Some time ago we remodeled our home. A project that was to last 6 months went on for nearly 30 months and the costs soared. Throughout the project we met workers that did a great job, but others who took advantage of us. They lied to us, conned us, made horrendous mistakes, broke promises, and caused much pain and hardship.
I asked a number of questions throughout the project… questions like: “Why in the world does this need to be done this way?” or “I thought we had planned for that?” and ultimately, “Why has something that was supposed to be so quick and easy, now become so drawn out and hard… will it ever end?” Sound familiar?
Maybe your relationship with your teenager feels like my home remodeling project. Perhaps what you thought would be a momentary struggle has turned into open wound that won’t heal. Maybe your plans for your teen are seemingly going awry, and they are lying, conning you, and making horrible mistakes. If so, I want to challenge you to a different perspective.
Conflict and Struggle With Your Teen Can Bring About Change
What’s that perspective? That conflict and struggle can bring about change. I know that statement is true in my life. And, I believe it can be true in yours. So, look for the positive purpose in the conflict you are having today.
Consider this… if you have ever prayed to be the parent God has called you to be, that’s just what He’s doing! This is a time of tremendous opportunity to build into your child’s life… trusting God to direct your path along the way. Now’s your chance to be used when you’re needed the most.
Don’t back off from the role that He’s called you to. Your understanding of your parenting role is necessary. Your willingness to hang in there during this tough time is perseverance at its best. Your commitment to be a part of God’s plan for your child, seen or unseen, is godly. Your love for your child when it isn’t so pretty is true love. Your knowledge that God is involved in your family is an anchor of hope that will keep you reflecting His love to your child.
And if you will keep the perspective that conflict can bring about change, there is genuine hope… hope that your child can get on the other side and that your relationship can be healed.
The Bigger Picture
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” So don’t give up. And keep a proper frame of mind.”
When you begin to think about your child and what they’ve been involved in behaviorally, more times than not, it’s usually worse than what you think, but never quite as bad as you can imagine. But no matter what you think or what you imagine, there is nothing that can’t be overcome, and there is no relationship that can’t be restored… none.
Understand that what is happening right now in the life of your child and your family is not the whole story. The whole story is what God is up to… His “bigger picture” which entails a whole lot more people than you or your child. And the breadth of that picture is spread far beyond your timing.
I know that it’s hard to think about the bigger picture when you hurt for your child now. But there’s a lot more going on than your situation and your child’s behavior. It doesn’t mean your struggle is any less important, but it does help with keeping your situation in a proper framework. Use this difficult time as a prod to deepen your relationship with your child, and you’ll shorten the amount of time that your child remains in their darkness.
Finally, don’t panic and don’t try to “fix” your child. Fix the boundaries, fix the consequences, and maybe even change the environment, but you’ll never fix your child. Only God can change your child’s heart. Instead, focus on what you can fix in your parenting, and get out of God’s way to do what He needs to do.
Over the years I have found that parents usually get pretty scared when a child begins to struggle. Their fear is based on the realization that they may not be ready to tackle these new challenges. Some may “awfulize” the situation and make more of it than they should. Others may do nothing and hope the fire will extinguish itself. Or, it may be that they are just exhausted.
So, could this be a good time to place these things in God’s hands… into the hands of the one who promises that He will cause all things to work together for good? You bet it is! If you do, you will be on the pathway to restoration.
True Hope for Healing
The only true hope is that God is involved in what is going on with your child. Whether you see it or not isn’t going to change God’s plan for you or your child. So, if God is at work in the life of our child, we’d best understand what He’s doing. That understanding comes through prayer; prayer to understand His will and prayers of submission to God to do whatever He needs to do in your life and the life of your child to turn things around. The older I get, the more I understand that prayer is meant to help us get in line with and understand God’s perfect will, versus trying to influence or change it.
You and I know of God’s hand in the past… we know of it in the future… but our difficulty comes in believing in His involvement in what is happening today. So, pray. And keep a daily diary; it will help you maintain perspective. Look for ways that God is working in your teen’s life, and record those; being sure to thank Him as you see His hand at work.
Yes, there is hope…if you will hang in there with your child… trust God to fulfill His plan… keep a right perspective… and understand that there is indeed a path to restoration. Depend on His promises to remain true. God, the Creator, is fully capable to fashion a new life and a new relationship between you and your child… so allow Him to heal your relationship. He’ll amaze you, as he does me, as He creates abundant life and perfection out of dust and confusion.
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 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids. He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.
His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.org. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.
Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.