Protecting Our Kids with Ray Johnston

by Chris Tompkins | February 23, 2023

Ray Johnston is the founder and lead senior pastor of Bayside Church in the Sacramento area, which attracts more than 20,000 people each weekend. The church has a strong youth ministry and through his role there — as well as his previous role as chair of the Department of Youth Ministry at North Park College, and his many national and international speaking engagements — Ray has his finger on the pulse of the issues affecting our kids, and in turn, parenting. Ray is working on a trilogy of books (due out soon), about parenting “G-rated kids” in an “X-rated world.”

The seven storms affecting our kids

The premiere book in the series deals with the seven storms affecting every kid, one being premature adulthood. Ray argues that TV and social media expose kids to too much at a tender age when we should be protecting them. Instead, we have moved to an age of preparation-focused parenting, which Ray argues “has been a disaster for kids.”

Among the other storms are relational deprivation and the overwhelming influence of the media. Ray explains that kids don’t have relationships anymore, exacerbated by both the pandemic and by the proliferation of personal devices. He tells an anecdote from their annual service trip, (which sees 1,000 teens assembled in Mexico to help build homes and work on other service projects), whereby phones are confiscated upon arrival. The kids go from isolating themselves on their devices to inventing games, playing sports and forming relationships. At the end of the trip, Ray explained, almost every kid confessed, “my favourite part was not having my phone.”

On the importance of keeping your cool

In speaking of tips to help our kids weather the seven storms, Ray talks about the importance of providing stability as our children move through the three developmental phases: discovery, testing and drawing conclusions/arrival. Ray explains that they go through the phases twice — once as a child and then again as adolescents. The best thing parents can do during the adolescent testing phase, when many parents tend to freak out, is to be cognizant of the fact that they are in a phase, keep their cool and provide stability. Ray points to summer camp as being a genius way for kids to test their limits because they are on their own without their families in a safe environment where they can try scary but controlled activities like a ropes course, for instance.

His second tip is to cultivate a close connection with our kids because the closer we are, the greater our potential for impact. To those ends, Ray offers this tidbit of wisdom: “Rules without a relationship lead to rebellion.” He stresses that spending quality time doing something your child likes to do is key into the teenage years when they still crave that relationship but don’t often show it.

Providing a motivational environment is Ray’s third piece of advice in helping our kids navigate the storm. He says that it’s achieved not by what parents do, but by what they don’t do:

  • Don’t lose your cool
  • Don’t let your teens intimidate you
  • Don’t pretend to be perfect
  • Don’t rescue them from consequences
  • Don’t delay living by being uptight and task-oriented until your kids leave the nest

Encouragement is key

Ray also underlines the importance of providing heavy doses of encouragement to our kids.

“Some pretty substantial work has been done on when somebody’s self-image drops,” Ray says. “[They] become more susceptible to five things and these are all the things that scare parents.”

The five issues that become more of a threat when low self-esteem is at play are peer pressure; high-risk behaviour; substance abuse; sexual experimentation; and suicide. As a final word for parents, Ray says to let go of the guilt that comes along with parenting, stating, “raise your encouragement level and just go back to it. There are no perfect parents.”

For more on what Ray has to say about parenting our kids in today’s world, listen to the episode at the top of this post.

Visit our website to discover a variety of other guests that we’ve had on the show. Shaping Our World episodes are also available wherever you get podcasts.


[00:00:12.490] – Speaker 1
Well, I know you’re going to enjoy this conversation. Today we have Ray Johnston on the show. Ray is the founder of Bayside Church in the Sacramento, California area, which has grown to one of the largest congregations in the nation, with more than 20,000 people gathering every weekend. He’s also the founder of Thrive Communications and Thriving Churches International, which hosts the largest pastors and church staff conferences in the western United States. Bayside Church, which Ray describes as a church for people who don’t really like church, continues to grow and now includes seven congregations in five cities. Rey has built teams and mentored dozens of pastors and leaders who lead the main services and church activities, while Ray serves as the lead senior pastor. He regularly speaks, consults, and mentors executive business leaders. A master communicator. Ray is well known for his books the Hope Quotient and Jesus Call. He has spoken face to face to more than two million people over the past 45 years. Ray has a rich and varied background as a university and graduate school professor, speaker and writer. A graduate of Asusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary, he was the chair of the Department of Youth Ministry at North Park College, an adjunct professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is a veteran of both youth and adult ministry, having crisscrossed the nation for years as a top instructor for youth specialties.

[00:01:40.910] – Speaker 1
He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Asuza Pacific University. Ray and Carroll, his wife, have been married for almost 40 years and have four adult children and a growing number of grandchildren. You’re actually going to hear some stories about them today. Our conversation dives into some of his current work that he’s doing right now on raising kids in this generation. Ray shares so many insights, helpful tips, research, stats that will make you sit up in your chair, and personal stories as he unpacks the world that kids live in today. He’s worked with youth for so many years and he’s really young at heart, so I’m thrilled that you get to listen in on our conversation. Here’s our chat today with Ray Johnston. Thanks so much for joining us, Ray. It’s great to get to talk to you.

[00:02:32.690] – Speaker 2
Hey, feeling’s mutual. Good to hear from you again, Chris.

[00:02:35.270] – Speaker 1
Yeah, it’s great. And we’re going to dive into some quick hit topics here just to help the listeners get to know you a little bit better. So we want to know what shaped your world when you were a kid, teenager, child? What were some important influences or things that happened that really shaped your life?

[00:02:53.670] – Speaker 2
Chris, I grew up in an executive jet set Southern California home. My dad was president of a company when he was aged 40.

[00:03:01.710] – Speaker 1
Oh, wow.

[00:03:02.240] – Speaker 2
Matter of fact, guys wanted to run him for Governor of California, he turned him down and they ran Ronald Reagan instead.

[00:03:08.030] – Speaker 1
Okay. Yeah.

[00:03:09.230] – Speaker 2
I grew up in a family with people that were kind of functioning as leaders, but it was also an alcoholic, rage-aholic and atheist home. And so I became that guy minus the alcohol. And so when I was 18, I talked to a guy out of becoming a Christian, which does not look good on a pastor’s resume, my friend.

[00:03:31.670] – Speaker 1

[00:03:32.160] – Speaker 2
But that was sort of a big influence. It’s in a sense, a lot of us, for good or bad, are products of the home we were raised in, which means you benefit from it and then overcome from that. But I’m doing stuff now I never dreamt I would have done.

[00:03:47.460] – Speaker 1
Yeah, well, and we’ll get into that in a second. But I know from talking to you and we know each other, we’ve met and outside of this context, and I know I’m listening to you I’m sure that has shaped a lot of your interest in helping young people and families through your tenure. But we’ll get into that in a minute. What’s kind of shaping your world today? What are some important things going on in your life?

[00:04:11.410] – Speaker 2
We have grown kids, grandkids. They’re all local. And one of my goals is to be a parent that my kids want to be around. And so far, so good. So they’re shaping those. The other thing shaping this is we’re in California. California and Canada, I think, have some similar cultural things going on. And so what happened is the pandemic shook everything, right? At least in the US. There was more than one pandemic. I mean, we had a health pandemic and then we had an election pandemic, which is ongoing. We now live in the divided states of America. And I think really what happened to people is if you kind of go, where are people teenagers or adults? Psychologically, they’re either wise, foolish or evil. Wise people tend to respond to all of life with humility teachability, and they get better and better. Foolish people respond to everything with blame and attack. And evil people pretty much exist to destroy. And the pandemic took most people and moved them about a half a notch down. There are a lot of people that were wise and you probably run into with what you do. A lot of formerly wise, easy to be with people are now in blame and attack mode.

[00:05:38.170] – Speaker 2
And then there’s a lot of people that are just flat out destructive. And teenagers are having to live in a world where the culture and adults have a lot of them just are worse than they were three years ago. And teenagers are having to reap the benefits or the downsides of that. Kind of what we’re doing around here is we’re writing books, building things, working with teenagers. We have a multi site church. And the other thing is we basically are a church for people that don’t like church. And so we have a front row to all of this stuff.

[00:06:13.720] – Speaker 1
Yeah, that’s amazing. And you’ve been doing youth work I know for a long time. And not to aid you on the show, but you’re a pioneer in a lot of the youth work in the US. And as you’ve journeyed with people, I love that you’ve kept a really keen grasp on what’s going on in the lives of kids. And even listening to your story, I can tell you’re a bit of a cultural enthusiast discerning the times and what’s going on, and we started talking about this and discovered very quickly that you’re in the middle of some projects right now that is really pertinent to what this podcast is all about. So I’m just really intrigued. You have three kind of things in the works and ideas, and the first one is around the seven storms that are hitting every kid. And as we come out of the pandemic as parents and youth workers, I know we’re looking around going, what is happening to the lives of kids today? And we get a little bit of it, but I’d love to hear a little bit more about this from you. What are you seeing and what maybe are these seven storms?

[00:07:19.610] – Speaker 2
Yeah, first of all, great question. Our church, by the way, Chris, started I did not want to be a pastor. I was training leaders and training parents that work with teenagers and all of this stuff. But there were two copycat suicides of teenagers in Granite Bay, our town here in California, and somebody came to us and said, we need a church that attracts teenagers. And so we launched one. And so teenagers are the actual reason we launched Bayside Church.

[00:07:52.350] – Speaker 1

[00:07:54.390] – Speaker 2
We’ve always been into this. I mean, I’ve got four kids, they’re now in their early thirty s, and we have a million teenagers around and I’m working right now. Book one’s been written and is getting ready to be published. I’m working on a fast coming out trilogy of three books. The theme is raising graded kids in an X rated world. Right, chris, the whole theme we were talking a little bit earlier, the whole theme of this is for decades parents have tried to shape the road for the child. Those days are over, which means we’ve got to prepare kids for any single road they’re ever on. So first book is basically unpacking seven storms hitting every single kid.

[00:08:35.440] – Speaker 1
Well, just before we get into those seven, I don’t want to move too fast of that because I think that’s really insightful. You talked about the road and preparing the road for kids, and now we got to prepare kids for whatever road. Maybe elaborate a little bit about what you’re seeing that shifted or changed that would give you that perspective.

[00:08:54.430] – Speaker 2
I think maybe the best thing to do is to dive into a couple of the storms because every single thing is changing. I’ve had parents say, well, when I was a child, X, Y and Z. And I’m going, you were never a child in this age.

[00:09:06.690] – Speaker 1

[00:09:07.180] – Speaker 2
And here’s, for example, one of the storms is this premature adulthood. And at the same time, extended adolescence. Premature adulthood. All these books have been written by experts, all grown up and no place to go, too old, too soon and stuff like that. And pretty much it’s basically gone. We have done away with childhood and accelerated adulthood. There’s an old joke going around. Two five year olds are in the backyard and one of them says to the other, hey, the other day I found a condom on the patio. And the other five year old kid said, what’s a patio? And what’s happening is, because of the Internet, because of TV, and because of all this kind of stuff, kids are having access to information way earlier than they ever should have. And it’s almost like there’s two parenting styles. Number one is preparation and number two is protection. And the old way of doing this was kids are special little people that should be protected from things that if it got Adam too early, would warp them and hurt them. Well, we’ve abandoned that and replaced it with preparation. And I think it’s been a disaster for kids.

[00:10:18.550] – Speaker 2
I mean, you give a kid 15 minutes with MTV or five minutes on any social media, they’ve seen more sex and violence than their parents ever have.

[00:10:27.080] – Speaker 1

[00:10:28.330] – Speaker 2
In a sense, kids are growing up way too fast. And on the other side then, now, especially in the last about six years, and COVID accelerated this, there’s extended adolescence, which means kids used to be basically going, okay, you’re a functioning adult at about age 18, maybe 19. Now it’s 27, 28. Kids aren’t getting jobs, they’re not buying cars, they’re not moving out of the house. In fact, they’re getting married way later.

[00:10:54.950] – Speaker 1
Yeah, all the research shows that.

[00:10:57.190] – Speaker 2
Exactly. That’d be one storm. Another storm would be relational deprivation. And what’s happened is this you watch it and you’re going kids these days have been deprived of relationships for decades. When I was a youth pastor and when my own kids were growing up and I was growing up, you had relationships with teenagers, but you had no relationships with adults.

[00:11:22.150] – Speaker 1

[00:11:22.920] – Speaker 2
Which means most kids have no idea what they want to be. And now what happened is COVID changed that and removed relationships with teenagers themselves because it locked everybody away. We’ve actually trained people to isolate. We’ve trained people to stay in their homes. We’ve trained people to stay on their couch, which means we’ve got mass relational deprivation. And that is not healthy psychologically or relationally on any front.

[00:11:52.870] – Speaker 1
Right. And we all know that how the increase of personal devices for kids has shaped that as well. Right, Chris?

[00:12:02.950] – Speaker 2
We’re big believers and throw kids into settings and service. And so we take about 1000 kids every Easter, the week before Easter, starting Palm Sunday, we take 1000 kids to Mexico. We have a massive base camp we built that we sent we actually bought land down there and they spread out through the entire valley. They’re working with churches and they’re doing service projects and building homes for poor people. It’s an amazing thing. Well, what happens is this year, the minute they got there, we collected all their phones. We labeled their phones connected. We literally took 1000 phones from 1000 kids, collected them all, told them, you’ll get these back on Friday, it’s Monday, and I arrive a day later. And normally when you arrive, kids are all sitting there alone on their phone, not talking to each other. I watched as I went there’s five or six groups of kids. They have volleyballs out, they’re venting games again. And at the end of the week, we do these evaluation things. Every kid fell as a nice choice. Almost every kid said, my favorite thing was not having my phone.

[00:13:12.750] – Speaker 1
Yeah, we see that here in our world when we limit the access kids get. And they just miraculously start sitting around in circles and talking and hanging out.

[00:13:23.920] – Speaker 2
I know, no kidding. Another storm would be this. The overwhelming influence of the media. I mean, the number one shaper of values in the world right now is no longer parents, it’s media. But it has been that way for about 40 years. I mean, the average kid will spend more time by age five, they have watched more television than they ever will spend talking with their dad in their dad’s entire lifetime.

[00:13:55.970] – Speaker 1

[00:13:57.770] – Speaker 2
Now, with social media, the whole thing is crazy. And here’s the problem. You go to a movie, watch anything on Netflix or whatever, and almost everything has acts of sex in it. And what’s interesting is this. 94% to 97% of the sex in movies or TV or media is between unmarried people. And so these kids are growing up and sex between unmarried people is now a norm. In other words, sexuality is no longer a moral issue. The environment is a moral issue, but not sexuality. So it’s crazy. And then the other storm hitting kids is massive change. And it’s almost like kids are growing up and they’re going, there’s nothing that isn’t changing. And it’s been that way for about the last 15 years. For example, you go buy any electronic equipment, take it out of the store, put it in your car, close your door, it goes out of date immediately, right? Yeah. Everybody that has an iPhone is going, I know that I’m going to want to do iPhone 13 soon. Which means we basically are raising kids in a culture where they know if they make a commitment to anything, they’re going to regret it.

[00:15:13.010] – Speaker 1
I’m letting that sink for a minute there.

[00:15:15.810] – Speaker 2
In other words, they’re going, buy an iPhone. I know in six months I’m going to regret it because they’re coming about new one. Buy a TV. I know that’s going to come out. This is the first generation to grow in going you make a decision, buy something, make a commitment to something, pay for something. They know they’ll regret it. And the problem is this parents we’re trying to make these kids make big decisions, lasting moral values, major commitments, and they can’t decide what to buy. By the way, ask any teenager, what are you doing on Friday night? I don’t know.

[00:15:51.160] – Speaker 1

[00:15:53.810] – Speaker 2
So the decision making things been removed. And now the other thing is, I’m assuming this is everywhere. There is cultural indoctrination and this is new in California and it’s other countries. The state of California is rapidly moving in elementary schools from educating kids to indoctrinated kids. And it’s fascinating, which is why we have parents going, I don’t want the government shaping the faith and values of my kids. Why can’t they teach them what they used to teach them instead of trying to socially engineer my kid?

[00:16:34.850] – Speaker 1

[00:16:35.470] – Speaker 2
So what’s happened is we’re having mass exodus out of schools in California. We’re having mass exodus, people are leaving California, going to different states, things like that. I’m actually not that shook up about it because I start the book by saying people shake their heads and go, this has never been this bad before. It has. I mean, if you know they got the Bible, you go back to Dan Daniel and his three friends are hauled out of Jerusalem to Babylon and they do Operation Erase and Replace and they basically go, we’re going to erase all of his faith values and replace them with secular Babylonian values. They throw everything they have at him, but he holds up.

[00:17:17.530] – Speaker 1

[00:17:18.040] – Speaker 2
And so I actually think it’s possible to raise kids with strong values in a culture, even if some of those values clash with what the culture is trying to put in these kids.

[00:17:29.620] – Speaker 1
Beyond massive change, what else do we have?

[00:17:32.020] – Speaker 2
The last storm I’d mention on this one is this because we could probably spend 2 hours yeah, we could go forever on it, just talking about storms. Probably the massive one I would say is this. It goes back to media and the influence of media for a minute and seven professors from Calvin College wrote a book called Dancing in the Dark. And it would be interesting if your readers I would grab that book. It’s a fascinating book. It’s a slightly out of date, but it’s still relevant. But in this book, Dancing Out of the Dark, they basically went that media. Hundreds of hours of watching it. Number one, it produces immaturity because media values youth and criticizes adult, which means why grow up? I don’t want to become one of those out of an adult. I want to stay a cool teenager.

[00:18:18.310] – Speaker 1

[00:18:19.040] – Speaker 2
It also says media creates the idea basically it’s producing consumer kids because media creates the idea that you can buy happiness. Media influences kids in a way, basically it was back to the whole thing about they were regret decisions they make. And the other one is it creates spectators instead of participators, which means most kids grow up and they’re going, I don’t even go outside anymore. I just sit inside and spectate, which is spectating is not a great life skill. We are actually building a site where a million people a day will be able to go to it and actually get some things to counteract all this.

[00:19:01.150] – Speaker 1
That’s kind of where I want to head next because I think the context people live in, I think might be slightly different in California. But I think, generally speaking, people are kind of nodding their heads with so many of these off the cuff and just thinking through decision making and like you said, the spectators and participators and relational deprivation and even that when I was doing my master’s degree. The lengthening ladder of adolescence, right? It just feels like that season of adolescence is now one of the longest seasons in our life. As you describe these, it isn’t just kind of depicting the world. You want to help parents and kids navigate through this. So what are some of the strategies I know you kind of couple your work with to kind of tackle these storms or endure them or navigate through them. Help us understand a little bit of tips on that.

[00:19:52.910] – Speaker 2
Over a decade, we pretty much have gone, there seven keys. There’s probably more. But the most important for us, there’s seven keys to influence in your kids spiritual, vitality, emotional health. And the first one is interesting. Start with stability. And the reason is, as kids are unstable, there’s three developmental phases of life, and you go through it twice, and it’s discovery, testing, and conclusions. So from birth to about age five is a time of discovery. And you used to watch what happens with kids then. I mean, fingers, toes, mom, dad. It’s a time of discovery. Then about age six to about nine, they go through a time of testing. Now, the question is this what are they testing? They’re testing all the things they’ve discovered. That’s why every parent of a nine year old has been in the hospital. You know what happens if I ride my bike off the road? They just test stuff. And then this is the golden age, about age 1012. At age twelve, they draw conclusions and they move into a full, healthy childhood. Every parent I know would like to give their kids a shot and keep them ten or eleven or twelve years old.

[00:21:00.690] – Speaker 2
Matter of fact adolescent development. People say they’re the happiest people in the world. It’s Friday night. They don’t have a date. They don’t care. Mom’s cool, dad’s cool, God’s cool. I mean, they’ve got conclusions. In a sense, it’s the happiest people in the world. We’re all age ten, right? Until one tragic thing happens. Puberty hits and wipes the out.

[00:21:21.770] – Speaker 1
Yeah. The hormones kick in.

[00:21:23.470] – Speaker 2
Bingo. Gone. So what happens is they can’t go into instant adulthood. So they go through the same three developmental phases to get into adulthood. So basically, from about age 12, 13, 14, they go back into a time of discovery. And that’s generally junior higher, middle school. And it’s why those kids are so insecure, because their antenna are out. And by the way, they’re crazy. She’s got a boyfriend at breakfast, breaks up at noon, noon, by dinner. I mean, it’s a time of discovery. I actually love that age group. Don’t run through a wall. You got to go first. But they’ll run through all. Then about age 15, 1617 in the US. We call it high school. They go from discovery, unfortunately, to a time of testing. And that’s the parent pain time. And what are they testing? Everything. Rules, limits, mom, dad. I mean, they’re testing everything. Now, a quick note on testing. The church has not handled this well, the Christian church, because the message of the church has been, don’t test. Don’t test drugs, don’t test sex, don’t trust all this kind of stuff, which I actually think is the right message. The problem is this.

[00:22:37.890] – Speaker 2
God has wired kids that age to test better for the church to wake up and shape what they test, which means test their spiritual gifts, test adventures, test their ropes course test. All of those needs need to be met in developmental ways. I was at Muscoca Woods with you, and we spent a day there, and I went, they have no clue how smart this is. I’m watching kids do scary things all day long. Ropes courses and slides that are a mile long and safe, scary things. Yes, it’s safe, scary stuff. And I’m going, this is genius. Like, that’s the reason the reason we haul kids to Mexico is I want them to test their leadership ability, test building a home for somebody, test meeting those AIDS. And then about age 18 or 80, they draw conclusions and move into full hotshot. Now, the reason this is so important is this adolescence is a time of transition generally, not a time of arrival.

[00:23:39.660] – Speaker 1

[00:23:40.310] – Speaker 2
Which means, parents, one of the great, smart things you can do is keep your cool. Like, I had a lady when she came into me and she said, my son Christian lady, Christian church. She said, My son came home and said he doesn’t believe in Jesus anymore. And then she started crying and said something about her son going to hell. So I’m diagnosed and I said, your son came home and told you that? Yes, he’s going to hell, all this kind of stuff. And I said, the fact your son came home and told you I don’t believe Jesus anymore, that’s great.

[00:24:13.440] – Speaker 1

[00:24:14.130] – Speaker 2
And then she said something about my turtle destination. And then I said, wait a second. I said, look, I know your son. He’s on our student leadership team. He’s a great kid. He has a vibrant, alive faith. He’s smart. I said, your son has lost his faith. Let me tell you what he’s doing. He’s testing. He’s 16. He’s testing. Can I say anything in this home without getting adults overreacting? Can I express doubt in this home? And I said, when you know these stages and you know this is coming, you can calm down some and not overreact, which will drive him into more negative behavior.

[00:24:56.450] – Speaker 1

[00:24:56.940] – Speaker 2
So on this one, I would say this with parents. I would say start with stability. Another way to say this is like your marriage. Keep it as stable as you can, your relationships. If your kid goes to camp every year and your kid loves it, I don’t care what it costs, keep going to that camp. In other words, anything that creates stability is going to be a really big deal because they are in a massive time of discovery and testing.

[00:25:25.630] – Speaker 1
That’s really helpful. That’s really good.

[00:25:27.520] – Speaker 2
So that would be the first 1. Second one would be this cultivate Close connection. Cultivate close connection. Every study ever is this, the closer you are to your kid, the greater your potential for impact. The problem is that Cornell University just released a study of American fathers. The average American father this is amazing, spends 37 seconds a day communicating with his kids. That’s it. Wow. And the problem is what that leads to. If you’re able to write this down. If you’re not, drive. Don’t do. If you’re driving. A good parenting thing is this rules without relationship lead to rebellion. I have four kids now. I got grandkids. They all have an emotional bank account with me. They all have a relational bank account with me. And when I spend time with them, connect with them, that’s like putting money in the bank. When I’ve got a discipline or do some correction, that’s like making a withdrawal. And where you get mass rebellion is when I have nothing in the bank and I’m trying to make a withdrawal. Another way to put it was this correction without connection is actually destructive.

[00:26:43.320] – Speaker 1

[00:26:45.410] – Speaker 2
For example, I did Daddy daughter date nights all the time with my girls. We took them on trips, did all this kind of stuff. And you’re pretty much just attempting to put as much money in the emotional bank account as you can. And the problem is this. Most parents do this when they’re little, and then when they get to be teenagers, they disconnect.

[00:27:08.780] – Speaker 1

[00:27:09.910] – Speaker 2
For example, our kids now, even they’re grown. They walked into our house the other day, and I jumped out of the chair, ran over, and gave them all a hook. And I was laughing as I went. I do that every time they arrive. When they were little, I would arrive home, and then I’ll go crazy. Dad’s home. And they would run to me. And now I’m paying that back.

[00:27:29.340] – Speaker 1
Yeah. I’d also add just you talked about as kids get older. I think part of it is parents feel that their kids think they’re uncool and don’t want to be around them. And what they’re experiencing is this tension between the need for independence. So in adolescence, we kind of make moves to move away from our parents. But deep down, the kids still crave relationship, even though it may not feel that way. So just an encouragement to parents as the kids get over, keep stepping into the connections, because even though on the surface it may feel like they’re not interested, they really are deep down.

[00:28:07.370] – Speaker 2
Chris that’s smart. Really smart. Especially when my daughter would get home, I would get up, give them a hug, and I go, Come here. You’re not cool enough. You’re not too cool to hug your dad.

[00:28:19.030] – Speaker 1

[00:28:19.820] – Speaker 2
I just kept that stuff up. Another thing is this just trying to figure out what do they like to do and go do it. We still do that today. But if my daughter’s here, they would go they would tell you the story. When they were in third grade, Ice Age came out and it’s a school night, but I didn’t care, and I took them to see Ice Age. We stopped at Del Taco, bought a bunch of tacos, snuck them into the theater, sat in the back row just eating food, watching this amazing movie when my girls were little. And last half of the movie, I put my arms around him and I went, oh, man, there is no place on planet Earth I would rather be.

[00:29:02.850] – Speaker 1
Yeah, right. It’s why Taylor Swift is in my Apple Music replay for this year. It’s not because I’m particularly a fan. It’s because my daughter is a self described Swifty. So, hey, you suffer, right, to get in the worlds of your kids.

[00:29:19.670] – Speaker 2

[00:29:20.120] – Speaker 1
No, but in all seriousness, I think that’s so true, is find out what the kids are into and dive into that. I would say to your earlier example about the son who was saying he doesn’t believe in God or anything anymore, that’s back to that. He’s having a conversation with you. Right. At the end of the day, this.

[00:29:38.030] – Speaker 2
Is a great sign.

[00:29:39.390] – Speaker 1
That’s a positive. Not just because he’s testing it, but also that he’s in relationship enough to feel confident. I went through phases where I feel like I didn’t really talk to my parents much at all when I was a teen. Just head to your room. And so I think that’s really significant.

[00:29:54.090] – Speaker 2

[00:29:54.420] – Speaker 1
What are some of the other strategies? Right.

[00:29:57.060] – Speaker 2
The third strategy for me is this provide a motivational environment. I think the best thing ever written on parenting is in the Bible, of all places. I never would have thought this grown up. It says children are a gift from the Lord, which means children are gifts, not punishments. It doesn’t feel like it sometimes. And then it says this like arrows in the. Hand of a wire. So are the children born with you? The Bible describes kids as an arrow. So you think, okay, what do you do with an arrow? I think everything you need to know about parenting is that one word arrow. What do you do with kids? Shoot them. No, I’m kidding. Think about an arrow. And the first thing you do is aim it. Okay? So you provide direction. So you aim it. So number one is direction. Then you pull it back. So you provide motivation. So you provide direction, then motivation. And then the last thing you do is what? You release it, and hopefully it goes in the direction you aimed it. And my experience with parenting is most parents are incredible at two of the three, right?

[00:31:01.990] – Speaker 2
Most parents are great at direction. Matter of fact, Christian parents, they even have an extra 66 book on direction with the direction Kingsley. And the problem is that when they get the teenage years, we just increase the volume of the direction. And so most parents are great at direction, and eventually everybody’s great at release because eventually they’re leaving, whether you like.

[00:31:25.550] – Speaker 1
It or not, right?

[00:31:26.730] – Speaker 2
Problem is this most kids are not going to go nobody long term is ever going to go in a direction that they’re not internally motivated to go, which means the number one thing every parent on the world needs to become aware of is I have got to become a motivational parent. Because ultimately that’s the most important thing. It’s more important than the direction I lecture them with. I’ve got to become a parent that inspires them to go in some great directions, which means some of that is, joan I got to put them in some of the most motivating environments on the planet.

[00:32:02.170] – Speaker 1
Yeah. So talk to me a bit more about that. Like, what does that look like for a parent? Because if we come by direction a little more naturally and release kind of happens whether we like it or not. And how do we tap into that motivation? Do you have any tips, strategies, ideas?

[00:32:17.470] – Speaker 2
Boy, am I glad you asked. What’s funny? For most parents, it’s not what you do, it’s what you don’t do.

[00:32:23.040] – Speaker 1
Okay? Yeah.

[00:32:23.840] – Speaker 2
Parents, let me give you four things to not do. And by the way, I learned these by doing these myself. So number one is this don’t lose your cool. Don’t lose your cool. Most kids are experts in the teenage years at causing mom and dad to lose their cool. Nobody is inspired by being around overly emotional people that lose their coal. Nobody’s going, oh, I want that. So number one is don’t lose your coal. That goes back to a little bit. They’re in testing. Just chill out. Number two is don’t let your kids intimidate you. Teenagers can be intimidating. You realize one social scientist said this we are the dumbest culture in human history because we are the first culture in which the elders of the tribe look to its youngest behavior, youngest members, for what expected standards of behavior and style should be. I mean, how dumb is that? So don’t let them intimidate you. Number three is this don’t pretend to be perfect. If my son Mark were here, Mark would tell a story. We had four young kids, and we had a minivan, and we spoke and I spoke all weekend in in our at our Granite Bay church and then went to a Super Bowl party.

[00:33:41.850] – Speaker 2
And then I’m exhausted. Our family’s in a van. We’re heading back. It’s nighttime. I’m going over this thing called the Fulsome Damn Road, which is appropriately named, and I hit an 18 inch deep pothole. Front left tire explodes, back lift tire explodes. And I am so fried and so mad at the government for not fixing this road. I pull into this overlook overlooking this lake, and I get out my phone, and I’m literally going, the government idiots can’t fix this. I call I call a and go, Get out here, hang up my phone. I totally lose my cool. And Chris, I don’t know about you, you may be better than this, but I lose my cool for about two minutes, and then I feel like a jerk. Immediately, I get out. I walk over by this lake that I pulled up to. I apologize to God. And then my son Mark, who at this point, I think is like six or seven, he he stands next to me. He gets how the car comes up and all the other kids are asleep. And I look I look at Mark and go, hey, son, I just really want to apologize, man.

[00:34:41.720] – Speaker 2
That’s not the kind of example I want to be, not the kind of dad I want to be. My son, Mark. He’s six. He looks at me and he goes, you know, dad, things like this happen. I’m going, okay, maybe you can mention me later. Then I get back in the car and I apologized. I said, Honey, I acted like a child. Will you please forgive me? My wife, of course, agreed. And then did. And then I said, oh, and I apologize to Mark, too. And Carol said, oh, that’s a good thing. And I said, Why? And she said, Because the minute you got out of the car, mark leaned up and said, dad doesn’t handle this well, does he? And I started cracking up, and Mark could tell you that story today, and I drove off that damn road that day. That’s the name of the road. And I thought, my son doesn’t need a perfect dad, which is a very fortunate thing, because he’s not about to get one. My son also does not need a dad who tells him what to do and doesn’t do it himself. All that’s going to do is produce rebellion.

[00:35:44.200] – Speaker 2
My son’s number one need is to have a dad who’s honest and a dad that God is working in his life so that when he wakes up and goes, man, I need to change, he goes, Well, dad changed. I should be easy. But that doesn’t happen when parents pretend to be perfect. And then the last one for parents, I’d actually give you here’s a bonus one. Don’t rescue them from consequences, because when you rescue somebody from consequences, they learn that actions don’t have consequences, so why not do crazy behaviors? And then for me, the last will be this. A lot of parents don’t delay living until they turn age 18. I know more parents are going, they just became a teenager. I’m going to be as uptight and crazy and on task and domineering as I need to be. I’ll be as miserable as I need to be and on task need to be so that my kid will be attracted to my faith and values. Nobody’s attracted that kind of thing. When you’re vibrant and joyful and you enjoy life, that kind of lifestyle is attractive to today’s generation. I know way too many parents are going to go, we’ll get back to Liver when they’re out of the house.

[00:36:55.810] – Speaker 2
But right now I’m going to be on task and uptight. That is not a good strategy.

[00:37:00.410] – Speaker 1
Well, and I can see that one definitely connecting to the motivational environment. Right? Like it isn’t just about motivating kids. We have to be examples of that kind of environment ourselves.

[00:37:10.910] – Speaker 2
Right? Exactly. Yeah. And I think whether it’s putting them in settings where that kind of thing happens or any of that stuff. I’ll give you an example, the motivational environment thing. We have Christmas Eve services that are massive. And a few years ago, we got a spinning drum set, as in the drummer is strapped in, nobody in the crowd knows it, and Christmas Eve is packed, okay? And all of a sudden, in the middle of this heavy song, they’re doing, this drum set starts to rise and goes up about 15ft in the air. And the drum set turns and goes diagonal so that literally the guy is hanging to his chair, drumming, and then it starts spinning around. And the song was this vibrant Christmas Eve song. The whole place went crazy. Standing ovation for the drummer, all of this kind of stuff. I got several very angry letters from very religious people criticizing, number one, how we would have drums in church in the first place, but criticizing, why do you do all this kind of stuff? You know who loved it? Teenagers, right?

[00:38:18.500] – Speaker 1

[00:38:19.070] – Speaker 2
Every parent that brought them was like, bring that drum set back. And so sometimes you got to go, look, we’ve got to come up with something that does a really great job of actually spinning this thing out.

[00:38:32.800] – Speaker 1
It’s really interesting as you talk about that, because I’m thinking about as a parent and as adults, we sometimes lose that edge. Right. It isn’t just focus while the kids are there. We kind of get old and tired and we risk a little less and we don’t try as many new things. And yet at the same time, we’re trying to encourage kids to you need to go to summer camp or you need to try that food, or you need to get out of the house and do this and look back to say, what are we getting out of the house and doing and trying new and picking up a new skill? And I think being an inspiration for that motivation. So I love that. I can tell you sound a bit like a child at heart yourself, Ray, as we navigate this. So that’s great.

[00:39:15.920] – Speaker 2
Some days, yes, some days now, yeah.

[00:39:18.130] – Speaker 1
As we’re kind of coming near the end, before I do a couple of wrap up questions. Anything else you want to share on some strategies for parents? I think what we’ll probably have to do, Ray, is come back later in this season and get you up on the other things which I think are probably connected about what you need to build into your kids and how to be the parent your kids want to be around. I think they’re probably connected but just on this seven storms and Seven strides, any last strategies or thoughts?

[00:39:44.260] – Speaker 2
The last one I’d say is this just give your kids heavy doses of encouragement. Just give them heavy doses of encouragement. And the reason is this the most important thing about a kid is their self esteem. And I want to talk to you if you’re a dad and you have a daughter, most girls get their self image from the opposite sex parent. And most girls will spend a significant part of their life either benefiting from or recovering from the relationship they had or did not have with their dad. And so whether you’re divorced, not divorced, whatever your setting is, especially if you’ve got daughters, give them massive doses of encouragement. When we had daughters, I went, I may mess a lot of stuff up, but I’m going to convince them they are the two greatest people on planet Earth. Now the reason for that is this. Some pretty substantial work has been done on when somebody’s self image drops and they become more susceptible to five things and these are all the things that scare parents. They become more susceptible to peer pressure. In other words, I’m going to try to raise my self image by making everybody happy with me.

[00:41:07.190] – Speaker 2
That leads to disaster. They become more susceptible to high risk behavior, drinking, driving, crazy behavior. Number three is they become more susceptible to substance abuse. I mean, most kids, the vast majority of kids abusing alcohol or drugs have low self esteem. The fourth one is this they become more susceptible to sexual experimentation. Most girls, especially girls that are having sex while they’re in high school, aren’t having sex because they want to have sex. They’re having sex because it’s the only time they feel good about themselves, because they think somebody’s attracted. They feel like they’re attractive just in this moment, just to this person, which leads to all kinds of problems later. And the fifth thing is this suicide. The fifth thing is suicide, which is on the increase in kids. All five of those things, peer pressure, high risk behavior, substance abuse, sexual experimentation, and suicide, all of which are the five things that terrify parents, are all a ripple effect of a low self image, which means, basically, give your kids massive, heavy doses of encouragement. I don’t talk about this very often. I actually have kind of a personal value, and it’s more of a discipline.

[00:42:29.320] – Speaker 2
Every single day I ask myself this question, how emotionally connected am I to each person in my family? And I act on that in some way every day. Like my daughter Leslie, how are we going to have my daughter Christie, my son Mark, my son Scott? Scott and I were on the phone yesterday. Leslie and I were on the phone yesterday. I’m kind of going, how emotionally connected to each of my kids? It’s a great way to build your kids, but most kids are going to do much better if they have heavy doses of encouragement. And far too many parents are discouraging. And frankly, far too many religious environments are discouraging.

[00:43:12.190] – Speaker 1
I have a daughter myself, and so I think that’s well, maybe not a great place to lead, but I think an encouragement that I think, like you said, as media is rising, parents are still up there as top influencers in kids lives. And so we have an opportunity to shape the environment like you’ve talked about, build connections, create stability, give encouragement. I think those are some really great strategies that help us help our kids navigate the storms, because they’re there. And like you said, it’s preparing them for the road that they’re walking on, not trying to get out in front and create whatever kind of road that we can for them. I really liked how we started that, and it’s a great metaphor for me to think about that raise we kind of wrap up. I just want to ask you a couple of things. Number one, as parents are listening to this, obviously this book is getting written. It’ll come out at some stage, and parents can jot down your name and they can find that out when it comes. But any other resources or tips? You talked earlier about dancing in the dark as a book and research projects anywhere parents can go that maybe you want to find out a little bit more about some of the things we’ve talked about today.

[00:44:26.150] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I would give parents a couple. First of all, this is self serving, but that’s fine.

[00:44:31.020] – Speaker 1
Please do it. That’s why you’re here.

[00:44:33.300] – Speaker 2
I wrote a book called Hope Quotient. It took seven years to write it. It was a massive study. And what we discovered is there are seven things that if you build them into your life, you have rising levels of hope. And if you have rising levels of hope, you’re better at everything, including parenting. So the first thing I’d say to parents is do something to take great care of yourself because then you’re going to be a better parent. Okay. And I would get a hold of that. In fact, you can go online. There is a hope quotient test that will test you. It’s the first ever test on hope. It’ll test you in these seven areas. But the book, it’s the only book ever written about hope that isn’t really about hope. It’s about the seven things that cause it. We surveyed 1000 people from every state. A PhD professor and I wrote this together and it was a research project because we want what is it? If you do these, you have rising levels of hope. Because if you have that, then you have a future and you can give your kids a future.

[00:45:30.220] – Speaker 1

[00:45:30.750] – Speaker 2
The other one is this. There’s an author, his name is Kevin Thompson, and he wrote a book called Fearless Families. And it’s a new book and it is a great book. And he’s pretty much going, if I’m parenting without fear, then I’m in much better shape. So he pretty much is going, how do you parent with love instead of fear? That is a really smart book. So I would start there and go from there. And then the other thing is like this podcast, anything you listen to that gives you rising levels of hope and equipment is a really smart thing.

[00:46:09.700] – Speaker 1
Yeah, that’s great. And your books will be kind of under the umbrella of raising grated kids in an X rated world. Is that kind of what people can Google and find down the road?

[00:46:19.200] – Speaker 2
Yeah, they’re not out yet, but they’re being written as we speak. I have a podcast and they’ll land there first. It’s the Ray Johnston Leadership Podcast. And they’ll land on that podcast in terms of interviews and stuff like that. So people want a matter of fact, it’s interesting if you’re going to get that podcast back up about a year and a half, I did an interview with a guy named Henry Cloud. That is one of the smartest human beings on the planet.

[00:46:48.310] – Speaker 1
Yeah. His work on boundaries and other things is unbelievable.

[00:46:51.640] – Speaker 2
Oh, he’s amazing. And his culture critique he did with me. Was there’s a reason he consults with everybody? It’s just very sharp.

[00:47:00.570] – Speaker 1
Just as we’re kind of wrapping up. You’re such an encouraging guy yourself. Maybe just a word of encouragement or something for parents who are listening and just like, but you don’t know my kids, or this is overwhelming, I feel stuck. Maybe just what can you encourage parents today as they take on this incredible task of raising kids in this world.

[00:47:24.110] – Speaker 2
I just did a message at our church on this and I started the message by saying this is a guilt free message. Parents, as a dad, I felt guilty all the time. If I’m at work, I feel guilty I’m not with them. If I’m spending time with one of them, I feel guilty about any of the thought. It’s just parenting is a great way to raise your guilt level. And so I said to these parents, this is going to be a guilt free message. Give yourself a break. Guilt and self condemnation will take you in wrong directions. Let it go. Trust God. Raise your encouragement level and just go back to it. There are no perfect parents.

[00:48:04.170] – Speaker 1
What a way to finish. Ray really appreciate you. And again thankful for what you do and continue to do for young people through the work in your church and your writing and just the way you inspire other people around you. So it’s been so great to listen to you for the last 40 minutes or so and and we’ll have to schedule how to get you back. So thanks so much for your time today.

[00:48:24.020] – Speaker 2
Abbey great my friend.

About the Author

Chris Tompkins is the CEO of Muskoka Woods. He holds a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Guelph, a teacher’s college degree from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Youth Development from Clemson University. His experience leading in local community, school, church and camp settings has spanned over 20 years. His current role and expertise generates a demand for him to speak with teens and consult with youth leaders. Chris hosts the Muskoka Woods podcast, Shaping Our World where he speaks with youth development experts. He is an avid sports fan who enjoys an afternoon with a big cup of coffee and a good book. Chris resides in Stouffville, Ontario with his wife and daughter.
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