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How to Best Communicate with your Teen while Stuck

by Mark Gregston

A couple of years ago, I was asked to be on a radio program: Moody Radio in Chicago, a wonderful, wonderful group of people. They said, Hey, would you like to be on a radio program with Gary Chapman, be a guest for the day? And I said, well, absolutely. 

There was a guy by the name of Chris Fabry, who was the host and then Gary Chapman was on the program. I think it was called something like the Relationship Hour or something like that. I walk into the room that we’re going to record in, and they hand me a script and if anybody knows me, they know I don’t do well with scripts. I kind of shoot from the hip a little bit. And so, I wasn’t used to it. They cue the music and Chris Fabry, the host says, Hey folks, welcome to the Relationship Hour with Gary Chapman. And we’re here with Gary himself, Gary, welcome. Gary comes on and says, Hey guys, welcome to the Relationship Hour. We have a studio in Chicago, where Mark Gregston is, and I’m in North Carolina and Chris Fabry’s in Tucson, Arizona, but we’d like to welcome Mark. Mark, how are you doing? 

And I mean, this thing was lined out to the T. I mean, when it said. “Mark. How are you doing?” I answered, “very well, thank you, Gary.” 

You know, it was on the script. And “where do you live?”, “I live in Texas” and I mean, every bit of this was lined out, “What are you doing in Texas?” “I live with 60 high school kids and they come from all over the country” and “We hear you have a radio program?” and I go, “why, yes I do.” 

I mean, everything was so lined out that it drove me crazy. And after about 10 minutes, I just said, you know, Hey Gary, can I ask you a question? I said, do you think there are more than five love languages? And this was a book that he wrote 1995, a wonderful book. Sold millions of copies. Those love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and touch. 

And you know, what I realized was, those, aren’t my love languages because words of affirmation don’t mean a whole lot to me because when you’re a public figure, you hear plenty of words, both good and bad, and you don’t know which are appropriate. I don’t have time. I’m always spending time on the road. And so quality time is tough. I don’t have enough time to spend with my wife, let alone a lot of other people. I don’t really like receiving gifts. As you get older, you realize you have too much stuff anyway. I really don’t need any acts of service. I like to mow my own yard. And you know, during these times I don’t want you to touch me. So, what I found is that these five love languages really aren’t anything special to me, quite honestly. I think they are the way that everybody should love one another. 

And so, with my wife, I try to have words of affirmation and quality time and give her gifts and serve her and touch her. And it’s the same way with kids. So, to me, that’s just a definition of love. And here’s my point, later on while we were talking, I said, Gary, do you think there are more than five love languages? He kind of stumbled a little bit, because I got off of the tractor, the script, and he said, well, I think I’ve kind of, uh, you know, encapsulated them all. 

I said, well, you know, we used to think they were just nine planets. I mean, Pluto was in, Pluto was out, Pluto’s in, Pluto’s out. I mean we used to think there were just nine planets. And I said, do you know how many planets we’ve discovered since 1995, when we discovered the first exoplanet? 

And he said, no, I don’t. I said there’s 2,598. And my point of it is this, other than the fact they’ve never invited me back on their radio program, my point of it is that sometimes we think we’re loving our child in the right way, and maybe we need to define how they really receive love. What I’ve spent time doing throughout my life is realizing what my two love languages are. 

The first is, and I think most teens have it, have this one love language, if you will. Is being defended by those that they’ve been loyal to. I think they all want to be supported. I think your child wants to hear, Hey, there’s nothing you can do to make me love you more and there’s nothing you can do to make me love you less

My second love language is this; I want to be involved. I want to be invited. No, I’m not going to show up. I can tell you; I’m not going to show up. I don’t have time to show up. But I still love the fact that somebody has invited me to something to participate in.  

So, here’s my encouragement for you. Would you do this? Would you spend some time thinking? How your child feels love from you. What are some needs that you can meet in their life that nobody else can? God has placed you in your child’s life for a reason, whether they’re the perfect kid that may need to still be loved, or that kid that’s spinning out of control, that is kind of lost all hope of any kind of love moving his way. 

But what are their loved languages? What are those things that touch their heart? How can you engage differently? How can you be so unique that you’ve gone far beyond the words of affirmation, the quality time, giving them gifts, you know, serving them in so many different ways and touching them, hugging them, patting them on the back. 

How can you do that? This is where you go a little bit deeper and it may be by asking them. Do that now. Just text them. Hey, how do you think I can love you better? And whatever they tell you, don’t correct them. Don’t tell them they’re wrong and how they need to answer differently or don’t excuse anything, just listen. 

What you’ll find is that question and answer will give you plenty of places for future discussion. When you sit down and engage with them, it’s amazing. Isn’t it? How we can love so much differently. I encourage you to try something different today.  

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.