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.

The post Teen Spin Control appeared first on Parent Tips from Mark Gregston.

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 

 

The post Ten Ways to Rebuild a Relationship With a Teen appeared first on Parent Tips from Mark Gregston.

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.

The post Connecting With Your Teen appeared first on Parent Tips from Mark Gregston.

Teenagers and Consequences

Written by Mark Gregston.

Practice makes perfect – especially in music. We parents hear a child practice, make mistakes, practice more, make some more mistakes. But eventually, with enough practice, they get it right, and we jump for joy. The same is true for decision-making. With enough practice, your child can learn to become a good decision-maker, and to become mature, responsible, and trustworthy.

Handing over some control, and setting good boundaries is essential to fostering maturity in your teen. However, we parents often don’t realize that unless we allow our child to take full responsibility for their behavior by facing consequences, our teenagers will remain immature. I deal with this constantly in my work with struggling teens and their parents, who wonder why their teen is so out of control.

At the heart of this issue is one central theme – consequences. If you wonder why teenagers behave irresponsibly, well, it’s because they are irresponsible. And, they will not become responsible or mature, or wise, until they engage in the process of dealing with the consequences of their choices and behavior. It is a cycle that needs to happen over and over before a teen comes to full maturity.

Sometimes a parent says, “Wouldn’t it be best to wait until I trust my child till I give them more responsibility or control, then they won’t have such difficult consequences?” My answer is that if you wait until you trust them, you will never give them any responsibility. You never will. And, they won’t learn how to face consequences and learn from them, or the consequences they face later on will be of a much more serious nature.

Don’t Wait…Start Early

Building responsibility and good decision-making takes practice, and you have to start earlier than you think. It is a learned process. As the writer of Hebrews says, “But solid food is for the mature, who, because of practice (constant use) have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:14

Start by giving responsibilities early. Give them a checkbook in the sixth grade. Give them a debit card with their allowance on it so they learn early how to manage it. Get an alarm clock and let them wake themselves up for school every morning. Let them keep a calendar and be responsible to let you know in advance when they need transport to and from events. Then, don’t take them if you don’t discuss it in advance. The consequence of not communicating about the calendar is, “you don’t get to go.”

When they begin driving, agree to periodically put money on a gas card. Then, when they prematurely run out of their gas allowance, don’t give them more. I guarantee it will be the last time they run out. In the process they will figure out how to manage their gas money.

The idea here is to stop helping teenagers so much – the way you have helped them when they were younger. While a major responsibility of good parenting is certainly to control and protect our children, parents must make room for their older children to make mistakes. You help a teen best by letting them deal with the natural results of their decision, fall down a bit in the process, and then letting them figure out how to get back up.

In many cases, a parent takes control because they see an absence of a child’s self-control and there is a display of immaturity and irresponsibility. Parents of struggling teens often feel forced into the mode of over-control.

Avoiding Over-Control

Over-control happens when otherwise loving parents protect their children from the consequences of their mistakes, or by having too-strict rules and limits (Example: Not wanting them to be with others for fear of them learning bad habits, getting hurt, etc.)

Over-controlled children are more likely to have problems with peer dependence, relationship enmeshment conflicts and difficulty setting and keeping firm boundaries. They may also have problems taking risks and being creative.

Every culture on earth has a proverb that resembles this one: If you rescue them once, you will just have to rescue them again.

Handing teenagers control and allowing them to face the consequences of their own decisions means:

  • They may get an “F” on their homework when they don’t turn in homework. When they get enough F’s, they will flunk the class. If they flunk the class, they will have to make it up in summer school. If they don’t make it up in summer school, they won’t graduate. (Believe me, I’ve seen it happen just this way.)
  • They may have to walk to school, pay for a cab, or miss an entire day when they don’t get up in time to make the bus. If they miss school, they miss the fun after school or this weekend as well. Don’t write the excuse that gets them out of the consequences.
  • If they serve detention at school, then let them miss the football game on Friday night as well.
  • If they use the Internet to promote an inappropriate image or lifestyle, disconnect it for a period of time.
  • Should they be arrested and it is obvious that they or the friends they were hanging around with are at fault, let them sit in jail for awhile. Don’t bail them out right away. Sitting in jail can have a sobering affect on their thinking and force them to reevaluate their life’s direction.
  • If they are ticketed for speeding, not wearing their seat belt, being out past the local curfew, or other infractions of the law, let them figure out how to pay the fine, as well as how to get to work or school the next day, since they will not be driving your car.
  • Let them help pay for their insurance and gas when they are ready to start driving. Don’t even get them their license until they can pay their portion of the first quarter of insurance.
  • Pay for college as long as they maintain their grades at a level you both agree. If grades become unsatisfactory, then let them pay for the next semester. If you are paying for college, tell them the schools you are willing to pay for. If they wish to attend elsewhere, they can pay for it
  • If they spend their money foolishly, don’t buy them the things they need. Let them figure out how to pay for those things (like extra gas money). Doing without may teach them to stop spending foolishly.
  • If they are experimenting with drugs or alcohol, require them to pass periodic and unannounced drug and alcohol tests as a requirement to live in your house.
  • Let them decide how to pay for college next semester if this semester they spent more time partying than studying. And don’t finance an apartment or a car if they continue with that lifestyle. Let them decide how to finance that lifestyle themselves.
  • Turn off the TV, remove the TV, or cancel your cable if staying away from viewing inappropriate content is a problem for them. Loss of the TV is an appropriate consequence.

What it doesn’t mean is that you are a being bad parent by allowing these consequences to happen. Letting them experience consequences for poor reasoning is the best thing you can do for a teenager.

Pre-teens are just a few short years away from driving, earning, and spending. Make it your goal to create the environment where they learn responsibility, and grow into maturity. You want them to experience the Fruit of the Spirit, which is self-control, with the ability to make good decisions, and not be controlled by unhealthy things.

Are you willing to begin to relinquish control and therefore help your teenager find out who he is and who God desires for him to be? It doesn’t mean you stop helping your child. It means that you wait to be invited into the problem-solving process, and even then you don’t solve problems for them. You let them face the music and experience the consequences of their own decisions. You set new boundaries, and let them move in the direction they decide works best for them.

You may have to repeat this process several times before your teen gets it right, so hang in there. Eventually he or she will get it, learn how to make good decisions, and avoid unwanted consequences.

 

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.

The post Teenagers and Consequences appeared first on Parent Tips from Mark Gregston.

Parents of Teens Must Adapt

Written by Mark Gregston.

Trying to understand how to help your teen in a world that is constantly changing is like trying to hit a target that constantly moves. Just when your aim is right on target, things change — your kids change. Parents are often bewildered when trying to keep up with the always changing world of teens. It’s like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hydrant, or holding a fistful of sand. Knowing how to set the right standards and enforce the right discipline can be overwhelming, and may seem impossible.

The key to success in this arena lies in learning to adapt your parenting style to be more fluid, more accessible.

As your child develops into a teen, you no longer have the luxury of making demands and expecting things to remain the same. Whether you like it or not, things change, and you must be able to understand and move with the culture, and set appropriate boundaries. I’m not saying you should stop caring about your family rules and beliefs.  What I am saying is that how you enforce the rules must change.  Otherwise, your child will be unprepared to cope with a culture that is constantly changing. They won’t develop healthy relationships.  They will remain immature and irresponsible, because all of the decisions have always been made for them.

Change The Boundaries

Adapting your style must include learning how to set appropriate boundaries for their newly acquired behaviors, and giving them the choice for the direction they need to go.

A good example of how this works comes from the time I spend training horses. When I put a fence around a horse, I am setting up boundaries. The horse can go anywhere it likes like within those fences. If a problem develops, I move the fences in a bit, and reinforce the boundaries. The same can be true with your teen. Set boundaries, and allow your teen to choose his direction within those boundaries. If a problem develops, or things change, move the boundaries in. Examine their world, and put some thought into what needs to be done. Kids today often engage with one another without really interacting or developing any kind of real relationships. The lack of interaction doesn’t help them hone their maturity or grow in their social skills. It’s your job to help them grow. So set the boundaries that help them do more than just engage with others – they need to learn how to interact. Let them choose the direction they want to go. Allow them to experience the consequences of choosing poorly. Help them to see that poor choices and crossing healthy boundaries will take their relationships in directions they don’t want to go, and choosing well will help them build good relationships.

Change Your Aim

Changing your parenting style for the teen years means you change your focus from punishment and discipline to training and character building.

The focus of the boundaries you set should become more about obedience, respect, and honesty, which are the top three qualities necessary to build relationships. Respect, more than anything else, allows all others to fall into their proper place. Conversely, disobedience, disrespect, and dishonesty destroy relationships, and need to be addressed when they appear also. Dishonesty, more than anything else, destroys trust in relationships. Hold your teen responsible for the direction they choose, and cause them to own it. They will make some mistakes, but that’s alright. If they lay the blame on you, however, remember to put the responsibility clearly back on them. Tell them, “this is not about me, or my mistakes, this is about you. I will never be a perfect parent, but if you don’t change things, this will hurt you in your relationships in the future.

Change Your Attitudes

Changing your style of parenting teens in order to meet the demands of today’s world also means that you refocus your own attitudes and behavior as well:

  • Move from lecturing to discussing
  • Move from entertaining to experiencing something together
  • Move from demanding everything, to asking them their ideas about everything
  • Move from seeking justice to giving grace
  • Move from seeing everything that’s wrong and finding more of what’s right
  • Move from spending time always telling them to more time listening
  • Move from giving your opinion to waiting until you are asked.

It is difficult for teens today to grow up and move on. They tend to like their immaturity, and don’t feel the need to grow in their responsibilities. Teaching them to grow and own their attitudes and choices is one of the most important character qualities we can help them develop. So, don’t just tell them they need to be responsible, or that they need to be mature. Instead, carefully identify what is going on in their world, and begin to set out boundaries that give them responsibility and cause them to act upon them. And when the next new thing comes along, learn to adjust the boundaries in ways that help them continue to recognize their need to be mature, responsible, and own up to the consequences of their choices.

 

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.

The post Parents of Teens Must Adapt appeared first on Parent Tips from Mark Gregston.

Connecting With Your Teen

Written by Mark Gregston.

One would think it is becoming easier to connect with our teenagers today with all of the newer, faster, and easier ways to communicate. We have Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SKYPE, cell phones, text messaging and voicemail. But are they really doing anything to improve your parental communications?

Lately I was in a conversation where plenty of information was transferred, lips were moving, my ears were working, but there really wasn’t a connection. I asked a young teenager in our Heartlight residential counseling program how she was doing. It was a simple question in passing, and I expected a simple answer. Instead, the young lady proceeded to tell me everything about herself, everything she ever did, everything she ever accomplished, everywhere she had ever traveled and every talent she had.

She reported how she could play the guitar, the cello, the violin, the piano, the harp, the drums, the trumpet, the bass guitar, the flute, the clarinet, and the tuba. She told me about all the things she likes to do, and all the things she doesn’t like to do. She talked about how she is a swimmer, a gymnast, a dancer, an equestrian, a pianist, a volleyball queen, and a lacrosse player.

She “shared” how she was homecoming queen, the “most likely to succeed” in her class, winter ball queen, spring fling queen, and strawberry festival queen. She told me what she wanted to be, and what she did not want to be. She told me all her hopes and dreams, and all her disappointments and failures in one breathless dissertation.

You get the picture, right? All I did was ask her how she was doing! She responded like a Chatty doll on steroids, an energy bunny with a mouth instead of a drum — one that kept on going, never stopping to hear a response or to ask me anything.

I quickly realized that this one-way “conversation” was a desperate cover-up of what was going on inside her. She wanted me to know she is worth something and she plead her case based on her accomplishments.

I was saddened because I could see that this young lady really wanted to participate in a meaningful discussion, but the more she talked about herself and her achievements, the more she hid what was really on her mind. She did well at talking, but failed completely at connecting and communicating. It was like a one-way sales pitch without the closer.

When she took a breath, I finally got a chance to wedge in a better question that might open a real dialogue. Her demeanor completely changed when I asked, “What’s been the most difficult thing that has happened in your life?” Her chattering stopped, her eyes whelped up with tears, and she replied, “When my Dad died and I felt all alone.”

Suddenly, there was silence. I stood looking at her for a few seconds and instead of trying to come up with the right words to say, I just gave her a hug. She wanted to talk, but I encouraged her, “Hey, hey, hey….you don’t need to say anything.” Her mother, also standing by, began to talk in an attempt to ease the awkwardness of the situation. I quietly motioned and said to her mom,”Shhhhh….we’re communicating.”

Finally, a real connection was made. Finally, we could talk about the most important things in her life — her real self, not just her accomplishments.

The point is this . . . talking with or to your teenager does not necessarily mean you’re communicating. In fact, too much talk can actually cover up what really needs to be said. Sometimes the most important connection with your teen can happen with very few words.

Are you looking for ways to really connect with your teen’s deepest hopes, concerns and fears; or is the mode of communication between the two of you an endless stream of superficial words? I encourage you to stop the chatter, look for issues that need to dealt with under the surface, and connect with your teen in a truly meaningful way.

 

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.

The post Connecting With Your Teen appeared first on Parent Tips from Mark Gregston.

How You Could be Missing Your Child’s Heart

Written by Mark Gregston.

The story goes that Jesus was invited to come over to a friend’s house to sit down, relax, and swap stories.  One of the hostesses of the get-together was a lady by the name of Martha, and she was your typical type A personality.  The morning of the party, Martha frantically cleaned, cooked, and prepared the house for Jesus and the other guests to arrive.  Then she spent the whole time during the party washing used plates, wiping up spills, refreshing everyone’s drink—basically running around like a chicken with her head cut off!

But Martha’s sister Mary was quite different.  She spent the morning excited to see Jesus.  And when He came, she plopped down and listened to everything He had to say.  As Martha scurried about the house, she noticed her sister Mary relaxing and enjoying herself.  And this got under Martha’s skin BIG time.  There was so much to be done that both sisters ought to be busy playing hostess, right?  After awhile, Martha finally had it, and she demanded of Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work?  Tell her to help me.” (Luke 10:40)

Let’s be honest for a minute.  We’ve all had our “Martha-moments.”  Our modern life is busier than ever.  Our schedule is so jam-packed with appointments, events, meetings, deadlines, goals, and pressing expectations that finding a quiet, uneventful evening is a rare luxury.  And this lifestyle spills over to our families and our teens.  Sometimes we’re so concerned with being “Parent-of-the-year,” that we don’t take the time to be a parent in the moment.  We’re so busy teaching our teens the necessities of life, that we don’t hear what they are telling us.

To Martha’s flustered demands (and to our modern schedule) Jesus gave some much-needed advice.  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about so many things … [but] only one thing is important.  Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 41,42).

Now, there are some significant lessons we learn from this Bible story about how we use our time and energy.  But allow to explore just one, as it applies to our families.  Think about the passage as it relates to your child’s heart.  We so often get so caught up in the ancillary issues of parenting, that we miss out on what truly matters—a loving relationship with a son or daughter.

Walk a Mile in Your Shoes

So how can we avoid missing the heart of our teen?  It starts with putting yourself in their sneakers (or Uggs) and walking around a bit.  At one of my recent parenting conferences, I had every parent pull out their cell phone.  Then I said, “Text your teen and ask them, ‘do you think I expect you to be perfect?’”  95% of the teens texted mom and dad back with the answer, “Yes.”

No wonder doctors and therapists report that clinical anxiety is at an all-time high among teenagers.  We may not say it aloud, but our actions and schedules may shout unreal expectations to our teens.  We push them to work hard at band practice, football practice, church functions, school events, and whatever else we can cram into a 24-hour period.  Our teens are infected by our frenetic pace of life!  Now, there’s nothing wrong with your teen being involved in activities.  I’m not knocking those things.  But Mom and Dad, put yourself in your son’s place.  With everything going on in his life, when does your teen have time to sit down and have a relaxing conversation with you?  Could the perception be that you love him for what he can do, instead of loving him for who he is?

Make a pie chart of your time with your teen.  How many minutes are spent correcting, versus how much time is spent listening?  Is a big slice of your time spent in the car shuttling teens from activity to activity, or is more time spent at the dinner table or in the backyard talking?  Having that visual evidence of your divided time may help you commit more energy to connecting with the heart of your teen.

Many kids are over-committed and under-nurtured.  Their lives are filled with activities, but they’re missing out on valuable time with mom and dad.  If your teen comes home tired and worn out, it’s time to intervene and help them slow down.  Take a family vacation.  Now, I know that many people will say, “Mark, I can’t afford a vacation!”  But it’s possible you can’t afford not to!  Both you and your busy teen need to take a breath, relax, and spend time making memories that last far longer than any trophies or GPA scores.  Beyond the vacation, make your home a place of rest.  Create an environment where kids can find respite, enjoyment, new experiences, and a sense of value for what matters most.

Last Words

Here’s another exercise to try: If the last things you told your child today were the last words you ever spoke to him or her, would it be something your child would treasure?  Or would your last words be a nagging remark, a sharp criticism, a judgmental reproach?  Look, not everything we tell our kids will necessarily be upbeat.  But let’s make sure the positives far outweigh the negatives.  Compliment your child every day.  Let her know she’s valuable to you.  Tell your son he is not an intrusion in your life.  Tell your daughter that talking with her is the best part of your day.  My friend Chelsea has a powerful phrase she tells her children.  She says, “Even on your messiest day, my life wouldn’t be as good without you. 

Affirmations like that speak right to your child’s heart.  Those loving words from a mom or dad are a million times more valuable than expensive gifts or lavish lifestyles.  We can spend so much time working hard to provide “the good life” for our children, that we forget to give them what they truly need; our time and our affection.

Reorganize Our Schedules

What does your busy schedule look like?  Do you plan your calendar around what needs to happen outside your family, and give your kids the leftovers of your time?  Or do you first pencil in your family, and divvy out the rest of your time to other projects?  Make family your priority, and let other activities fall in behind.  I realize that we’re all busy these days, and we carry the weight of a thousand different responsibilities.  But your family needs your time more than they need anything else.  And we’ll miss those good things with our kids if we spend all of our energy pursuing other goals.  So quit serving on seven different school boards.  Miss your Saturday morning golf game a couple times a month.  You’ll have plenty of time for all those hobbies and interests when your kid is out of the house.  Right now, your teen needs you more.

Here’s my challenge: find one block of time on your calendar that you can give to your kids.  Maybe it’s a weekly date where you and your daughter can eat ice cream and watch a movie together.  Or perhaps you can carve out a couple of hours a week to take a bike ride with your son.  It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s you and your child, away from the phone, e-mail, and anything else that would try to steal your attention.

You’ll never hear someone at the end of their life say, “I wish I had spent more time at the office” or “if only my child had more clarinet lessons.”  But you might hear, “I wish I had spent more time with my family.”  Don’t live with the regrets of wasted time.  Throw off the need to be busy 24-7, and grab hold of what Jesus said were “the important things.”  And that includes connecting with your teen’s heart.

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.  You can also 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 post How You Could be Missing Your Child’s Heart appeared first on Parent Tips from Mark Gregston.

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