Pouring water

Having teenage and college-age children in my house is educational.

One of my intentions as a mother has been to cultivate an atmosphere where my children had the freedom to tell me anythingeverything if they were only willing. I realize the latter is a lofty goal and not likely to be the case, but everything isn’t really the hope, anyway; anything is.

Practiced advice handed down to me from a mom just a few years my senior formulated my “tell anything” philosophy when my children were still in grade school:  “Don’t react when your children tell you something shocking.”

Martha’s counsel has proven easier said than done at times, but I’ve never forgotten it. For years I’ve tried to listen with open ears and an inexpressive but engaged face, to invite the stories I wanted to hear, the stories they’re desperate to tell. The freedom to share helped them process Hard Things and figure out how to respond without fear.

Sex, drugs, alcohol, cutting, food disorders, pregnancy–even when it’s among the Youth Group set. Especially when it’s among the Youth Group set. No reaction.

I’ve learned children are most inclined to share when they feel neither judgment or condemnation, whether its directed at them or their friends. They’re less likely to tell you anything if every conversation invites you to step on a soap box or lecture about virtue or question another’s salvation. Quoting Bible verses will keep them from telling you the next time, too.

The moments are sacred when a child allows you to enter their world.

It is in everyone’s interest for you to remember you have two ears and one mouth and you should use them in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you speak. At least.

* * * * *

With all this in mind, the stage had long been set when my college-aged daughter asked me if I knew what a Power Hour was. It was clear she wasn’t talking about anything remotely related to Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral, the first thing that came to my mind.

She explained, “It’s when you drink as much as you can in an hour and then hook up with someone.”

Blink blink.

(No reaction, Robin…no reaction….)

It’s important to add here I wasn’t worried about this as it relates to my daughter; she’s one of those rare creatures who has made a lifetime of choices setting her squarely in the path of Purity, not for purity’s sake or to please her parents, but because she’s convinced this is what God desires.

In that instant, though, my heart ached for the countless teens and 20-somethings who make that choice every day. Drink as much as you can in an hour and give yourself away. Some mother’s son…some mother’s daughter.

She wasn’t telling me because she knew anyone who takes part in a power hour; she wanted to tell me about her friends’ redemption of the Power Hour: how a few young people in her sphere are reclaiming that phrase for good, who have re-imagined it in a way that drips of the Gospel. Good news.

What is their version? 

A group of friends set aside one hour to pour words of encouragement into one another–kindness, attentiveness…life…love The essence of 1 Thessalonians 5:11:

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (ESV)

Interestingly, they begin with physical attributes; not general “you look pretty today” but features and mannerisms and the things that distinguish who we are. The things we do we don’t even realize we do or maybe the things we don’t like about ourselves…or even the good things no one has ever named (but you’re dying to hear).

From there they move on to character; affirming the good things they’ve observed in one another, calling out strengths and talents and giftings they’ve witnessed, likely when no one knew they were looking. How they treat people, work ethic, how they spend their time, how they’re maturing in the faith.

For a solid hour, those present take turns building one another up. Encouraging, positive, life-sustaining words. They dwell on what is:

  • true
  • honorable
  • just
  • pure
  • lovely
  • commendable
  • excellent
  • worthy of praise

the embodiment of Philippians 4:8 (ESV).

Rather than drink for an hour and rob another (and self!) of purity, dignity and respect, they pour into each other for an hour and offer grace, affirmation and beauty.

The world is full of negative messages that can seed insecurity and doubt. Couple that with how cruel and thoughtless we can be to one another at times. (And this isn’t limited to teens and 20-somethings!) To counter that, what if you planned a Power Hour of your own? What if you set aside an hour on a regular basis – whatever regular means to you – and poured life and love and living water into your children or spouse or a small group of friends? Or if you’re a leader who works with a campus ministry or high school or middle school youth group–why not have a Power Hour the next time you gather together?

Q.  Parents:  How do you react when your children tell you shocking news? How are you cultivating an atmosphere for your children to speak freely? If you aren’t, what steps will you take to give them this freedom? If you’re willing, share examples of Hard Things your children shared and how your responded.

Friends:  Could you use a Power Hour? Do you realize you’re in a pattern of negative-speak with the people around you–family, friends, co-workers? What specifically can we do to redeem our words for our good and God’s glory?

With love and gratefulness to the One who gives us only Good Words,

Robin

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  1. 1

    Yikes. Yes, if we truly want an open relationship with our older kids, we’re going to learn about some shocking things. My 19yo and I have established “coffee hour.” Each morning, over coffee, we talk about life, events, and thoughts. We laugh, complain, explain, and learn from one another. I worry about so many things with her in college (now home for the summer). It also makes me think about her sister. My 17yo daughter is disabled. There are many things I won’t have to deal with because of that. Sex, drugs, drinking. Blessings in disguise. An open relationship with an older child is a blessing, too. Just be prepared.

    • 2

      Keirth,

      Sounds like your “coffee hour” IS a power hour (love that!). It’s so easy as a parent to get lost in a sea of worry, so I try to channel concern into prayer (productive) vs. worry (ain’t gonna change a thing…!).

      Your perspective regarding your younger daughter is precious, really; understanding the blessing others might not be able to discern.

      Sometimes to younger parents I just wanna say, “Buckle your seatbelt!” It’s the essence of your admonition to “be prepared” (because if you aren’t, well…it’s hard to keep a straight face sometimes!).

  2. 3

    Robin,
    As a mother of a 24 and 20 year old, I can sooooo relate to you having to stay yourself and try to not react when your older children tell you things. I am fortunate that my children have come to me with the good, the bad and the ugly. I’d rather know than not know because then I know about what I need to go to my knees in prayer. I’ve had to blink many times in reaction to stories of sex, drinking, pot smoking, police run ins, etc. Our children live in a very different world than the one I grew up in! And these are children raised in a loving Christian home. I love the idea of a redemptive “power hour”!!! What human being could not really thrive if infused with words of love and affirmation? One thing I do every morning is text my children with some life-giving words for them to wake up to. It may not be a power hour, but it starts their day with them knowing they are loved. Thank you so much Robin for keeping it real!!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • 4

      Bev,

      I LOVE your idea to early-text your babies! Why haven’t I been doing that? It’s something they might roll their eyes at or not fully appreciate, but I bet if you STOPPED they’d ask! :)

      You mentioned that you’d “rather know than not know” so you can pray for them (and others); but another reason I’d rather know is because my imagination tends to run wild, to the worst possibilities. Knowing, keeps me in check (does that make sense?).

    • 5

      I love the early morning text idea! I did a “40 days of Blessings” last year with my college son. I wasn’t sure how he would like it, but he actually thanked me and said “keep’em coming” :)

      • 6
        Lisa Litt says:

        I love the idea of an early morning text to my loved ones! I don’t have children of my own, but I do have a niece and nephew that have been through some hard times. I am going to “early-text” them with the power of love! Thank you for the idea.

      • 7

        I love the post but I also Ioved the idea of doing the “40 days of Blessing” is that a book or how did you go about it with your son? Thanks

  3. 8

    Such good advice that has obviously worked well here. Love hearing about young adults that are making these hard choices and shining bright in their example. Thanks for sharing this!! Great principle to keep in mind with s 4 1/2 year old boy.

    • 9

      Amy,

      Sometimes what they share isn’t all “good”; sometimes their choices are not the ones I’d hope they make or the things they share just hurt, maybe not for them, but for their friends or others. But imo, it’s crucial to allow them the freedom to tell you about choices that might disappoint you so you can help them navigate (and consider) the consequences. Parenting is NOT for cowards!

  4. 10

    And what if that hour of encouragement spills over into the rest of life and we become more encouraging? Wouldn’t that be an amazing transformation in a person? In me? Wonderful words, Ms. Robin! Thank you.

  5. 12

    This is such a beautiful idea your daughter and her friends have designed!! Amazing. And to think that she may not have shared this with you had you been in a habit of reacting poorly to her stories for all these years. My kids are still young, but I will tuck this bit of wisdom in and share with my husband, because I, too, want them to be willing to share anything! Lovely read for this morning!!!

    • 13

      Vanessa,

      The older they get, the easier this is said than done; remember that, too, to steel yourself for Hard News. I’ve seen the beauty and benefit of loving my children “no matter what”, and though they’re the kids I always hoped they would become and prayed for them to become, sometimes they’ve made decisions that were counter to what they know to be right. We’re on the other side of those things in most cases, but I’ve learned that children are just “human” like everyone else, far from perfect :) .

  6. 14

    I was *just* talking to my husband about how I want our daughter to ALWAYS feel comfortable talking to us about what’s on her mind. Thankfully, as she’s only 5, the things she wants to talk about aren’t sex, drugs and rock n’ roll yet – but I want to lay that foundation of open, honest communication NOW. Thank you for sharing your parenting experience, Robin. As always, I want to just sit down and soak up your wisdom with hopes I can hold onto it for the next 10-15 years!!!

    • 15

      Mary,

      You’re wise to begin figuring out how to begin now, rather than waiting to begin “then”. The funny thing is, while I had so many opinions about raising teens years ago, I was reluctant to share. So many things can go wrong and I never wanted to pretend to be a know it all. BUT…now that my youngest is 16, I feel a little bit more freedom to share openly. Thank you for your encouragement :) .

  7. 16

    I have such an appreciation for moms of older kids who can “go before” me (and others with younger kids) and are willing to share their experiences and lessons. What you’ve talked about – this is the stuff that both freaks me out and yet gives me hope. This fallen world is even more complicated than when we were in our teens and twenties, and I can’t imagine being faced with some of the choices that are in front of these kids today. And yet God is still God, and in His unfailing love and amazing grace, He continues to draw us back to Himself – drawing your daughter and her friends into a wonderful re-imagining of something that started out so hurtful and awful. Thank you for sharing this – as well as encouraging US to make this more of a reality in our own lives. Yes – Power Hour would be so awesome and life affirming. Looking at the Philippians 4:8 mug on my desk as a reminder …

    • 17

      Rebekah,

      It can be so easy for kids brought up in Christian home NOT to share; they don’t want to shock (or especially disappoint) their parents (especially if the parents seem “perfect”). For me, I’d rather live with the ugly truth than pretty lies; convincing my children of that has been the challenge.

      God sets the perfect example of unconditional love; if only we could emulate that, yes? Here’s to following him and trying :) .

  8. 18

    As a mom who stands flat on the edge of the jump into the teen years – my oldest turned 12 this weekend – I am so glad for you, Robin. So glad you call back to those of us who are coming. The admonition to work on your poker face and encourage your kids to tell you ANYTHING is one I’ve heard before, and always from moms who have good-to-great relationships with their adult children. As a former youth leader, I know the importance of this, but it’s a different beast when it’s your child. And how much do I love that your daughter is reclaiming the Power Hour?!?

    • 19

      Kelly,

      :) Rachel would be the first to make sure “everyone” knew this is NOT her idea! It originated with some friends of hers (although she has since shared it with her besties in our hometown).

      You hit on something that’s so true–being able to do some of these things easier with children who are not our own. I think one of the best services to children is to realize they CAN be “that” child–the one who makes bad decisions w/potentially harmful consequences. I’ve listened to “blind” parents who didn’t have a clue about what their kids were up to…and I just wish I had the right to enter their lives and speak truth. Sometimes, parents are the worst about receiving it….

  9. 20
    Christine says:

    Oh, I am so going to use this! I am having a “Fond of You” fondue party for the group of ladies I lead. Was going to do a written version of something like this and end with praying for one another, but I think we will do the solid Power Hour instead. Thank you!! And thank your daughter for me!

    • 21

      Christine,

      How FUN! A fondue Fond of You party? Darling! (Did you follow our Bloom Bread & Wine study??).

      Speaking these things into one another will cause everyone to leave FULL. And not just because of the fondue, I imagine :) .

  10. 22
    Nanette says:

    What a wonderful post, Robin. How many young people are looking for love in the wrong places and just taking the only thing they think they can get? Your daughter is an inspiration and just think if she and her group could grow their group by inviting these “needy” people, which they probably do. What we could learn from these young hearts for God.

  11. 24
    Kaitlin says:

    I love this!!! I was concerned as I became pregnant with my first child about the world today in terms of society “accepted” “activities” like these. I find, however, that the emphasis in most of the literature laid the responsibility on the young Christian female to avoid these situations and not to tempt the male.
    I am now pregnant with my third boy, and I believe it is, among many lessons, vital and critical in my parenting to instill this sexual avoidance (outside of marriage) and leadership to OTHERS in my young MEN.
    The reasoning that a woman is a “too tempting weakness” to a man’s dignity and morals is a poor excuse and a flat-out cop-out.

  12. 25

    What a gift, your listening and her sharing! That’s great advice for a mom to other moms, no matter the season.

    What a gift, the girls gathering to revamp power hour into Philippians 4:8-ing it.

    Thanks for educating me on the terminology of the teen set today. I’m past it with my own children, but have younger nieces and nephews in my family who will find out about it soon enough.

    My eyes are open to yet one more way to pray for those coming along behind me (mothers and their children) and to offer love and wise counsel at the right time…to make others aware in a loving way.

  13. 26

    Robin, I’ve never heard of this power hour. Other than Robert Schuller’s that is.

    It breaks my heart that kids come up with these things in the first place. Like you said, they are robbing others and themselves of something so precious. The consequences reach far beyond the worries of STD’s, unplanned pregnancies, and tarnished reputations. Their very spirits are being violated.

    I LOVE what your daughter and her friends have started. Focusing on the pillars of Philippians 4:8, and not just the exterior traits of a person, is a beautiful gift to give someone. I bet you are one very proud mom.

    I have a ministry for teen girls built on Philippians 4:8 called the Whatever Girls. I would love to share your article with my readers. Would it be alright if I shared this article on my web site, giving full credit back to you and the (in)Courage site?

    My ministry encourages girls to exemplify the pillars of Philippians 4:8, and I can’t think of a better example than this article and how your daughter and her friends took something the enemy means for evil and is being used by God to turn it into something good. What an amazing role model she is! In fact, would she be willing to be interviewed? Next month I am starting a monthly post that features courageous girls who stand out for God. I’m looking for more young women like her to join my writing team…girls of our generation need girls like your daughter to look up to. Do you think she’d be interested?

    Thanks,
    Erin

  14. 27

    My oldest is 18 (a son). He and I r close, but the world is a crazy place, luckily he has his head on straight. He is not a follower. I do worry anout his heart being broken, I wish we could have them learn from our mistakes. We can only pray that we become part of that “little voice” inside their heads that steers them in the right direction.

  15. 28

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have one of those faces that can’t hide what I’m thinking, but I try to at least keep my mouth shut. It is hard. (I’m the mom of two teen girls, 16 and 13).

  16. 29

    The times and the trends change, but God is the answer to every generation, so thankful He does not change but is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow!

  17. 30

    I love the idea of a power hour of encouragement and uplifting my family and friends. I love what your daughter and friends are doing, so many people don’t realize how important that is and needed in our teenagers today as this world is trying to take them from us. Absolutely love this post, thanks for sharing. God bless!

  18. 31

    Love this idea of a Power Hour! I love that it seems to happen quite frequently in your daughter’s circles and for that, Robin, I give you a resounding cheer from NC. You’ve done good, mama!
    We are planting a church that promotes authenticity and community and so my prayer is that as my children witness our response to our people, even when they share the hard stuff, they begin to cultivate a sense that we’re a safe place to land. My older girls were flies on the wall a few months ago when I had a group of women in our home, and we sat around the room, affirming one another’s gifts and contribution to the Body of Christ. We spoke the good stuff and we cried and laughed and I think it was probably the most life giving moment in the last 18 months of ministry. But…as I read your words, I feel convicted that I’ve not been more intentional in modeling this idea of Speaking Good with my kiddos. I so often let “ministry” come before motherhood~ Thank you for your gentle encouragement to do right by my little people.

  19. 32

    This is a great idea! Thank you so much for sharing! It sounds neat! God bless you richly!

  20. 33

    I loved what you had to say and have made a decision to begin my own “power hour”. What a great idea! Once a month I have a “crafting social” where a few ladies get together at my house and share a favorite hobby with the others. It’s a teaching time, but also great food and fellowship is involved. What an awesome way to kick it off! My next social is this Saturday so I will let you know how it turns out!

  21. 34

    I loved reading this post as I feel like I am already struggling with a 7 1/2 year old daughter that is almost “afraid” or “embarrassed” to tell me things on her heart. I think back to times I definitely over-reacted and jumped up onto my soap box when she shared something with me – I just always want to try and “fix it”, make is better and teach a lesson….foot in mouth! My daughter is already super concerned with what others think of her and following the crowd – she does NOT like to stand out in any way…so instead of having an opinion – she takes on someone else’s. I just want to tell her over and over that her identity is that she is a daughter of the KING! But that doesn’t sink in quite yet with a 7 year old :) so this is great advice…poker face on…jumping down from my soap box…encouraging imperfection…offering grace. Thank you!

  22. 35

    I used to know this when my oldest was a teenager, but it has fallen by the wayside over the years. Now I’m in my second parenthood with 12 year old and 9 year old daughters, and I totally needed this reminder! Keep a straight face, don’t judge, and listen more than you talk. And when the conversation stalls, a gentle, “What do you think about that?” can move things along.

    I’ve never heard of a Power Hour but I love how your daughter’s friends have co-opted the term and given it a totally different meaning. It gives me a great idea for a way to send off a friend who is moving to another state soon.

  23. 36

    Wow- I should do these things. I’m *going* to do these things. No judgement (so hard!), listening, acceptance. My eldest is 10, the younger 3 fall in behind; I’ve got a chance to do this right.
    Such a big responsibility!

  24. 37
    Beth Williams says:

    I try to do the “power Hour” in spurts of a few minutes here and there. My God-given talent, I’ve discovered, is encouragement.

    Love the idea of teens, tweens & college kids being able to talk to parents about anything. Some young people don’t have anyone they feel confident to confide in and that is so sad.

    Thanks for a great idea! Robin you are a well of great information and inspiration.

  25. 38
    shelley says:

    I have a question for you that I have not seen in the other comments. What if you have a child who tells you that he has fallen into the traps of the worldly ways and does not have a great idea of how to turn it around, and is not sure he wants to turn it around? What then?

  26. 39

    What a beautiful story, both of the trust your daughter has with you and what she is doing with her friends! A friend of mine gave me the same advice when my oldest was a baby, don’t react! He’s only 5, but I think so far we are doing good with talking about things. This is something I desperately want to succeed at as a mom! Thank you for sharing!

  27. 40

    Your post gave me a (Spirit-inspired?) idea. As he brings people to mind who could use the encouragement of a card, I might draw a daisy-type flower. On each petal I can write a trait that I especially appreciate about that person, and perhaps elaborate some details in a paragraph. Your daughter’s Hour of Power could become Flower Power for people too far away for a get-together. I love the idea of using words, not only for the good of others, but especially for God’s glory! Thank you, Robin!

  28. 41

    Shocking!!
    in a great shake-it-up and refocus kind of way!
    thanks for this post and the encouragement to Embrace where we are – and who we are in Godliness – you are wonderful!

  29. 42
    Rosario says:

    Wow! Love your post. I read a few of the comments from your readers. I wish I had a Mom that was as open to hearing stories of her children without judging or condemning my actions. I kept a lot from her for fear of her rejection. Now that I’m a Mom, I try to be more open minded with my children. The oldest is a teenage girl 14 and the youngest is a boy 11 years old. I had some jaw to the floor moments with stories she tells me of her friends. And its true if you react in a negative way to their stories, they think about it twice before telling you anything later. However, I use this time to know her better. I ask her,”What do you think about this?”, “How would you handle a situation like this?”

    Being the oldest of five in my home, I became like the person my siblings could talk to without me judging them or condemning. I didn’t go and tell my Mom either. Knowing the way she was. So I became their confiding friend. I did give advice if they asked me to. But most of the time I was just a listener. I was to them the good child. The one that did everything right. The only one to finish college with a degree. But I never have made them feel like I’m better than they are. I’m not perfect. I have my own flaws. My Mom does point out our flaws. She often makes my younger sisters feel bad for their mistakes. I’m not sure why she is this way. I knew my Grandmother and she was the nicest person. I never heard her say anything negative of any of her children. I could say so much about my Mom. But I would end up my comment with the fact. That I forgive my Mom. And I pray that she forgives herself for anything she has felt unworthy or unloved. I pray that my younger siblings would be able to forgive her as well.

  30. 43

    I read this for the second time today, right after a long conversation with my 20-year old daughter, in which most of my time was spent listening as she poured out her frustration and heartbreak over a broken relationship. As I’m writing this comment, I’m having a great text conversation with my 22 year-old son about whatever comes to our minds. It was a struggle to listen without judgment and emotional reactions during their teenage years, but the fruit of those choices now that they’re in their early twenties has come with tremendous blessing and joy. We aren’t out of the woods yet when it comes to struggles and worry, but I believe that open and honest communication on both sides has made the road easier.

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