Here are my notes from Episode 004: The Critical Questions Our Kids Want Answered
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If your son or daughter chose one word to describe your influence in their life…what word would they choose? What would they say? What would you want them to be able to say?
Hey there, this is family influencer and author Jeffrey Dean and after 26 years of speaking, and more importantly, listening to students share their stories with me, one constant of which I am convinced:
There is no greater person of influence in a kid’s life than their parents.
Every parent wants to be strong and every parent wants to be great. This takes focus, it takes being intentional and it takes work. And, getting to the great truly begins with realizing the power of your influence.
Your kids are watching your lead. They are learning life by watching how you do life.
Episode oo1, Influence is King, very well could change the way you parent. And, in the process, it just might change your kids too!
See the E001 transcript below. Happy reading!
While on a flight to the East coast recently, I met Caleb, a father of three, who leaves in New Jersey. He shared with me that his job takes him on the road often. He went on to tell me that he struggles with the reality that, on the one hand, he has to work to provide for his family, and on the other hand, he regrets having missed so much at home with his three boys. He said, “I want to be the dad they need, the dad my dad wasn’t…but I miss a lot.”
And then he asked me, “How do you suggest I balance these two realities – time away at work and making the most of the time with my kids when I’m home?”
Can you relate? I meet dads and moms like Caleb all of the time. Parents who love their kids, want to do right but, are willing to admit that they often come up short of hitting the mark.
This is why I’m glad you’re tuned in to Family Strong. I am here each week to encourage you, to remind you what it is you need to know and to help build strong families! For 26 years, I’ve committed my life to working with people of all ages – – I am for THE FAMILY and I sure want your family to win – to be all that you want your family to be.
I want to say “thank you” to our loyal listeners from the radio show. In season 1, our podcast episodes were from our live radio show in Music City. We’re no longer producing the radio show, but we made many new friends while doing so. We are now fully focusing on the Family Strong Podcast.
If you haven’t subscribed to Family Strong with Jeffrey Dean, I hope you will so that you never miss an episode. Just go to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you are listening now, and hit subscribe.
If you are a new listener – welcome to the podcast! This is the Podcast that is the sworn enemy to anti-family agendas and cultural lies working to deceive our kids and wreck havoc on the family.
Over the past 26 years, I have counseled many parents including expecting parents, single parents, parents of one teen, parents of multiple teens, parents of girls, parents of boys, and parents of both girls and boys. I have been encouraged to meet so many parents who desperately want the best for their children. I will include many of these stories in Family Strong, and I know you will be encouraged and challenged as you listen.
You know, as I meet parents like Caleb, I often learn that mostly all of these parents aren’t satisfied with how things are – they want to do more with their family, be more involved in their kids live, some are desperate to find answers for how to deal with a sons porn addiction, or a daughters battle with depression or anxiety, mostly all want to learn how to better establish parameters for social media and video games while also safeguarding their kids from cyber dangers, and so much more…
Though so many of these stories differ, there is one constant – – most parents often don’t know how to get there or where to even begin.
If this is you, YOU’VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE!
I’m on your side and I want to remind you – YOU CAN DO THIS. And I’m here to help!
You can be the parent you long to be – the parent your kids hope you will be. But, such accomplishments wont merely happen on their own. You have to determined. You have to be strategic and you have to be ready to do whatever it takes – whatever it takes!
Parenting is tough.
Parenting is also the toughest job you’ll ever love.
On this episode, I’m going to tell you one thing you absolutely have to know about your relationship with your kids. And, then, I’m going to give you three steps you can take every day to put this knowledge into practice.
I want to prepare you: What I’m about to tell you that you need to know, you probably already know…though you probably rarely think about this reality.
It’s one culture, okay let’s call it what it is…it’s one Satan works really hard to convince you:
It’s not true! His advances are often subtle, but powerful nonetheless.
This one’s a big one, and it’s a reality I will remind you of often on Family Strong with Jeffrey Dean.
The one thing you absolutely have to know about your relationship with your kids: I AM #1!
It’s true. As it relates to your influence with your kids – -YOU ARE #1!
For every parent, this is the reality statement that defines your influence. Your kids overwhelmingly look to you as THE greatest influence in their lives. Studies show that far more than any coach, best friend, teacher, pastor, pop star, rock star or jock star, your children look to you as THE #1 influence in their lives. They are watching how you do life – – how you handle pressure, how you deal with struggles, how you handle conflict, money issues, how you treat your neighbors, your siblings, and your spouse.
They are watching and listening to your lifestyle, your body language, and your life mission. How you talk, they will talk. What you watch, they will watch. How you treat others, they will too.
What you say…is so important. How you live…EVEN MORE important.
To help you understand this reality I want to quickly share three stories. The first is from Peter. He writes:
I am a 15-year-old boy living in England. I have recently read an article of yours online. For about a year now I have been struggling with porn. I have also read a couple of your books and one piece of advice that you give in all of your writings that I haven’t yet put into action: accountability. You suggest that teens should always talk with their parents when dealing with issues like this, especially if they are serious about winning. I was not going to do that. I was too proud and thought that I would be able to kill the struggle by myself. I was wrong. I am still struggling and it has gotten worse. I have used Google images to view pornographic pictures several times now. I know that I won’t be able to do this alone. I need to tell my parents. But still my pride is fighting against that idea. I feel that I need to make this step. I know I need to talk with my parents. But I’m scared of how they will respond.
Another story is from Julie in Washington. She writes:
My name is Julie. I’m not sure if you remember me but when you were here in Washington. I had asked you for advice in forgiving my mom and you suggested I write a letter to forgive her. She left when I was nine and I was angry for many years. I am now fifteen; she is still no longer in my life. I wanted you to know that you were right – even though I haven’t seen her, just writing that letter of forgiveness has been huge! I feel so much better now that I’ve forgiven her! It wouldn’t seem like a huge deal to anyone else but to me, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s weird how a parent who isn’t even in my life anymore has had such a profound impact on me. I’m still sad that she’s not here, but I am so much better living free from my anger. Thank you. Julie
Here’s one more:
In 8th grade, I was very suicidal. I never got close to killing myself but I did write 3 or 4 letters. I played into the lies that I was fat, ugly, and no one will want me. My self-esteem was only one problem. In our family, my parents are really busy. They both work high-profile jobs and are gone a lot. We have several nannies and they are with me and my sister most of the time. I think that a lot of my inner struggles have to do with the fact that our parents haven’t been there much for us. I guess you could say that Maddie, my sister, and I have kind of raised ourselves. I love my parents and I want to talk with them about all of this. What do you think I should say? – Jay
Three entirely different stories – one common thread: The influence of mom and dad.
As I speak to students around the country, I hear stories like these all of the time.
Within each story, don’t you hear it – brutal honesty about the need all of our kids have – – to find and to feel secure in who they are…and to develop a sense of worth and hope and value and freedom that can ONLY come from what you can offer them as a parent.
If you have a challenging relationship with your son or daughter, then you understand how fragile a relationship with your kids can be. If your relationship with your kids is really strong, then you understand that such a relationship didn’t just happen – you’ve worked hard to cultivate this relationship to keep it strong.
I know you can remember your own challenges during your adolescent years. It most likely is an easy exercise for you to think back, whenever it was, and to remember those times when you felt insecure, left out, not pretty enough, accepted enough, popular enough…just not enough.
Gen Z’s deal with the same challenges today, but an entirely different level that most parents don’t even realize.
Sure, struggles of significance have always been around. And, temptation has always been there, and the great Enemy has always been the same destroyer he is today. But, it is important to note, that the Internet and mobile devices are a game-changer in an alarming uphill battle for our kids. They are overwhelmed by a tsunami of information, anything-goes ethics, and the inevitable moral experimentation that results. For tweens and teens, the world now moves at a pace you and I would never have dreamed was possible.And, in one click, your son or daughter can see just about anything they want to see, and even things they didn’t even know existed play out right in front of their eyes on their devices. And, they know how to keep you from ever knowing this stuff is a part of their lives.
Every week, students of all ages write to me about addictions to social media, video games, pornography, and more. I meet just as many teens and families that tell me they have a friend, family member, or classmate who are addicted to prescription drugs. By the time students graduate from high school, most seniors tell me they have consumed alcohol and been offered drugs. You know that some states have legalized the use of recreational marijuana, and more are following that lead. Legal or not, most teens say marijuana is easily accessible.
In a normal week of ministry, I’m involved in conversations with pastors, parents, students, school principals, and more who share stories of tremendous heartbreak.
Just this week, I spoke in Florida and met a young boy names Zachary who told me his parents are clueless about his struggles. I said, “Have you talked with them about what’s going on?”
He said, “I’m not sure they want to know. They love me and they are good parents. But (and isn’t this sad), I think they enjoy the bubble we live in and they really don’t want that bubble popped.”
I said, “Zachary, explain what you mean.”
He said, “You know…we are super involved at church, my mom teaches at our small town high school, everyone in town knows my dad…if they knew (and if the rest of town knew) that our family had issues…you know, that would embarrass my parents…probably devastate them. So, I think we never get real because they just don’t want to go there, you know!”
Wow – that’s some pretty heavy stuff out of the mouth of a high school junior.
I could keep telling story after story to you – I have hundreds…probably thousands.
I’ve met countless students who have been lost in all the madness of life. But, there are many I’ve met who have risen above life’s issues and have chosen the way that is right and good.
I can say this – after 26 years of countless conversations, the stories that end WELL are almost always the stories that involve a parent who is working hard to build a strong family…
Parents who understand influence and understand responsibility and want to go the distance to ensure their kids thrive and succeed and win!
You see, you are #1!
The question isn’t, “do you influence?” The question is , “how do you influence?” Or, maybe a better question is, “How are you using your influence to build a strong family?”
You are the #1 influence in your kid’s life. Greater than any other influence.
For the better, or for the worse – – your influence sets the pace in your home that your kids will set in their lives. And, the direction in which you lead, will be the direction they follow. So, knowing you are #1 – you are the greatest influence in their life – – how’s it going? Imagine this: What if right now your son or daughter were given sixty seconds…
What would they say about your influence? What would you want them to be able to say?
One of the great lies of culture is the lie being sold to countless parents that, as your kid matures, he/she needs less of you…less from you…less time with you! That is truly a lie! Sure, the way that you parent will change. Amy and I see that now that Brynnan and Bailey, our two daughters, are teens.
We parent them differently than we did 10 years ago, and even 2 years ago. BUT, and this is critical, WE DON’T PARENT LESS!
It IS okay to PARENT DIFFERENTLY.
It IS NOT okay to PARENT LESS!
Now that I’ve reminded you that: YOU ARE #1…I’m going to give you two steps you can take every day to put this knowledge into practice.
Let them know you love them!
I know this sounds so elementary, but it’s so important. I can’t even begin to guess how many times a student has told me a story about mom or dad that eventually leads to a comment from them such as:
“I can’t remember the last time my dad said, ‘I love you.’” Or, “My parents never tell me ‘I love you anymore.’”
One teen girl wrote me to say, “Ever since my younger sister was born, my parents show all their attention to her. I believe they love me the same. But, they don’t actually show it. I’m sure they’d be crushed if they actually stepped back to see how I perceive their love for me. I just wish I didn’t have to work for their attention. Things were a lot different before she was born.”
Isn’t that sad? Now, I know there are always two sides to every story. I get that. But, mom, dad, listen, don’t ever go through a day without telling your kids, “I love you!”
I travel a lot. So, I can’t always do this face to face with my wife and with the girls. But, every phone call, and usually with many texts throughout the day, I am always saying, “I love you.” You will never regret telling you kids everyday: I love you.
Let them know you believe in them!
Do you know that as a parent, you set the tone for what your kids think about themselves? It’s true. You shape their beliefs about themselves.
On our radio show last year, I began our first show live on-air telling the silly story about my exciting career of Little League baseball.
I played baseball for most of my young life before leaving for college. Though I obviously couldn’t remember every game. I clearly remember one game. I’ll probably never forget this game.
I recall not much was happening out in left field this particular Saturday afternoon. The action was taking place inside the diamond. And, as was often the case standing in the outfield…I was bored.
The Jaycees, our biggest rival, were at bat when our coach stepped onto the field to request a time-out. This seldom happened, so I knew something big was up. Usually when Coach stepped onto the field, it was to have a private powwow with our pitcher. All of the infield guys joined Coach at the mound. I had never been asked to join and often wondered what a private conversation with Coach was like on the pitchers mound.
My dream was about to come true. As Coach continued to wave players in, I realized he was motioning my way. I couldn’t believe it—Coach was asking me to join him at Baseball Mecca! My heart pounded as I raced toward the mound.
Coach motioned for the rest of the team to step away. It was just him and me. In my mind images flashed of a special play. Coach was about to ask me (undoubtedly his best left fielder) for something really big. I was going to save the team. What Little League–playing, cleat-wearing Reggie Jackson wannabe hasn’t dreamed of a moment such as this?
I haven’t forgotten that moment as Coach put his arm around my shoulder. Then he said it—the one sentence…that brought me back to reality: “Jeffrey, the press box called down and said you need to quit digging holes in the outfield with your cleats.”
So much for a top-secret play. I walked back to left field and covered my holes, pride crushed.
Through the years, this story has provided many a laugh around our family dinner table. But the most memorable part of the story for me has never been what happened at the mound. Feeling disappointed and embarrassed from the experience, I turned back toward the stands to see my father, as I did several times throughout each game. Sure enough, there he sat, giving me the nod that said, “Keep going, son.” In that moment of personal shame, having my father’s approval and support made nothing else matter.
It’s hard to find words to describe the feeling that came over me at seeing my father sitting in the stands week after week and watching me play ball. From left field I could seldom hear his voice, but his presence at each game and his interest in something important to me spoke volumes.
“I believe in you Jeffrey! — that was the “sound” I heard loud and clear.
This one game has often reminded me that confidence is spoken into our kid’s lives, and often, it happens without us as parents ever saying a word. How we treat them, how we spend time with them, our presence in their lives – – all of these things send the message to our kids – – “I’m in it with you. I believe in you.”
Obviously, the opposite is also true. I know a guy that plays sports here in Nashville. He’s a great kid and he’s a really good athlete. I’ve never seen his dad at any of his games. Now, his dad may be there and I’ve just missed him. But, I do believe more times than not his dad isn’t present. I know this kid. And, I know more than any success on the field and really, probably more than any win over his opponents, this teen boy would love more than anything to look over into the stands and see his daddy sitting there cheering him on.
Just as our presence in our kid’s lives boosts their confidences in so many ways, the opposite is also true.
So, take a moment and consider: “In what ways can I improve conveying the message to my son or daughter – “I believe in you?”
This can happen in countless ways. But, it won’t ever happen like it should, if you don’t make it happen.
Jeffrey Dean is a family influencer, author, and inspirational speaker whose mission is to help build strong families. For information about having Jeffrey speak in your community, contact our office.