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The Teen Culture Has Changed—Have Your Parenting Skills?

by Mark Gregston

Today’s culture is different than the one you and I grew up in during the 70’s, and 80’s.  Marijuana is legal in many states.  Gender issues dominate the news and headlines.  Bullying and school shootings are on the rise.  We live in a world where kids spend an average of ten hours online and more time is spent videotaping conflicts than spent trying to resolve them. 

I think if we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of us have thought, Man, I’m so glad I didn’t have to grow up like this.  But the problem with this thinking is that your child does, and they don’t have a choice in the matter.  So, as parents, we need to learn some new tips and techniques in order to better parent and communicate with our teens. 


When your kids hit the middle school years, things begin to change.  Your innocent child becomes thrust into a new world of exposure and experiences: new apps, new phones, new ways of communicating with the world around them.  Currently, there are 4.3 million porn sites available to your teens with very few gatekeepers available to make sure your teen isn’t exposed to something potentially life-changing.  And did you know that more pictures are taken every two seconds than in all of the 1800’s? 

Kids are experiencing social media upheavals, negative influences, and a false sense of maturity—thinking that they can handle more they are actually able to handle at alarming and continual rates.  So, what’s a parent to do when the reality of the situation is that the parenting tools you’ve used thus far, no longer work with the same results during the middle school and high school years?Page Break 

New Ways to Parent 

Welcome to a new phase of parenting.  You’re getting promoted to the trainer.  You’re going from the ultimate lecturer to the ultimate coach, and adapting your parenting skills and adding to your parental tool box is one of the best things you can do for your child and your family.  During this phase, you’re going to start moving from teaching them everything they need to know to training them about how the world around them works. 

As a trainer, your first order of business is to pursue your teen’s heart.  And I’m talking about pursing their heart in the same way that God pursues us.  Did you know that in Scripture, King David wrote about God pursing us?  David writes, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.” The word used here for pursue, means to chase and follow after intently.  So, pursue your teen in the same way, with insistent and loyal love—a love that goes beyond the call of duty as you help them navigate the contrary culture they’re in. 

Next, speak less, listen more.  Just think about all the pressures and the confusion our kids are exposed to at school and in the culture in general.  And now, think about what it’s like for them when they walk through the front door of your home.  What do they experience?  Are you the type of parent who is present in the home, but absent from their lives?  Or are your teens met with impossible demands, nagging, and shaming?  It’s a battle out there, don’t make it a battle at home, too.  Stop and think about whether you’re providing them sanctuary from a crazy world. 

The third way to change up your parenting style is to answer all the questions your teen asks.  And remember, no topic should be off limit.  Your teen is going to seek out answers for the questions they have, so make sure you’re the one who provides the answers.   

Don’t Give Up!  Hope is not Lost! 

Maintaining a relationship with your teen through these tumultuous years will help strengthen your family and help your kids grow into maturity, and your teens need you more than ever!  You’ve been upgraded—and there is now more potential for radical growth between parents and teens than ever before! 

Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you REST.”  So, let’s follow in His example, because listen—the facts are this, if you don’t change, then your child will.  And this season of life is going to require change, patience, and humility. 

But it’s never too late!  No matter what stage you’re in, you can fix whatever mistakes and missteps because God has given us the grace to do so. 


Mom, Dad … change happens and it’s happening quicker than any of us could have ever imagined.  The makeup and DNA of your kids’ social structure will change a number of times before they graduate from high school, forcing parents be mindful and ready to make shifts to their parenting styles to accommodate the changing needs of their teen.  You can change your style while keeping the same standards and emphasis.  This allows you to continue to have an effective and up-to-date approach that will continue to help your teens walk in a manner that’s worthy of the Lord.  It’s essential to let go of some of the ineffective ways of parenting and embrace those that will keep you connected to the ones that you love dearly. 

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.