Oh No, My Kid is Talking Marriage

A friend of mine was talking a while back about the unbelievable boldness of her son’s girlfriend. “How dare that girl come into our home and act that way,” she verbalized to me. “I have no idea what Nick sees in her anymore. It’s like she has become a totally different person.”

As the conversation continued, the whole story came tumbling out. “Nick has been dating Chelsea for a few years.  They’ve been cute together and I liked her.  Even as they started college I always thought they were going to be the perfect couple. It is like she has always been part of our family. But something seems different about their relationship.  As time goes on and I see them talking about marriage, it is as if she has changed.  She has become someone who wants Nick to always do things her way.”

“Just last week I had all the kids home for the long weekend.  After dinner Tom suggested that everyone help with the dishes so it wouldn’t take so long. Chelsea has always helped me in the kitchen when she was there before. But this time, as I gave everyone a job, I handed her a clean dishcloth to wipe off the table. She looked at me and said, ‘Someone else will have to do that job; I’ve told Nick I’m not going to do dishes any more. When we get married, that’s his job.’ She then handed him the dishcloth and told him to do it while she went in and sat in the family room to look at a Bride’s magazine.”

“Obviously, I was stunned.  I didn’t even know what to say as I watched Nick clean off the table for her.” 

Nicole continued to lament. “I don’t know what she expects, anymore.  The other day she was at the house with Nick and we were sitting in the family room talking about when they thought they would get married. It was as if she had her life all planned out–next year we’ll get married, then I’m going to grad school, then I want to work for several years–at least 10 years–and I might decide to get my doctorate, and then we’ll probably have a baby.”

Laughingly, I interjected, “So if you do all those things, how old will that make you when you have your first baby?”

“What did she say?” I chimed in.

“We did the math together, keep in mind we were all still laughing and enjoying the conversation, and she realized that if she followed her plan, she would be 42.”

“What happened next?” 

“We continued on with our conversation, no big deal, and then the two of them left.”

“So the conversation went well I take it? She realized that her dream most likely wouldn’t become reality?”

“Yeah, I thought so until later that night. Nick came home and was so upset at me. He told me how mad Chelsea was that I had ruined her plans for her life and that I had no right to interfere.”

I see it often.  Girl meets boy.  Boy wants to impress girl.  (Sometimes it is the opposite). They fall in love.  And something happens as they each get older and one begins to steamroll to make sure they get the life they want.  Sometimes our kids are oblivious to the changes and the potentially unfulfilling life they might be choosing.

So what can we do as parents when we see our kids moving toward marriage with the wrong person?

  1. Keep the lines of communication open. 
  2. Rather than complain about the person your son/daughter is dating, ask questions when you and your child are alone.  “I see you and Chelsea are talking about marriage.  How did you come to the decision that she is the one?  What do you envision for your life together?  I was surprised that Chelsea refused to take the dishcloth and help clean the kitchen the other day.  Is something up?”
  3. As you ask questions, listen and don’t comment.  Let your child talk without interruption.  Then ask more questions when there is lull in the conversation.
  4. And if you haven’t already, begin conversations about how your child sees marriage.  You might even talk about what you appreciate in your own spouse especially as it lines up with behaviors you are seeing in your child’s relationship.
  5. Continue the dialogue.  “After our earlier conversation about Chelsea, I have some concerns I’d like to share.  May I do that?  I’m hearing her talk about her life, but how does that intertwine with your life plan?  She is talking about grad school and a doctorate, all of that is going to be expensive.  I’m concerned that Chelsea is only looking at her life and not your lives together… I hope you will both talk about these things before you decide to get married.  But know that I never want you to feel the need to choose between Chelsea and us.  I’ll support you no matter what you choose.”
  6. And pray without ceasing.

Romans 8:28

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

When that special ‘someone’ enters our children’s lives we naturally want to gravitate to giving advice to our kids.  It is important that they are in the right place to receive it and that means we have to think about our own relationship with our kid.  Whatever we say will most likely get repeated to their significant other.

When in doubt about the communication — think relationship.  

Dare you to respect your 20-somethings enough to cautiously give advice and at the same time recognize that they have to make their own choices.

“Let go…and let God,”

The Power of the Word “You”

Sitting in a workshop several weeks ago with a group of women I witnessed the power in the word “you”.  There were tears in women’s eyes as they heard words of affirmation spoken over them after they shared a story or A-Ha! 

“You were brave to step into that situation in the moment.”

“You showed such a gentle spirit with your sister.”

“You used such good judgment in a difficult situation.”

“You demonstrated what it means to be supportive and caring in what must have been an exhausting time.”

All of us felt as if we were receiving a hug knowing that others were noticing the good in who we are.

And I thought about the power and life that we could speak into our teens if we would choose to use it.   What if we would look for the good in our kids instead of using the word “you” in a condemning way. 

“You didn’t clean your room like I asked you too.”

“You didn’t …”

What if, instead, we chose to take those “didn’t dos” and turn the communication into a positive?

“You have been working hard on your homework.  Why don’t you take a break and run up and clean your room before dinner?”

“You are such an encourager with your little sister.  Maybe the two of you could go upstairs and put the laundry away together.”

If we as parents could just take a moment each day to affirm the good in our children, what might change in our homes?

Hmm…definitely something to think about.

But there is another aspect of the word “you”.  

I don’t know about your kids, but I’ve had my teens throw the word you at me in a screaming, blaming sort of way. 

“You embarrassed me in front of …”

“How dare you take away my …”

“How could you?”

And in the heat of the moment with fury in our teen’s eyes they dump their bucket of all the pain they think we have caused them.  With their emotion we can become overwhelmed and just want the onslaught to stop.  And as parents most of us make the same mistake.  It’s a mistake I’ve made on more than one occasion.

We look at our teen in disbelief that they can yield so much condemnation and say something in a stern voice like “Don’t you talk to me that way, young man.  Go to your room.”

And we get so caught up in the anger and how we were spoken to that we might be missing something valuable in our parenting.

One technique I’ve used in the middle of these situations is to pause in the moment.  “I can tell you are really upset and I want to hear you out.  I’m feeling upset myself right now and I don’t want our emotions to get in the way of our communication.  I’m going to take about 20 minutes to calm myself down and then we’ll talk.”

When frustration and the word “you” come rolling off our teen’s tongue, chances are there is pain in the middle of it.  

Yes, you heard me right.  Anger and the word “you” most likely means that someone is not listening to the pain that is inside of us. 

What I’ve been learning is that when someone accuses me of something, that is a cue that I need to allow the Holy Spirit to help me discern the truth from the other person’s perspective.  Here are some questions I ask myself during my 20 minute time out before talking with my teen:

  • Is there any truth to what my teen is accusing me of doing?
  • What pain might my teen be experiencing in the moment? 
  • What might my teen need from me to bring healing for the pain he is experiencing?  A confession?  An apology?  A change in my behavior?
  • What might God be trying to teach me in this situation?
  • What might God be trying to teach my teen?

Oh my, this can be a humbling conversation that I have with God.  As I pray and ask God to help me in the situation, many times I discover that there is some truth to what I’ve been accused of and God is using this situation to refine me.  Not a pleasant place to be but it allows me to engage with my teen on a whole different level.  It allows me to humbly admit where I was wrong.  Once I’ve done that, it allows us to talk about the situation in a non-confrontational manner.

And when I can’t see where I am wrong in what my teen is blaming me for, I can then ask questions for further understanding.  “Honey, thanks for giving me some space a moment ago.  I can tell you are really upset.  What happened today that made you so angry?”

And regardless of our teens response, regardless of the emotion, continue to ask God for discernment in the moment.  Ask your teen to identify his feelings and affirm him.  Share why you did what you did in terms of his maturity and why that is so important.  Let him know what it is that he needs to learn.  And then, if the timing is right, heap affirmation on him with you statements.  

“I know that my decision was really difficult for you.  You need to know that you are loved and your dad and I want  the best for you.  You feel passionately about justice and that’s a good thing.  I’m glad you shared with me what you were feeling.”

Proverbs 12:18

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Ephesians 4:29

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Dare you to take inventory of how the word “you” is used in your home.  Is it a sword or used for edification?

“Let go…and Let God”,

Are you thinking about Fall Bible Study yet?  Wish you could be in one but the time never seems quite right?

Or maybe you’d like to focus on your parenting?

Why not join a group of women in our With All Due Respect eCourse?  We meet on Facebook (it’s a closed group) at your convenience.  And we will go through the book together as we encourage each other, pray with each other, and support each other.  There is extra video teaching and an opportunity to ask questions.  We’ve even been known to take time time to chat on the phone with women in the class when parenting situations are really difficult and you could use someone to walk beside you.  

As a bonus this fall, if you sign up for the With All Due Respect eCourse, you can also be part of Greater Impact’s Strength & Dignity eCourse for free. There you will find resources for respecting yourself in your defensive relationships and for help in your marriage.

We hope you will join us or do the study with a group of moms in the comfort of your home.  Whether your kids are 9 or 29, you’ll be amazed at what God will do in your home as you go through the book.





Are You Believing a Lie and Acting on It?

My husband was traveling last week and purchased one of those small pocket books you can find in the airport bookstore to read on the plane.  As he settled into his seat focused on the book content he soon felt an overwhelming gnawing sense that he had failed.  A list of all the things we should be doing as parents caught his attention and one in particular took root — he had failed in making sure that his son always cleaned up after himself.

He kept thinking of his frustration over the last two years of the times he had come into the kitchen and seen dishes left out.  He thought about the unmade bed and the wet towels left on the bathroom floor.  As most of us would agree, this book confirmed what we know as parents — our kids need to learn to clean up after themselves as we try to teach them to become adults.  

None of us want to feel like failures as parents.  We can easily take things we read or things another person says about our kids and want to make sure our kids rise to the occasion.  At other times we see the success of other people’s kids and try to push our kids to be as good as or better than what we’ve seen.

But my question is simple:

  • Are those thoughts fully true? 
  • Is now the time to act on those thoughts? 
  • And if you do, what will be the result?

The lie my husband believed is simple.  “All teens and 20-somethings should clean up after themselves if they live under your roof and it is the parent’s job to make that happen.”

First you need to understand that sometimes we all communicate things in a not-so-gentle way that can put strain on the relationship.  And for those of you who know my husband, the way he handled the situation was so not like him.  Typically he communicates in a loving, gentle, laughter-filled way that makes others want to do as he asks.  Unfortunately, this time the lie was so strong in his mind that it came across as condemning and my son walked away with a feeling of his father’s disappointment in who he was as a person.

Ugh!  So not what my husband wanted. 

He just wanted change.

Standing on the sidelines watching my son during the following week after the exchange he had with his father, I heard him as he made sure he cleaned up after himself with spoken words of condemnation.  “I need to clean up or dad will come tell me what a disappointment I am.  I need to do this now because dad will feel like a failure if I don’t.  All the other things I am doing in my life don’t matter except cleaning up after myself.  I am such a loser.”

And the record kept playing in my son’s mind as he verbalized it for days.

Yet my husband was getting the behavior he wanted.  He was glad our son was cleaning up after himself.  Obviously, his communication had worked.

But he hadn’t seen the condemnation our son was heaping upon himself.

And I was watching the anger grow within my son toward his dad.

As I spent time with God trying to sort through the relationship mess that had been created, I asked myself the question.  What is true?

  1. My husband loves his son.
  2. My husband believed the lie that he needed to fix this “parenting oversight” in his son now.
  3. My husband had communicated poorly with his son.
  4. My son was heaping condemnation on himself from the conversation and anger was setting in toward his dad.
  5. My son has had two surgeries in the last year 10 months and had difficulty with certain movements like bending and twisting (hence the wet towels on the floor, unmade bed, and dishes not put in the dishwasher).  He had to make choices–do things that added pain or focus on what he could do to make life easier and get through his day.
  6. My son was working hard to get back to whatever normal life can be — working part-time, studying for the GRE, and working with the youth group at church all while still on strong medication.

And as I wrestled with God and these truths, I wondered if my husband realized that while yes, his belief was a good one, “teens and 20-something should clean up after themselves if they live in your home”, it could be a lie in this moment. 

Given the circumstances, was this a time for grace?

Given the timing, is the relationship more important than the “parenting oversight” my husband wanted to fix?

And I wonder how many of us as parents do the same thing.  We believe a parenting truth that could be a lie in the moment.  

We might get the result we want, but at what expense?  

Are we damaging the relationship in a way that forces our kids to look at themselves as a loser and taking on the responsibility of not living up to Dad or Mom’s expectations?  Are they heaping condemnation upon themselves as a result of our words or emphasis on a specific discipline?

Dare you to take inventory of the lies you might be believing when it comes to your own kids.  Are you comparing them to other kids and expecting them to be the same?  Are your expectations so high that your teen feels pressed in on all sides?

Colossians 3:21

“Parents, do not irritate your children, or they will become discouraged.”

1 Peter 4:8

“Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins.”

“Let go…and Let God”,












9 Steps to Take to Kick Your Kid Out of the House

This is a hard post to write.  As I sit here contemplating what to say to those of you who are at a place where you think it is time to kick your kid out because of behavior issues, I hope you’ll read last week’s blog before this one.  My prayer is that if there are any other options that you will take those first before pulling the trigger.  Actions can have major fallout for decades to come and while the Now you are in seems overwhelming, the silence down the road can become a heavy burden to carry as well.

A decade ago, I was in a similar situation with one of my kids.  The defiance, disrespect, and “you can’t tell me what to do” were stretching my husband and me to a breaking point.  We had allowed things to go on for too long and were truly at a point of losing perspective.  This teen’s actions were affecting the entire family in a way that I knew was unhealthy.  We were at our wits end.  What should we put up with and where was the line for letting natural consequences play out?  

Regardless of your child’s age, as I know many of you have adult children living under your roof, the principles are the same.  Helping them move forward into maturity is the goal while attempting to maintain the relationship.

Thankfully, a wise therapist/psychiatrist helped us discern the best course of action and spent many hours making sure my husband and I were speaking the same language to our teen.  He knew that we had to be fully on the same page to move our family forward.

As my husband and I met with the therapist weekly, he coached us through the process of working through our own differing opinions on parenting issues.  Meanwhile, he was working with our teen to determine possible scenarios to change behavior.  About six months into these separate sessions, I remember his word’s vividly.  “You can’t allow this to continue in your home.  I have real concerns for your other children.  I think it is time to put a plan in place.  The choice is hers.  She either adheres to your boundary or she chooses to leave.”

Notice I didn’t say we kicked her out.

She chose to leave.

And that is the difference in future potential for the relationship.  When we empower our children to “choose” their destiny, we aren’t foisting our desires, feelings, and anger on them.  We are drawing a line in the sand  and letting them make the choice on which side they want to land.

So what are the steps we took and what makes it their choice?

  1. Determine what has to change.  This doesn’t mean everything that is going wrong.  What are the non-negotiable behaviors that are negatively impacting the family? 
  2. Make sure the behaviors that need to change are measurable.  You will want to be able to cite instances of both positive and destructive behaviors on a weekly basis, so take good notes.
  3. Determine the date that the teen will need to move out if things don’t change.  Our counselor was insistent that we not stretch things out too long.  The date was set with the intent of allowing our teen time to decide whether they were going to follow our rules, find a place to live if they chose to move out, and to make sure they had a plan in place for adequate financial stability.  In our situation we allowed 2 1/2 months.
  4. Write down the plan before meeting with the teen.  Writing things down help both parents determine specifics and makes sure that both are on the same page.  There needs to be no question about each step along the way and the behaviors that need to change.
  5. Have the conversation.  Remember, once you are here, there is no turning back.  You need to make sure you are strong enough to follow through.  With our teen the conversation went something like this.  “Honey, we love you and we want so much for you to be part of this family.  We’ve had a lot of friction about ____, ____, and ____.  You are making choices that are impacting our family in a negative way and we can no longer live this way.  Your mom/dad and I have decided that you can either change your behavior or choose to move out.  Know that whatever you choose, we will always love you.  Please understand that this is really difficult for us, but in life there will always be rules and people that have authority over you (like a boss).  We hope that you will choose to work on the things we’ve outlined that need to change.  (Read the list you’ve compiled and be willing to talk through specifics.  If they want to negotiate a point, let the teen know that you and mom/dad will talk about it and get back to them). Please know that if you choose to move out you’ll need to find a place to live and figure out how you are going to survive without our financing.  You will be responsible for you.  We will be more than willing to help you find affordable housing or teach you about budgeting or anything else you need to make it happen.  If you choose to move out, ______ is the date.  We would like to sit down with you weekly/every other week, to see where you are at so there is no question as to how we think you are doing regarding the rules we’ll be monitoring.  Again, we do love you and hope you’ll do everything in your power to make this work so that you can continue to live here.”
  6. Continue to stay in relationship.  Be kind, loving, and encouraging when/if you see positive behaviors.  Remember the goal is to build the relationship and not have them move out if they are still a teen.  If you are dealing with an adult child your goal is to pave a way to give them encouragement to leave.
  7. Be sure to check in regularly during this time.  Your goal should be to help them succeed regardless of their decision.  Feedback on their behavior is paramount.  This is where your note taking and measurable goals will be discussed. And if they choose to leave, a goal should be to let them go without hard feelings.
  8. If their behavior changes, celebrate.  If it doesn’t, remind them that their continued behavior means they are choosing to leave.
  9. When the day arrives for those who choose to leave, carry their things down the stairs, tell them you love them, hug them, and fall apart after they walk out the door.

So how did it go for us?

Our child chose to leave.  And it was one of the most difficult things I have ever endured. 

This teen continued to make poor choices; however, we stayed in relationship.  Two days after she moved out she showed up and asked her dad to test drive a new car she was planning to purchase.  He graciously did and even went with her to sign the papers.  We didn’t co-sign the loan, but we were there for her.  Several weeks later I called and offered to take her to lunch–no lecture, just a “how are you doing” conversation letting her know that we respected her decision and still loved her dearly.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve coached several parents through this same process.  It isn’t easy to endure, but I know for me, I was so glad I had an outside perspective as I walked through it.  

My prayer is that regardless of what you are dealing with in your difficult situation, that you will not kick your kid out with anger and hard feelings.  Sometimes we have to let go and let God do His work in our children’s lives.  Our goal is to set the stage for easier forgiveness and restoration.

Isaiah 43:1-2

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.


“Let go…and Let God”,