Relationships (Part 2) - The Family as a Training Center

You are preparing your children for independence their entire life. Make sure you are intentional to help them avoid being derailed.
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The Family as a Training Center
Guests:                      Dennis and Barbara Rainey                       
From the series:       The Art of Parenting: Relationships (Day 2 of 3) 
Bob: Is it okay for moms and dads to fight in front of the kids? Barbara Rainey says, sometimes, it is.
Barbara: We decided that we wanted our kids to see us having some disagreements—not big conflict—but if we were disagreeing about something that was not a huge thing, but we really both had a strong opinion on it, we decided that we would go again and occasionally express our disagreement in front of our kids and let them watch us work it out. We just disagree, and parents disagree. It’s okay for parents to disagree.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 6th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. Your kids are going to have to know how to resolve conflict, because conflict is a part of life. They need your coaching, and they need to see how you do it. We’re going to talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. We’re going to talk today about what moms and dads can do to help their children develop some relational intelligence—to help them know how to do relationships right.
Dennis: —how to love imperfect people. It’s that kind of programming that we try to provide, here, at FamilyLife Today that keeps listeners coming back for more. You ought to hear one of my favorite stories—my all-time stories—in 27 years of broadcasting. It was a letter from a woman, who lived in Alaska. Where she lived, she couldn’t get a radio signal; so she, every day—it was like at 10 o’clock/10:30—she would get on her snowmobile and drive out to a ridge [Laughter] so she could listen to FamilyLife Today. A woman—a wife/a mother—who needed practical biblical help and hope for her home.
When you give to FamilyLife Today, you’re making this broadcast possible—
—not merely to folks who live on the outskirts of humanity in Alaska—but you’re making it possible, all across our country. If you believe in what we’re doing, here, on FamilyLife Today, I need you to pick up the phone, or go online, or take out a check and say: “Guys, keep going! Twenty-seven years has been great, but we need this broadcast to stand strong now. Here’s my investment in godly homes and legacies for generations to come.”
Bob: During the Christmas season, and as we approach the end of the year, this is a particularly critical time to hear from listeners; isn’t it?
Dennis: It is; over 40 percent of our donations come in this month. As I said on a recent broadcast, these 30 days determine how FamilyLife® is going to continue broadcasting over the next 11 months. 
Bob: Yes.
Dennis: Please, stand with us. We need your help now. 
Bob: Here’s good news: right now, if you help with a donation, your donation is going to be doubled—it’s going to be matched, dollar for dollar. 
We’ve got some friends of the ministry who have offered to match every donation we receive, during the month of December, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $2.5 million. That’s a huge opportunity for us; and we’re hoping FamilyLife Today listeners will respond and make an online donation, or call to donate. 
When you do, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” this year by sending you a DVD copy of the movie that FamilyLife produced this year that was in theaters a few months ago. It’s a movie called Like Arrows. It’s going to be available for purchase in early 2019; but right now, we have a limited supply available if you can help with a yearend donation. Donate, online, at; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Just ask for the DVD, Like Arrows, and we’ll send that out to you, along with our thanks for your support of the ministry.
Now, I want to tell you guys about my next-door neighbor when I was growing up. His name was Dee; he was a year younger than me. We grew up across the driveway from one another—we had a shared driveway.
Dennis: You’re not talking about recently; you’re talking about when you were a kid.
Bob: This was when I was a kid; yes. This was back in Glendale, Missouri.
Dennis: Back before the earth’s crust had hardened. [Laughter]
Bob: We shared a driveway that “Y”-d off. As you came up the driveway, the right side went to their house; the left side went to our house. We moved in when I was two; Dee was one. We went all the way through high school together. He was the best man in my wedding.
Barbara: Really?
Bob: Yes; so we had a great relationship. In fact, Dee just came and spent a weekend at our house a couple of months ago. We had a great time getting caught up on everything.
Barbara: Wow!
Bob: So Dee and I played together a lot as we were growing up. One time—my mom loved telling this story—one time, she was watching us out the back door. Dee was like a year-and-a-half, and I was two-and-a-half years old. I pushed him down—I pushed him onto the ground, and he fell down. He was crying; and she came out and she said, “Bobby, why did you push him?” I said: “I shot him. He’s dead, and he won’t fall down! [Laughter] So I pushed him to the ground!”
I remember Dee’s dad—Dee’s dad would always—when he would step into the room, where we were playing, or where his sister and my sister were, and we were all together and there was squabbling or something—Dee’s dad would come in, and he would just laugh. He’d say: “Little children! Love one another.” [Laughter] He would repeat that over and over again. I didn’t realize he was quoting Scripture when he was saying that. He was just stepping in to what is, often, the case with kids; that is, that kids often don’t do a great job of loving one another. He was giving us a little coaching on what really matters.
Barbara: That’s cute!
Bob: It’s one of the themes that you address. And, by the way, Barbara, welcome back to FamilyLife Today. 
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: It’s nice to have you here again with us today as we’re talking about parenting. We’re talking about the new book you’ve written called The Art of Parenting. One of the core themes in this book is that we’ve got to help our kids be good at relationships, because they’re not naturally good at relationships—
—we learn that pretty soon. As soon as you have more than one in a family, conflict comes in pretty quickly; doesn’t it?
Dennis: And if you don’t teach the resolution of conflict—if you don’t teach your children how to love another imperfect person—you’re not doing a good job preparing them for the rest of their life; because they’re going to spend the rest of their lives relating to selfish, sinful, broken people, many of whom think and believe differently than they do. They have to know how to do this! 
I just know that, the older I’ve gotten, the more resolute I am that the family is an incubator—it’s a training vehicle—for young pioneers, who are going to spend the rest of their lives on their journey—the first time they’ve ever been there—but they’ve got to know how to relate to people.
Bob: Barbara, we’ve talked already about how important it is for parents to doggedly pursue their children—
—to pursue a relationship with them; to build a strong, healthy, unconditional love; a forgiveness and grace-based relationship with our kids. Even when we do that, our children are not going to naturally embrace that same kind of a relationship with their siblings. I’m thinking of how I’ve watched my grandkids, now, who are one- and two-years old. They’re not thinking about these things, consciously; but there’s an innate sense of: “I want what I want. I want to be the center of attention. If you’re interfering with what I want, I’m going to make life hard for you.”
Barbara: Yes.
Bob: This is that fundamental self-oriented nature that’s in each one of us, and that’s what keeps us from having healthy relationships; isn’t it?
Barbara: Exactly, and that’s what makes mom and dad’s job hard—is that our kids are born sinful, and we know that; but they’re so sweet and they’re so loveable—and we just think they’re the greatest. We forget, sometimes, that they’re little sinners, at the core.
But Dennis and I worked at it. Even though we felt like failures, we didn’t quit teaching; and we didn’t quit training in getting along. Primarily, what we taught and trained, over and over again, was the whole concept of recognizing what you did wrong, naming what you did wrong, and then saying: “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”—you know, teaching that whole dialogue of forgiveness, and restitution, and reconciliation.
Dennis: One of the things we tried to do with our children was to help them to realize that they are relating to what C.S. Lewis called “not mere mortals, but eternal beings.” They need to recognize that every person was made in the image of God. 
Genesis 1:26-28 talks about how God created them male and female, but He made them in His image. As image-bearers, they have value—
Bob: Yes.
Dennis: —they have worth. Our children need to recognize that.
Bob: I think, oftentimes, it’s our own insecurity—or our kids’ own insecurity about what they’re good at—that causes them to look at others and find fault.
Dennis: Yes; I think you’re right.
Barbara: Yes; yes.
Bob: We’re masking our own insecurities by trying to make ourselves feel better or look better than other kids. 
This goes to the core. I remember reading something by an author—a guy named Bill Gilliam—that always stuck with me. I’ve used this line over and over again. He said, “When a child is born, he draws a circle around his life and declares himself “the lord of the ring.” [Laughter] I think we have to acknowledge that that’s true.
Barbara: Yes.
Bob: I saw something called “The Toddler’s Creed” years ago. Do you remember?
Barbara: Oh, yes.
Bob: “If I want it, it’s mine; if I had it five minutes ago, it’s mine; if you have it and I want it, it’s mine.” This is how kids think. We have to train our kids, not to be self-centered, but to be others-centered, which goes against their nature and goes against what the culture is telling them.
Barbara: Well, it works in families too—it’s not just kids competing and comparing themselves in school. Our kids in our family are doing that. So, even if you just have two children, they’re sizing one another up. They’re thinking through: “Who’s the favorite?” “Where is my place?” “What is my role?” “How do I fit in this group called ‘the family’?”
The more kids you have, the more of that that’s going to take place. You’re going to have more conflict—more sizing up / more trying to figure out of the pecking order, so to speak. It’s just endemic in who we are, and it happens in every family.
Dennis: There’s another way we tried to teach our kids how to love one another, and that came through the issue of resolving conflict. I actually have a documentation here of some of the conflict that occurred between family members. [Laughter]
Bob: Police reports you’ve brought in here?
Dennis: It really—has fingerprints on it—eyewitnesses. [Laughter]
Bob: Mug shots!
Dennis: Photos; that’s right. DNA!
Bob: A.K.A.
Dennis: And here’s what it’s about—and parents breathe a sigh of relief when they hear my list—this is about sibling rivalry. Now, we’ve already talked about this a little bit; but I just want to give you some evidence, from our family, of what our kids fought about as they grew up. 
One of the number one reasons they fought was—who sits in the front seat with Mom or Dad on the way to school. [Laughter]
Barbara: Yes.
Bob: And how did you solve that?
Dennis: We assigned a day.
Bob: Okay.
Dennis: Now, that’s good as long as you’ve got less than five kids.
Bob: Yes.
Barbara: Five or less; yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: We had six!—so there was a dilemma there—but they fought over the seats in the car. They fought over the amount of ice cream they got; the number of cookies; how you broke the Hershey’s with Almonds, because it’s not in little squares.
Bob: Did you do the thing where one breaks and the other picks?
Dennis: Oh, yes!
Barbara: Yes; we did that.
Dennis: And we told them “fair” is what comes around to town once a year. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s a good one.
Dennis: That’s okay?
The third thing they fought about was who had worked the hardest; who had done the most;—
Bob: Yes.
Dennis: —who got to play the most; who last spent the night at a friend’s house, and whose turn it was now; who made the mess; who did it last; who did it first; who had it first? The older ones argued that we were just spoiling—
Bob: —the younger ones.
Barbara: —the younger ones.
Dennis: The Art of Parenting™ has got some great evidence on this, because you asked our kids—
Bob: The video series; yes. We interviewed your children and asked them to talk about: “Was one of them the favorite?” 
Barbara: You asked, “Who is the favorite?”
Bob: And the favorite knew she was the favorite; didn’t she? [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; the kids named her, and she named herself! [Laughter]
But here’s the point—as a parent, do you know the very basic fundamentals of how two broken people resolve a conflict? Listen carefully, because this comes from the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. If you haven’t been, this is a good reason to go—
—to just become equipped in these basics of “What are the components of forgiveness?” The first thing is—it demands communication and an admission: “I was wrong when I…” Then it is, number two, “Will you forgive me for doing ‘X’?”—and you name the offense. Then, the one who has been offended has the opportunity, at that point, to say, “Yes; I decide to forgive you.” 
And this is key, because your children need to know what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Forgiveness means you give up the right to punish another person. Sometimes, our kids would not forgive one another; so we would give them chores. I’ll never forget the boys—we tied two of their legs together and made them sweep the garage—[Laughter]—because they wouldn’t forgive each other. Of course, the older one drug the younger one around the garage; and that created more conflict. That wasn’t such a good idea over the long haul. 
But the key thing is—you make them look each other in the eye and say, “Will you forgive me when I did         ?” And then we say: “Okay; what’s your response? It means you give up the right to punish your sister,” / “…to punish your brother.” And then we talked about reconciliation and rebuilding trust. All of those points are the basics of how you help two people know how to love another person, who will disappoint them at times.
Bob: And these basics of conflict resolution are fundamental building blocks that will serve kids throughout their lives in every relationship. If they don’t know how to seek and grant forgiveness, life is not going to go well for them. 
Of course, I remember, with our kids, it was, “Tell your sister you’re sorry.”
Barbara: Yes.
Bob: And you know what they would say; right? [Speaking with no emotion] “Sorry.”
Dennis: [Not meaning it] “I’m sorry.” 
Barbara: Yes; yes.
Bob: And then, “Say it like you mean it,”—you know, they’d get silly. You really have to teach them how to do this. It feels rote for a while.
Barbara: And it is rote for a while,—
Bob: That’s okay!
Barbara: —but that’s okay.
Bob: Get it to be habitual in them.
Barbara: Yes.
Dennis: —over, and over, and over, and over again.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: I’ll tell you—there is a method of teaching in the Bible called the Rabbinical Method of Teaching. Do you know what it is?—repetition.
Bob: Yes.
Dennis: Do you know what sibling rivalry is?—an opportunity to teach over, and over, and over again how you resolve conflict.
Let me tell you another way that parents dare not miss as they train their kids to love other people, especially around resolving conflict—resolve it between you and your spouse. Your kids are like little radar units. I know, when Barbara and I would have an argument in the kitchen, sometimes, I would feel like there was this herd—or covey of little quail—just circling us; locked on; watching us go back and forth, sometimes, at each other—not healthy; okay!?
Bob: Right.
Dennis: Sometimes I would say: “Time out, Sweetheart.” “Kids, your mom and dad love each other. We’re in a covenant-keeping marriage; we’re going to go the distance—we’re not in trouble. We just have a disagreement; okay?”
There’s an African proverb that says, “When the elephants bite, it’s the grass that suffers.” It suffers in more ways than one; because if they don’t see you resolving conflict in your marriage, how are they going to know how to do it when they get married?
Bob: So I’m going to ask you about that; because some parents, you know, will say: “We’re not going to do conflict in front of our kids.
Barbara: Yes.
Bob: “If we’ve got a disagreement, we’ll postpone it. We’ll do it back in the bedroom; we don’t want our kids to see us. We don’t want them to feel insecure, thinking that mom and dad aren’t getting along.” Do you think it’s good for mom and dad to have a little conflict in front of the kids?
Barbara: I think that’s a great question, because we talked about that. My parents never had conflict in front of us. I grew up thinking they never had conflict, because I never saw it. And I don’t know that you—did you see your parents?
Dennis: Once.
Barbara: One time your parents had conflict?
Dennis: My parents had one very—
Barbara: —heated argument?
Dennis: —heated argument. I was five years old, and I was afraid they would divorce. 
That was back when divorce was—
Barbara: Yes; nobody got divorced.
Dennis: —nobody got divorced.
Barbara: Well, we talked about it—I remember. We decided that we wanted our kids to see us having some disagreements—not big conflict—but if we were disagreeing about something that was not a huge thing, but we really both had a strong opinion on it, we decided that we would go again and occasionally express our disagreement in front of our kids and let them watch us work it out. 
We did do what Dennis just said—we said: “Time out.” “Okay; kids. Here are the facts: we’re not going anywhere. This is not life-altering. We just disagree, and parents disagree. It’s okay for parents to disagree.”
Bob: In some homes, it’s not just disagreement; but as you know, there are moms and dads, who are saying hurtful, harmful things to one another.
Barbara: Oh, yes!—in front of the kids.
Dennis: That kind of stuff is not good.
Barbara: No.
Bob: If it does happen, though—again, get the kids together.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: You get the kids together and you confess: “This was not right for Mom and me to be talking this way to one another.
Barbara: Yes.
Bob: “I’ve asked her to forgive me, and I want to ask you to forgive me. I want you to know we love one another, and we’re staying together.”
Barbara: Yes.
Dennis: —especially if you’ve used the “D” word. If you have thrown the “divorce” word around in an argument in front of your kids—that they’ve heard, either in person or through the walls—you need to get down on your knees in front of your kids—
Barbara: Absolutely!
Dennis: —and say: “We repent. We will never, ever do that again.” Why?—because they’re going to school with kids from broken homes. Sixty percent of all kids will spend part of their first eighteen years of life with one parent. It’s in their vocabulary; it’s in their experience—you’ve got to build security. 
I’ve got one more very important way we train our kids to love others, and that’s training your children to respect the boundaries and purity of the opposite sex. Train your kids to respect the boundaries and purity of the opposite sex. 
That means teaching your boys to protect the sexual purity of girls—to own it! Not just protect them physically, but protect their sexual purity. 
I had the privilege of speaking to a football team a couple of months ago.
Bob: This was a high school team; right?
Dennis: A high school football team. They were all shirt-less—they were getting ready to have practice. It was hot in the summer. I wanted to make the point to those guys: “Be men. Step up! Become men who protect your school and protect the young ladies.” 
It was right as the #MeToo was really in the news with a lot of people. I just said: “Listen, guys. You can either protect a woman’s dignity, and her purity, and who she is sexually or you can be a barbarian and you can take advantage of her. 
“I want to challenge you, as a team, to set a new standard in this high school. Instead of being rude to girls—instead, hold the door open for them. You guys need to start a rash of common courtesies—pulling the chair out for the ladies / for your teacher! Just, as a team, represent how real young men treat the opposite sex.”
Of course, if you’re talking to a young lady, I would talk to your daughters about protecting the young men by being—and dressing—modestly. I remember one of our daughters, who will remain unnamed, had this dress that she had on—as she was trying it on for prom. Bob, you know what I’m talking about. [Laughter] Barbara was there—she loved that dress!—Barbara wanted to buy the dress. Right, Sweetheart?
Barbara: Yes.
Dennis: Yes; but I said, “No; you can’t buy that, Sweetie.” Help your daughters protect young men.
These are all ways where you’re thinking of others before you think of yourself. 
Bob: Yes; these are fundamental skills that we need to, as parents, be teaching our children before they know Christ; so that, when they do come to know Christ—when they surrender to Him and then they read Philippians 2: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility, regard others as more important than yourselves. Don’t look out merely for your own interest, but also for the interest of others,”—now, all of a sudden, they see this in the context of the gospel. They’re doing this to honor Christ, not just to have happier and healthier relationships. I mean, it’s good to have happy, healthy relationships; but at the end of the day, what we care most about is that God is honored in how we relate to one another.
This is why this is one of the essential skills you guys talk about in the book, The Art of Parenting. It’s a book I hope every mom and dad will read together. In fact, there’s a companion DVD series that small groups can go through together. 
We’re hoping that this can be the beginning, in a lot of churches and a lot of homes, of a parenting revolution—a new commitment to being the most purposeful, intentional, well-equipped parents you can possibly be as you raise the next generation.
We’ve got copies of Dennis and Barbara’s book, The Art of Parenting, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us, online, at; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. The DVD series is also available. Information is available, online; or you can order at You can also order, again, by calling 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I’m remembering a scene in the movie, Like Arrows—the movie that we produced that was in theaters a few months ago. There’s a scene where there’s some sibling rivalry. 
A brother and a sister are fighting over Legos®, and they say ugly things to one another. They have to learn how to make peace with one another. One of the things we wanted to do, when we made that movie, was find a creative way to engage moms and dads with the key issues that we all face as we raise the next generation.
I know many of our listeners saw the film when it was in theaters. It’s going to be available for purchase in early 2019. We have a limited number of DVDs of Like Arrows that we’re making available this month to those of you who are able to help support the ministry with a yearend contribution. FamilyLife Today, as you mentioned earlier, Dennis, is dependent on these donations. Right now, if you’re able to help with a donation, your donation is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $2.5 million. You make a $25 donation; it becomes a $50 donation to FamilyLife. If you make a $100 donation; it’s $200. 
Whatever you’re able to do, help us take advantage of this matching-gift opportunity; and we’ll say, “Thank you,” by sending you a DVD of Like Arrows. You can donate, online, at; or call to donate: 1-800-FL-TODAY. We appreciate your partnership with us in this ministry. 
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to talk about the most important relationship we can help our children with—that’s their relationship with Jesus. We’ll explore that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us. 
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today
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