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Remind Them of the Who, Not the Do

One of my favorite quotes is from familiar author and speaker Bob Goff, and goes like this,

“People don’t change when you tell them what to do. People change when you tell them who they are.”

Often, as I engage with teenagers and young adults who are daily attempting to manage and overcome social pressures to prove, perform and produce in a culture where deep connection, true community and face to face conversation is hard to find. Their anxiety and fear of rejection, and of failure is almost tangible. The world tells them they have too much information to be wrong and too much freedom not to succeed. The realities of comparison and competition drive their extracurricular activity, their career path, and sometimes expectations and interactions at home. What’s your relationship with failure? How does your family measure it, and what’s your model in dealing with it?

In any given moment of parental weakness, I can inadvertently measure the success of my children by moments of irresponsibility or by the pieces of social drama that may surround them. On worse days, I may remind each of a list of things they can do better to feel better or be more accomplished. As a parent, it’s often hard to gracefully know and hold both potential and patience when it comes to our kids. Thankfully, the Spirit often reminds me that my child is not what he/she does or what he/she feels. Ever. Like me, they’ve been formed and fashioned with a fuller value. And on my best days, when one of my kids has met with fear or failure , I remember to put a sticky note in the lunch box, or on the steering wheel, or I send a text that says, “Hey, I’m not uncomfortable with or disappointed by this outcome, because you’re amazing and you’re full of the good and timely stuff that great purpose grows out of.” I remind them that they are already the best version of themselves and it’s a privilege to journey with them. I remember to ask, “Hey do you have someone to share hard things with?”, “Can I be that for you right now?”, and I encourage them that “Whatever you learned from that experience is enough. You are enough.”

Look for opportunities to show your teen how you bounce back from failure. Talk about and affirm their disappointments, and then, tell them who they are.

AmyJo Pleune

Director of Church Engagement


Healthy conversations with your teen: 


Blog Goal:The Talk With Your Teen blog encourages and equips Christian parents to have consistent, open, and meaningful conversations with their teenagers about relational and sexual health.


About us: This blog is hosted by The Joshua Center from Positive Options. The Joshua Center exists to mobilize the body of Christ to embody the Gospel as we build a culture of life in West Michigan.


Parenting teens can be challenging. We offer Biblically based social and sexual health workshops that help ground teens in God's truth and authority as they navigate a hypersexual and rapidly evolving culture focused on individualism and self-gratification. Talk with your Teen articles expand and build on these trainings by encouraging and equipping Christian parents to have ongoing conversations with their teens regarding sensitive cultural issues. For more information about our workshops, for both teens and their parents, please email

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