Teens and Alcohol: A Scary Mixture

Written by Mark Gregston.

10:23 Halloween copy

Halloween is just around the corner. That means parties & festivals start to increase and sometimes alcohol is also invited. How can we protect our teens and help them say “No!” to alcohol?

Statistically, your teen will drink alcohol in high school.  Some parents know it.  Some don’t want to admit it.  According to national studies, 11% of the alcohol consumed in the United States is consumed by underage kids.  The Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, 39% admitted to drinking some amount of alcohol within the last thirty days.  8% of those students drove after drinking alcohol, and more than 24% said they rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

With that in mind, are you still willing to believe your child won’t be offered or even start drinking alcohol in their teen years?  With all the kindness and Christian charity this Texan can muster, can I say:  That’s just crazy!

I am a teen advocate.  My career revolves around helping teens and their parents deal with serious issues, and I have seen too many broken hearts and wounded lives as a result of teen alcohol use to take it casually.  A teen’s maturity level is simply not developed enough to make good decisions regarding alcohol. The physical changes they are undergoing in their brains and bodies mean they cannot properly assess the impact drinking is having on them.  Regardless of your position on alcohol use by adults (and I know many good people who draw that line in different places), we all agree that teens and alcohol is a dangerous mixture.

KNOW THE STORY

Before we can ever address the problem of teen drinking, it helps to know why a teen drinks.  If you find out your son or daughter is drinking, take a moment to uncover the bigger story.  In my experience, many teens drink to fit in.  It’s the feeling of camaraderie and community that leads even good kids, who have strong beliefs and values otherwise, to pick up a bottle.  In some cases, teens drink to erase painful memories.  My wife was sexually abused for years, without anyone finding out.  Those images are replayed over and over in a child’s mind, and sometimes they are looking for a way to make those agonizing movies stop.  Worried or anxious teens may use alcohol in order to sleep.  Some kids drink because they are frustrated, feel like failures, or are angry.  Of course, I’ve talked to teens who were simply curious about alcohol or enjoyed the feeling of being drunk.  But you’ll never know why your child may be drinking if you don’t ask.

ASK QUESTIONS

Uncovering the reasons behind teen drinking requires moms and dads to ask questions.  But notice I did not say interrogate.  You’re not asking questions to prove your case and bring down the hammer.  You want to ask questions so you can understand your child better.  Ask your child questions like “Do any of your friends drink?” “Have you been pressured to drink?” “What do you think about alcohol?” If they respond by saying they tried it, I encourage you to thank them for being honest and work with them to understand why it isn’t a good idea for teens to drink.

Several of the teens at Heartlight are here primarily because of issues that come from drinking. I asked one of them the other day why she started drinking, and she said, “Because my friends were drinking.” In order to fit in, this sixteen-year-old girl began using alcohol despite what her parents had taught her and the fact that her older brother had died in a drunk driving accident.  She went on to say, “I was scared to say no.  I didn’t want to be the outsider.”

The best strategy for preventing teens from experimenting with alcohol is to have an ongoing conversation with them about drinking.  This isn’t something that can be mentioned once and then left alone.  Keep the dialogue going.  Keep asking questions.  And if you have suspicions, don’t be afraid to ask your child directly, “Are you drinking?

SET BELIEFS AND CONSEQUENCES

Preventing or dealing with teen alcohol use doesn’t end with asking good questions.  The next step is to communicate your beliefs on the subject and set concrete consequences should your child step outside the lines.  Concerned parents need to lay down clear and firm boundaries in this area.  Your child needs to know what the consequences will be before they use alcohol.  For example, you might tell them that they will lose their car if you learn they have been drinking and driving.  And if they get arrested for a DUI, you won’t provide bail for them.  That may sound harsh, but consider the alternatives.  What will happen if they hit and kill someone while driving drunk?  Teens don’t think about those possibilities when they drink.  In their minds, they’re untouchable and invincible.  It’s our job to make them aware that they are not!

You can tell your 16-year-old son, “When you are 21, whether you drink is up to you. Right now, though, it is up to me to make sure you don’t drink. I’m going to draw the line and hold that line to protect you.”  Your teen may not like the boundaries you set (although he’ll probably appreciate it more than he would ever admit), but he needs them, if for no other reason than to tell his peers the dire consequences if he is caught.  And even if your teen doesn’t have a problem with alcohol, set these guidelines and consequences now, so that everyone in the family is on the same page.

Teenage alcohol use is an issue that needs to be addressed head-on.  You may think “my teen will never become an alcoholic, or get arrested for driving under the influence, or get pregnant because she was too drunk to care.”  But it happens, and it may happen to your child.  I don’t say this to scare you.  I say it to prepare you.  When it comes to alcohol use by teens today, passive (“Don’t ask, don’t tell”) parenting certainly won’t protect your teen.  Permissive (“Let’s allow kids to drink at home”) parenting can actually encourage it.  So it is up to you to practice proactive (“No alcohol until age 21″) parenting, and hold the line.

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When An Adult Child Makes Bad Decisions

Written by Mark Gregston.

 

10:14 Age Limit Blog

The Lord is merciful and gracious; He is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.” Psalm 103:8-9, NLT

When a child becomes an adult and is living on his own, it is no longer within our power to control much in their life. It is, however, within our power to manage our relationship with that child.

“Well, what do we do about the upcoming holidays?,” a father wanted to know.  You see, he was dealing with an adult teenager whom he had recently asked to leave their home. The son’s life was overrun by self-damaging things and he had no interest in changing. The parents had struggled and prayed long and hard about it, and rightfully concluded that it was time to ask their prodigal to go live somewhere else.

But they didn’t know what to do next. Asking their son to leave home changed everything about the way they thought things would go within their family. They were not prepared for it. In a tear-filled conversation, this father wondered – “Doesn’t inviting my son home for dinner mean we’re back to supporting his poor choices?”

The dilemma for every parent dealing with a child who exchanges a healthy life for an immoral lifestyle is this: how do we manage the day to day interactions with that child?

Let me encourage you if you are in a similar situation.  Hang in there, and remain hopeful. Don’t back down.  A good relationship with your child who has reached adulthood doesn’t mean you will never have conflict or always agree with their decisions. For parents it is important to love their older child, even when they continue to make destructive decisions.  Eventually, the child will come to his senses and he needs to know you’ll be there for him on the other side of the struggle.

When dealing with an older child, as with a younger child as well, it is extremely important to practice unconditional love.  It is love that is given across a bridge of friendship that doesn’t end when the the older child lives immorally, or chooses poorly. It is a love that provides a way of return to a closer relationship when the child finally returns to right thinking.

How to Practice Unconditional Love with an Older Child

1. Show a true desire to spend time together.

Even if your son or daughter has been asked to leave the house, still invite them to dinner. Send the message that you desire them to remain a part of your family, you intend to spend time together, and make special efforts to do so. Try to engage with them in something they like to do on a regular basis, and lovingly fight to keep your relationship with your child alive.

2. Love well during tough times.

Use your words and actions to send the message, “There is nothing you can do to make me love you more, and nothing you can do to make me love you less.” That doesn’t change just because you’ve enforced some new boundaries. Just as God lovingly and wholeheartedly pursues us, gives us grace, and refuses to let us get away from Him, we can love well, and with compassion when a child is choosing wrong things.

3. Ask questions to open a dialogue.

Ask questions as a way of entering discussion, or lead a conversation with a thought provoking question. This is also an excellent way to leave a discussion when you are finished.  The right kind of questions (non-offensive ones) will stimulate discussion, and hopefully find some common ground. Eliminate “you” statements and replace them with “who, what, when, where, or how” questions that inspire further thought.

4. Be a servant, but not a doormat, even when it doesn’t fit your schedule and liking.

Remember that no kindness will go unnoticed, even if your teenager doesn’t acknowledge your efforts. Keeping an attitude of kindness and consideration that shows you value others more than yourself will help you find the right ways to serve your child when needed.

5. Don’t lecture. Wait to be invited before sharing your opinion.

One of my favorite scriptures says, “A fool delights in airing his own opinion.”  Before you give your opinion, make sure they’ve asked you for it first. Look to their interests and their needs, and not your limited focus or agenda. Don;t attempt to fix their problems. in other words, just keep quiet.

6. Don’t give in to their wrongdoing.

God does not help us do more wrong. We are never to enable another’s sin, including helping our child continue to do wrong or to develop damaging habits.  Allow God time and space to work in your child’s life, and don’t rescue their wrongdoing.

7.  Be patient.

Adjust your expectations away from a swift fix for your child. You may see change happen quickly, or you may not see a change for years.  It is important to remind yourself that it is God’s job to change someone’s heart, not yours.  Let Him do his work on His timetable while you remain prayerful and available to follow where he leads.

8.  Pray for your child daily and let him know you are praying.

Of course, we practice unconditional love by praying daily for our children, even when they become adults.  And be sure to let them know you are praying for them. They may think you are silly, but when bad times come for them, and they will, they will find comfort in knowing that there is a Higher Power that is petitioned daily on their behalf.

Loving unconditionally doesn’t mean you ignore your own beliefs and boundaries, or you fail to allow them to suffer the consequences of their own behavior. It does mean that your love for them isn’t affected by their behavior. You love them no matter what they decide to do or not to do. Making poor decisions or turning their backs to God doesn’t mean they lose your love and relationship as a parent.

Back to the question of the father at the beginning of this article.  I advised him to, “Invite him for dinner on Thanksgiving Day, just as you would any other member of your family. He knows how you feel about what he is involved in, so don’t bring it up. Use it as an opportunity to love your child, and give him a taste of the character of God.”

 

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Teen Spin Control

Written by Mark Gregston.

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Are you dealing with a struggling teen in your home? Are emotions running high and hope running low? I’d like to offer you some advice to help you find peace in the midst of this struggle.

There is nothing worse than living with a struggling teen who is spinning out of control, and no worse feeling than the hopelessness parents experience in the process. It is difficult to know what to do and how to react when your teen daily reaches new lows in disobedience, dishonesty, and disrespect, and chooses every wrong thing.

Your teen is caught in “The Spin Cycle,” and he or she needs you to intervene.  The downward spiral can have tremendous destructive potential with lifelong consequences, or even bring a young life to a quick end.

It is frightening to think about the damage he or she may be doing to his or her future.  But that’s just what we parents do…we worry about our child when we see the warning signs (grades dropping, hanging around with the wrong crowd, drug use, depression, defiance, sexual promiscuity).  The unknown is always scary, but we cannot watch over our teenager every minute.  We also personalize our teen’s struggles as a direct reflection of who we are as people and how good we have been as parents.  This personalization often causes more pain and anger within us than the current situation should cause.

When teens spin out of control, they need a responsible adult to respond, not react.  In responding to a spiraling teen, you offer calmness, honesty, love, grace and support.  If you are instead reacting, you are emotional, angry, hurt, quick to judge, and often harsh.  These knee jerk, seemingly instinctive interactions are almost always counterproductive.

Reacting to your teen’s misbehavior or lack of respect is probably never going to give you the response you intended or wanted.  Responding correctly in the midst of chaos is difficult, but parents of teens must learn to stop their mouths, think about what is to be said or done, and only then speak or act – Stop, Think, Go.

Most people in times of crisis are in Go, Stop, Think mode, which will only bring more pain and chaos.

So, Where Do You Begin?

You can start with a simple truth and consequences message, “Honey, we’re not going to live like this anymore.” or, “I will no longer stand by and watch you destroy yourself. We’re going to address what’s going on, get some help, and get through this together.”  Make the message clear, “The negative behavior we’re seeing will no longer be allowed or tolerated in our home.”

Don’t expect your teen to like the new rules, nor the related consequences.  And they probably won’t appreciate your attempts to deal with their bad behavior.  Their first response will most likely be anger or resentment.  Be prepared for their behavior to get worse – more screaming, more name calling, etc.  They are upping the ante; forcing you to back down.  They want to see if you are really serious about these new rules.

The time your child may spend hating you is short, and compared to the entirety of a life, it’s just a blip on their radar.  Secretly, he or she may feel relieved and thankful you cared enough to intervene, giving them a good excuse to say “No” to their peers when asked to participate in the wrong things.

Usually, a teen figures out that life will be much easier if they change their behavior so they can work things out with their parents, but not always right away.  And sometimes they simply don’t figure this out at all, or this behavior is too entrenched to handle it all on your own.  You may need the help of a counselor, or may even need to place your teen in a program like Heartlight for a time.

Then What?

Once you start down the path of responsible parenting, don’t stop, and don’t be pulled down to their level with childish fighting.  Stay calm and focused on what you want for them and deal with the heart of the issue.  There will be days when you mess up and yell back.  After you calm down again, go to your teen and apologize for yelling.  Don’t turn it into a lecture or blame her for you losing your cool.

There’s never a good time in our busy lives to be faced with a crisis like dealing with a teenager caught in the spin cycle.  It can be very difficult, but keep in mind that more parents of teens are going through the same thing with their own teenager.  Seek them out and find a place where you can share your feelings and gain strength and support from each other.

Most parents describe the struggle with a troubled teenager as a “roller-coaster” or a “powder keg,” and for many it can either be a time of the family banding together, or it can tear them apart.  With what is at stake, the most important thing you can do for your teenager is to keep your relationship strong and prevent the struggle from becoming the focus of your life.  You’ll have those “valley” days.  Walk through the valley, and keep on walking, for as long as it takes.

Do not stop to build monuments to your grief, anger, or fear.  One thing that can help at the low times is to pull out old pictures and videos to remember the good old days when your teen didn’t treat you like dirt.  It will give you better perspective and strength to keep fighting for what’s right for your teenager even though it may be a totally one-sided and unappreciated fight for his future.  Celebrate the good days.  They’ll likely be few and far between for a time, but that’s okay.  Let them prop you up.  Enjoy each victory.  Laugh with your teen.  Reflect on the good, and hope for a future filled with more days like it.

Do not worry about anything, instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which
is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.

-Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

Be sure to give the reins to God, and He will give you peace, strength, and the right perspective to deal with your teenager. Look at what may need changing in your own life.  And finally, no matter how they’ve hurt you, and no matter what they’ve done, love your teen unconditionally, as God loves us.

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Ten Ways to Rebuild a Relationship With a Teen

Written by Mark Gregston.

Teen Ways to Rebuild Relationship with your Teen-@MarkGregston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relationships thrive in settings where everyone agrees that nobody is perfect.

Unconditional love is fundamental for building healthy relationships with teenage children who will test their parents and their rules in every possible way. When they do, a busy, stressed-out parent can often react in ways that don’t always convey unconditional love.

If that sounds like you, maybe you need to work on mending your relationship before it is destroyed altogether.  Consider implementing some of these bridge-builders:

10 Ways to Rebuild Your Relationship

1.  By spending weekly time together, one on one…

Of all the advice I swear by, this is one you cannot ignore; Take your child out for breakfast, out for coffee, or do a lunch — and make it a habit every week.  Even if they resist, you must insist.  It tells your child, “You are worth spending time with, even when you are at your worst.”   Make it a one on one time together and come prepared with a topic to discuss that will be of interest to your teen.  It doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  But it should be consistent.

2.  By sharing challenging experiences…

Parents need to spend more time, not less, having fun with their child when he or she reaches adolescence.  Unfortunately, many organized school and church activities can tend to get in the way of that.  I recommend you find a challenge you both appreciate and pursue it together with excitement.  Dedicate some resources, time, effort, interest and vigor to developing your interest together.

3.  By looking for opportunities for discussion…

Ask the right kind of questions.  The kind of questions that make them think about things, not just a “yes” or “no” questions.  Find out what they think, how they would do something, where they would go, and why they think a certain way.  Take advantage of reinforcing those moments when a discussion leads to surprising expressions of wisdom from your teen.  Talk about controversial subjects as you would a friend or co-worker for whom you have extreme respect.  Never belittle their opinions about things. After all, did you know everything when you were a teen?

4.  By listening more and answering less…

If you want your teen to grasp what you are thinking, then stop telling him what you are thinking until your are asked for your opinion.  Zip your lip – just be quiet.  Stop lecturing, start listening.  Your teen won’t be ready to really listen until he becomes the initiator of a discussion, so just hush and get out of the way of him taking the lead.

5.  By developing a sense of humor…

Some of us are sour, bitter and stressed all of the time.  Lighten up!  When was the last time you really laughed?  Try having a joke night – where everyone has to come to dinner with a joke to share.  Even if it’s corny, everyone laughs!

6, By playing together….

Play paintball, go ride horses, go fishing or hunting, go camping and gaze at the stars, or pull a stunt together.  Get them up at midnight to watch a meteor shower.  Live it up and enjoy life with your kids in some way.  If you don’t like what they like they like to do, then just be there to watch or help them in some way. The key is the two of you being together.

7.  By remembering your child’s past and believing in your child’s future…

Carry a photo of your child as a youngster with you at all times! Post their baby photo on your refrigerator.  This way you won’t forget who this child was when they turn into an alien in their teens.  Keep in mind the joy of bringing them home at birth.  Remember, the thumbprint of God is still on their life.  Don’t dwell solely on their current struggles and difficulties.  Thank God for the work He is doing and will do in your child’s life.

8.  By establishing boundaries…

Let them know where they can and can’t “go” in your relationship.  Tell them what you expect, before something challenges those expectations.  Clearly establish your belief system and household rules. Being too lax as a parent and trying to act more as their friend and peer will hurt, not help, your relationship.

9.  By selfless confrontation…

Remember, discipline is about your teen, not you.  It is discipleship for their own good, not to make you feel better for all the stress they’ve caused.  Seek the right things in your child’s life for the right reasons.  Confront with calmness, correct with firmness, and with a love that has their best interests at heart.  Confront their mistakes with matter-of-fact and consequences, unwavering and without emotion or anger. In this way, it will become clear to them through the consequences that they are causing their own grief, not you.  If you are unsure, ask your spouse if you confronting your teen in an appropriate way.

10. By correcting and disciplining them, even when it makes you uncomfortable…

Your child needs to know you love them enough to correct and discipline them when they behave in ways that offend others or break your household rules or the rules of society.  Find healthy ways to discipline through loss of certain freedoms and privileges for a time.  Never resort to physical discipline with a teenager and be sure to approach all discipline on a united front with your spouse.  And be sure to reward a teen for good behavior by adding more freedoms and privileges.  That’s more important to them than anything else at this age.

And one more — Bonus!

You can rebuild your relationship by acting on your faith and your beliefs.  Don’t just say it, put your beliefs into action.  Serve others, love others, forgive others, pray, worship.  Exercise your faith in front of your teenager. 

Which of these will you implement into your relationship with your child this week?  I recommend starting with number one. And even if you get nothing but grief from your teen at first, keep up your weekly time together, week after week.  Eventually they’ll come around.

Remember, relationships thrive when unconditional love is delivered across a bridge of friendship that never stops — even if your teen doesn’t respond or goes on making mistakes.

Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:
therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.  Jeremiah 31:3 

 

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Connecting With Your Teen

Written by Mark Gregston.

When was the last time your teenage son or daughter asked your opinion? Does your child listen to you and discuss life’s significant issues and difficulties? In other words, do you have meaningful, two-way dialogues, or does most of your communication tend to be one way?

I’ve found that the best way to build better communication with your teen is to find an activity you can participate in together and do so with all your might. Then, talk less yourself, so you don’t get in the way of what they may have to say.

Conversation naturally comes out of having fun together.  This is especially true for boys, who seem to process life while they are involved in an activity of some sort.  Talking less during these activity times may be difficult for you, but when it comes to getting teenagers to open up, you can’t shut up too much.

Our Heartlight counselors sometimes shoot pool, go for a walk, or play video games, grab a cup of coffee, or just “do” something with kids during their counseling sessions, and that is when the kids really open up. The application for your home is plain enough. If hunting is your child’s interest, go hunting. If riding horses is considered fun, then go horseback riding together. You may not learn how to skateboard, but you can build a ramp and run the video camera while your child does his thing.

The point is, if you participate in some activity with your teen that he or she really enjoys, you’ll find more opportunities to communicate while you are doing it together.

By the way, be sure to prevent distractions during your activity time. Don’t bring other friends or siblings along.  Promise that you’ll turn off your phone if they do the same. And by all means, don’t announce the activity is for the purpose of having a talk. Just leave the space open and available while you are with them, to see what happens next. Then zip your lip, be quiet, and practice listening.

Your silence allows your child to fill the conversational void. It may seem uncomfortable at first, but that’s the point.  In their discomfort, they’ll do the talking and say things they may not have said otherwise.  So, if you quit talking, you will begin to gain some ground in connecting your child’s thinking.

Your teen may never have a long discussion with you; it may always be the instant message version. But listen carefully, because what is said will probably be short and you’ll have to do some reading between the lines and asking a few quick questions to clarify what they meant.  This signifies that you are really listening and wanting to understand them.

What you say or how much you say is not even really that important. The important thing is to build an atmosphere where your child feels safe to share their thoughts and feelings.

The times a teenager will really listen to you are few and far between. But they’ll listen you more if you take time to listen to them.

Building good communication with your teen can start by participating in an activity your teen enjoys doing, and then using that time as an opportunity for you to listen, not talk.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 39 years, has two kids, and 4 grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, 2 llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.  His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with over 2,500 teens, has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents.

You can find out more about Heartlight at www.HeartlightMinistries.org, or you can call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our Parenting Today’s Teens website at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org, It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent.

Here you will also find a station near you where you can listen to the Parenting Today’s Teens radio broadcast, or download the podcast of the most recent programs.  The Parenting Today’s Teens radio program was recently awarded the 2014 Program of the Year by the National Religious Broadcasters.

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Parenting Lifeline: New Hope for YOUR Family!

Written by Mark Gregston.

You visit this blog because you’re concerned about your teen or preteen. You’re looking for help to keep them on track . . . or get them back on track.

It’s because of caring, involved parents like you that we’re planning a brand-new resource, the Parenting Lifeline audio series.

I envision the Parenting Lifeline series containing a DVD and multiple CDs. That way, you can learn at your own pace and refer back to any part as often as you need. It will be something you can listen to in the car or anywhere else that’s convenient for you—filled with the proven, practical, biblically grounded answers that have already changed so many lives as well as the encouragement you need to apply them to your own family.

But before plans like the Parenting Lifeline series can become a reality, we need to end this fiscal year “in the black.” To do that, we need to raise $70,000 by midnight on August 31.

Help Make It a Reality!

We’ve built some great momentum over the past year. Parenting Today’s Teens was awarded the National Religious Broadcasters Program of the Year, and thanks to an amazing outpouring of support during our Hope for Moms campaign, we were able to provide many scholarships for single moms to our Families in Crisis Conferences and even create a special retreat just for them.

The Parenting Lifeline series is just one plan in the works to keep that momentum going. I believe we could have it produced, packaged, and ready to go by Christmas or the first of the new year, if the Lord provides the resources. And if you ask me, that won’t be a moment too soon for thousands of families.

Will you help Heartlight reach out to countless families—including yours—by giving a gift now to help end the fiscal year strong? Together, we can make Heartlight Ministries the place where millions of parents turn when their teens turn away from them. Thank you for caring!

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The Teen Spin Cycle

Written by Mark Gregston.

There is nothing worse than living with a teen spinning out of control, and no worse feeling than the hopelessness parents experience in the process. It is difficult to know what to do and how to react when your teen daily reaches new lows in disobedience, dishonesty, and disrespect, and chooses every wrong thing.

Your teen is caught in what I call, “The Spin Cycle,” and he or she needs you to intervene. The downward spiral can have tremendous destructive potential with lifelong consequences, or even bring a young life to a quick end. When teens spin out of control, they need a responsible adult to respond, even if they do everything they can to keep you out of it. In fact, you must! You cannot ignore or overlook inappropriate behavior, or simply do nothing.

If you’re caught in that cycle with your teen, then my advice is to act now.  Don’t wait and don’t ignore the evidence that your teen is spinning out of control.  Act today based on what you know is true – your faith, your own beliefs, and what you know is best for your child. And, by the way, I’d like to help you as well!

So, Where Do You Begin?

You can start with a simple truth and consequences message, “Honey, we’re not going to live like this anymore.” Or, ” I will no longer stand by and watch you destroy yourself, we’re going to address what’s going on, get some help, and get through this together.” Make the message clear, “The negative behavior we’re seeing will no longer be allowed or tolerated in our home, and if it doesn’t stop, you will not be able to live here.”

The point is not to kick them out so you don’t have to worry about them anymore (neither can you if they are underage), but you can use the threat of losing the comfort of your home as a tool to get them thinking about the consequences of continued inappropriate behavior.  There are many programs and schools designed to deal with struggling teens and keep them safe, like our Heartlight residential program in Texas. If you need help with finding such a program, simply give me a call and I’ll help you find the right program. Fact is, just having boarding school, boot camp, military school or wilderness therapy program materials on the counter for your teen to see may be enough to get them to sit up and take notice that you are serious about making a change.

Don’t expect your teen to like the fact that you are calling a halt to their inappropriate behavior. They probably won’t appreciate your attempts to deal with their bad behavior. Their first response will most likely be anger or resentment. But the time your child may spend hating you is short, and compared to the entirety of a life, it’s just a blip on their radar. Secretly, he or she may feel relieved and thankful you cared enough to intervene, giving them a good excuse to say “No” to their peers when asked to participate in the wrong things.

Usually, a teen figures out that life will be much easier if they change their behavior so they can stay at home and work things out with their parents, but not always and not always right away.

Then What?

Once you start down the path of responsible parenting, don’t stop, and don’t be pulled down to their level with childish fighting. Stay calm and focused on what you want for them and deal with the heart of the issue. Give them permission to struggle with things knowing that your love for them will never change. But set the limits and boundaries you know he or she needs, and above all be firm.

Don’t

Don’t – Act out of anger – remember Ephesians 4:26 – “be angry, but do not sin.”

Don’t – Get physical – if tempers flare and voices are raised, take a break, keep it cool.

Don’t – Ignore what is happening in hopes it will just go away, it won’t.

Don’t – Build monuments to your grief, or park yourself in the valley.

Don’t – Give in when you know you should stand your ground.

Do

Do – Put your hope in your faith and act on the truth.

Do – Understand that God is teaching both you and your teen during this time.

Do – Seek help from qualified professionals and connect with support outside your family.

Do – Handle yourself in a manner that keeps your relationship with your teen alive, as it may determine the kind of relationship you’ll have 10 years from now.

Do – Change your own bad habits when it’s obviously your fault.

There’s never a good time in our busy lives to be faced with a crisis like dealing with a teenager caught in the spin cycle. It can be very difficult, but keep in mind that more parents of teens are going through the same thing with their own teenager.  Seek them out and find a place where you can share your feelings and gain strength and support from each other.  The struggle may seem endless, and you may feel hopeless at times, but the time to act is now, and it may very well save your teen’s life.  Doing nothing is not an option for a caring parent.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 39 years, has two kids, and 4 grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, 2 llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.  His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with over 2,500 teens, has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents.

You can find out more about Heartlight at www.HeartlightMinistries.org, or you can call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our Parenting Today’s Teens website at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org, It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent.

Here you will also find a station near you where you can listen to the Parenting Today’s Teens radio broadcast, or download the podcast of the most recent programs.  The Parenting Today’s Teens radio program was recently awarded the 2014 Program of the Year by the National Religious Broadcasters.

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