Back to School Challenges
About the Guest
Are you wishing summer could last just a few more weeks? Barbara Rainey reminds parents that their kids could be headed into challenging circumstances in the coming school year. With mom and dad's help, however, kids can be ready to face whatever comes their way. Babara Rainey answers questions about aggressive girls, back-to-school shopping, phone usage, social media, and parental involvement in school.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Barbara Rainey reminds parents that their kids could be headed into challenging circumstances in the coming school year. With mom and dad’s help, however, kids can be ready to face whatever comes their way.
Back to School Challenges
Bob: It won’t be long before kids will be headed back to school. Barbara Rainey says that means moms and dads need to get ready to get in the game as well.
Barbara: When moms and dads are engaged with their kids—when you know what they’re learning; what they’re reading; who their friends are; who they’re hanging out with; and you go to the events, games, and all of that stuff / when you are present—then you have many more open doors to have those good, healthy conversations because you’re a trusted person. You’re not somebody who just shows up once a year to gripe about something.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 7th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We have some coaching tips for moms and dads today about how you can be engaged with your kids as they head back to school this year. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Do you remember?—as this time of year began to approach in your home, were you wishing it was a few extra weeks and you had a little longer summer vacation? Or were you—
Dennis: Are you kidding me?! [Laughter] Bob, you were a dad! How would you answer the question about your kids going back to school? In a way, you kind of get your wife back!
Dennis: I mean, it’s been summer—and you’ve got vacations, and you’re in
100 percent control of their schedules, from sunup to sundown, and beyond. What about you?
Bob: Well, you do get a routine—you get your wife—but you also get a routine back. We’ve got your wife, again, joining us on FamilyLife Today. Barbara—welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Barbara: Thank you.
Bob: There is something about the summertime schedule and the September schedule.
Bob: They’re two different schedules.
Barbara: They’re very different.
Bob: And summertime is a nice break for a while.
Bob: But, honestly, after 11 or 12 weeks of no schedule, you’re ready for a little order and structure; aren’t you? [Laughter]
Barbara: Yes, I think most moms—and dads too—but I think moms, especially, feel somewhat ambivalent about the start of school. You kind of hate to turn over your kids, in a sense, because you did enjoy that control—deciding what was going to happen every day—but I think moms also long for that routine and that order that comes with having to get up five days a week and get kids off to school. That rhythm, I think, provides some sense of comfort, security, and consistency.
It’s hard—I mean, I remember in the summer—I always started the summer with these grand ideas: “We’re going to go to the library, and the pool, and the zoo,”—all these things.
And I just needed a break too. [Laughter] So, most of the times, those things didn’t happen.
Barbara: So, I was always kind of glad when school started because then some of those things would happen as field trips that I didn’t have to plan.
Bob: We have talked this week about the fact that there is a need to approach a new school year with an appropriate sense of sobriety—a sense that your kids are headed into what could be challenging circumstances—their worldview may be challenged. They are going to need courage to face what is in front of them.
Dennis: And we’re not talking about just kids going into junior high/high school. We’re talking about what happens in elementary school. In fact, I was on the radio—live, in Southern California—here, a couple of years ago, and was being interviewed about my book, Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys.
I remember being totally stunned that nearly all of the phone calls that came in, asking questions about boys having girls after them, were not boys who were junior high and high school. It was boys who were in elementary school.
Dennis: Moms and dads were calling with these stories—it was like, “You have got to be kidding me!” At younger and younger ages, this image that we’re seeing in the culture of girls being predators on boys, sexually—even when they’re not sexually-developed and don’t even have categories to discuss it—is impacting young girls and boys in incredible ways.
Bob: So, again, moms and dads need to be alert to this. They need to be prepared for this and helping to prepare their students. But most parents, who are thinking about back to school, aren’t thinking about the danger.
Barbara: No, they’re not!
Bob: They’re thinking about—
Barbara: They’re thinking about the backpacks, and the school supplies, and the uniforms—if your kids have to wear uniforms—you know, all of the—
—I remember our sons couldn’t wait to go back to school because they wanted to get the new coolest tennis shoes—whatever the coolest tennis shoes were. So, [much] of the time, moms get wrapped up in all of these lists of things that you have to prepare, and buy, and get. The kids do, too, because they know they’re going to get back in with their friends; and they want to be cool like certain friends are cool. They’re thinking about the shoes, or the outfit, or the backpack, or whatever it is that’s cool.
Bob: Yes, let me ask you about the latest tennis shoes, though, [Laughter] because that’s part of the practical reality of this. You had six children.
Bob: If you were buying new back-to-school clothes for your six kids, and if you were including the latest tennis shoes, and the backpack, and the school supplies—
Dennis: Oh, there’s a simple answer to this, Bob!—[Laughter]—very simple answer to this.
Bob: Well, we’re talking about a bunch of money!
Barbara: It can be a big ticket. Yes, it can be a big ticket.
Bob: So the simple answer—I guess the question is, “How did you handle that?”
Barbara: Yes. Well, here’s what we did. Our kids wore a lot of hand-me-downs, but to counteract the “I’ve got to have this because it’s the latest and greatest,” we gave all of our children, at age 14, a clothing allowance. We kind of figured out, between the two of us, what we would typically spend per month on the average kid. I don’t even remember what the dollar amount was—it wasn’t a lot, but they got however many dollars—$50/month / $75/month. I don’t know—it wasn’t much. It wasn’t enough to buy a pair of the coolest, latest, greatest tennis shoes, I know. But if they wanted to get that amount of money that they got every month—and we did not buy them clothes—whatever that money was that we gave them, they were responsible for all of their clothes.
Bob: Winter jacket?
Barbara: I think maybe we bought coats or boots—but basic clothing—they covered it.
Dennis: I didn’t want to go to jail, Bob—[Laughter]
Dennis: —have our kids on a tight allowance here and not be protected from the winter.
Barbara: Yes, I think we bought coats.
Dennis: I think we did too.
Barbara: If they wanted to save their allowance / their clothing allowance all summer long so that, in September, they could buy a $200 pair of tennis shoes and something else—that was their choice. They could wear ratty jeans from last year that were too short and didn’t fit well—whatever. It helped them prioritize what was really important because—when kids are looking at mom and dad as the source for what they want / what they think they need—then it just becomes this battle. Mom and dad have to be “the bad guy” in saying, “No, you can’t,” or “No, we can’t afford it,” or whatever it is. It’s just never a good enough answer.
Bob: School supplies—same thing? Did you give them an allowance for back to school?
Barbara: No, I bought school supplies. We just figured—when they got in high school and they had to have these fancy, expensive calculators—I mean, that just wasn’t fair to make them put that in their budget.
Bob: Do you remember?
Barbara: It was ridiculous!
Bob: The first time I saw the Texas Instruments 83—
Bob: —the “TI83.”
Barbara: Yes, it was almost $100! And then, the next year, there was a new and improved version—so the one you had was obsolete.
Yes, it was crazy!
Bob: There’s a racket going on there.
Dennis: It’s the same guys who created the smartphones. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, yes, that’s true.
Dennis: Same deal!
Bob: And the textbooks that are out-of-date every year as well.
Bob: So you handled back-to-school supplies and all of that. I guess you just had to figure out how to put your budget together so that you made sure you had money for the kids, at that point.
Barbara: Yes. It was just a part of what we planned for because we knew it was coming. I mean, everybody knows it’s coming every fall.
Dennis: And with media being what it is today, I know parents are facing really bigger bills around media, and cell phones, and communication devices for kids.
Barbara: Tablets, yes.
Dennis: You just have to decide what your values are; and how connected do you want your children; and how visible do you want those devices to be to you, as a parent?
Bob: So let’s talk about that because, as you know, we’ve talked about this a little bit on FamilyLife Today.
If your son or daughter is in the seventh or eighth grade, and does not have a cell phone/a smartphone, really—
Barbara: Yes, yes.
Bob: I mean, if they have a cell phone, they’re going to get laughed at for that. If they have nothing—
Dennis: You are fossilized parents. You are absolutely out of it!
Bob: Right! So, we didn’t have to deal with this when our kids were going to school. But if you were a mom or dad today—and it is seventh grade—and you’re thinking, “Okay, it would be convenient for them to have a cell phone because then they can do this,” and “They can always stay in touch.”
Bob: Would you do it?
Barbara: Probably for the convenience. I think, knowing where my child was and being able to get to them when I wanted to get them, in this culture, would be worth the risk to me. Because I remember—for instance, when our kids were in school, and they were on sports teams or on cheerleading teams—they would get home, sometimes, from away games at midnight. They didn’t have phones—we were just supposed to be there.
Sometimes, they would get home early. They’d be sitting there, waiting for us to come pick them up at midnight or whatever. I mean, you just don’t want to leave your kids hanging around school unsupervised. I mean, they could get picked up.
Barbara: So, I really would want to have my kids have a phone.
Bob: So, when the 15-year-old son, with the ancient technology cell phone, says to you: “Gee, it would sure be nice to have what the other kids have. I could be doing my homework while I’m waiting because I could be on the internet looking at stuff while I’m waiting for you; but this dinosaur—it doesn’t even know what the internet is.” [Laughter] What would you—
Barbara: I would say, “Sorry.”
Bob: That’s it?
Barbara: Yes, probably—probably. [Laughter] I mean, when our kids were growing up—
Dennis: We had to say, “Sorry,” about stuff.
Barbara: We said, “Sorry,” about all kinds of stuff!
Dennis: We were “sorry” parents!
Barbara: Yes, they didn’t like it, either; but I didn’t care because I wasn’t running a popularity contest. We always had our computer in a very, very open spot. I remember that our youngest was the one who was kind of on the beginning wave of all this. She was the only one of ours who had a cell phone in high school and on the computer.
We would walk in, and we would literally stand over her shoulder, and watch who she was talking to and what she was reading. We would go back and check everything she’d done. Of course, that was the Dark Ages compared to today; but I would not hesitate to say: “No. It’s just too bad.”
Dennis: And if there’s misuse, use the phone as a point of discipline and remove privileges. As a parent—be the parent.
Dennis: Don’t allow the peer pressure of “everybody” who has a cell phone and whose parents “always” let them use them—I might add, just while we’re off on this subject—I’ve always wanted to do this on the broadcast—I would like moms and dads, who have some really good, fun stories of how your children have dropped cell phones in the toilet or in the bathtub—[Laughter] —
Barbara: —tell us your story?
Dennis: —tell us the story.
I remember—and this was in the early days when cell phones were just kind of getting their day—one of our children—it had to be Laura, our youngest—went to school with a young lady who was on her ninth or tenth cell phone.
Barbara: At least—at least.
Dennis: She had just destroyed—
Barbara: It was just the little flip phones.
Dennis: Yes. Today, there have to be—with all the phones that are out there—there have to be some classic stories of both numbers of times and, I don’t know—maybe we need to come up with an award to the child who has destroyed the most cell phones. It won’t be another cell phone. [Laughter]
Bob: You can go to our Facebook® page—the FamilyLife Facebook page—and share your story/post on there. You can leave comments on FamilyLifeToday.com on today’s program and share some of those stories with us.
I know for us, one of the big events that would happen in the summer was the day that the kids got their schedule for next year. With the little kids, it was, “Whose room are you going to be in?”
With the older kids, it was your block schedule and: “Who do you have for this subject?”/ “Who do you have for that subject?” The rest of day or the next two days, you were on your phone—talking to all of your classmates—to see what classes you had in common, whether you liked this particular teacher / didn’t like that teacher.
If you looked at that schedule and thought to yourself, as a parent, “Gee, I wish my child had gotten Mrs. So-and-so for English instead of Mr. So-and-so,”—[Laughter]—do you leave that alone, or do you go talk to the school?
Dennis: Are you asking my wife if she was political?
Bob: I’m just asking her, “How involved do you get in this kind of a scenario?”
Barbara: You’re asking a mom who was very present at the school. [Laughter] Does that answer your question?
Bob: They knew, “Uh-oh, here comes Mrs. Rainey again!”
Barbara: Yes. [Laughter] No, actually, I don’t think they thought that because I was also volunteering and helping to do things all of the time. I wasn’t just in there correcting.
Dennis: We resurrected the PTA, as I recall.
Barbara: Yes, I was there helping a lot too. There are some cases when we chose to intervene. It was usually me that made the trip to the school and made sure that they got put in with the best teachers or in the AP classes because I knew that it would be a better learning experience for them.
Some of our kids qualified on the testing to be in all of those advanced classes and others of ours didn’t qualify. If I felt like it would be a better situation to be in the advanced English class rather than the regular English class, I went up there and asked because I had been up at school a lot—and I was serving, and helping, and doing other things. The first couple of times I did it, they weren’t so sure what to think about me. As the years went by, they knew that I had my kids’ best interest at heart; and they knew that I was going to make / we were going to make our kids do the work and be a good student.
By the time our last ones came through, they didn’t argue with me. They understood that I was trying to help our kids get the best education possible.
Dennis: And so, because we were present, it meant, when there was a problem—like one of our kids cheating on a test—
Barbara: Yes, there were—
Dennis: —we had the opportunity to talk directly to the teacher.
Dennis: He shot square with us. We talked about it and had a good, healthy conversation with our child who did that.
Dennis: And then, when one of our children was asked to read a book that was inappropriate—which I can imagine might happen today—we went up / both Barbara and I with the child. There’s something about this, Bob, that I think is really healthy for the parent because the teacher is a person too. This teacher was one of the best teachers in the school.
Barbara: Yes, and they’re doing what, so often, they’re supposed to do. So, it’s not—I mean, they have some control over the reading, like the summer reading that kids have to do or—
—but they’re also reasonable people. Most teachers are there because they care about the kids. We were going in because a problem presented itself, and we felt like we needed to deal with it.
When moms and dads are engaged with [their] kids—when you know what they’re learning; what they’re reading; who their friends are; who they’re hanging out with; you go to the events, and games, and all of that stuff / when you are present—then you have many more open doors to have those good, healthy conversations because you’re a trusted person. You’re not somebody who just shows up once a year to gripe about something.
Bob: Did you ever have conversations like that and get overruled by the teacher and have to say, “Okay; what do we do now?”
Dennis: We lost some battles with some teachers.
Barbara: I can’t think of one specifically.
Dennis: Well, I can. I’m not going to name this particular teacher, but she had it in for our child.
Barbara: Oh, I know who you’re talking about. [Laughter]
Dennis: And, you know, those are really interesting situations—when you’re watching a child going through a very difficult time in adolescence with their own crisis of confidence and identity issues.
Bob: And you want to teach the child respect for authority.
Dennis: Oh, yes!
Barbara: Yes, and we did.
Bob: The teacher is an authority; ad yet, at the same time, you’re thinking, “This is just not fair.”
Dennis: She was on this child. I mean—
Barbara: Yes, she really was. You know, we talked about respect—we talked about: “How you’ve got to follow the rules. You’ve got to do what she asks you to do, even though you don’t like it and it’s hard.” What was interesting is that—this child had that teacher for three classes—not just once—but—
Dennis: Was it his—
Barbara: Well, she taught sophomore English and then, during the junior year, she taught junior English—she got moved up—so he had her twice. Then he had her for Newspaper Journalism. By the time he graduated, I think things were a little bit better; but it was a rough, rough road. Yet, in the sovereignty of God, you have to look at that and say: “Okay, Lord.
“Are you teaching our child patience, perseverance, and longsuffering? What are you teaching?” because God is sovereign and He is in charge. There wasn’t another English teacher option. She was the best English teacher. I would not have taken him out of that class and put him with an inferior English teacher just to relieve his anxiety and his stress.
Dennis: And I think that’s important because I think, today, a lot of parents would say, “I’m going to choose comfort over growth.” This is hard stuff!
Barbara: It is hard. I mean, I remember when our oldest was in high school. She had a really difficult time making friends. It was not because she didn’t want friends—she loves people—but she never found her group. So, all the way—and she describes it this way—that all the way through high school, she was pretty lonely. She had a pretty solitary road through high school. She says, now, looking back—she said, “God was preparing me for some things that He knew I was going to have to deal with later in my life.”
I remember watching that—it was painful for me because I thought, “God, why aren’t You providing a really sweet, great friend for my daughter?” There are going to be those hard things that, as a parent, we wish we could rescue our kids from those. And yet, we just don’t know what God is up to—we don’t know what kind of character He’s trying to build in their lives.
Back to the school thing—I was very engaged, as a parent. I was up there a lot, but I was not so hyper-vigilant that I was trying to control everything because I respected fully that God was bigger, and God had a plan, and that He knew what He was doing.
Dennis: You weren’t a drone parent—
Dennis: —hovering/going everywhere.
Bob: They’re not helicopters anymore—they’re drones! [Laughter]
Barbara: They’re drones. [Laughter]
Dennis: They’re drone parents.
Here’s what I challenge every parent who’s listening: “Prepare yourself and your children for what you’re about to have to go through over the next nine/ nine-and-a-half months.”
One of the key issues we’ve been talking about here is courage. Get Barbara’s devotional about Growing Together in Courage—seven stories you can read aloud to your children. Then, have a discussion and talk about the story you’ve just [read] and talk about how you’ll apply it in the school where your child’s headed, whether homeschool—and there will be issues of courage for your children there—or public school, or private school, or Christian school. Prepare your kids, spiritually and in their character, to do their duty when they’re facing tough situations.
Bob: We’ve got copies of the book, Growing Together in Courage,in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. In fact, we’ve got a four-pack of four books that Barbara has written: Growing Together in Courage, Growing Together in Truth, Growing Together in Forgiveness, and Growing Together in Gratitude. You can get the books individually or get all four of them for a special price.
Get the details, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” Order these books from Barbara Rainey—great stories to inspire and motivate your children. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” and look for the books in the Growing Together series. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions or if you’d like to order over the phone—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I think more than ever in my lifetime, it feels like we are in a season in our culture where I keep describing it as the ground shifting beneath our feet because that’s a little what if feels like. It just feels like things we used to count on—you just can’t depend on some of those things any longer.
And I want our listeners to know that, at FamilyLife, we’re committed to anchoring ourselves in a foundation that is a more firm foundation than the one the culture is offering us today. It’s the foundation of God’s Word, which provides us with wisdom and guidance for how we are to live. It anchors us in the truth of the gospel and it teaches us how to live lives that honor and please God.
We’re so grateful for those of you who believe with us that that foundation is the only sure foundation in our world. Thanks for your support of this ministry—those of you who are Legacy Partners, giving each month—and those of you who get in touch with us, from time to time, and say: “Keep going. We appreciate what you’re doing.”
Right now, if you’re able to help with a donation, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a copy of a book by Dennis and Barbara Rainey called Two Hearts Praying as One. We’re convinced that the issue of prayer in marriage and family is, in many cases, a missing element for couples or for families.
This book is designed to breathe some fresh air into your marriage as you begin to pray together more regularly. That’s what we hope this book will help you do. It’s our gift to you when you make a donation today. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link, online, that says, “I CARE.” It’s the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. You can make an online donation and request the book. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone—and ask about the book on prayer. Or you can request the book when you write to us at FamilyLife Today, PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
By the way, if your donation today is your first donation, we’d like to add an additional thank-you gift. We’ll send you a copy of a prayer card designed to help you pray for your family during challenging times.
That’s our thank-you gift if you’re making a first-time donation this month. We do hope to hear from you.
And we hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this Sunday in church. I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk with Courtney Reissig about how she became what she refers to as an “accidental feminist.” I hope you can join us for that.
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 will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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