Skip to content

Parenting Teens This Week

This week instead of my regular article, I thought I’d mention a few things that caught our attention over the past few days…

Parenting in the News…

TimeThis week’s Time Magazine cover story is titled, The Case Against Over-Parenting. The cover pictures a child as a puppet, with his actions manipulated through strings; presumably from a parent positioned above.  I especially like the section in the article about the unrealistic fear many parents have for their child’s safety and their future.  The article states, “Fear is a kind of parental fungus: invisible, insidious, perfectly designed to decompose your peace of mind. Fear of physical danger is at least subject to rational argument; fear of failure is harder to hose down. What could be more natural than worrying that your child might be trampled by the great, scary, globally competitive world into which she will one day be launched? It is this fear that inspires parents to demand homework in preschool…(and) continue to provide the morning wake-up call long after the he’s headed off to college.”

It seems to me that the world is finally understanding the folly of over-parenting.  There are even parenting classes popping up that teach parents to slow down the pace and their expectations for their children.  According to the article, “…there is now a new revolution under way, one aimed at rolling back the almost comical over-protectiveness and over-investment of moms and dads. This insurgency goes by many names–slow parenting, simplicity parenting, free-range parenting–but the message is the same: Less is more; hovering is dangerous, failure is fruitful. You really want you children to succeed? Learn when to leave them alone.  When you lighten up, they’ll fly higher. We’re often the ones who hold them down.”

Over-parenting or “helicopter parenting” is something I’ve been warning parents about for years.  I see it often, especially with Christian parents who desperately want their children to succeed in life, avoid the dangers of sin, and to make the right spiritual choices.  It can be tough for them to back off in the teen years, and allow their children to begin “flying” on their own.

momandsonToday, Pew Research released a report saying in part that there are now 20 million “kids” ages 18-35 now living at home with their parents–what they call “boomerang kids.”  According to the report, nearly 1 in 7 parents with grown children say they their grown child moved back home in the past year because of tight finances or as they pursue an advanced degree. Well, mom and dad, how’s that working for you?  It is  no wonder Heartlight has experienced an increase in requests to take on over-18’s in our residential program.

Comments from the Email Box…

envelopeA parent wrote me this week saying he followed all of my advice, including “applying swift consequences to his teen’s misbehavior,” but his teen was still rebelling.  As I read between the lines, it was clear to me that he took a hard line and missed the point of the exercise. Consequences are not to be seen by the teen as the punishment a parent levies on them when they make a mistake. Rather, they should be understood to be a natural result of a teen’s stepping over the line. Consequences should be something the teenager does to himself. To learn anything from consequences, they must result from their own decision. And for it to be their decision, they need to know in advance what the consequences will be for stepping over the line.  Until a teen can learn from their decisions while at home, they will never understand the cause and effect of decision-making once they are out of the home.

To train a teen to make better choices, boundaries and consequences should be decided in advance, by both the parent and teen, and then applied faithfully with the least amount of parental angst, disappointment and wavering. In other words, there should be no shocked looks by your teen when you enforce consequences.  If there are, then you haven’t given them enough information up front to make a good decision and you’ve set them up to make an uninformed choice.  The point is, to allow the consequences to do the teaching, they need to be understood in advance.

And this note from a listener to Parenting Today’s Teens in China…

Chinese flagI am a Christian in Guangzhou, China. I have been listening to Mark’s radio ever since my son reaches puberty. It is really a big challenge to raise a child in today’s world, especially in China where we do not have many people who believe in Jesus! I thank God for providing your abundant resources to share with us, so that I can always find comfort and guidance even before the turbulence comes! Praise God! I have also shared with many of my friends who also have struggling teens! They all say it is so good! May God continue to bless your ministry and let your work be the blessing to the people all over the world! I am really eager to read the e-book. God bless! May C.

It continues to amaze me how far our ministry reaches, with online programs and articles and radio around the world. In just a couple of weeks, my free e-book will have been downloaded tens of thousands of times. And we’ll never know how many times it is passed on to others via email and through other major websites like,,,,, and We’ve even provided the e-book to thousands of churches and radio stations to provide to their congregations and listeners.  I am thankful that from a small town in East Texas we can help parents across the globe, like this listener in China. If you’d like to be a part of helping make that happen this holiday season, I hope you will think of us with a financial gift this year end.

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.