The Power of Connectedness
About the Guest
How is the culture influencing today's youth? Just carpool for your daughter and her friends, and you’ll find out, as author Dannah Gresh did. Dannah counsels parents to "get connected" to their kids in order build a bridge to their children's hearts.
How is the culture influencing today’s youth?
The Power of Connectedness
Bob: Author and speaker Dannah Gresh says we need, as parents, to stop saying “no” so much to our children. Well, kind of.
Dannah: I don’t think that we parent best with negative messages and when we say no boyfriends, no sex, no secular music, no, no, no, no, no, we don’t win the battle. Rather, when we build this beautiful vision, beginning at the age of three, four, five years old, of one day there’s going to be one guy that captures your heart and he’s worth waiting for, that’s a positive message. And positive parenting messages are far more potent than negative ones.
Bob: This is FamilyLife today for Wednesday, April 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.
Dannah Gresh joins us today to help us think strategically and wisely about planting those positive messages in the hearts of our children.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Isn’t it too bad that kids grow up? I mean, sometimes don’t you just look and go. “I just.. If we could just press the button and keep you this age.”
Dennis: I’ve got pictures in my office at home. I pause and stop there and it’s little chubby cheeks. They’re huddling up with daddy and, I mean, they’ve got me absolutely wrapped around their little finger and they know it.
Bob: The truth is they do grow up and it’s good that they grow up and it’s right that they grow up. We don’t want to keep them from growing up. But there’s something about the innocence of childhood.
Well, Jesus talked about having the faith of a child and I think he was pointing to some of that trusting innocence that, as parents, we ought to preserve for as long as we can in our children’s hearts. But it’s sad in this culture. It’s hard to fight that fight because the culture’s trying to grow them up too quick.
Dennis: Well, to that very point, Bob. First of all, let me introduce our guest. She’s no stranger to our listening audience. In fact, we were talking about it. She may be, other than Barbara, the most frequent guest, frequent female guest, on FamilyLife Today.
Bob: She would be in the top five list. In fact, we’ve been thinking about just changing the name of the program to FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey and Dannah Gresh!
Dennis: Actually, Dannah asked to be put on the payroll, she’s been on the broadcast so many times. Dannah, welcome to the broadcast.
Bob: Yeah, you got turned around and got stung too, didn’t you!
Dannah: Thank you, I think!
Dennis: Dannah is a contributor to MomLifeToday, that’s FamilyLife’s mom blog. Folks who are interested in that can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and check on the blog there. There are a number of blogs that FamilyLife has going but MomLifeToday has a number of contributors and Tracey Eyster, who works here at FamilyLife, leads that initiative. Dannah, I appreciate you contributing to that.
You also are the author of a number of books. You have three children and this latest book you’ve written, called Six Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl, is talking about what Bob mentioned here. You don’t know this, but when Barbara and I were raising our kids, there was this book she used to read aloud to me. It was called The Hurried Child. It was all about how, back then, when we were raising our six, how everything was just being pressurized against children and parents to grow up faster and to get it done quicker and all this.
I got to thinking, in our culture, the hurried child, that’s still an issue. But it’s now the assaulted child. Because this is a culture that is really coming after our children with all kinds of agendas, some of them being evil.
Dannah: If I could encapsulate my concern... Twelve years ago when I started my ministry to teen girls with a focus on helping them live lives of purity and modesty, I would say twelve, thirteen year old girls were kind of the front line of our battle zone. If we started to talk to them at those ages, we were hitting them when they were first being marketed to for products that were going to take them off that wagon of purity and modesty.
Now, the front line is probably an eight or nine year old girl. That’s heartbreaking. Consider some of the things that are happening. Last year and the year before, the top television program watched by eight to twelve year old girls… One of them, American’s Next Top Models, waif-thin models in catfights, wearing hardly any clothes, wearing way too much makeup. And Desperate Housewives…
Bob: Come on…
Dannah: Yes, they watch it with their moms.
Dennis: What’s going on with parents?
Dannah: They’re watching Desperate Housewives.
Dennis: With them?
Dannah: With them. Now, I think a good juxtaposition would be that in l980 the top television program in that same demographic was Care Bears. That kind of sums up where we’re at with girls today.
Now what’s the outcome of all the makeup, all the clothing that makes them look like seventeen olds not wearing much, the music? “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” is on their lips. The American Psychological Association has really traced the footprints. Those little girls, who in the ages of eight to twelve will get exposed to those things, are most at risk in their teen years of depression, eating disorders, and an early sexual debut.
This is what really breaks my heart because I love the covenant of marriage. Those little girls grow up to be married young women who are sexually repressed because they have so many broken pieces in their hearts from sexual experiences and so many body issue images from comparing themselves to an unattainable standard.
Bob: Tell our listeners about the conversation you had late night, at Denny’s with your daughter and some of her friends, right?
Dannah: Well, I start the book Six Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl with one of the most shocking conversations I overheard with my daughter. She had just finished a play and they had an after party at midnight at a restaurant. Of course, I tagged along. I’m always the tag along mom. I listened as this fifteen year old girl talked to my, then, fourteen year old daughter.
They were talking about girl stuff, periods, cramps. That led to a conversation about the pill. This girl was just so delighted that her best friend was on the pill because now she could have sex with her boyfriend without any worries.
Of course, I piped up and said, “How is that girl going to be protected from sexually transmitted diseases?” My daughter just kind of cringes and jumps under the table almost and says, “You don’t understand. My mom will talk about anything.” And I will! I just jumped into the conversation. And in the course of the conversation she kept texting her boyfriend, using profanity the whole time in front of me. At one point I said, “Who are you texting?” She said, “My boyfriend.” Well, of course, what am I going to ask? What do you think I’m going to ask?
Bob: “What are you saying? What’s your text say?”
Dannah: Exactly! I say, “Hey, are you having sex with your boyfriend?” And this fifteen year old explains that the mom and dad of the boy don’t want them to have sex but her dad doesn’t seem to say much at all about it. And yet, when she stays overnight at her mom’s house, and her boyfriend comes to spend the night, they blow up the queen size inflatable bed and they’re allowed to sleep together.
Bob: The boyfriend comes to spend the night?
Dannah: The boyfriend comes to spend the night! And this girl’s having this conversation in front of my precious purity-ring-bearing, fourteen year old daughter.
Dennis: It ain’t Care Bears anymore.
Dannah: It’s not Care Bears anymore. You know, moms. I have sheltered my kids in an appropriate ways. Yet this conversation happens. I was so proud to watch that night as Lexi Gresh mentioned her purity ring and said, “I’m so proud. I’ve made a decision to wait.”
Of course, she didn’t have it on that night because she was in costume for the play. The girl made a comment of “Lexi, you’re not wearing it tonight. Does that mean you’re allowed to do it tonight?” And Lexi just looked at her and said, “It’s a commitment that I’m keeping for every night, my whole life, until my wedding night.”
I was so proud of her. I felt like Lexi and I won a battle that night. Felt sad for that other mother and daughter because they lost something.
Bob: I’m trying to imagine a mother of a fourteen year old going, “Hey, here’s a good idea. Have your boyfriend spend the night and we’ll blow up the queen size mattress and you guys can stay.” What mom…? What is a mom thinking when she thinks that would be a good thing?
Dannah: She’s not thinking through all the risks because even if she’s a left leaning thinking women, she’s not thinking about the sexually transmitted diseases. She’s not thinking about the fact that the suicide rate among sexually active teenagers is six to twelve times higher than their virgin peers. She’s not looking at the whole picture at all. She’s not being a smart mom.
Dennis: One of the thing that Barbara and I did that still, Dannah, turned out to be… And we weren’t smart. We just stumbled on to some things. I’m convinced God allowed us to do this to keep us….
Dannah: Don’t’ tell me you weren’t smart because I was reading your stuff and doing what you said.
Bob: They were smart after they made the mistakes.
Dennis: Yeah, that’s exactly right. But seriously. We started teaching a sixth grade Sunday school class of eleven and twelve year olds, okay? I mistakenly thought I was there just to teach them. When in reality, over the next eleven years I went to school on those kids.
Yet what I’m hearing today is these decisions that were being pushed down to eleven and twelve are now being pushed earlier and earlier to these young ladies and these men’s lives. Most parents, most of us, are still back in the Care Bears era, and we’re not considering all the crush and, as I mentioned earlier, the assault of the culture. So our kids are being abused in this evil age.
Dannah: They naively fall into things. For example, last year about twenty-five percent of kids under the age of twelve encountered porn on the internet, not really looking for it. Now some of them were, because porn was the forth word searched on the internet for kids twelve and under last year. So it is a different day and age.
Dennis: What were the other three words?
Dannah: I don’t know. But that’s enough to scare me, just the one.
Bob: I’m guessing Justin and Beiber were two of them. That’s just a guess!
Dennis: But the point is children today, more than ever, need moms and dads who are clued in about what’s taking place in the culture and they’re connected heart to heart with their children.
Bob: We’ve been talking for about ten minutes and I can imagine the moms and dads listening, going “Okay, that’s it. We’re selling the house. We’re moving out to a ranch in the country. We’re going to put up a high wall all around everything. We’re going to get rid of the television. We’re going to isolate. And that’s the way we protect our child.” Is that what you recommend?
Dannah: No. In fact, if I were to encapsulate my recommendation into one quick sentence, it would be to understand and engage in the power of parent-child connectedness.
Parent-child connectedness was a term that I came to understand when I was first researching how to raise sexually pure kids about twelve years ago. It simply is being with them, “be with” time, constant “be with” time.
It’s having planned out and executed traditions. It’s having dinner three to five times a week with the TV turned off and engaging in conversation. Or cutting down a Christmas tree at Christmas. Or having an egg hunt during the resurrection season. It’s those repeated traditions as well as just those daily things that you do.
It’s being available when your kid shows up from fifth grade with a recipe for some slime that they learned about in science class that bounces off the walls if you make it. You go to Wal-Mart. You buy the ingredients. You make it. You connect. Those things build the opportunity as teenagers for you to speak into your kids’ lives.
Dennis: We keep using the word “bridge.” I like that visual because a bridge really is designed for the traffic to go both directions. It’s not just only to get to know your child and what your little girl likes and what they’re going through in life. It’s also a bridge to occasionally drive across and take truth to them.
The great commandment found in Deuteronomy, chapter six… Interestingly, you always think of the great commandment being in the New Testament. The great commandment really was given right after the law was given. What God commanded here, He said, “These words shall be on your hearts and you shall talk of them with your children when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up. They shall be like doorposts over your house.”
Everywhere you look you’re going to be passing on truth and the knowledge of who God is so that your kids, as they encounter evil, as they encounter things that they’re not ready for, they’ll know how to make the judgment. That’s what you’re talking about here in building a relationship. It’s not just so that a mom and a daughter or a father and son can have a hug. It’s really for the purpose of ultimately passing on the truth of God and the truth about God to your children.
Dannah: Exactly! And that’s one of the key verses in the book, along with Proverbs. In the twenty-second chapter it says “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
My world was changed as I was parenting and I found out that the word “way” in that verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go,” was the word “derrick,” which is a word that means my way or my unique bent. It was an archer’s term and it was meant to talk about them preparing to win in battle with that bow and arrow.
Now, back then they didn’t have a bow and arrow with gadgets and buttons that you could turn so that even I could hit the broad side of a barn. They had, you know, wood bows that, depending on the tension of the wood, the strength of the wood, the moisture in the wood, you had to learn the strength of that bow.
So what God is saying to us as parents in this verse, not only that there is His way, but that you must understand the unique bent and strengths and bets of each individual child.
That’s something that only quality time can afford you to know. That this child is an introvert. That this child is an extrovert. That this child’s going to say things without thinking. That this child is going to need to be drawn out to say what they think and what they feel. That connecting time allows us to know the unique differences in that child so that we can help them live God’s way.
Dennis: Dannah, one of the things I like about your book was you didn’t’ just talk about this connection in broad terms. You actually help a parent measure the quality of connectedness that they have with their daughter.
You have a quiz on page 40 and 41 and, with your permission I’d like to make this available on the FamilyLife Today website. If you would, would you just go over a few of these. Explain why you have what you have here because, I don’t know, there’s probably a couple of dozen items that you’re measuring.
Dannah: Maybe we should make Bob take one.
Dennis: You’re the one that has teenage daughters. Maybe you should take it!
Dannah: The first one says “I can name my daughter’s three best friends.” Think about that, Mom. Can you do that right now?
This is an important one. “I comment on my daughter’s weight.” Further down the test it says “I complain about my own weight in front of my daughter.”
Moms, we find that when we’re constantly asking our daughters about their weight and when we’re constantly picking on our own bodies and our own weight, that we increase some of the sensitivities that they have about their own beauty.
“Do you know the moms of your daughter’s friends?” That’s such an important thing because you’re sometimes entrusting them to that household, right? What’s going on in that household? Is it a queen size inflatable bed household? Or is it a household that you can trust that your values are going to be enforced.
Dennis: Here’s one that you have on the list. “She has a boyfriend.” Oh, some people are going to laugh and say, “Oh, come on. You didn’t know that she had a boyfriend?”
Bob: It’s not that you don’t know. It’s just the very fact that, as a tween girl, if she has a boyfriend, you’re saying that’s a risk factor.
Dannah: It’s a risk factor.
Dennis: Well, there’s that, Bob. But our daughters, may I say it, hid the fact that they were quote, unquote, going out!
Bob: They had boyfriends behind your back?
Dennis: Oh yeah! Are you kidding me? It wasn’t until some of their brothers and sisters ratted on them and kind of outed them that I would find out about these hidden relationships. You may think some of these questions don’t apply to you, but the reality is kids are very good at covering it up, for a while.
Bob: Your point with this quiz and, as Dennis mentioned, we’ve got it on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, but your point is this gives you a little diagnostic tool to say how well connected are we rather than just leaving it as an abstraction and going “well, I think we’re doing okay.”
Take the quiz and just say where are the gaps? Where are some missing areas? Or where are some opportunities to connect?
Dennis: Here’s one that says “We talk about boys.” Now, Dannah, what do you talk to your daughter Lexi about boys? What do you say to her?
Dannah: We’ve been talking about boys since she was five and I let her try my wedding dress on. I’ll tell you why. Because I have wanted to keep her off the boy crazy train and, ironically, I’ve done that by talking to her about them.
I don’t’ think we parent best with negative messages. When we say no boyfriends, no sex, no secular music, no, no, no, no, no, we don’t win the battle. Rather, when we build this beautiful vision beginning at the age of three, four, five years old, of one day there’s going to be one guy that captures your heart and he is going to knock your socks off and he’s worth waiting for, that’s a positive message.
Positive parenting messages are far more potent than negative ones.
Dennis: Well, I can imagine mom, and probably a few dads listening in, who say, “Well, I need to re-up my game. It’s game time.” You know what? You’re right.
This culture demands both hands, I hate to use an agricultural term here because none of us do this anymore, both hands on the plow, facing forward. You have to know where you’re going. You have to concentrate and you have to be intentional.
Really, what you’ve done here, Dannah, in your book, is you’ve really given parents guidance for how to develop that connection and how to meet them in the midst of these years that are full of all kinds of unanswered questions, lot of uncertainties, and lots of mixed messages from the culture and from friends and peers.
You’ve really done a great job in this book of educating parents on how they can best connect with their daughters and help them grow up to become a young lady who doesn’t have to experience evil the way her friends are.
Bob: I think it’s important, too, that we here, Dannah, say that we shouldn’t try to back away from these issues or to hide or to isolate. That’s not a winning strategy. A mom has to engage early and often with her daughter in these areas because they are going to come. You’ve got to be ready for them.
To get a copy of a book like Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl and to have some practical how-tos for engaging around these issues is very helpful for moms of younger girls. Of course, we’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLife Today.com for more information.
Dannah has also put together a book that has eight dates for moms and daughters where you talk about what real beauty is, about what fashion should look like, about modesty, those kinds of issues.
Again, this is designed for girls who are pre-tween to the tween ages. We’re talking about all the way from six, seven, eight up through nine, ten, eleven and twelve. If you have a daughter who is that age or is about to be that age, go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about Dannah Gresh’s books. You can order them from us online if you’d like or you can call 1-800-FLToday, 1,800-358-6329. That’s 1-800, “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word TODAY.
Now a quick reminder that we’re down to the final couple of days for our special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners for the 2010 Love Like You Mean it Cruise. This is the Valentine’s week cruise that we’re going on next year with special guests like Gary Thomas and Voddie Baucham who are going to be joining us. Also, musical acts like Matthew West, Paul Overstreet, Michael O’Brien, the Annie Moses band and others.
The ship is starting to fill up so, if you want to lock in your reservation, save $200 on the cost of your stateroom. You do that by typing my name, typing “BOB” in the promo code box on the registration form when you fill out to join us on the cruise, have the best possible selection of staterooms available and be able to pay for the cruise over the next, what would it be, nine or ten months?
Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the Love Like You Mean it Cruise, 2012 and plan to join us for what we think is going to be a very special week. I know this last year’s cruise was a great even and we trust that the coming cruise is going to be a great event as well.
Again, get more information online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on the link for the Love Like You Mean It Cruise.
Now, tomorrow Dannah Gresh is going to be back with us. We’re going to continue talking about how we preserve innocence and purity in our daughter’s life. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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