Coaching Your Kids Through the Teen Years – Gary Chapman


The teen years are turbulent—often marked with emotional explosions, mood swings, and unpredictable behavior. But if you’re prepared and intentional, you can help your child’s transition into adulthood go a bit more smoothly. On this one-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Dr. Gary Chapman gives you some insight into the teen years. He explains how teens are developing the ability to think logically and are learning to process anger. He also offers some pointers on teaching them how to apologize and forgive, nurturing an attitude of service in them, and showing them love with their Love Language. You’ll be encouraged to be a strong model for your teen!



they are going to be greatly influenced by our model more than anything we say by our model. So if they turn out to be like me in this particular area, am I gonna be happy with that? If not, I need to be changing it now and I need to go ahead and apologize for my past failures with this and make those changes. Welcome to the focus on the family broadcast, helping families thrive, john when your child reaches the teen years, I mean you’re looking at a lot of ups and downs, highs and lows and teens do test the limits and oftentimes pushing those buttons that we have as parents as they battle for their independence and we try to defend and not allow that independence here. Focus on the family. We do want to help you on that journey as a parent and to do a great job so that when they’re in their twenties and thirties, you’ve got a great and strong relationship with them, that’s what it’s about and hopefully in that that they have a relationship with the Lord which is all of our parents, hearts, desires and our guest today dr gary chapman is probably the, the order of his accreditation here is he’s a dad, a granddad, a family counselor and dr chapman has some great insights and to help us better understand the teen brain and how we can better get through that time together. Yeah, this is gonna be a really good conversation. Dr chapman is no stranger to focus on the family. He’s been here a number of times, talking about various aspects of the five love languages. He is an author, speaker, pastor counselor and today we’re gonna be talking about some of the content in one of his books, things I wish I’d known before my child became a teenager. It’s a very accurate title. Yeah, there are a lot of things you want to know before your child because there’s another way of saying that and we do have copies of that book here at the ministry. And the link is on your screen. Gary. Welcome back to focus. Well, thank you. It’s great to be back. It’s so good to have you here. And uh the teen years as we were just bantering about john and I can really be challenging. And it is a scream for help from a lot of parents because yeah, they don’t know what to do. I’m gonna put you on the spot. What were those years like for you and your own family? Well, you know, with our daughter, they were really easy, loved the girls. And then our son came along and I realized what people had trouble raising Children, but that can go both ways, right? You really can’t. But in your case that yeah, so that was your challenge was your son. It was our son. Yeah, yeah. Our daughter from the very beginning, your as a child and through the teenage years she was just basically compliant and she knew where she was going, she said when she was eight years old, I’m gonna be a doctor when I grow up. And so in high school she took three years of chemistry and three years of latin and she went on to be a doctor. My son who was four years younger than her. As all this began to unfold. He said, you know Shelly’s gonna miss a lot of life, she’s too focused, sounds like a fun young man. But in that, in that context for all of us and maybe some listening and viewing right now, they’re living it. They have the teenagers in the home and their ears are all tipped in on this conversation. What causes that turbulence? Why why do we laugh? You know, humor is rooted in truth. Why do we laugh about the teen years? Because it is true. It’s turbulent, It is true. You know remember the the mother who said to me, she said uh doc Chairman, she said, I don’t know what’s happened to my son, She said since he became a teenager, he’s questioning everything I have said through the years. And she said it just like his brain is changed and I said, you guessed it, his brain has changed. You know what’s happening? And the brain is refocusing during those teenage years. And so yeah, there are things happening there thinking differently and one of the things is they’re thinking now more logically and I didn’t say their their logical, I just said they’re beginning to develop logical thought, you know, and so they’re going to question things and so we have to learn how to work with that rather than working against that, right? And you say in the book that you need to really remember, it’s developing absolutely not developed. Man, I’m telling you when you’re in the heat of battle with your teenager, that’s hard as the adults to remember that, that they’re not there. I saw research and you’re into all the research, A boy’s brain isn’t fully developed till 25 how many parents just went, duh, but it is so true and describe those attributes of the, of the teen brain, what what is going on? Well, I think one of them is what we just mentioned that is they are beginning to think logically and consequently they are questioning almost everything things we’ve taught them their whole lifetime, they’re questioning those things. Is that really true? And they’re gonna ask us questions and we’re gonna either help them work through that or we’re gonna shut it down by saying, you know, better than that, I’ve taught you that different from that, you know? And so we’ve got to learn to cooperate with that. The other thing, I think in the brain, what’s happening is the emotional part of the brain is going through some changes. So they’re really high and really low in the morning, they can just be so jovial and everything seems wonderful and they go off to school and come back that evening and there in the pits, you know, something happened today that influenced them in a negative way and now they’re in the pits. So, and parents, this is hard to understand because this morning you were this way and tonight you’re this way, but it’s, it’s a part of the development of the brain. It’s so true. I think those emotional waves are, and again, I only have the boys, so john you’ve, you’ve got three girls so jump in. But you know, boys from what I understand what I experienced there fairly predictable. They’re pretty straightforward, they can be too much. So, you know, whether it’s physical aggression or all of that and they’re very action oriented typically where from what I’ve heard from my dad friends with girls is it’s very emotional, You know, something just goes wrong and you don’t even understand what what the conversation is right now. Was that your experience? Yeah, I think it could be true, but I don’t think it’s true for all girls or all guys. It’s 80. 20, right? Yeah. In fact, you your son Derek, you had that explosive moment that you described in the book when he was a teenager and something took place first. What happened? How did you manage it? And how did you repair the damage in it? Well, it had to do with anger and We got into an argument one night, I think he was probably 14 at the time. And uh I was yelling at him and I said hateful things to him and he was yelling at me and said hateful things to me. And in the middle of that argument he just walked out of the room and walked out the front door and slammed the door. And when he did, I woke up and I thought, oh God, I thought it was further along than this yelling at the Sun I love. And I sat down on the couch and just started crying and I just confessed my sin to God. And I really said Lord, I thought I was further along than this, that I would never do this and in time, I don’t know how long, but in time my son walked back in the house and when he did I said, Derek, could you come in here a minute son? And he came in and sat down and I just poured my heart out to him. I said, Derek, I want to apologize to you, A father should never talk to a son the way I talk to you. And I said, I said some hateful things and that’s not the way I feel about you, I love you. And I just poured my heart out and I finally said, I just, I hope you can forgive me. And he said, dad, that was not your fault. I started that and I shouldn’t talk to you that way. And when I was walking up the street, I asked God to forgive me and I want to ask you to forgive me. And we hugged each other and we cried and we hugged each other and we cried. And when it was when that was all over and we both kind of calmed down, I said, Derek, why don’t we try to learn how to process anger in a positive way and talk our way through anger rather than yelling our way through anger? So what if the next time you’re angry at me? You just say, dad, I’m angry, can we talk? And I’ll sit down with you and just listen. And I said, the next time I’m angry with you, I’ll just say, Derek, I’m angry, can we talk? And let’s learn how to do this? And that was that was a huge turning point in our relationship. Well, I would think when he came back to the house and you had that exchange of forgiveness, really, you had to turn around and go, okay, maybe we’re further along than I thought. I mean, that’s the irony. But that’s the issue with anger. It’s such a flash. I mean, there’s something in us that’s triggering us and it’s like, we don’t like who we are in that moment, especially those of us who believe in christ right? It’s not a pretty sight. It’s an ugly side of our flesh. I’ve sometimes said that was one of the saddest nights of my life and one of the happiest nights of my life, Sad because of what I had done. Happy because my son had demonstrated to me he knew how to apologize. Yeah. And I think in raising boys, I think it’s a generalization, but most dads have a moment with their son in some way remember Trent and he was probably 17 and he had spoken to jean very harshly and like he’s six ft six at this point and I got in his face at 62 and I said, you don’t talk to mom that way. And he just looked at me, we’re kind of what the term is bowing up on each other, you know, and I said, you don’t talk to my wife like that, she may be your mother, but she’s my wife and I remember we just were eyeballing it like is this gonna be that moment? And I’m thinking, what am I doing? One, he’s bigger than me but to do, I really want to go down this path and it gets cooled off and you know, he was kind enough to come back and say I was totally wrong, I shouldn’t talk to mom that way. And that, that may have been the last time that he did actually, so that worked, but it did kind of boy, it was dicey, you’re right, you know what’s unfortunate jim is, you know, some parents go through those situations again and again and again and that’s when the child checks out and sometimes they run away from home, they leave or they make it till they get through high school and then they just don’t have anything to do with their parents. And that’s what’s tragic and that’s why I say to parents when you recognize that what you’ve done or said is not loving and kind of apologize. And sometimes parents say, but if I apologize, won’t they lose respect for me? And I said no, no, no. They gain respect. They already know that what you did was wrong, you know? No, it’s so true. Gary. I I do appreciate that idea of apologizing there. Is that next step that you talked about in the book though, and that is the ability to forgive. So I don’t know sometimes I might think of those two as one and the same, but you are saying no, they’re two different acts. I think apology is when we acknowledge our own failure to the other person. And in the book, I discuss five different ways that people do apologize because we have different ideas on the apology means and we can discuss those if you like. But I think in a response to an apology, the biblical response is forgiveness. You know, we’re told inefficient for that. We’re to forgive in the same way God forgives us. Well, how does God forgive us? When we confess our sins, God forgives us. So when the person apologizes to us, we’re following a godly model, when we forgive and forgiveness is not a feeling forgiveness is a choice. It’s a choice to pardon the person. I’m not going to make you pay for this and to remove the barrier that the offense has created between us. Because every time we have that kind of experience, it puts an emotional block in a wall between us, and forgiveness removes the block so that now our relationship can go forward. No, it’s so good. I do want to hit those actually, the five languages of apology. So if we can, let’s let’s go through those, I think the first one is expressing regret. Um, let me ask, you know, kind of tough question. What if your teenager doesn’t really connect with regret? Not seeing, you know, they haven’t developed that ability to have regret. How does a parent steer their teenager into feeling regret? I don’t know that we can trigger their emotions, but we can give them a model and they’re far more likely to follow our model anyway. They are words but expressing regret often is done with the words, I’m sorry. In fact, this is one of the most common ways that people apologize. I’m sorry, but don’t ever stop with those words, tell them what you’re sorry for specifically. Specifically, I’m sorry that I lost my temper and yelled at you because if you simply say, I’m sorry, that can be trite to a lot of people. It doesn’t connect very emotionally with them. But you know, I’m sorry that I and don’t ever put the word, but in there I’m sorry that I da da da da da. But if you had not then I would not. And now you’re blaming them for your behavior. So expressing regret is one of the ways to apologize. Another way is accepting responsibility. I was wrong. I should not have done that. There’s no excuse for that. I take full responsibility for it. Our culture is not good at this. You’re right. I mean this is and we’re getting worse at it. Yeah. I think this is really the first step in teaching a child how to apologize A four year old breaks a cookie and says it broke it broke. And the parents said, honey, let’s say that a different way I broke the cookie. It’s not a sin to break a cookie, which is helping them accept responsibility. So uh, and for some people you’re not sincere if you don’t accept responsibility, if you don’t admit that what you did was wrong. And then a third way of expressing apology is offering to make restitution. How can I make this up to you? I know I’ve hurt you deeply, but I want to make it right. And if this is what they consider to be a sincere apology, they’ll have an idea on what you can do to make it right. And then expressing the desire to change my behavior, I don’t want to do that again, I don’t like what I did and I don’t want to do it again. Can you help me? Can we talk? Can we get a plan that I won’t do that again? And then the last is actually requesting forgiveness. Will you forgive me? I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. So, I think one of the things I suggest in this book is with Children that are just before the teenage years or when they’re in the teenage years is to have a have a family discussion about apology. Yeah. What what what what what what does everybody think here is a sincere apology because we grew up, all of us grew up with some idea that we learned from our parents. You know that either I’m sorry and maybe that’s all we’ve ever learned, I’m sorry. So what what is your idea of what a sincere apology sounds like and then discuss these five different ways because these are ways we discovered with thousands of people that these five ways, five ways are very common. So what we’re doing now is getting on the front burner of our teenagers and our and ourselves that there are gonna be times we’re gonna have to apologize to each other because I’m not going to be a perfect father or a perfect mother and you’re not gonna be perfect teenagers, you don’t have to be perfect but we want to deal with our failures. So when I hurt you, if I if I don’t come to you and apologize, you come to me and say dad, I think you owe me an apology. And and so I will you tell me about it and you tell me what you heard me say or do and all, and I said, oh I’ll get it. But I like that idea of inviting, inviting it. That makes a huge difference. If you invite it, they’ll come, they’ll come and tell you, you know? But we’re we’re saying this is this is a huge part of our family. We want to learn how to apologize and then we want to learn how to forgive and here’s what it means to forgive. And we talk about forgiveness is a great idea. Yeah. Just pray up before you make that invitation, be ready and be open and be real about that. Well, dr Gary chapman is our guest today on focus on the family and we’re so glad you’ve joined us things I wish I’d known before my child became a teenager is uh the book that we’re covering today and you’re going to find details about it and The five languages. The apology is a crucial part of it at our website and the link is on the screen or call 800 the letter a and the word family Gary, you have a illustration of course, you’re counseling with lots of families and have done so for years. But you have a story about a 13 year old that you canceled after he ran away from home. What happened? Well, in the course of our conversation, he said to me, my parents don’t love me, they love my brother, but they don’t love me. I knew his father and mother, I knew they loved him. The problem is they have never learned how to communicate love to him. They had never learned what I call his love language. And so, uh, you know, in the course of conversation and later on in counseling with the parents, we brought it brought up this idea. They weren’t familiar with the concept of love languages and that this son has a love language that’s different from your other son. And so he doesn’t feel loved even though you love him. And so the whole concept of the five love languages applies in those teenage years because if a teenager doesn’t feel loved by their parents, they’re not gonna be healthy emotionally. They’re not gonna relate well to the parents and chances are they won’t relate well to other people. Well, what’s so critical about that? And I, I think we all fall prey to this is we think of that relationship from our viewpoint. You know, I’ve said, I love you, I’m doing all the things that express love to you, but it’s missing the mark because that’s not their love language, which is really critical to remind people of that or to introduce people to that. What are the five love languages quickly? Well, there are five ways to express love on an emotional level, whether it’s with husbands and wives or with parents and Children, one is words of affirmation, just looking for things that you can honestly genuinely affirm them for, you know, and then one is acts of service, doing something for them that, you know, they would like for you to do cooking a meal is an act of service fixing their special meal that they really like as a teenager is an act of service quality time, giving them your undivided attention. That means when you’re a teenager is talking with you, you give them your full attention, you’re not looking at your computer or the television or reading a magazine, you’re giving them full attention and it doesn’t always mean you’re talking sometimes you can just be walking down the road with them and having time together or doing something they really want you to do with them quality time. And then physical touch, we’ve long known the emotional power of physical touch. And for some teenagers, this is their language. If you see them always hugging each other and hugging other people or patting people on the back, you can be pretty sure that’s what they want for themselves, you know? And then the last one is receiving gifts, and for some teenagers gifts is their primary language. You don’t hear me saying, if that’s their language, give them everything they want. No, no, no, we love them too much to do that. Even God doesn’t do that. But I like that concept of it, what they’re experiencing in that is that you are thinking of me, I like putting it in that context because I think you’ve used the reference that you can give your teenager a rock because it has certain colors that reminded you of that teenager and then they may save that gift, which you would never save a rock, right? But for them it meant something or you can be taking a walk and find a bird feather. Yeah. Just brush it off and take it home. And if gifts is their language, that teenage son, is that his language saying, man, I found this and I thought about you man, look at the colors in this thing. I don’t know what bird, what bird do you think this came out? I want you to have this. He’ll, he’ll see that he’ll see it as a gift. You were thinking about him. The other thing though is that we’re not null and void to the other four. You have a dominant language usually and you have a secondary and the other three play into it, right? It’s not. Yeah, absolutely. I think with parents always say give them heavy doses of their primary and then you give them the other four because we want that teenager to learn how to receive love and give love in all five languages and again, a family discussion about this concept and maybe going online and taking the quiz, the free quiz, you know, at five love languages dot com, Just take the free quiz for mom and dad for the teenager. And now we’re gonna talk about it. You know, we’re gonna talk about this thing and let’s, let’s, I’m gonna, I want to start loving your daddy the way he wants to be loved and I love you the way you want to be loved and we want to be a loving family. The, the teenagers will buy into that. And, and I’m telling you, it will literally transform the emotional climate of the family and it’s so good, So good. Gary you also talked about the need for teens to learn an attitude of service. I can’t imagine a more difficult time for some to apply this principle. You know, wake up early saturday morning because we’re going to go to the pet farm and you know, scoop do do we did that actually, you know, Gene signed us up to go to a, it was a animal restoration place, you know, she loves animals. And so she signed us up to volunteer and we were literally cleaning stalls of ducks and all kinds of things, you know, scooping the aftermath of their good eating habits. But but it was good. I think the boys really did learn a little active service and all that, but why is that so important? Well, I think this is the, this is the lifestyle of the christian when you really get down to it, you know, jesus said about himself, I did not come to be served, I came to serve and to give my life a ransom for others. So it’s so important, particularly christian families that we have an attitude of service and I think the teenager is far more likely to come into this if they see us serving other people. Remember when I was growing up and I was a teenager, I don’t know that my parents ever talked to me about serving others, but I watched them, my dad would mow lawns for people when they were in the hospital, my mother would bake food and make food and take it to them or you know, and I saw them doing things like this for people all the time. And so I, I bought into that. I mean I saw that, you know, and so I think, I think our model first of all and then yes, we’re going to discuss this and yes, bring them into that. Remember when our teenagers are kids were teenagers. One of the things I did in the fall, when the leaves were falling. I’d get put rakes in the back of the car, we drive through the neighborhood and look for houses where the leaves were still in the yard and I’d knock on the door and say, I’m Gary chapman and we live down in the neighborhood and I’m trying to teach my kids how to serve other people. And if you don’t mind, we’d like to rake your yard for you. And they would say, say what? And I’ll repeat my little speech and they’d say, oh, I’d be happy for you to, I’ll pay you two to rake my leaves. And I said, no, I don’t want any money. I’m just trying to teach them how to serve people. And I never found anybody that wouldn’t let us do that. And the kids got out there and they loved it. And the part they really liked when you get them in the pile and jump in the pile, I’ll make sure to give Gary my address. That’s so good. Gary. You asked a great question in the book, which I think is a tremendous place to land today. And that is um, as a parent, you ask yourself and encourage other parents to ask themselves what if my team turns out to be just like me and what is your point in that? Whether you have fear in the answer or comfort in the answer. I would imagine. Well, you know, it’s really the most serious question I ever asked myself and I’m glad I did because I changed some things. So I challenged parents of teenagers to, to ask yourself what if they handle anger the way I handle anger. Because I realized the story I told earlier my son was yelling at me because he learned it from me. Why would they get older if they treat their spouse the way I treat mine? What if they drive a car or the way I drive a car? Okay, now you’re getting close out? What if they have the same work ethic that I have and what if they talk to other people the way I talk to other people? And what if they talk about people who are different from them the same way I do. And what if they respond to alcohol and drugs the way I did? And what if they have the same quality of a relationship with God that I have? And I go on in the book with a few more of those, that is worth it right there to get the book. I don’t know if that’s in the back or the front, but I’ll take it home and look at that. But those are good thought provoking questions. You know, Gene and I were just talking about this the other night because she said something to me. It sounded I mean just like her mom and I stopped and I said, oh my goodness, That sounded just like your mom and she goes, it did, didn’t it? And we started talking about how often we are expressing those emotions or those verbal lashes, the way we got it from our parents and then we turn around and do it to those around us, right? It will help us to begin to change some things in our lives. Yeah, we asked those questions of ourselves and then say, okay, I need to ask God to transform me in this area. Well that’s a great place to land Gary. This has been so good and thank you. Um you know, for again, awakening our hearts to what’s the goal here? Uh to win an argument to win a debate, I’m telling you with teenagers that, ain’t it? You’ve got to look at the big picture and I let me ask that in the last question here, Thinking of your 15 year old as a 40 year old and is there benefit in that kind of the answer to your question to who are they going to be? Because they are going to be greatly influenced by our model more than anything we say by our model. So if they turn out to be like me in this particular area, am I gonna be happy with that. If not I need to be changing it now and I need to go ahead and apologize for my past failures with this and make those changes? What a great challenge. I hope you’ve enjoyed this. There’s so many resources here, focus to help you in the journey. I think everything that Gary has written, we offer and certainly will tag to the, the link to the website to let you be able to take the test to see or the quiz to see what your love languages. I would encourage you to apply it and especially when it comes to teens. This great book things I wish I’d known before my child became a teenager. Uh the other title to that book is Help Me. So it is a wonderful resource and one that you need is apparent. I mean, these are tools don’t go do this blindly. There’s plenty of help here. And Gary is the best at this education for us as parents to do it better. So Gary again, thank you for being with us. And if you would like to invest and get a copy of the book, get ahold of us. We’ll send you a copy if you can help us financially, we’ll send you a copy of the book is our way of saying thank you either monthly or a one time gift. And if that’s too much and you’re unable, we’ll provide it for you. We’re going to trust others will take care of the cost of that. Just get ahold of us. We have caring christian counselors that can help you as well. If you’re in a real parenting pickle, let us give you some advice and provide other resources. Probably mostly Gary stuff that can help you reach out to us donate as you can and request that book things I wish I’d known before my child became a teenager and his Jim said, well, link over to the quiz that Gary mentioned earlier as well. Our website is right there on your screen, click the link there or call 1 800 the letter A and the word family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here. Thanks for joining us today for focus on the family. I’m john fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in christ

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