Are you a struggling Christian parent? Do you know a struggling Christian parent? Is there a chance you will be a struggling Christian parent in the future? If so, this Bible study is for you.
Today’s special guests are Wayne and Tami Roberts. Wayne and Tami travel the country teaching the “His Shoes Her Shoes Seminar.” Wayne and Tami have been married since 1981. They have raised five children and are enjoying ten grandchildren. Their unique, genuine and interpersonal style has made them sought after speakers and teachers.
Wes asks Wayne and Tami questions about setting rules and boundaries, having hard conversations, and dealing with technology. If you are struggling, please know that you’re not alone. You are surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ who love you and hear for you.
We hope this conversation helps us all to love more like Jesus.
Links and Resources:
Transcript (Credit: Beth Tabor)
WES: Welcome to the Radically Christian Bible study podcast. I’m your host, Wes McAdams. Here, we have one goal: Learn to love like Jesus. In today’s podcast, we’re going to talk about some encouragement for struggling parents, so if you are a struggling parent, if you know a struggling parent, if you think maybe someday you will be a struggling parent, this podcast is for you, and we hope that it’s an encouragement.
Okay. Well, I am superexcited about today’s discussion with Wayne and Tami Roberts. I was thinking, over the last few weeks, a lot about parenting and family, one, because I was doing a sermon series on parenting and family, and it seems like, as a minister, every time I do a series on family, and especially parenting or marriage, then issues come up in my own family, in my own life, things that I’m struggling with. And I thought, man, I’m struggling as a dad right now and I really need some encouragement, and I’ve got some questions that I wish I could ask somebody. And I thought, you know what? I’m going to ask somebody. And the first couple that came to my mind was Wayne and Tami Roberts, and so I wanted to have them on the podcast and ask some questions for me, selfishly, but also to share with all of you.
Wayne and Tami, thank you so much for making time for today’s discussion.
WAYNE: You’re very welcome. Thanks for having us as the old, old, old wise couple. I really appreciate that.
Tami: Speak for yourself.
WES: I was going to say…
WAYNE: We’re glad to be a part of it, and, hopefully, we can suggest some things that we’ve been through. As a family of five kids, we’ve tested the waters a lot of different ways.
WES: Fantastic. Well, let’s start there. Let’s start with you as a couple, you as a family. Tell us about yourselves and your ministry and why reaching out to and encouraging other families has been so important to y’all.
Tami: Well, I think it started with the five kids, raising those five children. We’ve been married 42 years, had ‑‑ the kids started coming along. Everybody says, “Oh, you always wanted a big family,” and I said, “Actually, we wanted two; they just kept coming.”
WAYNE: We still only want two, and we know which two they are now, but yeah.
Tami: But we wouldn’t change a thing. We have ten grandkids, and so it was going through that process of raising our children and then watching our children get married and start their families that ‑‑ it makes you stop, as a parent, and start going, did we teach them everything we wanted to teach them? Could we share more with them now that we realize, okay, maybe we shouldn’t have done it that way, but, through wisdom, we would suggest this way? And so it really started touching our heart that ‑‑ we were watching marriages around us struggle, and that really convicted us to just start sharing in a very genuine way about family and about parenting and about marriage, that, yeah, it can be tricky and it can be difficult, but we can ‑‑ through encouraging each other, we can get through it when we realize that God’s always there for us. So that’s what started our ministry, was a strong conviction that, okay, maybe we do have something to say. Maybe we do have something to share that maybe somebody would like to listen to.
WAYNE: Yeah. I grew up in what I believe a great home. I had a father who was a preacher. My family did not come apart in divorce. I didn’t lose a parent young or a sibling. It really was a great life, and so I think I had a great model for parenting, a great model for being a husband and being a spouse. But as I reflected back over, I found out that, guess what? A lot of parenting happens on the fly. You don’t get the chance to go, “Now, what would mom do?” “What would dad do?” “What shouldn’t have mom done?”
And so I personally ‑‑ and I admit this not with any pride but with humility, and that was I kind of thought my job as a parent was to see that, at the end of the day, no kid was dead at my hand or the hand of another. That was my job, is just keep them safe and out of trouble until they moved out. And I realized it’s a whole lot more to it than that, and so being intentional about parenting rather than simply handling it on the fly is ‑‑ would have been better for me, or would have been more useful to me, if I had employed that.
And like I said, with five, you’re constantly ‑‑ man, the next one’s coming through. Somebody was always happy; somebody was always sad; somebody was always mad; someone was always missing; and somebody was always hungry. So we had all of those at any given time and you had to try to fight through it. Fortunately, I had somebody that was taking care of it, and I went off to work.
Tami: It’s why we call our parenting material ‑‑ we call it “First Steps” because we believe that every stage of parenting is a first. It’s “I’ve never done this before,” “I’ve never had a 13‑year‑old before,” “I’ve never had this 13‑year‑old before,” so it’s ‑‑ everything is a first step, and in that, you kind of feel alone, but understanding, no, everybody’s going through this for the first time. This is new for everybody.
WES: And I think what you just said is so important, that idea of you feel alone, and I think that every parent is probably feeling that. And it’s ironic, I think, because in this age of social media we have this ability to communicate and be connected with so many different people, but yet, at the same time, so many people feel incredibly isolated. That’s not just true for teenagers; it’s true for adults, as well. And I think we see these pictures of ‑‑ of what you take pictures of. You take pictures of vacation; you take pictures of happy moments; you take pictures with people smiling. You don’t take pictures of your toddler throwing a tantrum or your teenager telling you that they want to leave the house. So we see these pictures of other families and we think they’ve got it all together; things are going well at their house. Why is parenting so easy for them and so hard for me?
So let’s talk about that for just a second. What encouragement would you give to parents that feel like they are alone and that they’re the only ones sort of going through these difficult stages?
WAYNE: Yeah. One of the things I do is ‑‑ I’ve always said it’s interesting to me to watch parents who have their firstborn, and they come racing into work, they come racing into church, “My kid talked,” and the rest of us go, “Yeah, that’s about the time for it.” “They took their first step,” like it’s the first child ever. Every child is a prodigy; every child is a genius. And I’m like, “Is he the one over there spreading his lunch on the wall? Is that this genius that you have?” But it is that way. We think in terms that are isolated, right?
Tami: That’s what I was thinking.
WAYNE: “My kid’s the first to do it that young.” “Mine’s the first one to say it that way.” And I don’t mean to ever lessen that because, for that family, those are big deals, but your kid isn’t the most special kid that’s ever been born, nor is he or she the worst kid that’s ever been born. You’re not the best parent, and you’re not the worst. These things I just draw from Solomon ‑‑ though he wasn’t speaking directly to parenting ‑‑ there’s nothing new under the sun. We’ve all gone through this.
So one of the things we’ve talked a lot about is quit hiding that from people. I mean, share with people, “Man, I don’t know what to do.” Boy, trust me; there’s counselors everywhere. Not always good counsel, but there are counselors everywhere. So can we say, “Man, I’m struggling,” instead of going home and going, “Oh, I can’t believe my kid acted up at the restaurant,” “I can’t believe she said that in front of Grandma,” “I can’t believe those things,” going, yeah, it’s ‑‑ for lack of a better term, it’s par for the course, right? It’s normal.
Tami: It’s why I think, in situations where you can, surrounding yourself, whatever stage of parenting you’re at, with others that are at that stage. I think that’s important. You’re all going through that together at the same time. I think there’s support in that. But I also think surrounding yourself with those older couples that have been there, done that, that are open to talk about it and share with an understanding of, “But I’m not raising your child, so here’s some things I can suggest for you to try, but I’m not ‑‑ no guarantee it will work for you” because it’s not your child. You know, “I didn’t raise your child,” so understanding that.
But that circle of people around you makes a big difference, too, and I get it because when you’re in that phase of parenting, it is all‑consuming. It just is all‑consuming. It’s one day to the next to the next, and so I do believe that’s the importance of a good church family while you’re going through that ‑‑ a good family that are working to follow Jesus so that you have them to help you as you go through that, too. That’s important.
WAYNE: It’s kind of interesting. You know, we do marriage seminars and pre‑marriage seminars. We can get people to marriage seminars who have been married a few months or 50 years. Parenting seminars ‑‑ believe it or not, parents are apprehensive to take training, and I don’t know if that all comes from “My situation’s unique,” “I don’t have the time,” but you know when they always come to us? “My kid is 30 and their life is a disaster. What can we do?” And I’m not a fatalist, and I don’t think that there’s ever a lost cause, but I’m like, man, this question was 30 years ago.
And so it’s really important for parents to start that process of engagement with others early on, not after you go find out what all of us find out: We live in a broken world and bad things happen to good people, and even the best parents have ‑‑ I always say God, in the beginning, had two kids, and he was the perfect parent, and both of them turned out rotten, at least for a time. So to work on that and realize it early on, not 30 years down the road.
Tami: And that circle also shows your kids ‑‑ in fact, for us, I think that strengthened our children. We were the first to have kids in our group, but we had this big circle of young families that we had built this friendship with, and multiple times one of the other couples, one of the other men, would bring me one of my children and go, “Okay, I had to correct him,” you know, he was doing whatever it was. But it showed my children it’s not just me; there is a standard. And so it showed them I’m not the bad guy. There is a standard that we’re all striving for here.
WAYNE: That was the same guy that also used to say ‑‑ about the time him and his wife thought about having kids, they came over to our house and that squelched it for a little bit, so you can take that for what it’s worth.
WES: But I’m so glad that y’all pointed out the importance of the church. It’s so funny, we talk about, quote‑unquote, “going to church,” and we just talk about like what does God want us to do and these kinds of things as if we’re just checking something off of a checklist. But it’s so important, as followers of Jesus, that we are doing everything within the context of the community because we were never intended to do this, whatever “this” is, marriage or parenting or just life, on our own. We need that relationship.
And I’m so glad you said that, Tami, about having both people that are at the same stage of life that you are ‑‑ and I think we tend to do a pretty good job of encouraging that in most churches, where we have young families’ classes and we have classes for different people at different stages of life, and I can just almost see the relief on people’s face when I share with people what my family’s going through. “Hey, my teenager did this this week,” and they’re like, “Oh, I was so afraid it was just my kid,” and they’re just so relieved to find out that their kid is not the only one who’s going through whatever it is. So it is so important to have those relationships with people at the same stage.
But I’m also glad you pointed out the importance of having people that are further along, which also means that you’re going to be, hopefully, mentoring people that are not quite as far along, and you just have those constant relationships with people in your life where you can build each other up, encourage each other, and that honesty of asking for advice to just say, “Hey, here’s where I am. Here’s what I’m going through.” In fact, that’s one of the things I wanted to just model in this conversation, is just say, hey, Wayne and Tami have been where I am, a couple in ministry, a couple that have raised kids, and they’ve been where I am, and just recognizing that, yeah, there’s something unique about every family’s situation, but then, at the same time, as you said, Wayne, that there’s nothing new under the sun. Other people have been where I am, and I can glean wisdom and advice from them.
So let’s talk just a minute, before we take a break, about scripture. We talked about drawing wisdom from each other, but then we also have the scriptures from which to draw wisdom from God and from those ‑‑ our ancestors in the faith that have been where we are. So what are some of the passages of scripture, maybe, that can anchor families and parents, things that they can go back to to sort of center them and really ‑‑ you said the word “intentional” ‑‑ give them intentionality and purpose in their parenting?
WAYNE: Well, this is interesting. When Tami and I started doing the parenting seminars, we didn’t just want it to be “Chicken Soup for the Parenting Soul.” I mean, practical tips, we have some of those, but we really said the only thing we had ultimate confidence in is God’s word, right? We know those truths to be ‑‑ then I started in Genesis and went to Revelation trying to find a model family, and guess what I found? Disaster at every turn, right? I mean, from the first family to about the last one, it’s always something in those families, and so ‑‑
Tami: Which actually gives me hope.
WAYNE: But I said, where do I turn? Because I’ll just be honest; I was raised in what we often call the book, chapter, and verse mentality, which is there’s got to be a list of five things ‑‑ well, it has to be five things; otherwise, you can’t get them on one hand when I preach them ‑‑ but five things about parenting. And so what we kind of defaulted to was, okay, who’s the ultimate parent? Well, it’s God. And we probably see God demonstrate his parenting characteristics when he has Israel as his children, and they are a mess of children, right? I mean, this is ‑‑ and so there are a couple of passages. One is ‑‑ I think he lays down some principles for parents in Deuteronomy 6 when he talks about, hey, here’s your job as a parent, right? You’re leading them from here to here, and it’s a full‑time job, and all those characteristics. And then in Exodus 20, he lays down ‑‑ we always talk about the ten commandments, but, really, he says, listen, I’m going to instruct you. I’m going to warn and correct you. I’m going to punish you and I’m going to reward you, and then he lists some of the benefits of being the kind of children that they were supposed to be.
And so I kind of use those as structures for what’s it look like to be a parent? What’s it look like to exercise discipline? We talk a lot about realigning the destination, because we’ve always thought that the number one job is to get our kids to heaven, and, frankly, Tami and I don’t think that’s the case. We think that’s a great blessing, but that the real destination ‑‑ in fact, if you go back to Deuteronomy 6:25, he says, “and this will be righteousness,” right? In other words, right living before God is life’s purpose; therefore, it’s parenting purpose, it’s marriage purpose, it’s church purpose, it’s ‑‑ all our other life purposes are to bring glory to God. If there was no heaven, it still would be the same thing.
And so if we can get parents to align themselves with a new destination, then scripture starts telling us not how to get your kids off of dope, not how to get your kids to not break curfew, not get your kids ‑‑ or get your kids to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, but to move them towards righteousness, and we believe that a lot of that other falls in behind when that becomes the objective, and not just being churchy, but being truly in that relationship.
Tami: Right. And I think in your parenting ‑‑ so often we take the one‑another passages and apply them just to one another in the church, but you can apply those to raising your children. And Wayne and I were talking about this this afternoon before we started, and I was thinking of James 1, and it’s talking about how do you persevere through trials? And he says, well, ask for wisdom. And, as parents, we can trust him if we ask for wisdom. We just want him to put it word for word in our mouth, but trusting him to guide you. And then it goes on and talks about how you’re slow to speak and slow to anger and quick to listen. Applying all of those things to raising your family, those are some things ‑‑ when we take them to heart and we start reading through who Jesus is and how did Jesus behave, those things then flow out of us into our children.
So my encouragement to parents ‑‑ in fact, I’ve been doing a video series for the young mothers here at Memorial, and it’s on teaching your children to be Jesus, to be like Jesus, and it’s looking at how did he behave, and so what will that look like through us and what will that look like in them? So it’s understanding and just getting to know Jesus will help you as you’re raising your children.
WAYNE: It may be that the Bible isn’t a book on parenting ‑‑ and we want it to be. It’s a book on walking worthy before God, and, in that, it becomes the best parenting book that there is.
WES: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that really reminds me what Hollee and I always talk about as it pertains to marriage, but it’s also true with parenting, that the closer you draw to Jesus, the better you’re going to be at life, the better you’re going to be at marriage, the better you’re going to be at parenting.
In fact, I just made a point on Sunday. I was preaching on Ephesians 6 and Paul talking about this household code. Now that you are in Christ, now that the Spirit is in you, how do you live that out in your family? And he tells fathers to bring their children up, to nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. And we were talking a lot about discipline and how Christian discipline isn’t about making your kid be quiet or behave; it’s about helping them to be like Jesus. And to your point, that should be our goal. We should be disciplining ourselves to be like Jesus and disciplining our children that way.
WAYNE: In fact, our tag line for our First Steps parenting is “Giving your children something to hold on to when you don’t hold on to them anymore.” In other words, we hold them for a time, but trying to give those children ‑‑ because I can’t give them a rule. We are facing things right now with kids that, five years ago, you and I never talked about in pulpits and classrooms. We never even thought that was the case. I didn’t know to tell my kids about some of the challenges, and the reason why is they weren’t challenges yet. So I have to give them those principles that God said in here is sufficient for you to deal with. Whether the problem is the free love of the ’70s and ’80s or the “this” of the ’90s or the “this” of the 2020s, they have those principles.
Like you said, it’s important to teach them to be like Jesus. Now, occasionally, a parent wants to send them to Jesus quickly, but that’s a frustration thing more than anything. But, really, that’s becoming our mantra, which is the relationship to them and Jesus is our role as the parent, and the rest of that stuff isn’t significant or it will track in line.
WES: Yeah. I’m going to throw you guys for a loop because I didn’t prepare to ask this question, but you were talking about Deuteronomy 6, and one of the interesting things I think about that passage, they’re told in verse 20, “When your son asks you in time to come what’s the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you, then you shall say to your son” ‑‑ and then he tells them, “Tell them about the exodus. Tell them how God brought us out of Egypt.” And I just feel like having a home where we cultivate conversation ‑‑ in fact, I was just sitting here thinking, I wonder if that was a unique idea in the ancient world, that God was telling these ancient parents, in a world where children weren’t valued the way that they are in our culture now ‑‑ telling them to have the kind of home where their kids can ask questions, where they encourage their children to ask questions, and that they’re prepared to have those conversations when those questions come up.
So to your point, Wayne, we’re having conversations now that we weren’t having 15, 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago, and so how can parents really prepare to have those difficult, challenging conversations, but, also, how do we cultivate the kind of home and family where we’re encouraging our kids to bring those things up or where we bring those things up and we can have those kind of open dialogues and conversations?
WAYNE: Tami’s really good with our kids with having those conversations. They come to me for recipes; they come to her for advice. As long as I’m cooking dinner, Tami’s okay with it. But you said that ‑‑ I just wrote an article this week regarding the parenting of Abraham in regards to taking Isaac when he was going to offer him as a sacrifice. And to that point of the conversation, in the text, on three different occasions, Abraham says, “Here am I,” or “Here I am,” once to God when he’s called. So being a good listener to God helps make us a better conversationalist.
And then, when his son says, “Father,” he says, “Here I am,” right ‑‑ or “Here I am,” meaning what? Listening to our children. We’re so quick, as parents, to be the ones that want to tell, tell, tell, thinking that’s the most important conversation, and, for me, at least as a father, I found great encouragement as I tried to put myself in that story. I don’t believe that Abraham knew all the answers to the questions that Isaac was asking, and so it wasn’t a cop‑out, but it was him showing his ultimate trust, going, “God will provide. I don’t know the answer to this. I don’t know if he’s going to let me strike the death blow. I don’t know if he’s going to stay the knife.” I don’t think he believed that there was a ram in the thicket. He just said, in his head, “I don’t know how any of this is going to turn out, but I’m going to put my trust in God.” And so demonstrating a trust in God, listening to God, listening to our children, at least for me is a big starting place for those conversations.
Tami: And it starts when your kids are little. Now, if your kids aren’t little anymore, it’s not impossible. But when they’re little, it’s so easy to think, oh, they don’t need the answer to that. There’s a lot of why, why, why going on, and that’s the moment you either teach them that this conversation is important to you or it’s not, and so finding ways to keep that door open.
And another issue that parents are dealing with ‑‑ and Wayne kind of touched on it a little bit ‑‑ they’re dealing with sexual things, sexual conversations, gender conversations, and it makes us, as parents, uncomfortable. And even young parents ‑‑ the kids are coming to them younger and younger asking different questions, and it’s easier to just, “Well, when you’re older, we’ll talk about this,” and then they start thinking, “Then we can’t have this conversation. Why can’t we have this conversation?” So being able to plant some little seeds of conversation starters and letting them know, “I’m glad you asked that,” and giving them little bits so they can go mull that over for a while, and as they mature, they’ll come back and ask more questions because they know they can come to you and talk to you and not be shut down.
Also, learning not to be reactionary when they share something with you. If they come and share something with you that ‑‑ it probably was something that was difficult for them to share. Maybe it’s a friend of theirs has revealed that they think they may be a homosexual, whatever it might be, and your response is, “Oh, I can’t believe they would do that,” they automatically think, “I can’t share those kinds of things with my parents; it upsets them.” So understanding and being patient and showing grace and mercy in those situations, I think that keeps that communication flowing, as well.
Also, you wouldn’t believe it from what I’m saying right now, but I am the type, if my parent was lecturing me, I hear nothing. If we get into a conversation where I feel like he’s lecturing me ‑‑
WAYNE: That’s because I argue with three points and a poem, but that’s the preacher in me.
Tami: ‑‑ it becomes Charlie Brown’s teacher to me. And so understanding sometimes parents get mad at their kids because they think their kids aren’t listening, and sometimes it’s because the parent hasn’t realized that their child can’t handle all that information. You’re giving them too much. Give them little bits at a time, and then they can come back to you. You’re not shutting them out. Because if you are a lecturer and that child can’t handle that, they’re not going to come to you. They don’t need a lecture. So understanding that and figuring out who your kids are, and the little bits of conversation at a time, those are important things ‑‑ and not being reactionary. In fact, I love that Wayne pointed out we’re not always going to know the answer. Sometimes if my child would come to me, it would be, “I don’t know. Let’s pray about that right now.”
WAYNE: “Let’s pray about it, and let’s go find out together, because I don’t know.” I think that when your children don’t believe that they can communicate with you, they will find someone else, and I think that’s a lot of what we’re facing in our world today. We have ‑‑ and I don’t want to categorize any voice that’s out there, but they’ll go to a place where somebody goes, “I’ll listen to you no matter what,” and they find acceptance, and, with that, they buy into things they wouldn’t reasonably ever buy into. And so I really ‑‑ it’s really important, and we weren’t always best at that as parents, but letting our children know this is the place to talk about it. You can share anything, from something you’ve done, to what a friend said, to what you heard, to what you believe, to what you’re afraid of. And by the way, great marriage advice, too. Those things aren’t the things ‑‑ we need to be able to say, “I am struggling with this,” and not have our spouse react, going, “Oh, I think less of you now.” It’s just really important to keep that open.
Tami: I also think, for our kids, when we were raising our children, the circle of friends that we had ‑‑ all children go through a phase where they may not want to hear from you. They’re at that “I’m becoming an adult, but I’m only 16” kind of thing.
WAYNE: Or 13.
Tami: Or 13. But we had this circle of people that we surrounded them to, and there are still those people in my children’s lives that they can go to and talk about things. And some of the men would ‑‑ with our sons, would go, “Can I take him to lunch?” And I’m like, “Yeah, that would be great.” So having ‑‑ again, having that circle just backs you up and strengthens you in those moments where it may not be you; you just need added support because your child is going, “You’re the only adult giving me that.”
WAYNE: “You told me breathe oxygen, and because you told me to, I’m going to hold my breath.” I mean, that’s just the way that it is.
WES: And that takes a tremendous amount of humility, I think, as a parent, to be able to say my child needs something that maybe I’m not the best person to give that to them, and I’m going to put them in a place, in a position ‑‑ I’m going to put people in their life that can offer them what I don’t necessarily have. And I think that, again, the closer we get to Jesus, the more humble we become and the better that makes us at parenting, so that’s tremendous advice.
I want to follow up on several of the things that you guys said, but let’s take a quick break and we’ll be right back.
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WES: Okay. This has been such a rich conversation, and I really want to follow up on some of the stuff we’ve already touched on. But we’ve touched on ‑‑ Wayne, in the very beginning, you mentioned about, at any given moment, somebody’s happy, somebody’s sad, somebody’s angry. I keep ‑‑ in my mind, keep coming back to what Paul says in Ephesians 6. In my recent series I pointed out I think how radical that would have been, what Paul tells fathers, to not exasperate or provoke their children to anger. I think that would have been a very radical idea in the first century, that fathers should care about how their children feel. All parents have cared about what their children do because what they do is a reflection on them as a parent, but Paul is giving very radical instructions to these Christian parents, to say, “Don’t provoke them to anger.” But that’s incredibly difficult in the real world, isn’t it? Because we have to discipline them. We have to train them. We have to set rules for them, and by their very nature, rules are uncomfortable and even painful. Discipline is painful.
So how do we balance that? How much should we care about how our children feel when we need to discipline them? We don’t want to provoke them to anger, but at the same time, there’s going to be plenty of times where they don’t like us. They don’t like what we’re saying. They don’t like what we’re trying to accomplish here. They don’t agree with the decisions that we’ve made. So how do we balance all of that as parents?
WAYNE: One of the things that I use to illustrate discipline ‑‑ because, typically, when we hear the word “discipline,” we race to the punishment component of discipline, right? And we might even say, “I don’t care how you feel. Turn loose of your sister’s hair,” right? We’re going to ‑‑ because the urgency is that. But we’ve described discipline as the guardrails on a highway. It’s always in a safe zone. You don’t put the guardrail at the bottom of the ravine. And so your kids are going to go, “10 o’clock curfew? That makes no sense.” And the reason it’s 10 o’clock is ‑‑ we all know is because nothing good happens after 10:00, when every kid knows that’s when all the good stuff happens, right? But the idea is we put it in a safe zone, and it is there, first of all, to warn them and say these are the boundaries of safety. So if I can tell my kid, “Listen, this is why I don’t want you to go beyond here,” they may not always agree, but at least they’re going to appreciate you’re coming from that.
The second is that if they decide to test those boundaries, the guardrail nudges them gently. It may scratch the side of the fender some, but it’s going to nudge them back where they need to be. That’s that role of correction. And then, ultimately, we are given the responsibility not just to always say, “Because God says so,” but because God tells us to tell you we said so, because at the bottom of the ravine ‑‑ we’ve been there. We know what dangers ‑‑ or we’ve at least seen it, so that’s when you go, “Here, and no further.” But if we don’t start with instruction ‑‑ I know lots of parents that are mad at their kids for not knowing what they’re supposed to know even though they’ve never been told. You’re supposed to know not to put green beans up your nose, right? We race to them and we up‑side the back of the head when they do it at the dinner table, and they go, “Well, we were okay with olives on our finger. We didn’t know that the green bean was going to be such a big deal.”
And so it requires ‑‑ you know, you said that a minute ago, but it’s this idea of patience, too. I have to understand that this is a long haul. This is not just right now. I don’t think you let your kids run rampant without any restrictions, but, man, I would tell you, you hold those reins tight, and that horse is going to buck. It just is. And I think that’s the way God made them. He made us all as independent beings. We’re supposed to be able to function without somebody constantly going, “Do this, do this, do this.” Even God ‑‑ we like the idea that he reins us, but the truth is he’s given us ‑‑ if we just want to take free will alone, boy, he’s given us loose reins, and, in that, to demonstrate who he is when we conform or, maybe better, don’t conform, but we transform to be what he wants us to be.
WES: I was just going to play on that metaphor for just a second about the guardrail because I love that, but let me kind of ask y’all this question. You said obviously we don’t put the guardrail at the bottom of the ravine, right? We put the guardrail right alongside the road. But there’s a certain degree of arbitrariness ‑‑ if that’s a word. It’s somewhat arbitrary where we put that guardrail. You mentioned, as an example, a 10 o’clock curfew. Well, why not 10:05? “Are you really telling me, Dad, that 10:05 is so much worse than 10 o’clock?” So we put the guardrail somewhere, and there’s a certain degree to being arbitrary, where we decide, “Hey, I’ve got to have some sort of a curfew. I’ve got to have some sort of a restriction or some sort of a rule,” and the kids are always going to look at that and say, “Well, why there?” And we say, “Well, because I want you to be safe.” And they say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but 10:30? Are you really telling me that I’m going to be unsafe at 10:30 instead of 10 o’clock?” And they’re going to question every minuscule detail as it pertains to that.
So how do you decide ‑‑ as parents, how did y’all decide where to put that guardrail, and how much of your children’s input to that did you take into consideration? If they said, “Well, could we move it to 10:30,” and you set it at 10 o’clock, or whatever the case may be ‑‑ it doesn’t have to be curfews, but how did you decide where those restrictions were and how firmly to hold those when there was some bucking or, you know, some objection to it?
WAYNE: Well, I will say, for us, in the spirit of full transparency, I put the guardrail in the middle of the road, and I said, “And if you go beyond it, you die.” That was ‑‑ I mean, I will just say I was a very ‑‑ I was very hard‑lined about it. I did not take much conversation with my kids, and, in retrospect, it would have been good to say, “All right. Let’s collaborate on this. I have what I have had from my experience of wisdom, and you have some things that you want. Let’s come to an agreement. I’m not going to agree with 2:00 in the morning, and you’re probably not going to agree with 8:30 at night.” And once they help set that boundary, guess what? It’s a little harder to come back and go, “Why did you do that?” It’s a risky proposition, but I had to learn, and Tami was good at teaching me this, that 10:15 isn’t any different. You know, in other words, I’m going, “It’s 10 o’clock. It was for me and it will be for my kids.” She goes, ‘They’re going to ask for 11:00. Tell them you’ll meet them at 10:30.” “That’s after 10:00.” “I know, but 10:30” ‑‑ we all know ‑‑ let’s not tell all the parenting secrets ‑‑ that doesn’t make that much of a difference.
Or we may have something ‑‑ my parents were really big on ‑‑ there were times of the year, like New Year’s Eve, they knew that we wanted to stay out maybe with friends ‑‑ and I’m talking teen years ‑‑ till, you know, the midnight change. But they also realized that, man, when that happens, the bars are full of people celebrating, the roads are more dangerous, and they would try to communicate some of those things. Was I in agreement? No. I was 17 and really smart, but the idea was to say, “All right. Here’s the thing. The midnight for this night’s going to be okay, but I’m going to ask that you guys ‑‑ when that’s over, that you, with great caution, get on home. Let’s try to have you in.” I just ‑‑ you know, and not every ‑‑ sometimes you’re going to have to say, “Because I said so.” You’re going to have to because they don’t understand, but I think that there is ‑‑ there’s far more opportunities to say, “Okay, let’s talk about it and see if we can’t come to an arrangement on that.”
Tami: Yeah. Wayne keeps touching on that. He was better at that than he remembers. As the kids got older ‑‑ I mean, we were ‑‑ our kids will tell you we were strict, but we put rules in place, and then, as we ‑‑ as they matured ‑‑ I started to say “as we grew to trust them.” I really always trusted them.
WAYNE: And I never trusted them, so it worked out perfect.
Tami: It was, do I trust their maturity in this situation kind of thinking, and so as they proved themselves, Wayne was more ‑‑ we were more giving in that. But I do think talking with them, “Okay, 10:00 is the curfew. Why do you want to come in at 10:30?” And if their reasoning is good, not drawing that hard line in the sand and going, “Okay, I’m good with that,” they see a parent that is willing to give and take with them and that isn’t just being militant about things. But, also, knowing your child. Is your child, every time, coming in late, and is it a sign of a rebellious attitude? And that was me, so I knew what to look for with my children, going, “Uh‑huh, I know what you’re doing. That’s not going to play here,” you know.
WAYNE: And I don’t want to get us off on a tangent, especially because it’s a very complicated issue, but we’re finding a lot of young men, young women moving into adulthood and they have a new perception on their identity. Let’s just generalize it that way. And they make demands of their parents, “I’ll be called this,” or, “You’ll permit this lifestyle if we’re going to have a relationship,” and though I think some of that is immaturity, some of it is stubbornness, but some of it is, “That’s how I learned it at home.” “You will,” “you will,” “you will,” “you will,” and then when he or she comes out going, “You will,” we’re going, “Well, where did you ever get that kind” ‑‑ I think we think that that’s how God acts, and it isn’t, and so when we act that way with, “These are the rules,” they condemn on the first infraction, you can’t undo being, you know, the law keeper. When you break the law, you can’t undo it by being a better law keeper, so it’s a constant battle when that wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Sometimes you’ll have to pull rank. I mean, there’s no doubt. That’s why you’re the parent and not their pal, right? You’re going to have to do that.
Tami: And the disciplining part ‑‑ a couple of our boys were very strong. They were a great combo of their parents. They were immensely strong, and so it would anger me when they were disrespectful, and we would both get angry. And I learned to say, “There’s going to be a punishment for this. I want you to go think about it. I have to step away before I don’t act like Jesus anymore, and we’re going to come back together and decide what that punishment would be.” And sometimes I let the kids decide what their punishment would be and they were harder on themselves than I would have been on them, and so it teaches them there is a purpose behind that and there is a reasoning in that. And especially when they would pick a punishment that would be more harsh, I would try to focus and show them some grace in that and go, “Okay, it doesn’t have to be that. Let’s find a compromise in the middle.” But helping them understand there’s a reason behind it; I’m not just being ugly. I love the fact, now that our children are raising their families, and calling and going, “Okay, I get it. Thank you.”
WAYNE: Yeah, that’s the payoff. But I see it as a joke that when I see my kids and they demonstrate something that’s well respected, I’m like, “I love how they’re acting like their mom.” And then I’ll see them do something boneheaded, and I go, “Man, I know where they got that.” No, but the point is, sometimes we bristle against the very characteristic that’s our characteristic. They’re manifesting it, and I don’t know if opposites attract, but I know sometimes that those who are a lot alike are repulsed by each other. You know, they just ‑‑ they butt heads and they argue over it. And if you can take that half‑step back ‑‑ that’s why it’s so important to have partners in parenting, right? I’m sometimes all for bad cop/bad cop, but sometimes it’s good to have good cop and bad cop that goes, “Killing them is still a felony and wrong in God’s eyes. Cool off just a little bit.” And that’s good, instead of saying, “Don’t talk to me about it.” That’s why that partnering is ‑‑ we kind of ‑‑ we mitigate each other a little bit sometimes when we get in a corner and we’re going to defend a bad position, and they are, too.
WES: Well, that goes back to what ‑‑ Tami, what you brought up earlier about the one‑another passages, and it’s treating others as you want to be treated. And if we would just stop and ask ourselves if we would want to be treated that way, whether right now or when we were teenagers or when we were kids, and just that empathy, even with our kids, and treating them as we would other Christians, as we would our neighbors. I made the point just the other day that sometimes we treat a perfect stranger better than we treat our own family members, and if we would practice the things that Jesus teaches us to do with other people and apply those principles at home, it would probably go a long way.
WAYNE: I always say employ the 55‑mile‑an‑hour speed‑limit rule because, as parents, we know that’s just a suggestion, right? So remember it’s not ‑‑ your 10 o’clock was a suggestion. So remember that it goes both ways. Be an example of that, as well.
WES: Yeah, that’s good. So let’s talk about something specific that I think a lot of parents are dealing with, not just with teenagers, but every year it gets younger and younger ‑‑ the technology is constantly changing ‑‑ how we use technology. It’s so funny, the rules we sort of set in place, the guidelines we set in place for ourselves, as parents, with technology, I know so many parents that, when they had kids, they said, “My kids are not going to have any screen time. I’m never going to let them look at an iPad or a phone or a TV,” or whatever, and then, I mean, it’s really easy to just ‑‑
WAYNE: They got three with a headset on, right?
WES: Right, exactly. So how do we kind of handle that? Any advice for how we handle technology? I mean, there’s the screens, but then there’s also social media. And some of it is unavoidable because whether or not my kid has technology, has a smartphone or social media, his friends do, and so they are being affected by technology. They’re being affected by social media whether they’re personally on it or not. So how do we handle technology? How do we handle all of these things? Any advice for parents struggling with those things?
WAYNE: Well, you alluded to one of them already, and that’s the fact that it is here and it is here to stay. You know, we don’t think about this. We’ve got iPhones, for example, less than 15 years old, and imagine if somebody walked up to you with an iPhone 4. We would go, “That’s hilarious.” I have watched ‑‑ I’m just saying I’m old enough now to say, listen, I remember when we were told the TV is going to be the end of the young people in America, and then colored TV would give you brain cancer. Then video games ‑‑ I mean, there’s always ‑‑ there’s nothing new in regards to those things, and it is here to stay and it is not going to get ‑‑ it is not going to ever lessen. It’s going to be more and more and more. Shameless plug, my son Jeremy wrote a book entitled Disconnect, and it wasn’t so much about how to disconnect from electronics, but it did point to how disconnected we are in spite of the fact that we are connected everywhere, and it really is a legitimate problem.
So a couple of things that I think are important ‑‑ we talk about them in our parenting seminars. Number one is, it is all right to set boundaries. You know, you can’t go no electronics. Steve Jobs, the developer of the iPhone, no iPhones allowed at the dinner table. They all had to go into a basket. I mean, that’s the guy that, if there was ever a fan of the iPhone, it would be him. But to say time, location ‑‑ it may be that your iPhone and you in the bedroom is not going to happen; you sit here in the living room. It may be that there’s some parental guidance. I think it would be a dereliction of duty not to put boundaries on those things because the world will not set that boundary for them.
Tami: Right. And there are parental apps and things that you can use to know what your children are seeing, and you can’t be naive. This requires parents to step up. They’re going to have to check those things, watch that history. It’s a temptation for our children, and to ignore that is silly. You can’t ignore it. I mean, I was playing a game on my phone the other day, just killing time playing a game, and an ad popped up and it was totally inappropriate, and all I could think was what if my grandchildren had been playing that game on my phone and had this little cartoon thing come up? And so knowing that’s real, that’s out there, that’s happening, so you have to be on top of that. It’s not fair, actually, to our children to just turn them loose with that and expect it to not affect them. That’s silly thinking.
WAYNE: So that gives you ‑‑ there’s a place, if you will, to regulate the hardware, and there’s a place to regulate the software, but there’s another place, and that is maybe to work on the self‑aware. That’s where we teach our children to be ‑‑ I don’t like the term “self‑discipline” because that means self is who’s in charge, but self‑discipline is developed when we begin to allow wisdom to shape our decisions, right? So mine is to let our children in on this process; let them understand. One, you know, we ask ourselves about, you know, is this good for you? Maybe it is about building their confidence in who they are, a healthy self‑awareness, and then when the world tells them, “You’re not healthy because of this,” they go, “That’s not true.”
And so I think it’s really important that the work about social media and electronics ‑‑ may never have a conversation about our iPhones or social media; it’s about something different. They’re going to be looking for something. And I might add, they’re watching us, too. First of all, they’re way ahead of us on technology. Don’t think you’re going to get ahead of them. Very few are. But the other thing is, if they watch you, and you are on your phone a majority of the time, you guys are just arguing over electronic semantics. You like games; I like TikTok. You like this; I like this. Don’t act like it ‑‑ the point is, we’re not talking to each other at all.
Tami: And I think the peer pressure, if that’s what you want to call it, that comes through social media ‑‑ and it’s a real thing. You can go look at statistics on how it affects teenagers. And look during the pandemic; that was mostly how they were connected to each other and it was tearing them apart because they start to think ‑‑ like we talked about parenting, they start thinking that’s real life. Look how pretty she is. Look how perfect her life is. Look what she has. And it starts tearing a young person down because they’re not mentally prepared to handle that kind of pressure.
So Wayne is right in talking to them about, “Okay, when you look at this feed” ‑‑ maybe even do a practical thing, where, “What does this post ‑‑ how does that make you feel?” Or, “What does this teach you about yourself?” Or, “What does this make you want to change in yourself?” And really looking at them and helping make choices of, “I don’t want to follow that person. I don’t want to ‑‑ and that makes me feel worse about myself so I don’t have to follow that,” but helping them, equipping them to make those choices.
WAYNE: Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about ‑‑ whether we’re talking about social media, sexuality, those aren’t your identity. Quit trying to be identified by the brand you wear or the brand you represent or the club you’re in. And so it’s really valuable to let them understand that, without sounding preachy, Jesus gives you the best identity there is regardless of what you wear, how many likes or shares you have, how much screen time you get; for us, as preachers, how often your name is on the marquee or you’re invited to the conference; or, as a professor, how many students get As; or, as a lawyer, how many cases you’ve won. I mean, all of that’s the same root thing. It is living to what Tami calls a reward kind of life. What do I get out of it? And when we can start kind of getting the idea of, you know, getting isn’t what this thing was all about, and so when you’re not after that thrill or whatever, you may find that it doesn’t ‑‑ it’s not as thrilling.
Tami: And it’s that old ‑‑ I talk with my ‑‑ we have a 16‑year‑old granddaughter ‑‑ that is so hard to say. But I talk with her about, okay, that old saying, “What would Jesus do,” it is ‑‑ when you look at all of these things on social media and on the Internet, how does it make you feel? Does it draw you closer to Jesus or does it push you away from Jesus? And you have to be honest with yourself and say I’ve got to draw a line here, and as an adult, I have to do that. I mean, it’s easy to get caught up in all of that. “Ooh, they bought that; I sure need that. I’ll get that.” But all of that pressure is there. So understanding, no, that’s not who I want to be, my worth comes from ‑‑ I belong to the Savior, so that’s ‑‑ understanding that and teaching that to children.
WAYNE: I know you want to shift to one more question. Let me just add one more thing. There are statistical data that will show us that the rise of these forums has a lot to do with where we are in our homes. Wildfire spreads through dry kindling, and when there are absentee parents, when there is a home life that’s all about stuff and satisfaction of things, we’ve left a bed for these things to flourish. The iPhone, in and of itself, is inanimate, right? It is not capable of being evil. But when we allow it to find a place in a place where there’s emptiness, it’ll be glad to fill that emptiness. So just one more thing that parents need to be aware of as they’re parenting is to see that there’s not much room for social media to creep in because we’ve filled it with love and grace and care and concern and conversation. At least it’ll go a long way in helping that.
WES: That’s a perfect, I don’t know, segue or end, because that’s exactly how I wanted to end this conversation, is by talking about keeping our families centered on Jesus because there’s just so many voices. There are so many other things that ‑‑ that’s an interesting way to put it, that we can fill our lives and our homes with so many things that are really nothing at all, and it’s very empty. And I love the way that you said that, Wayne, because when we fill it with all of these empty things, then this evil can come in and creep in.
So what is your advice for families that feel like ‑‑ I just think so many of us are being pulled in a million different directions. There’s so much input and then there’s so much output that’s expected from us that we’re just pulled in so many different directions and it’s so easy for the world to pull us away from a Christ‑centered home. So how do we keep our families anchored in Christ and keep our focus on him?
Tami: I’ll tell you what I have been doing over the last, oh, I don’t know eight, ten years. I had to ask myself ‑‑ at one point, I was going to teach about the women that were transformed when they met Jesus face‑to‑face, and it made me step back and ask myself, “Do I know Jesus? Do I know him?” And so I started every morning, as I get ready, I listen to the gospels over and over. Just in a year I can listen to the gospels 8 to 12 times, and every time, I listen to them in a different translation. And I decided that letting the words of Jesus soak into me was what I needed ‑‑ and this isn’t about me at all. Not making this about me. It transformed me. It transformed how I focus. It transformed what I talk about. And so my advice is you, as parents, you need to know Jesus. You need to know him. If you want ‑‑ I get goose bumps. If you want your children to love like Jesus, you have to know what that looks like. They have to see it in you. If you want your children to show the compassion of Jesus, they have to see it in you. It needs to be a family thing. If you want your children to be that person that came for the sick, that wants to be there for those that are lost, they’re going to need to see it in you.
So that is my advice, is you get to know Jesus. You let his word soak over you. The power of that word, the power of having that spirit in you, it changes your family. It changes your life. And that ‑‑ if I would have realized that as a young mother, oh, I think of the power that would have been into my children at this point. But I didn’t, so that’s why I’m sharing it now, and I pour it down into my grandbabies and my children every chance I get, but understanding it starts with you knowing Jesus. If you want your home Christ‑centered, your heart has to be centered in Jesus.
WAYNE: It’s the same way that you said earlier about we’re so interested in how our children ‑‑ or what our children do rather than how they feel, and I’m going to add to that what they think. In other words, “I don’t care what you think; you’re going to do this.” Well, the same thing’s at home. We have a tendency to live our lives thinking we’re supposed to do this, we’re supposed to do this. For example, I go to work because I’ll get fired if I don’t, and that’s the way we live our work. It makes work miserable if that’s the way you work, or at least it makes you a terrible employee because you do just enough to not get fired.
When we think of our role as husband and wife, and it’s all this “because I have to,” “because I’m supposed to,” as opposed to saying, “No, no, it’s I want to.” It’s “I’m being changed by this.” And I’m partial, obviously, because it’s Tami, but I’m just saying this. In my 64 years ‑‑ as of last Sunday, years of life, I have never seen anyone, who I thought was a great person, make a larger transition because of the power of just Jesus. It’s the way she thinks; it’s the way she treats others. And my point is simply ‑‑ I’ll put it up against anybody as a test case to say that deal of not just learning Jesus’ teaching, but learning Jesus and getting into a relationship with him ‑‑ I don’t care if they’re a babbling fool who can’t put two words together, live under a bridge, and hate the American hamburger, that doesn’t matter. If they go ‑‑ you know, everybody says, “Well, what would Jesus do?” I said, “Well, he’d walk around in sandals.” That’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m saying be the very thing that he was: sacrificial, right? More about others, those kind of principles, rather than just a list of a new set of commandments.
Tami: It actually brings me to another thing, too. It’s that whole we want our children ‑‑ we want them to be Christians; we want them to go to heaven. It’s not about that do’s and don’ts. It is about that God loved me; he gave me Jesus who died for me because he loved me. That should produce in us ‑‑ it’s I John ‑‑ that should produce in us this overflowing love of I will follow him and I will love others because look at what he’s done for me. And so teaching that to your children ‑‑ if that’s where we would start, with that genuine let’s look at Jesus, we don’t have to talk about purity as much. The world is talking about the opposite so we’re going to have to talk about it, but when we start teaching them Jesus, that overflows into all of the other issues.
WAYNE: Yeah. When Jesus talks about the greatest command, of all the things that ‑‑ and the listener may not all be familiar with what the first‑century world looked like, but it was a nasty place. I mean, we’re not even giving it a run for its money with the way that it is, but Jesus didn’t talk a great deal on sexuality. He didn’t talk a great deal on politics. He didn’t ‑‑ these things that ‑‑ he didn’t talk a lot about health and nutrition, all these things that consume our time. He says, “You want to know what’s the most important thing?” He says, “There are two of equal value: You love God and you love others.” And he goes, that’s kind of it, and you’re like, “Yeah, but tell me about,” “Well, what about,” “How do I answer,” and he goes, “Love God; love others.” “I know, but could you simplify that for us so we can” ‑‑ you know, and that really is ‑‑ that’s not just oversimplifying it and throwing a Bible verse. Jesus says, “I don’t know. Does that behavior love God and love others? Does that thought love God and love others? Does that intent love God and love others? Does that practice love” ‑‑ and it won’t probably all be demonstrated in the 13‑year‑old, but in the 30‑year‑old you may start to see the seeds that were planted coming up far better than what you ever thought because it takes a little umph through the soil to get there, but you’re there for the long game, long haul.
Tami: And planting those things, being involved in the church family makes a huge, huge difference. I remember one year we were making some choices as a family, and because of the choices we’d made we were going to cancel vacation Bible school, and our kids were ‑‑ the oldest ones, they were high‑school age. They threw a fit. They said, “We can’t cancel vacation Bible school. We’re Roberts; that’s what we do.”
WAYNE: We were moving. We’re like, “This is the week we’re going to move.” They go, “Okay, you can move later.” But anyway, you begin to see moments and going, ah, now I see. It’s just sometimes when that mountain is right in front of us, it’s a tough one.
Tami: Yeah. Hang in there. They are soaking it up. Even though they may have this look on their face, they’re soaking it up. They are.
WES: Yeah. That’s so good. Thank you both so much for those encouraging words and for your emphasis on Jesus and pointing us towards him. Before we close, where can people find your resources?
WAYNE: Easiest way probably is just going to go to our website. It’s hisshoeshershoes.com, and we’re there. You can find out about our books, find out about our seminars, some additional resources. But they’re always welcome to even just contact us through that if there’s a specific question. This isn’t a paying gig for us. This is kind of a labor of love, so glad to help any way we can.
WES: Well, thank y’all for ‑‑ not only for this conversation, but for everything that you do for the kingdom and for so many families. Appreciate y’all.
WAYNE: You’re very welcome. Thanks for having us. Appreciate it. Same to you.
Thank you so much for listening to the Radically Christian Bible study podcast. If you have just a moment, we would love for you to rate and review the podcast on iTunes, or wherever you’re listening. It really does help people find this content. I also want to thank the guests who join me each week; Travis Pauley, who edits this podcast; Beth Tabor, who often volunteers her time to transcribe it; and our whole McDermott Road church family, who make it possible for us to provide this Bible study for you. Now let’s go out and love like Jesus.