I’m blessed to work with teens and their families. It’s taught me more about parenting and how teens think today than I could have learned any other way. All parents have to go through the sometimes-bumpy teen years. There’s no way around it. So, in the dawning days of adolescence they often ask me, “How can I get ready for the turbulence ahead?”
Parenting is a Special Calling
Parents are placed into the authority role in the life of their child, and should consider that role as a calling from God. It’s tough to remain in a right relationship with a child that chooses a less inviting path through adolescence. But hang in there! Understand how today’s teen culture will begin tugging on your child and you’ll be better prepared with positive strategies for when the waters of adolescence begin to churn. Most of all, kids secretly want their parents to exert parental authority and remain in that role, so don’t disappoint them.
Don’t Push off When You Receive the Brush Off
Listening is one of your best weapons in the fight for right in the life of your child. Spend more time listening than offering your own opinion. Wait for your teen to invite you or ask for your advice, before blurting it out or lecturing. Learn to be quieter, to sit and to listen to your teen’s heart. This will communicate, without words, that they are valuable and accepted, even when they or you are upset or distressed.
A normal part of growing up is the need to feel acceptance and love not only within the family but by peers. As teens attempt to find a place among their peers, loosen the reins a little, but remain watchful. Continue to have a presence in their life – not one that dominates, but one that guides and limits when necessary, and sets free and soars when appropriate. Learn how to use the tools of their trade (text messaging, cell phones, social networking) to stay in touch. Call them for reasons other than telling them where to go or what to do. And spend the time. Go with them to new places they’ll enjoy, and take along one of their friends. Invite their friends into your home and you’ll be letting their friends learn your values and know how much you care. Offer teens freedom, but only as they are willing to take responsibility, and be watchful for signs of maturity and growth all along the way, allowing you to reward them with more freedoms.
All too often I see a huge disconnect between parents and teens, and my goal is to help parents find ways to bridge that connection. Teens desire to remain connected to their parents, even if they don’t show it. The goal is to help parents of teens to move from always correcting their child to helping them make decisions that will lead to maturity, even if they at first make mistakes. Allow pre-established consequences to do the correcting, not your anger or disapproval.
Don’t Ever Quit: Be to your child what God is to you, an ever-present help in time of need. If you consider the times God has propped you up, helped you out, caused you to grow, or disciplined you in order to get you to a better place in life, then you will easily understand how to view your role. Nurturing a child the way God nurtures us requires grace. And grace includes the determination to never, ever give up on your child, even when they seemingly give up on you. Don’t ever quit.
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.