Focus on the Family Broadcast   >>   All Episodes

Practical Advice for Parenting Teens (Part 2 of 2)

Air Date 04/17/2015

Get Social and Listen

Dr. Kevin Leman offers practical advice to parents on maintaining a positive relationship with their children during the often-turbulent teen years. Jean Daly shares her perspectives as well. (Part 2 of 2) 

Listen here, watch recent episodes on our YouTube channel, or download our app.

Episode Transcript


Drop-In: April "ISIS Crisis: Newsletter and Middle East Fund Appeal (U.S. Only)

Jim Daly: Hi, this is Jim Daly from Focus on the Family. Before we start the program with Dr. Kevin Leman and my wife, Jean, I wanted to give you a quick update on something that we're doing here at Focus on the Family. In fact, my newsletter this month deals with this topic of the Middle East and what we, in the West, can do to help give a cup of cold water to our friends and Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East.

I was mortified when those 21 men were executed, simply for trying to find work to help their families live in a better situation, to provide resources to live in a home that had a roof and walls. I've been to the dumps in Cairo. I have met the Christians that live there. They are the bottom of the bottom in that community and for those sons to go out to find work to supply the dollars to help their families put shelter over their heads was a noble cause. And yet, they were martyred for their Christian belief, for not denying Jesus Christ.

And this brutal regime who is killing Christians, men, women and children, we have got to do something. And so, look for that newsletter. We're inviting you to help us raise $931,000 dollars to support ongoing ministry to these families. We have an office in Egypt. Many people won't know that. We're working in 130 countries around the world and Sami Yacoub and his wife, Wessam have been there in Egypt, in Cairo, helping Christians and others to escape this brutal regime.

So, if you can help us reach out in the name of Christ to help these people, I want to say thank you. Look for that newsletter. Help us raise $931,000 to build houses, to provide other relief for these brothers and sisters. And let me say thank you.

John Fuller: And if you missed that newsletter, it's available at . Again, find Jim's newsletter and opportunities to donate to this effort at .

End of Drop-In: April "ISIS Crisis: Newsletter and Middle East Fund Appeal (U.S. Only)


Dr. Kevin Leman: Parents love to dictate rules. Kids can be included in the rule-making. The dinner table is a great place to talk about chores that kids give back to the family.

And again, you can be an autocratic parent and just say, this is the way it's gonna be. Or you can have the kids divvy things up. Trust me; they're tougher on themselves than we would be in most cases.

End of Teaser

John: Well, that's some great insights from Dr. Kevin Leman and he's our guest again on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and in addition to having Dr. Leman, who is a well-known author--he's been here, I don't know, 40 or 40-plus times--we have someone else in the studio, Jim. You decided that since we're talking about teens and how to raise them well, it would be good to bring in your better half.


Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, definitely my better half. Jean is doin' such a great job as a mom and comin' in and sharing that perspective. I thought it'd be good for us to hear from a mom, so Jean, it's great to have you with us.

Jean Daly: Well, thank you (Laughter). It's great to be back in the studio with you and I love Dr. Leman as a broadcast guest. So, I'm enjoying being back in the studio with him and talking about one of my favorite subjects, teenagers (Laughter), because we have two of them.

Kevin: They're the best years.

Jim: They're the best years. I like that attitude.

Kevin: They are.

Jim: Kevin, last time we talked about authoritative parenting, not being permissive or authoritarian, but authoritative. And as our children get older, we've noticed they don't want to be "mommied" anymore—

Kevin: Right.

Jim: --and "daddied" for that matter and so, they push away. They begin to start that independence. That can be hard for a mother's heart particularly. What advice do you have for moms of teenagers?

Kevin: Let's just take a name out of the blue, Jean. (Laughter) And Jean is driving her kids to school. And one of 'em says, "Mom, just drop us off here." "Well, honey, we're a block and a half from school." "Mom, just drop us off here, would you please?"

Kids come to a stage where they don't even want to admit they have a parent. (Laughter) It's just part of the natural breaking away. Now if you're gonna take that personally, good luck, parent. Say, "Honey, here we are; curb service. Have a great day. Bye." and leave. In other words, you just have to keep in the back of your mind that these kids who seem like they don't want to admit they even have a parent, very much these kids will come and cuddle with you when they're 14, 15, 16 years of age, believe it or not. Do they do it every day? That would be very abnormal. But realize there's a kid in there, a boy that wants that tender love of their mother. I remember as a young kid growing up, believing that the sandwich tasted better if my mommy would make it for me.

Jim: I think that's true.

Kevin: I actually believe that.

Jim: I think that's actually true though. (Laughter)

Kevin: Well, that's what I mean. So, mother-son and father-daughter are such key elements when we talk about rearing teenagers today.

So, think the best of your kids, your teenagers. Think the best of them. Give them opportunity to screw up and when they do screw up, guess what? They're like us, aren't they? And that's where it goes back to God's grace is sufficient for whatever comes our way. And our kids gotta feel like we have their back. And so, the authoritative parent is that one that strikes the balance between being an authoritarian—telling kids what to do—and then trying to make sure the kids are happy, happy, happy at every turn. And that's what your permissive parent does.

Jim: And what's the damage of that? And you say that, you know, permissive parenting is a dime a dozen today.

Kevin: Oh, yeah and kids will rebel from that, because you haven't taken that stand.

Jim: Describe that permissive parent.

Kevin: `"Would you kids turn that radio down in there? I can't hear myself think. I'm trying to do your science project." (Laughter) Now these are the parents who subtly or not so subtly push their kids toward success. "Well, Dr. Leman, Ralph and I feel very strongly about this. We believe in non-competitive sports, so we're enrolled Melissa in non-competitive soccer. We believe every child should be a winner. Every child should get a trophy." (Laughter) Bleh! I don't know where do they get those things from?

But that's the permissively child brought-up child, who feels a sense of entitlement. At the least bit of efforts we give this kid praise. I'm on record of saying, this is another one, Jean, don't praise your kids; it's destructive. Encourage your kids. Praise God; all others pay cash. (Laughter) But see, the permissive parent believes, they really believe that you just need to praise the kid for whatever slight effort they give.

Jean: And I'd like to be on the record to say, I have either heard you on a broadcast say that or read it in your book and I practice that and I have to really—

Kevin: It's hard.

Jean: --work at that. It is hard, because our one son, that typically gets pretty high grades, I'll say, "How does that make you feel?" And I've learned that from you—

Kevin: Right.

Jean: --and it's hard not to say—

Kevin: It's good to see you—

Jean: --"Great job."

Kevin: --enjoy learning.

Jean: "Well done," right.

Kevin: Yeah.

Jean: But I've learned that from you to encourage the behavior, not what they've accomplished—

Kevin: Right.

Jean: --not the grade—

Kevin: Right.

Jean: --not the scores and it's hard.

Jim: Yeah and we've—

Jean: It's hard to do that.

Jim: --concentrated a lot on boys, but John, you've got the girls at the table here.

Kevin: Oh, boy.

Jim: And Dr. Leman has the girls.

Kevin: Yeah, we know.

Jim: We've got to spend a little time on daddy-daughter—

Kevin: Drama.

Jim: --in this context, because you know, moms and sons, we've talked about that and Jean, you're doing an awesome job, by the way.

Jean: Oh, thank you.

Jim: But I think we should help the other gender a bit here. What about the dads with daughters? 'Cause there's just a lot going on in those relationships.

Kevin: Well, daddies need to understand. I remember the first time I held Holly, our oldest. I held her with my arms outstretched, you know. [It] didn't even make any sense, but that's how I held her. And my wife said, "Honey, what are you doin'?" I said, "I'm holding her." "Honey, you hold her like this." I mean, I was that stupid.

And as a daddy of four daughters and you know, walkin' a few of 'em down the aisle, that's a profound relationship if there ever was one.

Dads need to get in touch with the softer side of their masculinity and understand that these girls need to be talked to a certain way. You don't talk to daughters like you can to a son. And yet, when daughters lose a baby, you know who they want to talk to? They want to talk to their dad. We've been there; we've done that. And what do you do? As a man, you feel helpless. What do you do? You hold your daughter. You pray with her. You cry. Daddies don't understand how important we are in our daughters' lives.

There's not a daughter on this earth that doesn't want her dad to really love her and have her back in all situations. And it's those little things. I mean, we talk about this all the time. Mrs. Uppington has many raccoon-like qualities. She is up till about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning reading. Then she goes out in the neighborhood, tips over a few garbage cans, comes back to bed. (Laughter)

And consequently, when the kids were little, I would take 'em to Dunkin' Donuts and the kids have vivid memories of being in their Pooh-Bear "jammy" or whatever they call 'em, nighties and spinning the little stools around, you know, and I took 'em just to give my wife an extra hour and a half of sleep. I mean, I'm the early one; she's the late one. Isn't it interesting how God put us together in a great marriage for all those years?

But the little things we do as dads with our daughters affirm their femininity. Who better to talk with a daughter about life and sex than a dad? Who better to be able to give a daughter a perspective how young men look at young women and why modesty is such an important thing to learn in life?

And we leave an indelible imprint and that's what every man has to understand. The man you are has a lot to do with the kind of woman that young daughter's gonna grow up to be.

Jim: Do you think dads, by and large, understand that? Or like in our own relationships, which you've talked about, how men tend to want to have an arm's length distance in relationship, 'cause we're not really wired for community or social situations. We're wired for "lonerism," if I could say it that way.

Kevin: Yeah.

Jim: Do we get the impact there with our kids, particularly with our daughters?

Kevin: I don't think so in general, but I think as a species, males are getting much betterI mean, the first time I met your husband, Jim, I know that there wasn't a guy around that didn't want to be a better dad than he. And sometimes when you look back at our lives, we see this deficiency. It's that part of that cake, that psychological cake, where there was a missing ingredient. We spend our whole lives trying to make up for that gap that we know is in our life.

And there's nothing wrong with that. That makes all kinds of psychological sense to do so. But daddies, don't sell yourself short. Parenthood is not woman's work, okay. A man's place is in the home. And if a man is home centered, you know what? He's gonna do better in life all the way around. He's gonna do better in business, believe it or not.

Jim: Wow, that is good stuff. Hey, let me ask you a practical question. Why do we as parents, find it so hard to overlook the flaws in our kids? Why do we want to straighten 'em out?

Kevin: We think that by pointing out the flaws, that somehow that's gonna encourage them to be better people. And I always tell parents of young kids, kids love stories. Tell 'em stories about your life. Tell 'em how you got in trouble in school. Tell 'em about the bad grade you got or the science project that didn't get finished.

Don't be afraid to share your flawed self. As I've said many times, I don't think you can be a great witness for Jesus Christ on this earth unless you have a transparency, an authenticity about who you are and how dependent upon you are upon God.

And I've used the disciples as an example, for so many times, 'cause those poor suckers, they didn't get it and yet, they walked and talked with Jesus and saw Him perform miracles before their very eyes. But the end, when Jesus said, "Hey, listen, I'm outta here. I'm gonna go prepare a place for you," Thomas gets up and says, "We don't have a clue. Boy, what are You talkin' about? Where are You goin'? We don't know anything."

And then Philip, who, talk about a "dumb and dumber," there they are, Thomas and Philip. (Laughter) Philip says, "Yeah, show us the Father and then we'll know." Really? Really? You've been with Me all this time and you don't know who I am? If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father."

So, if you ever feel like you don't measure up, parents and I think that's what a lot of parents feel like, somehow I didn't measure up. Hey, none of us measure up. I mean--

Jim: No manual.

Jean: Right.

Kevin: --I think I probably shared this in "Focus" before, but I've had a lot of highlights in my life. I sit there at night and watch TV shows. I say, "Well, I remember when I was with that actor and this actor and this person and that person." But when I think of really joyful things, when my high school invited me back and put me on a wall of fame. Now if that's not funny I don't know what is, 'cause I graduated fourth in my class, but from the bottom, not from the top.

But my mom, who lived to be 95 years of age, I got a chance to drive her to the ceremony. And I'll never forget. I remember every word I said to her. I said, "Ma, we fooled a few people, didn't we?" "Oh, honey, I am so proud of you. Oh, a mother couldn't be more proud of a son, honey." And I said, "Remember the night the cops brought me home?" (Laughter)

Jim: You're bringing up all the good stuff.

Kevin: Oh, yeah and she said, "Oh, I do, but you were such a good boy." (Laughter) I said, "Remember the night I got caught driving the golf balls toward the New York State Thruway?" "Oh, I do, but you were such a good boy."

And I won't even go into dropping pumpkins off the viaduct, because I'm ashamed to even tell that story. And everything I said, she came back with, "But you were such a good boy." And all I could think of when I was drivin' up was Paul's letter to the Italians over in Romans 8:39. And it says, "Nothing separates you from the love of Christ. If we could only understand that as parents, you know.

Jean: Yes.

Kevin: It's not what the kids do; it's when the kids screw up, you love 'em anyway, you know. The prodigal son, when he [FYI: the father] saw his son from afar, the Bible says, he ran toward him. But listen to what the brother said. "What? What? They're gettin' out the fatted calf for that no-good brother of mine?" Doesn't that sound like families today? (Laughter)

But I'm just saying, I think all of us have a hard time understanding how much God really loves us, wrinkles, blemishes, flaws and all. And what do we spend time with, with our kids, correcting the errors. I always marvel at the fourth-grade teacher who gives the big 100-word spelling tests. At the top she writes, "Minus 4." Just what is wrong with "Plus 96?"

So, you either look at things positively, [or] you look at things negatively. I'm gonna believe the best in my kids. I want to think the best of them. I think that goes a long way. And when Jean says to these two boys who are just beginning to become young men, and she says, "I am very disappointed with what just happened her" and she turns and walks away, she's really got their attention. And these kids are getting in touch with our feelings. And their feelings aren't real good feelings, 'cause they know they disappointed their mom or their dad.

And so, give kids that opportunity to be disappointed. Give kids the opportunity to fail. That's important. Every Christian home needs to be a place where kids learn it's okay to fail.

Jim: Kevin, let me ask you this though. In that control feature that we, particularly as Christian parents, we want to try to control the outcome, because we're afraid of that alternative, that if our kids in their 20s aren't committed to the Lord, aren't living a life that is a good righteous life, then we failed. We have failed. How did we fail? How do we get beyond that condemnation to say, there's no formula. God gives us free choice. He also gave our kids free choice. And so many parents write and call here at Focus to say, "I've got that wayward son or daughter who's 25, 27, 35, who has not found their way back to faith. I have failed them. What do you say to that parent?

Kevin: Well, I think you've answered the question. I think it all gets back to personal choice. He's given us the choice of rejecting Him or accepting Him. In many ways, there's nothing you could do to change the course of that kid's life. I think we have to get parents off the hook and realize that some kids choose this path and other kids don't.

And then other kids don't come to Christ until after their parents have left this earth. I think you have to make sure that you're a good parent, not a perfect parent. We never strive for perfection. And you model as close you can what a marriage should look like for your kids. And you discipline your kids with love and if you do, you've done your job.

Do all kids respond to that? No, there's a lot of parents who listen to "Focus" every day and their kids have been in drug rehab so many times they can't count it. It's drained their pocketbooks.

Jim: And also in that, they tend to want to hide.

Kevin: They're ashamed.

Jim: What I mean by that is, they don't want to talk about that with anybody and certainly they don't know who they can trust in that way.

Kevin: But the authoritarian tells this kid who he needs to be. The authoritative parent has balance. And honey, I know it's a big thing to you, but I gotta tell you, it's not a big thing to me and walk away from it. Keep the tennis ball life on their side of the court.

There's a great teaching in the book of John, which I love. I love the book of John. If you're a new Christian, just read the book of John over and over and over and over and over again. Let the wedding feast, you know, Jesus' first miracle and it's a great teaching, because Jesus' mother comes to Jesus and says, "Hey, Son, come here. Do Your thing." (Laughter) "They['ve] run out of wine." And Jesus says, "Woman," calls His mother "woman" to show His displeasure. He's irritated by her. He says, "What have you to do with Me?"

Well, what does the smart Jewish mother say? Does she say, "What did You say? You ungrateful little snot. Do you realize I gave birth to You when I was 15 years of age?" No, that's not what the Bible says. She turns to the steward and says, "Do whatever my Son tells you to do."

Jim: (Laughing)

Kevin: It's a great teaching. And then—

Jean: That's good.

Kevin: --then Jesus and I asked my friend, Chuck Swindoll this one day. I said, "Chuck, you're the theologian. What happened there? Read it. There's a chasm there. He says, "No" and then He changes the water into wine. What happened?"

Well, Chuck said something to the effect of well, maybe it was just one of those situations where Jesus was apprised that this would be an uncomfortable position for the host to run out of wine, so He went ahead and did it.

I have my own theory. I think Jesus' mother, Mary, gave Jesus the look (Laughter), the same look you might give to your son or daughter if you asked them to do something and they said no. But it's a great teaching I think.

And as a parent, you know, you hit a lot of curve balls in life. You do the best you can. Do you feel bad when your kids really are goin' down the wrong path? You do. Do you spend sleepless nights? You do. I'm here to tell you, that's part of the human condition.

But God loves us so much that He gave each of us that ability to say, I accept You as Lord of my life, or I reject You. And are there consequences for it? There are.

Jean: Dr. Leman, do you think that we've gotten better as a Christian society, of realizing that our children are not ultimately a reflection of our parenting, for us as parents, to release that responsibility?

Kevin: No, I think we've gotten worse.

Jean: Really.

Kevin: I think we've gotten worse, especially with young parents today, who vicariously live their lives through their kids' successes. The whole thing about getting kids, you know, on the conveyor belt of activities and all that.

Jean: Right.

Kevin: We've got well-documented parents killing each other, fighting with each other at sports games. I mean, it's just so over the top.

Jean: And that's a big part of the problem, isn't it, that we feel they're reflecting poorly on us, on our parenting?

Kevin: Both ways, we take too much responsibility on both ends of that paradigm. It's crazy what we do in the name of loving kids. We give kids far too many things. What we don't give them is discipline, [we] don't give 'em positive expectations. We give 'em all the things. Kids don't need things. Most kids have way too many things.

And parents are screwy enough to give kids cell phones at an early age. I just completed a book called Planet Middle School, probably the best title I've come up with in a long time. It's like a Martian just appeared in your living room at age 11.

Jim: (Laughing) it's true. I want more.

Jean: Dr. Leman, you just mentioned your book and with not just middle schoolers, but high schoolers, teenagers and you've touched on this a little bit, the technology. I mean, what our kids are being exposed to today via technology and drugs and cutting and the social media, how do help them navigate these really, really difficult issues in our culture?

Kevin: Well, you mentioned cutting. Kids cut. If you're unfamiliar with cutting, a kid'll take a knife, a razor and they'll cut. Lots of times they'll cut in areas where you can't see it, where they can cover it. And believe it or not, it's a control issue.

And kids who cut will tell you that they cut because they feel it's the one thing in their life they have control over, which speaks to our previous discussion about authoritarianism, why you don't want to be an authoritarian parent. It only spawns more authoritarian behavior on the part of the kid.

With things like sex, the church has shirked its responsibility of talking plainly about sex and what a great gift this is. The Bible has some great powerful stuff in it about sex. And who better to talk to two boys than a mom?

Jean: Ah! (Laughter) Okay, listen. (Laughter)

Kevin: Yeah, I'll …

Jim: She wasn't expecting that answer.

Jean: Please expound on that.

Kevin: Mommies can give young boys a unique perspective about how young women view men. If a young boy, 12-years-old likes a girl, the best prediction is, he'll come up with two of his buddies and make a fool of himself in front of a girl, trying to impress 'em. And the girl's thinking, "Why don't you grow up?" you know.

Jean: Right. Yes.

Kevin: Giving a son information about how women want to be treated, telling a young boy that a woman never likes to be grabbed. Men love to grab. We have world-class grabbers right here at Focus on the Family in all probability. (Laughter) And I've never heard a woman say, "Oh, I just love the way my husband grabs me." So, there's all kinds of teaching. And when you talk to a kid about sex and relationships, start at the top and move down.

Jim: So, illustrate that—

Jean: And you're touching—

Jim: --'cause this is radio.

Jean: --you're touching your head.

Kevin: But this is good teaching. If you've got a young woman, a young daughter, talk to her about her hair. Hair is sacred to women, gentlemen, if you haven't figured that out, okay. And complexion and if a kid gets a zit, take him down to Walgreens and talk to the pharmacist about, "Hey, we got a little zit problem here. Could you help us out?" I think it's really important that a kid sees that a parent is actually a source that can be gone to and really receive help.

So, it's not about the birds or the bees or anything else. It's working your way down to talk about how you dress, your comportment, of your behavior and—

Jim: Hygiene.

Kevin: --again, hygiene is very important. (Laughter)

Jim: Talk to teenagers about hygiene?

Kevin: Yes, you do. You have to talk to 'em, but little boys grow up later than little girls.

Jean: Right.

Kevin: But mom is in a great position to talk to those sons, 'cause dad is in a great position to talk to daughters about how men view women, etc. And so, sex, I think you have to frame it within God's Word. It's a great gift. Why should we be ashamed to talk about sex.

So, is it easy to talk to your kids about sex? No, it's extremely difficult. I've written books on this subject. But again, I think you have a choice of talkin' to your kids or having the peer group teach your kids about life.

Jean: Right.

Kevin: That's the question.

Jim: It's a good one; it's a good one. Dr. Kevin Leman, author of the book, Have a New Teenager by Friday, thank you so much for being with us.

Kevin: I always enjoy being with you. I gotta tell you, I'll say this on the air, your wife is delightful.

Jim: She is.

Jean: Oh.

Kevin: She and Mrs. Uppington would have (Laughter) a great [time].

Jean: Yes, we would.

Jim: Well, we need to go have dinner together.

Jean: Yes. (Laughter)

Kevin: Maybe we just share our chicken salad sandwich.

Jean: Yes, maybe she and I can go shopping.

Kevin: Oh, oh, she goes "shopping." (Laughter)

Jim: It's great to have both of you. Thank you.

Jean: Thank you.


John: Well, I can't wait to have you back here, Dr. Leman, talking about the middle-school years. And you'll certainly find a lot of help, if you just can't wait for that broadcast, at our website and some additional articles about your teenager and some resources, as well, at

And we'd like to send you Kevin's book, Have a New Teenager by Friday as a way of saying thank you for your partnership with this not-for-profit organization. Focus on the Family is dedicated to helping you raise thriving kids and by God's grace, we can do that around the world through this radio program and our website and so much more. Join our support team. Make a generous gift and we'll send Have a New Teenager by Friday to you as a way of equipping you and perhaps, it's something you can pass along, as well. Donate at or when you talk to one of our family help specialists at 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend and inviting you back on Monday. Gary Thomas will be here, helping you appreciate the many good gifts that God puts in your life. That's next time, when we'll once again, help your family thrive.

  • Donate

    Help to Strengthen Families

    Please give to support family ministry. Your gift will go to work immediately — transforming lives through the power of the Gospel.

    Donate Now


Kevin Leman

View Bio

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order Book, Have a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. He and his wife, Sande, reside in Tucson, Ariz., and have five children and several grandchildren. Learn more about Dr. Leman by visiting his websites, and


Jean Daly

View Bio

Jean Daly became a Christian in 2nd grade and rededicated her life to Christ at 17. She attended the University of California at Davis and earned her degree in Biology from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Jean has been married to her husband, Jim, since 1986; they have two boys.