Releasing Your Children
About the Guest
Dennis and Barbara Rainey believe that children are meant to be received with joy, intentionally raised and then released. Although releasing typically happens after high school, it actually begins bit by bit when children are babies, beginning with feeding and dressing themselves, starting school, and getting their first job. The Raineys remind us that a parent's assignment is to receive their arrow, aim them high, and release them.
Dennis and Barbara RaineyDennis and Barbara Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Their 43+ years of leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries. Together they have spoken at over 150 Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways and authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples, Staying Close, A Symphony in the Dark, and Barbara’s most recent, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife...more
Dennis and Barbara Rainey believe that children are meant to be received with joy, intentionally raised and then released.
Releasing Your Children
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 22nd. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine. Are you ready, as moms and dads, to release your children?—and have you prepared them to do life on their own? We’ll talk more about that today with Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, can we just say it right up front? We’re going to talk about the worst part of parenting today; don’t you think?—releasing?—that’s not the worst part of parenting?
Dennis: Oh, no. [Laughter] Oh, no. I mean, it’s bittersweet—let’s all agree on this—
Dennis: —but there is life after children.
Dennis: Your marriage was built to outlast your kids. I’m going to tell you—it’s a bonus, Bob, when you can have a smile on your face and you can let your arrow fly.
Dennis: You can weep with them and cry with them; huh?
Bob: You’re right.
Barbara: He’s nodding; he’s nodding.
Bob: I’m rethinking my statement. I’m remembering changing diapers, and releasing was not that bad. [Laughter] I think sleeping through the night and releasing your child—there are some benefits to that.
Dennis: Spoiling the grandkids—it’s wonderful.
Barbara joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, sweetheart, while we are still in the saddle, hosting FamilyLife Today.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: That’s what we call the victory lap; okay? We’re in that—
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: —we’re in that.
Barbara: It is the victory lap.
Bob: This is the last time around the track.
Dennis: We get to peel out like Earnhardt does when he wins—[Laughter]
Barbara: Are you going to wave the checkered flag?
Dennis: —burn the tires. I think I’m going to get out in the FamilyLife® parking lot—
Barbara: —and do donuts? [Laughter]
Dennis: —and have them take a video when we’re done here and just do a donut out there. I don’t know if I can do it, though. I don’t know if I’ve got a car that’s got that much power.
Barbara: We don’t have a car that would do that. [Laughter]
Bob: We shared with listeners, earlier this week, that a transition is on the way.
On March 4th, we will have new hosts stepping in to FamilyLife Today. Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be serving as the new hosts, and you guys will—you’ll be back from time to time, I hope/I trust.
Dennis: We will, and we will—we’re not riding off into the sunset to clip coupons and be retired. I’ve got to tell you—I just—I wish people would stop asking me: “Well, how’s retirement?!”
Barbara: —because we are not retired.
Dennis: We’re not retired. [Laughter]
Bob: You’re as busy as you’ve ever been.
Dennis: We are re-firing,—
Barbara: We are.
Dennis: —and recalibrating, and resetting our goals to make the most of what God’s given us for the next decade. After that decade, the next one after that, if God gives the health, soundness of mind, and strength.
Bob: I know you guys have thought about this and talked about it, but part of the stage of life that you’re in is a stage where you model to the next generation what grace looks like as we get older.
We’re not disengaged. We still have use for the Kingdom; but life changes, and we have to adjust.
Dennis: Well, just like what we’re going to be talking about, here, on the broadcast today. We believe—in our book, we talked about this—The Art of Parenting—we believe that children were meant to be received, raised, and then released.
I think ministries are not unlike that. You help build them. Barbara and I have been here for over 42 years, and we’ve been building this ministry—helping it be effective in more than 100 countries around the world. It’s time for a younger leader, who is more relevant to the next generation, to take over and lead this to the next generation and to the next growth spurt over the next decade that’s ahead.
Bob: David Robbins has been in that role for a year now.
Dennis: That’s right—doing a great job.
Bob: Then, with Dave and Ann Wilson stepping in to the broadcast, you guys will be—you’ll be free from the daily responsibilities of producing a radio program like this—
—but not free from a Kingdom calling on your life.
Dennis: That’s exactly right.
Barbara: I just totally agree. In some ways, we’re more excited about the future than we have been. I think having some time—between a year ago, when David Robbins began, and today—has given us time to evaluate and look. Quite honestly, we feel the approval of God; we feel His favor. We’re ready to charge into the next decade and see what He has.
Bob: There is some overlap, as you’re releasing FamilyLife Today to a new couple to step in and take over—you’ve been through the process of releasing six kids over a lifetime.
When I called it the worst part of parenting, it’s probably—because I didn’t like changing diapers or dealing with teenagers, who had an attitude—but I don’t think I had a day when I ever cried as much or as hard—
Dennis: You don’t cry often!
Bob: No; but that first release day. I had been mentored by you for what was coming.
Dennis: And you kind of manned up. You kind of thought: “I’m good. I’m really good on this.”
Bob: I did not—
Dennis: You were cocky.
Bob: —feel it coming.
Dennis: You were cocky, as I recall. [Laughter]
Bob: I think that would be accurate.
Dennis: Huh, Keith? Do you agree, Keith?
Dennis: There you go.
Bob: The release moment—
Dennis: There you have it—another illustration confirmed by an eyewitness in this case. [Laughter]
Bob: But the release moment was a challenge. I’m talking about when I released one to college; and that’s just one in an ongoing series of releases, which is a part of what you talk about in your book. Releasing a child is something that happens over a lifetime; isn’t it?
Barbara: It does. In fact, you know, we didn’t even think about this until years into our parenting journey; but releasing begins when they are little bitty. You release them to feeding themselves, which, you know, is a mess. You’ve got to deal with all kinds of unpleasantness, but you have to release them to learn to feed themselves. You learn to release them to dressing themselves. As they get older, you release them to school, and to their first job, and on and on it goes.
By the time you release them at college, or into the military, or into a job and living on their own, you should have had some practice steps. That doesn’t mean that it’s easier, as you were just saying—because we cried like babies when we left our first one at college too—but releasing your children is not a one-time event. It culminates, oftentimes, in an event; but it isn’t just then. It’s stages all along the way.
Bob: Dropping the kids off at kindergarten—that was hard; wasn’t it?
Barbara: That’s a big one.
Bob: When they go to camp for the first time—
Barbara: That was a big one.
Bob: —and you leave them at camp. When you hand them the keys to the car—
Barbara: —to the car.
Bob: —and you’re not going to be in the car with them.
Barbara: When they go on a mission trip with a bunch of kids to Haiti or somewhere else and you’re not there. [Laughter]
Bob: All of those are preparing for that day when you do step away and when they are doing life pretty much on their own, which, Dennis, we’ve got to say:
“That’s what our job was at the beginning—to get them to a point where they could do life on their own.”
Dennis: Well, it is. And I just want to go back and read—I think it’s the first passage we read as we talked about this series on parenting. It’s Psalm 127, verses 3-5. I want you to notice the imagery that God uses when He talks about children. He says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows”—I’m going to say that again—“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who finds his quiver filled with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
You know, it’s not often I actually read from a book that Barbara and I wrote; but I just want to put an exclamation point behind this, because this assignment to you, as a parent—
—to receive your arrow, to aim them, to raise them, and then to release them—is really an incredible privilege; but it’s sacred. Let me read what we said: “Parenting isn’t a hobby. It’s not a sport. It’s not playing house just for fun. It’s not about your children’s comfort. You will be releasing your children into a very real spiritual battlefield against a very, very, very evil and crafty enemy. Your arrow was given to you by God, not to keep in your quiver, but to craft, to test, to aim, and let go—let go for God’s glory and for God’s Kingdom impact on planet earth.”
Parents, you can’t lose heart in doing well.
Both, Barbara and I would look at each other, at the end of the day; and we always prayed together before we’d go to sleep at night. Some nights—I’m telling you—when raising four teenagers, it was like: “Lord, this is exhausting. Good night. See You in the morning,”—not kidding! If you’re doing your job, you’re going to be—you’re going to be exhausted, sometimes, because it means you’ve got to be paying attention to what’s going on in, not just your family’s life as a whole, but uniquely what’s happening in each of your children’s lives.
Bob: Yes; I think a lot of parents stumble with a final release, because they’ve not done a good job of those practice releases/those earlier releases. Barbara, you’ve seen this—moms who are still treating a 14-year-old like they are 6 years old. They haven’t adjusted their parenting to say: “We’re in a new stage.
“I need to be releasing more responsibility and more freedom to you during this time of your life.” They are still treating them like they are 6; and they are following them around, and checking everything they do, and making sure they never make a mistake.
Barbara: Yes, and that’s not going to be helpful. I mean, what that does is—that kind of parenting—it’s often called helicopter parenting. It’s where you’re hovering over your kid. That’s just going to make them more dependent on you. That may feel good, in the moment, to the parent; but it’s not healthy for the kid. So, really, the goal for parenting—if you can remember this, early on—that your goal is eventually releasing your child, then it’s easier to see those life stages as slowly progressing toward that final release.
It’s important because you want your child—hopefully, you want your child to grow up to depend on God without you. That’s the whole goal of parenting—is raising kids who are also dependent on God for themselves.
Dennis: I can’t tell you how liberating it was to be raising all six of our kids with this concept in mind, because there really are a number of release points that you know you’re building toward. As you move in the teenage years, you realize: “You know, if I don’t give them a little freedom, right now, and release them to fail while they are at home, then, instead, they are going to be protected—maybe overly protected by us—and they are going to fail at college or the workplace.” The failure may be much larger; because you’re not there, and you’re not there to teach.
Barbara: Yes; we wanted our kids to run into hard things while they were still at home. We wanted them to have a job and work for a boss who, maybe, was not the easiest person to deal with; or to deal with customers who were not friendly; or to run into kids at school who challenged their value system; or to have teachers who, maybe, introduced ideas that were not familiar to them.
We wanted our kids to experience all of that so that they could, then, come home and talk to us about it. We could interact so that, when they went to college or went to their first job, they were not quite as unprepared.
Dennis: I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year in the Psalms. The concept of generations has been resonating in my soul. As I turn to the parents right now, who are in the process of raising the next generation, I want to read you a Psalm—not the whole Psalm but just a segment of it—that really is—it’s the desire of an older, hopefully, mature man or woman, who is crying out to God. Listen to this—he says, “O God, from my youth You have taught me, and I still proclaim Your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those to come.”
Every follower of Christ has a responsibility to reach his generation, and he is called to outlive himself by another generation by equipping children / people he comes in contact in this relay race and passing the baton of faith. That’s what it is about, Bob—that’s what we’re to do.
Bob: So, what do you do, if your child is 17 or 18 in their senior year of high school, and you think, “I don’t know that they are ready to fly?” [Laughter] How do you handle that, as a parent? Do you call a timeout?— and do you say, “We’re not sending you to college”? Do you do a gap year? Do you—or do you say: “Well, it’s just that time. They are going to have to learn. They may stumble, but we’ll just have to see how they do”?
Barbara: Well, I think it depends on what time of year in the senior year that this occurs to you. If it’s in the fall, you’ve got a little bit more time to, maybe, make an alternative plan, like a gap year or something; but I think the most important thing is to just pull back and go to the Lord and say: “Lord, I don’t think this child is ready; but You know what this child is ready for or not. Guide me in the few weeks or months that I have left with this one to impart what I need to impart.” And say: “God, what do I need to teach?—what have I forgotten?—what have I overlooked/what have I left out? Help me make the most of these last months that we have together.”
Because if it is late in the game—if it is in the spring and your child has already got an acceptance to a college—then you have to trust God that he’s ready even if you don’t feel like he’s ready or she’s ready to go; because in the end, are any of our kids really ready to go, in our opinion?—
—probably not. There is always more we could teach, always more that we wish we had said; and yet, at some point, we have to trust that God is bigger than our mistakes. He is able to catch them if they fall, and we need to let them go and let them learn on their own.
Dennis: I don’t think Barbara was questioning whether Ashley should be released or not; but I have to kind of rat on her with the audience. When our oldest/our firstborn graduated from high school, we knew the day was coming. We were kind of like Bob—we had never done it; so we know there is a release point coming, where we’re going to take her to college. She chose, kind of symbolically, Ole Miss, which is the Rebels to not go to our home state university, where both Barbara and I attended.
We went over there, and we took a small semi-truck load full of clothing and furniture and books and stuff. I’m watching Barbara—I’m watching her.
She is stalling all day long; and I’m saying, “Barbara, it’s time to go.
Barbara: I admit it—I was stalling. [Laughter]
Dennis: “We must let go.” I’m getting emotional, now, telling the story; but finally, we had to let go—walked out in the parking lot. I had this real noble—
Dennis: —commission; yes—commission that I was going to give her. I was going to pray over her, so I did. I do think I made it through this passage in Philippians,
Chapter 2, verse 12-15. I’ll not read all of it, but it says: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but much more in my absence,”—so, now, you’re calling them: “It’s game time. You’ve got to obey. We’re not going to be there. You’re on your own, Ashley.”
It goes on to say you need to “…be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ”—
—and this is when I began to choke up—“[your mom and I will] be proud that [we] did not run in vain or labor in vain.”
At that moment, I was going to put my arm around Ashley—Barbara was too—and I was going to pray for her; but not unlike you, Bob—because I think the same thing happened to you—I was crying so hard I couldn’t pray.
Dennis: And Barbara?
Barbara: I couldn’t pray either. I was sobbing at the thought of driving away and leaving her—I mean, leaving her four hours away. I couldn’t just walk over and check on her. I mean, we were leaving her. It was—it was awful.
Dennis: So, our own daughter had to pray for herself!
It was pitiful.
Barbara: It was pitiful.
Dennis: It was pitiful. It’s a determinative moment, but it’s a beautiful moment because she did great.
Barbara: Yes; she did.
Dennis: She made some mistakes, but she did great.
Bob: Didn’t they all?
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: That’s the point.
Bob: They are going to make mistakes.
Barbara: Well, and didn’t we? That’s what we forget, as parents.
Bob: Yes; right—that’s right.
Barbara: I mean, it’s not like we did it perfectly either.
Bob: And God works through our mistakes—
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: —to conform us to the image of Christ.
Barbara: He is sufficient.
Bob: So, just one final question related to this: “What about the boomerangs? What about the ones you’ve released, who show back up and they’re not ready to take on the world yet and, maybe, college is over—
Dennis: Listen carefully to my advice.
Bob: —“and want to move back into their room?” Yes? [Laughter]
Dennis: We told our kids: “You are good for four years.”
Barbara: “Four years—you get four years.”
Dennis: “You get four years for your college.”
Barbara: “Anything over four years, you’re on your own.”
Dennis: That’s right. “When you graduate in May, you can come home for the summer; but after the summer—
Barbara: —“you’re on your own.”
Dennis: —“you’re out of here. You’ve got to lead your own life. It may be next door. It may be down the street, but it isn’t here. [Laughter] Your mom and I have a life as well.”
Bob: And there may be unique circumstances, obviously—
Dennis: Of course.
Barbara: Of course.
Dennis: Of course.
Bob: —where you’d open your doors to a child, but it should not be just because they’re not sure what to do.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: Well, it’s, again, not an easy part of the assignment; but it’s what the assignment’s really all about. It’s the whole reason we go through the parenting process—is so that we can say: “Now, it’s your turn. It’s your turn to step out, and to do life, and to be fruitful and to multiply, and to replenish the earth and keep the cycle going.” [Laughter]
Dennis: “And to keep the generational relay race going as well.”
Dennis: I just want to turn to the listener, at this point, and say: “Are you one of those that needs to get on to the field and get in the game and make an impact in the marriages and families in your community?
“If so, why don’t you pick up the Art of Parenting™ and form a small group? You may say, ‘But Dennis, we’ve raised our kids.’ Well, you know what? You’ve got some time to lead this.” It is made to help you apply all four of these major pillars we’ve talked about—about being parents according to how God expects us to raise the next generation. This may be one of the most exciting ministries you’ve ever had.
I had lunch, yesterday, with a gentleman, who is now on his second Art of Parenting group. He is electrified. He goes: “This is fantastic.” It’s well-done; it’s designed for interaction for young couples, who are starting their family to get out of isolation and find out they are not the only ones on the planet who are encountering these difficulties. Lead the Art of Parenting and make a difference in the next generation.
Bob: There is information available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com about the Art of Parenting video series.
You can find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
We also have copies of your book, The Art of Parenting. In fact, we’re making that book available as a thank-you gift today to listeners who want to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. There have been, today, hundreds of thousands of people all around the country and all around the world who are accessing this program on radio, online, and through mobile app. They are tuned into FamilyLife Today. Some of them are saying, “Alexa, play FamilyLife Today,” and listening that way.
You make that possible every time you make a donation to support FamilyLife Today. And we’d like to say, “Thank for your support today,” by sending you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book, The Art of Parenting. You can request the book when you make an online donation at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to donate: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Be sure to request a copy of the book, The Art of Parenting, when you get in touch with us.
Now, tonight, in six cities across the country, we have Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways happening. I’m going to be speaking in Kansas City this weekend. I’m looking forward to being with listeners in the Kansas City area; but we’ve also got getaways happening this weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Appleton, Wisconsin. We’ve got more getaways happening next weekend and throughout the spring. Pray for the couples who will be attending one of the getaways this weekend. Pray that God will do a work in their life and in their marriage as they spend the weekend with us.
Again, thanks to those of you who make these kinds of events possible by helping to support this ministry. We appreciate your partnership with us. By the way, if you’ve never been to a getaway, come join us at one of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. It’s a great weekend for couples.
And I hope you have a great weekend this weekend.
I hope you’re able to worship together with your family in your local church. Then, I hope you can join us on Monday when we’re going to celebrate—we’re going to celebrate the impact of more than 26 years’ worth of FamilyLife Today with Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Dave and Ann Wilson will be here with us as well. We’ll talk about lessons we’ve learned from the Raineys over the last two-and-a-half decades. I hope you can tune in 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 Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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