What Kids Wish Parents Knew About Parenting


It's an alarming moment when it dawns on parents that their child is in trouble. And if you aren't perceptive you may never know until you find a half-smoked marijuana joint in a jeans pocked on laundry day or a sexy love note left inadvertently on a dresser or a citation from the police.

In times like these, when children are making adult decisions that are often devastatingly destructive, parents must examine the facts and learn how to be ...

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What Kids Wish Parents Knew about Parenting

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It's an alarming moment when it dawns on parents that their child is in trouble. And if you aren't perceptive you may never know until you find a half-smoked marijuana joint in a jeans pocked on laundry day or a sexy love note left inadvertently on a dresser or a citation from the police.

In times like these, when children are making adult decisions that are often devastatingly destructive, parents must examine the facts and learn how to be what their kids need them to be before it's too late.

A paperback retitled version of the 1988 release Orphans at Home, now with a more positive title and less expensive price. A highly endorsed book in the family/parenting category.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582293417
  • Publisher: Howard Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/2003
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 219
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Joe White is president of Kanakuk Kamps. He is also the author of more than 20 books and speaks across the country for Men at the Cross, After Dark, Pure Excitement, N.F.L. chapels and Focus on the Family radio. Dr. James Dobson says, "Joe White knows more about teenagers than anyone in North America." Joe and his wife, Debbie-Jo, are the parents of four grown children and the grandparents of eleven. The Whites reside in Branson, Missouri.

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Part I

The Lights Are On, But . . .

The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they’re (almost) too strong to be broken.

orphan \or-fan\ n. 1. A child whose parents have left him physically. 2. A child whose parents have left him emotionally. 3. Can be evidenced by a half-smoked joint in a jeans pocket or a sexy love note left inadvertently in a drawer or a citation from the local police.

Chapter One: Slipping Away

We’re so busy giving our kids what we didn’t have

that we don’t take time to give them what we did have.

I hate to sound selfish, like everything’s mine,

but please don’t get mad when I ask for your time.

I’ll never forget the day I hit bottom in my career as a daddy.

I first started realizing my failure the day my oldest son’s babysitter taught him how to ride his bike. It’s such a monumental achievement for a boy—in fact, five decades haven’t erased the memory of reaching that milestone in my own life. But Brady had to experience it without me.

Busy (as usual) with work, I met Brady for a quick lunch that day, and he beamed with excitement as he shared the news.

I had all the right things to say: “Wow, Brady! That’s great! I’m so proud of you.” Then I added, “Brady, can I come watch you ride your bike later this afternoon?”

The response from my sweet, gentle-spirited six-year-old fell on me like an avalanche. “No, Dad, that’s okay. You’re busy in the summer.”

I’m fighting the tears again as I remember the deep remorse I felt. He had opened my heart more skillfully than a surgeon.

I was losing my son.

He knew it, and I knew it.

In my job as president of a large summer camp complex, I was so busy rescuing other people’s kids that my own were drowning. And the problem—as I knew Brady couldn’t help but discover as time went on—was that I’m busy not only in the summer but also in the fall, winter, and spring.

Brady . . . he was so little then, but he had the super imagination and the super-sensitivity that made his daddy work harder on smoothing his many rough edges and his hard-driving disposition. With a quick look into the future, I could see Brady as a teenager in someone else’s counseling office trying to sort out his bitterness toward a father too busy to show he cared.

Not long afterward, my youngest daughter was attending one of our short-term camps. We agreed to abide by the rule requesting parents not to visit their children for the entire week. (That’s tough!)

On the fifth night, Courtney got a touch of homesickness. She began to cry, and her counselor came to her bed to give her some hugs and tenderness.

“Corky, don’t cry anymore. You’ll be home in two days, and you’ll get to see your daddy and everything.”

“I never get to see my daddy!” was her bold protest.

When the week was over, the camp director came to my house. “Sit down,” he said abruptly. I sat down, wondering what this was all about.

He told me about the conversation between the counselor and Courtney—little Corky, with long, blond hair and dimples that can’t help but melt her daddy’s heart. Even when the lower lip was out in an occasional protest, a few tickles and funny faces could bring the dimples back to their rightful place.

“What are you going to do about it?” he asked.

I squirmed. He looked deep into my eyes.

The phone rang. As I went to answer it, the intercom buzzed. Then someone came to the door with an emergency. After responding to all three, I sat back down. He was still looking intently at me.

“I asked you, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ ”

“I don’t know . . . it’s hard . . . there are so many demands.”

“Joe, who are the most important people in your life?”

“My family.”

“You’re not showing it!”

He sat there and didn’t give an inch. Finally, I agreed to some commitments.

This book is an expression of my gratitude for my months of open-heart surgery that summer. To this day, I’m carrying out the commitments I made back then. It’s still hard. The demands are still there. In fact, they’re getting worse. But my priorities changed. I aborted almost everything from my life that stood between my children and me. The use-of-time knife stripped away most of the fat that surrounded the lean meat of necessity.

My wife and I continued the struggle to accomplish more during the necessary hours of daily labor, and in the remaining hours to prioritize time with our children above anything else during these years while they were still at home. We were wonderfully amazed that there was even enough time for a few luxuries.

Brady became my best male friend. I worked early and late when he wasn’t available, so that when he came home, I could grab a bat and ball or a go-cart or a fishing rod or a made-up adventure, all for the honor of getting to be by his side for a few golden ticks of the clock. His brother Cooper and his sisters Jamie and Courtney . . . all of them became World’s Best Companions to me.

The four young children who captured my heart are now young adults. The lessons I learned and put into practice then continue to reap a joyous harvest.

Allow me, in love, to ask you the same question the camp director asked me those many years ago: Who are the most important people in your life?

If it’s your family . . . are you showing it?

If not . . . what are you going to do about it?

Just as during the early days of work on Mount Rushmore, when the explosives engineer was told to blast away all the granite that didn’t look like the face of a president, so I urge you to strip away—with dynamite, if necessary—everything in your life that doesn’t look like family gold.

Chapter Two: The Champs

All children are champs—with potential they’re packed;

discovery alone is the element lacked.

Son, you’re the greatest!

—Herman “Sleepy” Morgan

On that Father’s Day morning, something told me I was being set up.

All four of my children bubbled with excitement as they led me to their playroom. I felt special to have all that attention from the ones I love the most.

Their eyes sparkled mischievously as they showed me a big white box on the playroom floor, wrapped in fourth-grader uniqueness with hand-drawn decorations on all six sides. It was so big!

“Hurry, Dad, open it up!” four little voices screamed in unison, as if from fear the box would pull a self-destruction act before I got to the contents.

As I bent down to pull off the customized wrapping paper, the box began to move, and I heard a whimpering, whining sound from inside.

Instantly I knew: I’d been framed!

“There’s a puppy inside that thing!” I exclaimed. Soon the lid was attacked by eight tiny hands, and up popped an exuberant ball of black fur.

“Daddy, Daddy, can we keep it?”

“Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!”

“Don’t you just love him?”

“Let’s name him Champ!”

The sounds of excitement filled the house.

I’d been set up to the max. Even their mother was in on the deal. How does a daddy turn down a Father’s Day gift—hand wrapped in crayon-colored paper, no less?

“Okay, gang,” I accepted cautiously, “but only if you take care of him.”

“Sure, Daddy, we’ll be happy to!”

Champ was sired by my big black four-year-old retriever, Pro. Pro, who was from the bloodline of Old Yeller, Hollywood’s most famous Labrador retriever, now had a major problem: He had to share everything with that yipping, biting, pestering Champ, who was nothing but an annoyance—to both of us.

Champ may have been my new Lab . . . but in my heart, I didn’t really claim him.

Our nation’s homes are full of little “Champs.” Some are boys, some girls. Some are toddlers, and some are teens. They legally belong to a mom and/or a dad, but they’ve never felt totally claimed.

In various ways they send up their signals from every city, crying out for unconditional love and acceptance from their too-busy parents.

Almost every day I get letters from teenagers across America who feel like little Champ. One recent letter—from Amy, age seventeen—

epitomizes their cry:

I’ve always wanted so badly to please my father and my mother. I hated to be yelled at. Every time I was caught doing something wrong, I felt worthless at home and at school. It was very embarrassing for me to get into trouble. My mom, who I’ve always been close to, kicked me out of the house and started packing my things just to get back at my dad. I kept thinking to myself, “Is she serious? Where should I go? I have nowhere to go.” The scars run pretty deep.

After Pro and I had tolerated Champ for a couple of summer months, an interesting event forever altered Champ’s stature in my heart. The two dogs were bounding through our summer camp, with Champ playing his usual game of jump-up-and-bite-Pro’s-neck, lips, and-ears. As always, Pro used every ounce of self-control in his pedigree to keep from making supper out of his menacing offspring.

The two black beauties apparently stopped at our huge outdoor swimming pool—which was closed for the day—to get a drink, and Pro fell in. Labradors are born swimmers, but the distance between the water’s surface and the deck around it was about four inches higher than a dog can reach. After what must have been fifteen to thirty minutes, a teenage boy walking by the pool saw what happened next: As Pro began to go under, little sixteen-pound Champ leaned down, bit Pro in the lip, and with some internal shot of adrenaline pulled his sixty-five-pound daddy out of the water.

Champ found a new place in our home that night. Same pup, same yip, same disposition, but he had a new status. Now he was a hero, and we treated him as he had deserved to be treated all along. He was stroked, praised, caressed, and honored.

Champ now owned a special place in my heart—a place valued all the more when, two months later, Pro was struck and killed while crossing a highway. Now I regard that whimpering, oversized box as the best Father’s Day present in all the wonderful years since I first received my most cherished title, “Daddy.”

Do you have a Champ in your home?

After working, counseling, living, and talking with hundreds of thousands of teenagers during the past twenty-five years, I’ve found that there’s a Champ in every one—if that child’s parents will only take the time to discover the vein of gold in their child’s heart.

All successful homes have this in common: the discovery of champions.

It can be done in all kinds of homes—two-parent homes, single-parent homes, or homes where grandparents assume the role of Mom and Dad. My grandmother found a champion in my mom while raising her all alone. What a job she did.

My wife is truly a champion, though her father (a Navy test pilot) was killed when she was four years old. She, too, had a mom who courageously and patiently raised her and her two brothers until a stepdad came into the picture.

My daddy was fortunate to have both parents there at home to do the job and even more fortunate that both of them recognized his great potential and allowed it to bloom.

The discovery of champions can happen in your family too.

When Champ was two years old a sudden, tragic death took him seemingly long before his time was due. My only consolation was that before it was too late, we learned to treat him like the champion he was.

Our kids’ lives, too, are so fragile, and the short time we’re allowed to be with them races by . . . there never seems to be enough.

Whatever age your children are . . . today is a great day to bring out the best in each of their lives.

Two Mothers Who Wouldn’t Give Up

Chris’s Mom

I said it would never happen to my son.

Until his seventh-grade year, Chris was polite, loving, and content. When I saw the plastic bag of dried-up leaves in his pocket, I didn’t even know what it was.

The marijuana habit led to LSD, cocaine, and hash. He lied about it habitually, and I so wanted to believe him—love hopes all things. He made up wild and crazy stories that I wanted to be true. But I couldn’t deny the hard facts that followed his footsteps.

His grades went down. He became a skilled player of video games to win drug money, but it wasn’t enough. He stole from our home and burglarized others.

He sold drugs to his friends. While in the ninth grade, he was suspended from school for dealing drugs in the library. I was humiliated. I was scared. I wanted him to know I still loved him.

I’m told a common first mistake made by parents who learn their child is using drugs is to look the other way and pretend it isn’t happening. A second is to look for a quick, easy remedy. A third, when you’ve tried everything humanly possible and all has failed, is to give up.

We went through stages of all three. But every night we got on our knees in prayer. We’d made mistakes as Chris’s parents—no doubt about it. But through it all, we loved him while hating his sin.

Chris never ran away . . . but I did. The pressure got to me. I checked into a hotel for two nights to struggle with God.

While there, I began to see that drugs weren’t the enemy. They were just weapons. It was a spiritual battle we were in. The enemy was after my son, my family, my marriage.

I faced all the what ifs. I was sure Chris would either commit suicide, die of an overdose, or be killed in a car accident. It was happening in front of my eyes, and I was powerless. I had tried everything but couldn’t rescue him from his problems.

I decided I would trust God, no matter what. That was the first and best step. I found His peace in that hotel room.

When I went home things were the same, but I was different.

Chris had become a pro at deceit, a con artist. He hated himself, but on his own he couldn’t change. I knew something drastic had to be done. A month at a Christian summer camp helped, but it wasn’t enough time. A year at a special home for troubled youth also helped, but even there he smuggled in drugs and had the wrong friends.

Then two men who were constructing a Christian camp took Chris in and gave him five months of solitary confinement, hard labor, and love. He would work all day, listen to Christian music and go through Bible studies in the evening, and drop exhausted into bed at 8:00 p.m. The work kept his mind off drugs and built his self-esteem, something he drastically needed. Phoning him from home, we continued to pour on the encouragement while making it clear we couldn’t allow his former behavior.

Then he came home. He was now seventeen years old. In another year he would be out on his own. We wanted to believe he was well. But he returned to his old friends, too weak to fight their influence.

Then I heard about Tom Johnson, a wonderful cowboy with a youth ranch in Arkansas. We sent Chris there, and on the way he gave up fighting. Miraculously, all the Christ-centered experience he’d been given, plus our continuing love and unceasing prayers, finally took root in his heart. He asked Jesus Christ to take over his life.

At the ranch he saw an inspirational Christian model in Tom. On the first morning there, at daybreak, Chris helped Tom deliver a calf. As the sun came up, Chris felt as if God were showing him a new life. He didn’t tell anyone at the time, because he felt he had talked too much. Now he wanted to show.

He hasn’t done a drug since that sunrise.

The next time we saw him, he gave his dad a great big hug.

Chris will soon graduate from college.

He shares Christ with druggies and punk rockers. With his skateboard and drums, he gets into places a preacher could never go.

He’ll always be on the cutting edge.

Sharon’s Mom

We were some of the “beautiful people” in our community—Robert worked night and day while I played tennis at the country club—and our teenage daughter, Sharon, was an ornament. I had to take time away from my tennis to drive her to school. (Kids deserve better.)

I subtly gave Sharon pressure to stay on top. She just did what I asked her to. When I woke up she was a sizzling sixteen-year-old brunette with big blue eyes and a body filled with alcohol and drugs.

In three hundred and sixty-five days she spiraled down from a “most likely to succeed” to a drunk and a druggie.

No one felt worse about it than she did. She couldn’t stop because her group of friends expected her to live up to her new image. Kids are so totally driven by acceptance. She didn’t feel acceptance at home, so she got it from whomever she could.

We were so far off as parents. We let the TV set—instead of our example—be our child’s value education. If you don’t want your kids to drink, don’t drink. What you say doesn’t matter. Kids learn (or miss learning) responsibility at home.

Things had gotten out of control in such a short time. Robert got scared that we were losing each other over Sharon. “You’re giving her too much of your mind,” he pleaded with me. “I’m giving her up. We won’t fight over her. She’s yours now—yours to love, yours to discipline.”

I prayed desperately. Please take her back, Robert.

Sharon ran.

I felt like someone had blasted me with a shotgun, and I was full of holes, bleeding.

We got her back. Then I tried everything. I played rough at first. I took away all privileges—the phone, the TV set, everything. But the love wasn’t there to back up the ultrastrict discipline.

Next I tried to identify with her. I took her places. I drank with her. I wanted her to see how to drink “responsibly.” I was desperate and ready to do anything.

My heart was repeatedly broken during those times. She lied and misled us. She said it was better, but it wasn’t. I felt so foolish. She said she hated us, but she was really saying, “Help!” She felt so abused and so guilty.

Today she says, “Thanks for not giving up on me after I gave up on myself.”

Here’s how the turnaround happened.

Robert and I submitted our whole family to some solid biblical counselors. They told us to keep on believing in Sharon. At first we reacted to that: “Believe in what?” But eventually we completely adopted our child in our hearts . . . with all of her problems.

Next, we inventoried our own lives and began to fill our home with consistency. We gave ourselves more lovingly to each other and to our younger children.

I love wine, but when I caught my second daughter and her friends downing some whiskey (from our overstocked liquor cabinet) on their way out of the house to a party, I knew our social drinking had to go too. (Why do we play our kids for such fools sometimes?)

We continued over the next six years to rebuild our ties with Sharon. As we forged the new relationship, we wondered: How do you go back and undo all the crossed-up circuits? She had been programmed all wrong.

We didn’t quit. We lived on our knees, it seemed.

Sharon protested, “You’ve never been a mother to me, and I can’t accept it now.” But she did need an authority. I kept my mouth shut and listened to her. Then I listened some more. When she finished expressing her thoughts, I’d ask, “What are you thinking? . . . What are you feeling? . . . How can I help you?” I filled her with honest praise. Then I’d state my position. Sometimes she’d get so angry.

Robert and I worked at being more honest. We became more available to our kids. In everything, we strove to be authentic.

With the help of the Christian youth and family counselors, we began to see daylight. In a couple of years, the storm was over, and our skies became only partly cloudy.

Today we are close. Our house is a home. It still rains here sometimes, but there are also sunny days to enjoy.

I believe the tragic years with Sharon actually saved us from a lifetime of casual misery. It was worth the trouble to begin to understand each other and really get to know the power of Jesus Christ in a family.

Today as he left for college, my nineteen-year-old son said, “Mom, wouldn’t you rather be called a great mom than a great tennis player or a corporate officer?” Then he added, “You’re a great mom!”

Maybe he’s exaggerating with the “great.” I think “great-ful” (grateful!) is a better word for me.

Chapter Three: Who Cares?

Think I’ll buy a forty-four

Give ’em all a surprise

Think I’m gonna kill myself

Cause a little suicide.

—Elton John

Several years ago, Elvis Presley’s colorful stepbrother spent some time with us at our summer sports camp. Elvis loved music, but Rick Stanley loved kids.

As we talked about the plight of the modern teenager, Rick told me of another brother’s backstage encounter with David Lee Roth, the former lead singer of Van Halen, who sang of suicide, drugs, torture, sex, rebellion, and perversion. After a lengthy conversation about Elvis, his fame, his music, and his tragic death, the brother asked Roth the same question I would want to ask him: “David, what do you think about the thousands of kids out there in the crowd tonight who are getting stoned, wasted, messed up?”

With a blunt, cold stare, Roth answered, “Who cares?”

At least he was honest. Roth didn’t seem to care about anyone but himself. But the problem was that so many vulnerable kids looked up to him. At a typical concert, twenty thousand of them—averaging fourteen years of age—would pay a half million dollars and practically break down the doors to partake in two hours of visual and verbal pornography. The next day at school they’d wear their new rock T-shirts to celebrate their evening with a hero.

Who are your kids’ heroes?

They’re displayed on the posters on the walls of their rooms. Look into their eyes. What do you see?

My breakfast guest one morning was a seventeen-year-old boy who was six-foot-two and weighed a hundred and ninety pounds. He was as lost as a baby billy goat. He came from a wonderful home, but nine months with the wrong three friends—and who knows how many dozen marijuana cigarettes—had sent him into a tailspin and turned his home upside down. To my amazement, this confused teenager told me over breakfast how both he and his best friend were introduced to pot by the friend’s father—right in their home.

Does that make you fighting mad?

What about the homes that expose their children to 18,000 murders, 75,000 scenes of physical intimacy between unmarried partners, 75,000 commercials whose basic message is: “Take a pill for a problem,” and 66,000 commercials that say: “Drink alcohol for fun”? Those are the actual estimates of what a kid sees on television while growing up in the average America home.

The subtlety of this invasion is crafty, and the hypocrisy behind it is incredible. It’s an intruder that slips into our homes like a cunning burglar, and parents indifferent to it are cultivating disaster for their kids.

Children become what they think about—it’s a principle as certain as gravity. So what type of influence at home is worse—the father who brings home marijuana or the “average” amount of television viewing?

Every album your kids play, every concert they attend, every television show they watch . . . each one is like a stepdad temporarily taking over your role of teacher, coach, and friend. Is this the kind of stand-in you want for yourself?

Parents are the decision makers. The federal government won’t help our kids avoid the worst influences. The city council won’t. Our neighbors won’t.

The responsibility is yours and mine.

So who cares?

You do.

I do.

How much are we showing it?

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Table of Contents


Part One: The Lights Are On, But...


Slipping Away


The Champs


Who Cares?
Part Two: A Homeowner's Guide to the Family Gold Mine
4 The Light That's Nearest
5 Close the Zoo
6 Test Yourself
7 Unconditional Listening, Unconditional Love
8 Which Way Are You Facing?
9 Take Me Fishing Again
Part Three: Your're the Best
10 Making Their Day - and More
11 Help Them Dream, Help Them Build
12 A Cheerleader
13 A Coach
14 Strenghs and Weaknesses
15 Fifty Phrases to Encourage Your Child
Part Four: Safe at Home
16 Oh, Those X-Ray Eyes!
17 That's Not in There, God!
18 Discipline Is a Lifestyle
19 My First Lady
20 The Teenage Years...the Best Years
21 Crossroads
Part Five: Tomorrow's Family Album
22 The Generation That Followed Discovery
23 Dancing
24 Discovery at Dawn
25 Promise-Keeping Men Keep Promises to Their Children
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