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Are You Raising Your Tweens and Teens For Adulthood? How To Parent On Purpose with Amy Carney

Amy Carney is a writer, speaker, Mother of 5, and the author of Parent On Purpose,  A Courageous Approach To Raising Children In A Complicated World, and an inspiration for all of us parents!

This interview is convicting and empowering for those of you who want to parent courageously, reclaim your leadership role, and redefine success for your family (yes!).

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In This Episode You Will Learn:

  • How overparenting is hindering our children.
  • How we can become more intentional in our parenting by focusing on the end game.
  • What we can do to build strong relationships with our kids and how to shift our thinking to what really matters.
  • Strategies to build strong families and equip our children to become capable and confident young adults.

Where To Find Amy and Buy Her Book:

Amy’s Book: Parent on Purpose: A Courageous Approach to Raising Children in a Complicated World




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And here is the episode typed out!

Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you’re failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone and you have come to the right place.

Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy, and I am on a mission to equip you to love well and raise emotionally healthy tweens and teens that thrive. I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our family and to impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and becoming more of the mom and woman you want to be, welcome. I am Sheryl Gould, and I am so glad that you are here. 

SHERYL: Today, I’m excited to be with Amy Carney. Thank you, Amy, for being here. And I just want to give a little introduction. Amy is a mother of five with firstborn triplet sons. I was like, oh my gosh. And I saw a picture of you holding all three, I cannot even imagine. 

AMY: I know.

SHERYL: Your daughter, is she a year younger?

AMY: She’s 18 months younger. So I had 4 in a year and a half. 

SHERYL: Oh, my gosh. And then you have a son. Is he in sixth grade?

AMY: Sixth grade.

SHERYL: That was in foster care. And now he’s adopted?

AMY: Yes, we adopted him three years ago. 

SHERYL: Wow, so welcome Amy. And we’re going to be talking about your book, “Parent On Purpose.” And I just love this book, “A Courageous Approach to Raising Children in a Complicated World.” I just want to tell our listeners what I love so much about this book. And it’s all highlighted. And not only is it timely but it’s practical. When you break it up, you talk about developing life skills and identifying the problems that we all struggle with. And then what’s the solution? And then you give us proactive strategies. So I want to dig into this today. So tell me, what does it mean? 

What do you think it means to parent on purpose?

AMY: Well, it means that we get ahead of the game, right? Like having four kids in a year and a half, I was just kind of surviving motherhood. I was just reacting to what came my way in the day. And so I want to help people get ahead of the game and be proactive in intentionally raising their child. That’s what I laid out in the book of what that looks like to me and with other experts that I interviewed. 

SHERYL: Yes, I don’t think that we stopped long enough to really think about you talk about the end game, knowing what the purpose is with our kids. I don’t think we often think about that. I do want to quote you because in in the Moms and Tweens and Teens community, this quote is so important to kind of let just percolate.

“It’s not about striving to be the perfect mother or father or about raising perfect children. We are imperfect humans raising imperfect little humans. Perfection is never our goal. The objective of this book is to help you become more intentional.” Speak a little bit to that. 

AMY: I just think that’s culture today, right? Like, the good mommy club. And we have to do all these things to be a good mom. And, I mean, we are imperfect people, like I said, raising imperfect kids. So we need to give ourselves a little grace in that. But also there’s a lot of things we can do to intentionally raise our kids and not continue reacting to whatever comes our way and culture today. And get a little ahead of the game. And that’s what I hope my book helps people with.

SHERYL: Yes, definitely, it does. And I put a link in there so people can order the book because it’s so good. 

Talk by your three pillars. I want to ask you first, what are some of those things that we can do to parent with the end in mind? What are some of the things we can do? 

AMY: Well, one of the strategies that I like to say is that we can kind of parent six years ahead. So if we have a 10-year-old, we need to start looking at them as a 16-year-old. What does culture look like for 16-year-olds today? What are parents dealing with, right? 

And then begin figuring out how we can begin making decisions and living out our values now, so that when we get to that stage, it’s a little bit easier to lead our child and make hard decisions according to our values. And maybe not our best friends or our neighbors, right? Instead of just reacting to whatever comes away. 

And when we get to the end, I’m seeing it so often, people are launching the kids and they’ve got so much regret, sadness, and guilt because they didn’t ever stop and think about what is it I want for my 18 year old walking out the store, right? Because culture is so busy today. I mean, we’re overwhelmed, right? We’ve got a lot coming at us. And we’ve have to recognize that truth, slow down, and think about what it is — what our purpose is for raising this child. And what do we want for them when they leave our home? And then how do we start making decisions today toward that goal? 

SHERYL: I love that. Because you mentioned the word reactive and starting when they’re younger, and then thinking it out so that when they turn 16, we’re not reacting. We’ve been thinking about these things all along the way. 

AMY: Right, right. We’re not all of a sudden, they’re 16 and nhow we’re trying to figure out if they’re going to drive, get a job, or date. We’ve been thinking about those things, years before. So we kind of know better how we want to handle it. And we’ve been talking about it with our child, too. When they get to the prom party bus and they’re not allowed to go on it, you’ve already been talking about that years prior or whatever. So we all should have some boundaries, according to our family values. 

SHERYL: Yeah, and that’s great for the next part that I want to talk about. What do we not want for our family? And what do we want for our family? And being able to really sit down and think about that. And then talk about that with our kids.  

What did that look like in your family?

AMY: When my husband and I kind of designed what I call the parent purpose statement. And so I wanted to stop and think about what it is I wanted for my kids. And it was a little overwhelming to think, well, I want all these amazing, great things, right. But then I started with, “what don’t I want?” And that was much easier. I don’t start with the negatives. I don’t want to raise entitled children. I don’t know that many of us do want that. If I don’t want to raise entitled children, then what do I need to do today to raise a more grounded child. Looking at what you don’t want is really a great place to start, and then start figuring out what you do want instead.

SHERYL: I love that you mentioned how companies have mission statements. And yeah, we don’t think about that, as parents. Why don’t we just launch into the three pillars? Can you tell us what they are?

AMY: Yep. So I broke the book into three parts. So lead on purpose, love on purpose, and launch on purpose.

The first part of the book is really to strengthen ourselves as a parental leader. So it’s strengthening us as individual adults.

The second part, the love on purpose, is strengthening our family culture and our relationships. So how do we do that, that strengthen our family? 

The last pillar, which is the launch on purpose, is how do we strengthen our child? How do we strengthen them into a young adult that can go into the world, and be capable, confident, and compassionate? 

Those are the three areas to strengthening yourself as a parent. First, strengthening your family unit, family, culture, and relationships. T,how do we strengthen our child so that they can go off and be a successful healthy adult.

SHERYL: Okay. And you know, I have to ask you about this. So you can tell our listeners how this book came to be. I think that fits well into the leading part. Because you did something very courageous in 2014 right?

AMY: Yes, five years ago, we were on the road. In 2014, we quit our jobs, pulled the kids out of school, bought an RV, and traveled the whole U.S. for seven months. And we did that if you buy my book or have it, the introduction is all about that. And we did that because we were not living in our family story. We were split up all the time, living like my husband, and I are on different sidelines, cheering our kids on. I say they had A’s on the report cards, and we had money in the bank. 

But we were totally disconnected and not living the life that we had hoped to or, you know, thought we would as a family. We just bravely decided that we would just stop everything for a little bit and take off in this RV. And it was crazy because we’re not even a camping family now. But we weren’t. So we just needed to regroup because we could see the end coming. And we didn’t want to launch our kids into the world and have this regret and sadness. And so we wanted to take that time to kind of pivot and figure out what direction we wanted our family to hit.

SHERYL: How did you have that epiphany, like who’s idea was that? 

AMY: Yeah. I know, most people think it was mine. It was not my idea. It was my husband’s idea to get an RV and go around. And he was thinking about it being a summer thing. Then it was my bold idea. Like why don’t we travel the entire U.S. and pull them out of school. And then I started back my writing career. I used to be a journalist before. So it was a way that I started writing and blogging from the road. 

That’s how this book came to be because I was being asked to write a book about the trip. The book about the trip turned into this “Parent on Purpose” because I more wanted to write about the heart of the trip. And all these things that we’re experiencing raising kids today are hindering us from really raising them the way that we had hoped or wanted to and maybe how we can make different choices for different outcomes.

SHERYL: When you think about the transformation, so to speak, that you went through from before you took the trip to seven months later, what changed in your family?

AMY: We decided that we were going to live in our values. We said if faith is our number one value, how are we going to live that out? Because we were doing a very good job of even getting to the family dinner table together, or to church together. So are we going to really prior prioritize what we said is true?

But the problem is, when we do that, there’s always consequences like to our choices and culture. So, you know, if we did like, we decided for our daughter, who was a club soccer player, that we weren’t going to go on a tournament, a Thanksgiving tournament, right? I would because it usually’s she and I would go, and the boys would stay back. 

And we’re separated on holidays. And you know what, we’re not going to do that this year. Like, I’m sorry, we’re going to spend Thanksgiving as a family, we’re going to miss this. And so yeah, the next season, she got moved down because she’s not committed. Right? This is the culture that we we live in and it’s okay. We’ve got to be able to say, “you know what, okay, we’re going to live with that.” 

Because this youth sport is our priority? Or is our family unit our priority? And it’s really struggle, and one that many families are dealing with. So you just have to make some hard choices. And we figured out how to balance better, say no to some things that maybe will have consequences, and say yes to things that really matter.

SHERYL: Bringing it back to the values like over and over and over again, reminding yourself what really matters in your family.

AMY: Yeah, and that’s why I say to write it down, specifically your parent purpose statement. Because it’s one thing to say something, but it’s another thing to take the time to write it out. Hold yourself accountable, like the decisions we’re making matching what we said we wanted? I mean, they’re not always going to, they’re not always going to be able to that’s reality.

But maybe we can take a week, this upcoming summer, and really live into our values because we haven’t been able to do it this well this school year. Maybe we’re going to take our kids and go on a mission trip or something. We want to do that instead of taking them to Disneyland for an entertaining vacation. In my book, I talked about what it looks like to make courageous decisions in your family, small to big. So we’ve just got to be more willing to do that. Because we don’t want popular culture writing our family story. And that’s what was happening to us. So we wanted to take back the pen and kind of write more the scenes of our story instead of letting culture do that for us.

SHERYL: Yeah, I think you raise such a good point about how it almost feels like life is happening to us now. Yeah, don’t get our kids in a sport. It’s so different from when I was growing up. And my husband decided he wanted to play soccer freshman year of high school. And he made the team, played on varsity, and loved it. But now we start our kids, when they’re three, four years old. I work with my girls, I start them later dancing. They were dancing with this young group of girls because the older ones were already dancing in the intermediate class. Like oh, I’ve missed the boat, and this pressure creeps in. We feel this anxiety. And then, no wonder our kids are so stressed out today. 

AMY: Right, such a hard thing to balance. There’s no such thing as balance necessarily, but it’s more how are you going to allow your child to do this and have it not overtake your overall family narrative.

SHERYL: What are some practical tips that you share in the book? 

AMY: Well, I talked about one thing is putting the technology down, having parameters on technology. Technology’s taking over our families. So one chapter is disconnected, reconnected, how can we live with this technology, but have healthy habits built in around it and boundaries. So that we can have authentic conversations and communication and relationship with each other. So that’s huge. 

Then, I talk a lot about play. And, I know that’s kind of a buzzword now, we need to play more, but it’s true. We all need to play more, and I go into how I didn’t realize that was really what we were missing in our family. I realized that on the RV trip. We had no margin in our lives to play, to just be in nature and have fun. Everything had become so rigid, stressful, and scheduled. 

And sometimes we just have to wipe the calendar clean and just hang out. Go outside, go camping, or there’s no Wi-Fi or whatever your family does. Just do more of it. And then, a lot of times, when people say, “Well, our kids really don’t want to go camping.” Okay, they don’t want to go. But you know, that’s what’s best for our family. So we just did that. We just headed to  the campground this summer a little. Because for one thing, I know it’s bad Wi-Fi, which is something I seek out because otherwise our teenagers were battling. So it’s kind of my little secret, like, family connection. 

They don’t know that, but they can’t connect. So guess what, we get to connect, and they actually play. They’re relaxed. And it’s so important. It’s just essential. But we’ve got to lead that. Too many times with our kids, they don’t want to do it. Well, you’re the parent and what you want for your family is what’s best. That means sometimes you just drag them along. 

And the next day, you say I’m having a good time. We just got to be willing to do it. But our kids need downtime. 

SHERYL: They do need downtime. And we used to look at the clouds going by and be able to breathe, and there’s never a break. And we are constantly feeling that FOMO (fear of missing out). Thinking, “I have to be on my phone to stay connected.”

AMY: Right.

SHERYL: It adds a lot of stress. 

AMY: Yeah. And we struggle with it too. 

SHERYL: Oh, absolutely. Especially when we have, a lot of our work. We’re in the office working online. So it’s carving out that time for ourselves to not be plugged in

AMY: Exactly. 

SHERYL: I think that you raised a really good point, too, about our kids. I think we expect our kids to want to do these things. And they’re at an age when they’re tweens and teens. They’re going to whine, complain, but at the same time, you said, the next day they’re playing. They’re having fun once they get away from it, and they see the difference that it makes. 

My daughter went on a mission trip, and she can’t be on her phone the whole week. And she came back and she said, “Oh, my gosh, it was so good to be off of my phone. Like, I felt so more peaceful. I felt more connected to God.” 

She was like, “I was with myself.” She said, “I really tasted my food.” You know, I mean, eating and if you’re on your phone, and you’re not really tasting your food. But she saw the difference.

AMY: That’s the enemy enough to give them that space to not see the difference. They have to have that time away from it to understand what it feels like to be off of it. 

SHERYL: Yes, tell us about the launch. So the third pillar is launch. That’s a big one.

AMY: That’s a big one. And that’s kind of one of the reasons I wrote the book because I had written a blog post a few years ago on the eight things you should stop doing for your teen. And most of your followers have probably read that because it went viral for a long time. And it always regurgitates itself around this time of year. And so I just talked about simple things that I had to stop doing for my kids when they were 13-ish. And it’s just been a hot topic of conversation–are we doing too much for kids? And I think that we are.

SHERYL: So what should we stop doing?

AMY: Start as simple as have them start getting themselves up in the morning with an alarm clock. We laugh, because I mean, I see headlines saying that parents are calling their college kids too and waking them up every morning. Well, of course, we’re going to laugh at that. But we’re of course going to do that if we’re not sure if they’re going to be able to get themselves up on their own because we’ve done it for them through senior year. And then we’re paying for this tuition. 

Are they really getting up for class, we don’t know. Because we never taught them how to do that in our home. And we never saw it. So then we get desperate. And we over parent when they’re away in college. So I had written, I think that was the first one I had talked about and everything from they should be contributing to our homes, to our families.

Whether you call that chores, I just call it contributing. And it’s just what you do when you’re in a family. And I need help. And everyone’s going to help. I mean, it’s just part of it. And what’s going on now is we our kids are too busy. They’re so busy today, and so we feel like we don’t want to burden them with anything else. But we need to expect them to contribute in whatever ways are helpful to your family on a regular basis. It is not about what just helps them, but helps the entire family.

SHERYL: Yeah, absolutely. I love the word that you use, “contributing.” I’m going to start using that, rather than “chores.” But contributing, it’s like we’re all part of this family together.

AMY: Right. Right.

SHERYL: Just love it. So much of it is the words we use, and that contributing, we’re even teaching the value of “we contribute, we work as a team.”

AMY: Exactly. In our home and the world, we need to be contributors, not just consumers. And that’s what’s happening is we’re raising kids just to consume. And that’s why we have this entitlement issue where it’s okay to consume, and it’s good to contribute, we have to be able to do both.

SHERYL: Yes, I feel like one of the important things you talk about in your book, you break it off into age-appropriate ways that parents, depending on the age of your kids, can start teaching your kids these skills. So they are ready to launch. And we really do need to let go a lot and pull back. I see that with moms and dads today as well. My own parenting with my first, especially we parent a lot out of fear, and we don’t want them to be uncomfortable. And they need to learn that and strengthen that muscle so that they are prepared when they leave our homes. 

Talk about too the success. I wanted to speak about that. Because I think it’s so important how we tend to focus on success versus character. Can you talk about that a little bit?

AMY: Yeah, I like to challenge people just to stop and redefine success. Because sometimes we get caught up in this. I mean, we’re living and raising kids in this achievement, performance-driven culture. Sometimes we can forget what success really is to us. 

And so I like to show in my talks, and I just did it this morning, a picture of my hockey-playing son who by all means looks successful to the world. He’s a good student. He’s a good athlete, and he’s doing all these things. But when I stop – is that really success to me? And it’s not. It’s this man that I am raising, who goes on a mission trips, and I’ve got a photo I show of him, washing the feet of the elderly women in the village on his knees. It’s the way he loves on our younger son that we adopted, and his loving character and heart that he’s developing. That’s success to me. 

And so stopping and saying, what is success to you? And then how can you create opportunities for your child to become that. The other thing is carving out space in our lives to actually have these opportunities where our kids can serve others, get a job and work hard, or whatever it is you want for your child. How do you carve out opportunities for them to become that person? So, redefining success is huge. I think we don’t stop and define that for ourselves. And for our kids.

SHERYL: It’s about more of the heart versus the performance that caught up in that today parenting the performance and the colleges they go to and the grades and all.

AMY: It’s causing them a lot of stress. And it’s not just coming from us. It’s coming from their peers, the schools. It’s just a performance-driven culture today. It’s just helpful to pull back on that a little.

SHERYL: That reading piece that you were talking about in the beginning. How are we going to lead? And I think so much of parenting is how do our kids perceive us? 

AMY: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we’re the example. As I said, being the example, the adult, you want your child to be because they’re watching if we’re walking our talk. And they know the difference? Strive to be the example.

SHERYL: So, what are some final parting words for encouragement? 

AMY: Oh, yeah. We need encouragement. I’ve got three seniors now in high school. So I would just say, in the back of each chapter of the book, I have the section where it’s pause, pivot and plan. 

And sometimes we can just forget to pause, take a break, and think about what’s working in your family. What’s not working? This is a perfect time of year to do this, too, with a new school year. 

What was working for you guys last year in your home and what’s not working, and then plan to make a pivot, pivot and go a different direction. And never be afraid. I hear people it’s too late. It’s never too late.

SHERYL: It’s never too late.

AMY: Never too late. I feel like that with seniors in high school, I’ve still got things I want to teach them, and I’m still learning. I’m not perfect, nor am I trying to be perfect. I’m just trying to lead them to leave my home next year and go off and be a contributing man in our society. So I am doing my best to do that. And then the other thing is, once they leave our home, the outcome is not ours. Like, what they do with what I’ve taught him, or what I haven’t taught him is on them. They’re going to make their own choices. 

And they’re currently doing that as teenagers. They make their choices. And it’s not a reflection on our parenting. If we’ve taught them something, and they choose, that’s their choice. And it’s not a reflection on our parenting. So we’ve got to remember that the goal is not to raise perfect kids. We’re not perfect parents. And the goal is just to be purposeful and live into this season of full-time parenthood more purposefully. 

SHERYL: Yeah, play more. 

AMY: I like to reframe, I say in the book, even just the family dinner, which you really get time as a family. I think we got one, maybe two nights a week. We get to gather around the family table, but I say I even refined the frame that is family playtime. I want it to be an enjoyable time or we’re not.

SHERYL: Correcting them that they’re eating.

AMY: Yeah. Because, I wouldn’t be an enjoyable time where people are talking and connecting. And we’ve got conversation starters on every one of our tables so that we can send them just pull those randomly out and laugh. We gotta laugh more. 

SHERYL: Oh, yeah, absolutely be silly. 

AMY: I say, in the book, too, let’s worry about being sillier in our families than these SAT scores. That might take our kids further.

SHERYL: Have that be a goal, you know, for the next week, right?

AMY: Yeah, we’re so caught up and for good reason. I mean, you know, there’s reasons too because it makes a difference financially for people to write and money for college and everything. But at the end of the day, that’s not what’s most important. We want to enjoy this season. So just laugh a little more and relax a little more. Enjoy these kids we’ve been blessed with, and figure out what’s next. 

SHERYL: Thank you so much.

AMY: Thanks for having me.

SHERYL: I have your book. They can find you at AmyCarney.com. And then it’s Amy Carney for Facebook too. Tell them how to reach you.

AMY: Yeah, so follow me on Facebook, Amy Carney blog, and then Instagram is Amy L. Carney. So on the other handles, it’s Amy L. Carney. 

SHERYL: This was really helpful. And I just wanted to say. I think it’s so important what you said about “I’m learning too,” and our kids are going to make mistakes.

AMY: We want them too. 

SHERYL: And that’s exactly how they will learn and important to remember too. Well thanks. I’ll see you sometime soon.

AMY: Thank you so much. 

SHERYL: All right. Have a great night.

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