worked as a bi-vocational pastor in two multiethnic congregations, and he is currently the liaison for m iddle Africa and the Dominican Republic at Oak Seed Ministries International. Most importantly, he’s been married to Betty for 53 years and they have six adult children.
If you’re a parent or a church leader, I think you’re going to find this subject really helpful. The interview and his book will give you some very practical handles on how to speak with teens who are troubled.
Before we start, I’d like to let you know that we’ve started another podcast. It’s The Disciple-Making Parent Audio Blog. And in that podcast I read some of my blog posts in audio format for your convenience. So head on over to your favorite podcast provider and check out The Disciple-Making Parent Audio Blog. Our plan is to release three of those a week. But for now, let’s think about how to shepherd troubled and angry teens.
Chap: It’s a joy to have Rick on the program today. So Rick, thanks for taking the time to talk with me.
Rick: It’s a pleasure to be here.
Chap: Well, let’s talk about the book Get Outta My Face. I have recommended it. The subtitle is How to Reach Angry Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel. Just talk a little bit about why you wrote it. What was the background, your experiences that that caused you to say, The Lord is teaching me this, and then I want put something down to help other parents.”
Rick: Yeah, believe me, that wasn’t an intention from the outset of the drama that God brought in to Betty’s and my life with the adoption of our one son. He has a black identity, and many years later now we’ve seen significant, significant development and growth in so many different ways.
But from the very beginning with the adoption, we should have known that there were going to be storms on the way because early in infancy, there were some remarkable, willful features of his life that were manifesting themselves, unlike the other five kids that we had.
And once he got into the teenage years, the 12,-13 range, the willful features began to manifest themselves in more and more and increasingly violent and profane ways. That came to a head when he was in ninth grade. And we were part of a black church at that point. The elders met with me and Betty and him and they said, “Jed, you can’t live here any longer. There are some other options for you. And living here is not one of them.” Because I mean, the violence, the law breaking, as I mentioned, the language, the disrespect, and all the rest.
Now, we held him accountable all the way through these things. He didn’t like any of it and usually responded to any efforts at accountability with violence and anger and destruction and broken windows, holes in the wall, any variety of things. Our home manifested that presence of anger, and that took its toll on Betty and me, and it took its toll on our other, the younger children that were still in the house, too. At that point we had three or three of them that were out of the house- in college or married and that kind of thing. But that was something that God was teaching us about all the way through.
We had him out at a Christian residential setting when he was in 10th grade. And that was one of the most healing things for Betty and me in our marriage, but also then in rekindling much of the affection and the relationship with the rest of the kids. When we have an acting out kind of a child, we tend to think that everything needs to be done to help that child. Well, the fact of the matter is they make decisions, and their choices are their choices. They’re not caused by dysfunctional parenting, not that we were perfect parents. They’re not caused by hurtful things that parents- I mean, some things can be hurtful and destructive to children. I don’t mean to imply that there are not things parents do that are damaging and hurtful to their kids. But none of those things make their children make choices like this.
At one point I had asked Jed- this was many years later, he was married and began to have his own family- and I said, “Jed, God has given us a wonderful relationship.” He’s in his thirties now, and he has six kids of his own. So it’s pretty remarkable. But I had asked him, “Jed, can you think of anything? What did we do as parents that spawned the rebellion and the anger and all the rest?” And Jed said, “Well, Dad, do you remember you used to drive us to school in the morning and when we would drive, we would always listen to the Dobson broadcast, Focus On the Family. And one day Dobson was interviewing his son, Ryan. And Ryan was also a rebellious teen early on, and James Dobson asked him that question, the same question you just asked me: Is there anything we had done as parents that provoked you in these ways? And Ryan’s response was, Dad, it wouldn’t have mattered, anything that you had done. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it.” And he said, “That’s exactly what my experience was, I wanted what I wanted, when I wanted it.” And that meant there were certain things, certain strategies we had to take as parents that we were constantly looking for help and constantly looking for ways.
But to have him leave the home was a critical, critical piece, like I said, for our marriage as well as for the rest of the family. So if any of the listeners or viewers of this podcast have such a child, don’t put that possibility out of your mind. Your marriage and the rest of the family is critical for you to preserve and not simply putting all of your resources into trying to care for this child.
So in retrospect, all of that stuff eventually came to the point where I think I did a workshop with an ACSI convention on the topic of dealing with angry kids. And that expanded into the concept of the book, and books that God has given me the privilege to write and Betty and I both to have input in.
Chap: That’s great. And what’s interesting, just to set all of our minds at rest, you have a great relationship with him now. We just talked about that before I hit the record button. And in fact, he hands out this book and says, “Hey, this book is about me.”
Rick: So he passes them out left and right. He does, he passes them out more than I do. Yeah, that’s right. “This is about me!”
Chap: Well, I think it’s interesting that you bring that up because the rest of what we’re going to talk about is how a parent can have wise conversations. So your experience was not just, We got him out of the house. Okay, good. And then they fix him and then he comes back all fixed. What we’re going to talk about is how to have wise conversations perhaps with teens that are not as far along as he was, and your experience learning as a school counselor as well, and counseling kids in school. I think that’s really helpful to say this is a possibility.
But actually, what we’re going to talk about from the content of Get Outta My Face- talk about how to have good conversations like this. I wrote down some quotations. You said, “Teens are not looking for our help, but the way we approach them will certainly have an effect.” So one of the difficulties is the wall is sky high, right? And they don’t necessarily want our help. And I know you had a, a quotation where you just talked about how we react in those first few minutes is vitally important.
But before we get into you have four principles you want us to think about, but I want to start by this key concept of Wise wants, wise desires. What do you mean by that, and why do you think it’s so important that as parents we try and understand those?
Rick: One of the reasons teenagers, at least in my school counseling experience, struggle with authorities is because of perceiving a principal, a teacher, a parent, a pastor, a youth pastor, as wanting to control them. Wanting them to be different and I’m going to make you different. And of course, teenagers don’t want anybody- They say, “You can’t make me do anything.” When I’ve sat in some parent meetings with parents and kids and doing some family counseling, I’ve often said, “Your parents can’t control you.” “Yeah! I’ve been telling her that all the time and she’s constantly trying-” and the mom’s sitting there wondering, “What’s this counselor trying to say?” You know? “Whose side is he on?”
And the fact of the matter is, control is not something we can do once the kids are too big to pick up and spank with our hands or whatever we’re going to do. Once the kids are beyond that, we have to be realistic enough to know we can’t make them do anything. We are held accountable by God to bring consequences into their lives so that they want to change their behavior. We’re responsible to do that, to discipline them and bring them up in those kinds of ways. But we can’t change the insides. We can’t put a “want to” there. But God has by his grace, by common grace, the common good that he has built within us- he gives us wants that are, by grace, good.
The book of Proverbs is loaded with them. I count almost 700 of them. Positive consequences and negative consequences that young people want and don’t want. Young people want to be cared for. They want a good reputation. They want success in the future. They want friends. They typically want to make good decisions. They want life to work out for them. Well, why do they want those things? Because God has put that inside of them. Now, sin corrupts all of the ways in which they’re going to go about getting it, and even how they would define some of those things. But the want piece is there. And what the counseling efforts that I’ve tried to describe capitalize on is the fact that those wants are there.
So I’m asking the student, “So what don’t you want?” when I’m listening, and the first feature of the process that I was talking about, I’m trying to listen to what the student doesn’t want. I don’t want to get grounded. I don’t want the car to be taken away. I don’t want to not be able to be with my friends. I don’t want my mom just barging into my bedroom. I don’t want my phone being taken away. I don’t want. . . And those are power plays that teachers, parents, pastors, others will use with trying to get kids to comply. But it ignores, in some senses, the basic good wants that they have.
So I try then to move on to say, “Okay, well once I have learned something about what you don’t want, now tell me what you do want.” And that’s what Jesus questioned. You remember, he even asked Bartimaeus asked that. Now, Bartimaeus was blind and cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And then Jesus goes over to him and he says, “What do you want?” And at first you might think, What a crazy question, “What do you want?” But he might have just wanted money. He might have just wanted somebody to give him some food. But Jesus was asking a penetrating question, which is a great counseling question. “What do you want?”
Well, I want freedom. I want to be able to be with my friends. So then I move on to another principle, which is the third one there, which has to do with looking for exception. Has there ever been a time when you’ve been able to be with your friends? Well, yeah.
I’m thinking of thinking of a guy. I don’t know if I make reference to this in this book, I can’t remember where the illustration is, but I think I used it someplace. But a dad called me at school and he said, “Dr. Horne, I need to talk to you about my son. I’m wondering whether you could meet with him or what. Last night we got into an argument. We ended up wrestling. We were on the floor wrestling with each other.” And I said, “Well, as a matter of fact, I had your son on my calendar to call today because of some grade situations, and I needed to talk to him about that.” And then I said, “Do you mind if I bring up the situation last night of you wrestling and being in an argument with him and so forth?” He said, “Oh, you can bring it up. I don’t know if that’s a good idea because he’s not going to like that whole lot.” Then I said, “Well, that’s okay. I’m not real good with trying to go in the back door with things, and I think I need to be honest with him about that whenever we talk.”
So we did, he came in, we talked about his grades and his studies, and he made some decisions about what he was going to do. I said, “Could I change the subject a little bit?” I said, “Now, your dad called me this morning,” and he just rolled his eyes. And I said, “He said you guys really got into it last night. You ended up-“ And he said, “Yeah, we even ended up on the floor wrestling,” he said, “fighting.” And I said, “Is that the kind of relationship you want?” You see what I’m doing, I’m asking what he wants. “Is that the kind of relationship you want with your dad?” And he said, “Well, no, not at all. We used to have a really good relationship.”
“There’s exceptions, you say. Tell me about when you had a really good relationship.” “Well, last summer I was able to drive. He took the keys away from me last night and I can’t drive. But last summer I was able to drive, and last school year I was able to have friends in, and he gave me a lot more freedom.” I said, “How were you, how were you relating to your dad at that time?” He said kind of sheepishly, “Well, I was doing what he wanted me to do.” I said, “Oh.” He said, “Yeah, I would come in on time and I was doing my homework.” And so I said, “As a result, he was giving you freedoms.”
So I said, “I wonder what would happen if you did that again?” He said, “Well, I don’t know.” I said, “Well, I don’t know either. I’m not in your house, so I don’t know what your dad would relay, but he did respond that way positively last year, right?” And then I said, “Please don’t misunderstand me. You don’t have to change anything if you don’t want to. You can keep on doing what you’re doing at home. If you keep on doing what you’re doing at home, is it likely to get what you want?” “Well, no, it’s not. I’ll probably just get more punishment and more restrictions.” “Yeah, you probably will if your dad is following through with the kind of pattern he established last year. You don’t have to change if you don’t want to, but it worked last year. I wonder what would happen if you did that again now.”
Well, two days later, there was a parent-faculty evening at school where you go and you meet the teachers and you hear about the classes. His dad rushed up to me. He said, “I don’t know what you said to my son, but it’s like night and day different.” I said, “Well, it’s because he knows that he’s brought the consequences on himself, and as a result, he’s chosen to get other consequences- ones that he’s experienced with you before- because he really does want a relationship with you as his dad.”
Now, none of that gets to the heart, so I really want move real quickly to say you can’t start with the heart with an angry kid usually. You can’t start saying, “Well, you know, your anger is really displeasing to the Lord. Your anger is really disrespecting us, and God says that if you want to live long in the land, you need to honor your father and mother. And you’re not doing that. Children ought to obey their parents. You’re not doing that.” You can do that if you want to. You can start there, and how well has that worked in the past? But if you start with the wants, their wise wants, finding out what they don’t want, moving to “What do you want and how did that happen in the past? It hasn’t always been this way, has it? There have been features of pleasure, and privileges that you’ve enjoyed.”
You see, all of this is built upon the concept that children have no rights. I don’t mean that they don’t have the right to be loved or to be respected in the image of God, but material things are not rights. They’re privileges. Opportunities are privileges. They’re not rights. I remember one mother, she said, “I try to get my son to do his homework. He’s sitting in the living room watching the TV, and I say, Go to your room and do your homework, and he won’t get up. He keeps the TV on. So I go in and unplug the TV and, and then he gets up and goes up to his room and he watches his own TV. I don’t know what to do.” And she was totally perplexed, you know, she had no idea. Because this was his TV, after all, you know, he has the right to it.
Parents have the same problem. Well, he earned the money. He has the right to it, doesn’t he? He has the right to his money, not the right to use it any way he wants to. He’s in your home, under your authority, under your control. He has no privileges. The door to his room is a privilege. Kids like their privacy, The door to the room is a privilege. The phone is a privilege. Being with their friends on weekends. If you’re going to speak to me this way, what you’re going to do is realize that there is a privilege here of using a phone, of the privilege of communication, attached to your choices. So if you choose to be disrespectful, you’re choosing to give up the privilege of the phone. You’re taking my phone from me? No, no, you’re choosing to give up the phone by being disrespectful with your language. You’re going to take my phone? No, you’re making the choice. I’m saying you can use the phone as long as you are respectful.
You, see what you’re doing is making a linkage between the child’s behavior and the outcomes. He wants to use the phone, He wants to communicate. Certainly limitations on that are important, but nevertheless the privilege is there, but the privilege follows responsible behavior. Same thing is true with the door. If you’re going to slam doors or you’re going to be destroying property, you’re going to lose the door of your room. I know, parents that have taken the door off their room and it’s, You’re taking the door off? No, you’ve made the choice to not have the door.
The important thing here is to help the parents sing the chorus, You’re making the choice. What I’m doing is I’m going to link because God says this is the way life works. You know, if I choose to not go to work, do I get paid? If I choose to not deal with the hole in the roof, does our house stay integrally sound? You know. If I choose to not obey the speed limit or the laws, am I going to lose the car? Okay, if I don’t pay my bills, am I going to lose whatever it is that I that I own? You see, there are consequences and there are privileges. If I obey the law, I can drive. If I go to work and work, I can get paid. We can enjoy a vacation. We can enjoy life. Because privileges are connected to responsible living. That’s the way all of life works, and I’ve been wrong in the past as a dad, as a mom, we’ve been wrong just taking things from you and not helping you to make a linkage between these things as privileges that you have, and your responsible behavior.
So when you are truthful, when you’re responsible, when you’re in control, when you treat your siblings respectfully, when you speak respectfully when you’re in on time, here are the specific connections to privileges that go with those. And if you choose to not have your homework done when it’s when it’s supposed to be done and the teachers don’t give us information about the homework, you’re choosing to not go out on the weekend. That’s your choice. We hope you can go with your friends on the weekend. We want that to happen- good friends, you know- we want that. But you are making the choice, not us. You are choosing to give it up if you choose to not be fulfilling the obligations that you have during the week. Does that make sense?
Chap: Well, there’s so much there, and you’re resonating with principles I’ve said but without just that wisdom and the clear articulation. So you’re saying both. On the one hand, for parents of teens I’ve described it sort of as a donut. There’s the behavior on the outside, there’s the heart on the inside, and you’re doing both.
So you’re saying obviously this father was wrong to wrestle his son, but he may have been right to take the keys away. So action in that sense to say, Here’s a privilege. We’ve given you the car and you’ve done something wrong, and so we’re taking that away. So he may have been right. So parents need to be the authority.
Rick: If I could interrupt you just for a second, I would change the language from taking it away to you are giving it up. See, the teenager is used to pushing back on authorities. You’re doing a power play rather than a responsibility play, rather than putting the responsibility there. The kids are used to power plays and so they resist all the power. So what I’m trying to suggest is, as parents, we get away from the power play language: I’m going to take this away. You’re going to lose that as opposed to Here’s what you have the privilege of gaining or losing by your choices. You choose to give it up. You’re taking away my phone! No, you’re choosing to give it up. You’re not allowing me to go out on the weekend! You’re choosing to not go out on the weekend. You’re choosing that by your behavior.
Now, one other piece of this, I appreciate what you just said about the donut, and the heart in the middle. Because what I would inevitably do- this kind of counseling tends to produce rapid change because if it’s done well, the kid makes a connection between his choices and the privileges that he’s getting. So that begins to build a relationship between the counselor or the parent, the youth pastor, the youth director, whoever it might be, the teacher who’s having this conversation that builds a relationship, and the kid. So once that relationship is there, after we’ve met a couple of times I’ll say, “You know, Bill, can I change the subject? I have a personal question. Tell me about your relationship to Jesus Christ.” Huh? “What kind of a relationship do you have with Christ?” Hmm? I don’t know what you mean.
Well, then I can begin to talk about a relationship. Another way of approaching this is to use a Paul Tripp illustration, which is a common illustration. “Suppose you decide you want a pear tree out in your backyard or an apple tree in your backyard, but you don’t have an apple tree. All you have is a maple tree out there, and there are no apples on it. But you get a ladder and a basket and apples and a stapler, and you go out there and you staple apples on the apple tree. Is that what you want?” Well, no. “What’s going to happen?” Well, the apples are going to rot and it’s not an apple tree. “That’s exactly right. You see, what you’re doing, the behaviors that you’re doing, are God-designed behaviors that are intended by God to produce positive consequences. And you’re experiencing that now. They don’t always. This is a broken world. So and the book of Proverbs says a soft answer turns away wrath. It says when a man’s ways please the Lord, even his enemies are at peace with him. Jesus always pleased the Lord, but his enemies were not at peace with him because this is a broken world. A soft answer doesn’t always turn away wrath. Usually it does, but it doesn’t always.
“You’re doing some things right now that have changed the way your home is, the way you are living at home with your parents. Or the way you’re operating in that classroom or the way you are functioning in that Sunday school class. You’re doing some things that are bringing positive feedback to you, positive stuff. That’s like stapling apples though. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, that’s like stapling apples on a maple tree. They can last for a while, but eventually what’s going to happen?”
You see, what we’re doing is we’re turning the conversation now because now there’s a relationship. So we can turn the conversation to their heart and to a relationship to Jesus Christ, because all this other stuff is wise, it’s good to do. The Book of Proverbs has, like I said, about 700 different kinds of negative and positive consequences that are spelled out. But unless the young person’s fearing the Lord, it isn’t going to stick. It probably won’t stay. The fruit will rot in the course of time. By God’s grace there can be some exceptions, but generally speaking these are patterns that won’t stay unless they’re eventually rooted in the heart and empowered by the Holy Spirit in the lives of our kids. Am I answering your question?
Chap: Yeah, but what I would say is that with this last thing, you hit upon the center of the center. Because as a dad, as the alpha in my house, when I’ve got an angry teen, I’m taking the car keys away and that’s it. And you will do this and you will do that. And so what you’re saying in describing this dad, he shouldn’t be angry, but there should be consequences. So to use your word, the teen is losing privileges. But what I meant by that inner, which is what you do so well and which the book does so well, even in this case study with this student, instead of going after You’re rebelling against your father, you should submit to him, you’re saying, Okay, whether this teenager’s a Christian or not, you’re not really asking that. You’re saying you want freedom, you want independence, you want friends. Those are all God’s common grace, blessings.
Rick: Wise wants.
Chap: I want that for you as a parent, you want that as a counselor. So you’re affirming that rather than sort of going after the jugular of just straight power, you’re not submitting to your father. So you’re helping him interpret the world because, and then in the second part of your book was talking about clarifying the narrow, so those wise wants. And also you talk about the past. So, so again, your question of When was this good in the past? Ah! You know, the teenager who’s not thinking beyond tomorrow says, Oh yeah, there was a time that things were really good.
Rick: That’s exactly right.
Chap: And then to be able to help them. So I think, what’s helpful, at least given my bent as a father who’s just like, you’re grounded for the next week, you will speak to your mother the right way, et cetera, et cetera. On one hand, the lenient parent needs to hear, “Yes, we should take away privileges because that’s the way the world works. You don’t work, you don’t eat, says Paul. That the blessings of if I go to work, Christian or not, if I do what my boss tells me, Christian or not, I get paid, I get promoted, et cetera, et cetera. So that, but then at the same time, helping them connect.
And then I love, again, you’re shepherding the heart, helping them interpret the world, saying, This is your choice. You have agency, you have choice. And remember when things were good.
Rick: Yeah, exactly. One of the things that makes this form of counsel effective is that kids have experienced stuff they don’t like. Stuff that is painful. If parents have had a pattern of the power play of taking things away, do you want to change that? Do you want that to happen, do you like the idea of having things taken away? Well, no, of course not. I don’t like that. I mean, you can keep on doing what you’re doing, but you probably will keep on getting what you’re getting. I mean, maybe not, Maybe it will change but probably not at this stage. So you change what you’re doing and let’s see what happens. Well, I don’t think she’ll ever change. Well, she might not. I don’t know. But one thing is sure, if you keep doing what you’re doing, is it likely to change? Well, no. Okay.
What I say often is that this is one of the most confrontational forms of counseling that there is. But the confrontation is not between me and the student or the young person. The confrontation is between the student and himself. Am I going to change or am I not? If I don’t, I’m going to keep on getting this. If I do, well, that might change the outcomes. So now the confrontation is within him. And that’s kind of a fun thing to see. That might sound really masochistic, or I’m not sure if that’s nasty or mean or something, but it’s almost laughable sometimes to see.
I remember another illustration. A girl came into she came into the counseling center and she was livid. She was just so upset. She was in 10th or 11th grade. She was 15, going to be 16. And she had just transferred into our Christian high school and was in an algebra course and in a math course. She had transferred in, like I said, from out of state. And I had helped her schedule classes, so I knew her a little bit and we had spent some time together. And she just came in and she said, Is Dr. Horne in! and she looked over to my office, she saw that I was, and she burst into the office and she said, Dr. Horne, I can’t stand this school. I can’t stand Mrs. Smith! And that’s not her name of course, but I can’t stand being in Mrs. Smith’s math. She takes points off when I get the right answers! And I said, “Oh, well, sit down. Tell me about this.” She tells us how to do the problems and I go home. I learned it a different way when I was in the Christian school in Alaska. We did it differently and, and now I have to do it her way or she takes points off even if I get the right answer. I said, “You don’t have to do it her way.” She said, I don’t? I said, “Absolutely not. You can keep on doing it your way if you want to.” She said, But she’ll take points off. I said, “Yeah, she probably will, but you don’t have to do it her way. Do it whatever way you want. Don’t do it at all if you don’t want to.” But she’ll take points off! “Yeah, she probably will.”
So what I was doing was I was pushing her to the point of understanding that her choices are to do what’s bringing negative stuff or to do something that can bring positive stuff. But you have the freedom to make that choice. The teacher can’t make you do it. Teacher can’t make you do it. Your parents can’t make you do it. In the course of time, I asked her what she wanted. “So what do you want?” Now, this was one of the most startling answers that I’ve ever received when I was doing youth counseling. She said, I want a Jeep. I said, “Help me with that.” My dad promised me that if I got all A’s, I would get a Jeep. Ah, so she takes points off, she’s threatening my Jeep, you know, for when she’s 16 and her dad’s going to buy her a Jeep. Okay, so it begins to make a little bit more sense. So what do you want?
“Are there any things that you do at home that you don’t like doing, but you do them?” Yeah, she said, I do the dishes all the time. I can’t stand doing the dishes. “But you do them. Why?” Well, because there’s a program on, and my parents say if I do the dishes, I can watch this program. “Oh, so when you do what you don’t like that somebody else is expecting, you actually get the privilege of doing something you do like.” Well, yeah. “I wonder what would happen if you did that in math. You don’t like the way she’s teaching it, but if you did it, would she take points off?” Well, no. She says she won’t take points off if I do it her way. “So you have a choice. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not here to change you. I can’t change you. I have enough trouble trying to change me, so I’m not trying to change you. You can keep on doing it the way you want to do it if you want to.” But she’ll take points off. “Yeah, she probably will. So you have a choice to make.” Well, can’t you change her?! I said, “No, I have no authority to change teachers. I can’t change her. I can’t make them do anything. But you have already seen that by doing things you don’t like to do at home, you do get privileges. I wonder, will it happen in the math class if you did that.” Well, I’ll try it. “Well, why don’t you try it and see what happens?”
Chap: So, yeah, that was in Get Outta My Face. So you’re asking questions, you’re finding the wise wants. Maybe a Jeep is a wise want.
Rick: I don’t know about that!
Chap: But anyway, having a nice Jeep. Yeah, I don’t know about that either, but that’s what you wanted. That can be a wise want.
And also drilling back for when are things good. And you also talk about in the book, blaming them for good decisions, meaning just sort of harping on the fact they’ve made good decisions in the past.
Chap: Finding good decisions and then, the same thing, It’s your choice. That’s really, that’s really helpful. Well, this has been great. I’ve recommended your book, Get Outta My Face, to numerous people.
Rick: Thank you.
Chap: And I think this just the conversation helps solidify in my mind the methodology that’s helpful.
You wrote a second book, Get Offa My Case. How is that different from Get Outta My Face?
Rick: Well, Get Outta My Face was written for talking to young people who are angry and who are just are unmotivated. I have that in the title, and I explain early on in the book Get Outta My Face that I really don’t think there are unmotivated kids. There are kids that are not motivated to do what we want them to do, but they’re motivated. I remember one young person who sat in my office and his mom said, “We have taken everything from him that we can. He can’t wear the sneakers he wants. He can’t have a phone, He can’t be out with his friends. He has to go to bed early and he still won’t do anything.” And I looked at him and I said, “Is that true?” And he said, “Yeah, they’ve taken everything.” And then I looked at his mom and I said, “Your son is not unmotivated. As a matter of fact,” I said as dramatically as I could, “He’s one of the most motivated kids I think I have met in a long time. Imagine losing all these things and still sticking to your guns.” I said, “He’s highly motivated. He’s not motivated to do what you want him to do, but he’s highly motivated to do what he wants to. There’s something he wants that he’s holding onto.” And we went on from there. But the point is that first book is about young people and their anger and their levels of motivation.
The second book is, how do I hold kids accountable who won’t communicate? How do I hold them accountable? How do I bring consequences into their lives, or allow them to experience the pain and the consequences? And, and I use I use a couple of ocean metaphors in that second book. And I talk about an undertow, and I talk about waves. And you know, when you go to the shore you have to battle both of those. There’s the undertow to be aware of if you want to keep your balance and there are the waves that are coming at you, the undertow wants to drive you under and the waves want to push you down.
Well, I talk about the undertow of our own hearts. As parents, we have things in us that will drag us down and what will give us stability. Is the motivation to be living in the mind, in the posture of those whose identity is in Christ, wanting his glory, his purpose, being satisfied with him, not my family, but with him. Not their obedience, but with him. And when I’m satisfied with him, in pursuing his glory, I’m willing to take any kind of difficult stance that I need to take because his glory is uppermost, not my pride, not what people think of me, not what my kids think of me, not what my kids’ friends’ parents think of me. But I’m going to seek to be by God’s grace who he’s created me and made me to be.
So having that mindset helps to squelch the undertow of temptations, of anger, of pressure, of any kind of extreme decisions that I might make even in parenting. It keeps me going. And it’s necessary to have- I use Psalm 21 verse 6. In the dynamics of raising our prodigal, it became a passage of scripture that became so meaningful to me. “You have made him glad with the joy of your presence.” It’s the joy of Christ’s presence that is the thing that will- not the joy of being known as a good counselor, not the joy of being known as a good teacher, not the joy of having a family reputation within the community or the church that is pristine or some model, not the joy of any of those things. But the joy of your presence. And it’s a messianic psalm that has to do with a warrior, the Son of God as a warrior, and David as a warrior, and you and me as warriors, as believers, and so we can draw on that. The thing that we need to take most joy in is the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives.
There were times when I sat in my son’s bedroom weeping, and I would say, “Jed, I know you didn’t intend to. But there’s nobody who’s taught me more about the love of Jesus Christ than you. And, I mean that because it’s in the throes of those moments of total helplessness, total weakness, that we come face to face with the fact that the only thing I can rest in is your presence. And as we grow in that, that empowers us and emboldens us. That takes care of the undertow of stuff in us that exacerbates the problems, usually where we end up using some of the same language or some of the same anger that our kid is using toward us in moments of anger. But then in addition to that, there are waves that come at us and the waves are their behavior and their attitudes and that kind of thing.
And so in that second book, I give some strategies as to how to put the teenager in deep water, deeper water, and deepest water. Not let them drown, but put them in deep water. I use the illustrations of Jonah and Peter were both in over their heads at one point or another, and God taught them by putting them in over their heads. But it’s important to keep in mind that wasn’t the last time they needed to be taught. In both cases, it wasn’t a silver bullet, you know, when Jonah was in the fish. He still struggled later on with his attitude. Peter betrayed the Lord and he was brought back by the Lord. He was later rebuked by Paul. So his being in deep water at one point, you know I’m sinking. Help me. The Lord did. It didn’t solve all of his problems. There was still work to be done. So we can expect that just because we apply some of these principles doesn’t mean we’re only going to do it once. If it was true with some of these men, and they were believers.
So if we have unbelieving children, it very well may be that we’re dealing with people that we’re going to have to repeat these things with. So the one book deals with kids that are willing to communicate in one way or another. The other one deals with kids in their stubbornness who aren’t necessarily willing to communicate. But how do I hold them accountable? That’s the second book. How do I bring accountability? The first one is more communication and there’s accountability features in there by the privileges that they lose. But the second one is dealing with those features of accountability, and bringing different levels of serious consequences or choices that they make into their [inaudible], following the same pattern. You’re taking it from me? No. You’re making this choice. It’s not a repeat of the first book, but it does build upon some of the same principles. I hope that helps to clarify.
Chap: Yeah, that is just so helpful. I’m just sitting here thinking just there’s so much rich wisdom here for everything from holding on to the consequences. And yet at the same time thinking about how to counsel. And I remember one man who was at doing a parenting conference, and he said, “How many of you are disciplers, how many of you are counselors?” and not many people raised their hand. He said, “Okay, let me rephrase that. How many of you are parents?” They raised their hands. He said, “Now keep your hands up. I’m going to ask you that same question again. How many of you are disciplers, how many of you are counselors?” And so one of the things you’ve done in this podcast and even in the book is give language, phrases.
I grew as a counselor, I think, from imitating other people’s helpful sentences and understanding their techniques, if you want to call it that, strategies, approaches. And I think it’s just been really helpful. So thank you. Thank you for taking the time.
Rick: You’re very welcome. It’s been a great conversation, and may the Lord bless your ministry.
Chap: Thanks so much. Thank you. And yours too.
You’ve been listening to The Disciple-Making Parent Podcast. For more information about the book, The Disciple-Making Parent, visit thedisciplemakingparent.com