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What Your Teen Needs From You

by Mark Gregston

All relationships are motivated by a goal or a desire.  A desire to be seen and to be heard.  A desire to be loved and appreciated.  A desire to be happy and safe.  So, when a teen begins to look for love, support, friendships, happiness, and safety in all the wrong places, parents need to step back and reevaluate the relationships inside their home.  Why, might you ask?  Well, because people don’t typically seek out something they already possess. 

I’ve often wondered if relationship problems at home aren’t simply the result of a parent’s inability to understand the changing needs of their teenage child.  It makes sense—and here’s why.  If you don’t understand what someone needs, then you’re not going to be able to meet the need or to effectively provide for it.  And if you can’t give an immediate answer to what your teen’s currents needs are or if you’re curious about the heart motivator behind your child’s action, then keep reading for some practical information on what your teen needs most from you right now. 

What Your Teen Needs 

It’s important to realize what the needs of your teens are so that you can address them appropriately and quickly.  Think about the world today.  Kids live in a constantly negative culture.  Social media is filled with self-proclaimed authorities and bullying is on the rise.  The internet has made it easy to gossip about anything and everything.  And today’s teen is often bombarded by know-it-alls who had one life experience, but is now, suddenly an expert on the topic.  Your teen doesn’t need another bully or another know-it-all, they need someone in their life who will tell them the truth in a way that’s positive, trustworthy, and loving.  So, be that person who fills the gap between truth and our fabricated realities while conveying wisdom that’s authentic and practical. 

Teens also need to know that you’re going to be the person who has their back.  No matter what!  Especially on the days when everything that could go wrong, does.  Just like you and me, your teen will win some, and they’ll lose some, and while you may not agree with every decision they make, it’s important to let them know that you love them, and you’re supporting them, and you’re always going to be there for them—just as God is always there for us. 

What Your Teen Does NOT Need 

Teens need to feel cared about, comfortable, and loved.  They also need rest and a place to rest that’s a sanctuary from the outside world.  As a parent, it’s up to you to take inventory of how your family dynamics are working, or maybe not working.  As I mentioned earlier, the world has a lot to say and it’s saying it constantly, so one thing your teen doesn’t need from you is a lot of chatter.  Teen don’t need someone pushing information on them 24/7.  They have Google and lots of other information portals at their disposal for info.  What they need from you is wisdom

Which brings me to my next point.  The wisdom of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son.  Are you familiar with the story?  Scripture tells us that the dynamics of this family relationship changed when everyone stopped doing everything for the young man.  And also, that the father had wisdom to know that after his folly, the boy would return.  Parents, I know you want the best for your kids, but you can’t stifle them and expect to get great results.  So, stop doing everything for them all the time, and stop planning their lives every single second of the day!  Over-scheduling and micromanaging have yet to produce well-rounded people.  And you’re only delaying the process of your teen maturing into a responsible, healthy adult. 

And finally, your kids do not need perfection, so you gotta stop pretending that everything and everyone in your family has to be perfect.  This false idea will never benefit your family.  So, go against the grain!  As the parents of this generation of teens, it’s up to us, to remind them that in our appearance and performance-driven world, it’s okay to rest.  It’s okay to be imperfect and vulnerable.  Your imperfections are what make you authentic—and human.  And being authentic is what will allow peace and harmony to dwell within your family and in your home. 

One Teen’s Story 

Gabe, one of our Heartlight students, came to us recently because he was struggling with getting along with his family.  By the time he was in middle school, Gabe was already doing drugs and stealing from his little brother.  It all stemmed from him feeling like a disappointment at home and at school.  Those feelings, along with his desire to feel loved and accepted, in addition to his parents’ confusion about how to properly handle or understand the situation in its totality, caused Gabe to begin a two-year free fall that ended when he was arrested for bringing a firearm to court. 

At first, when he was sentenced to rehab at Heartlight, he was angry.  But after some time, Gabe realized he could have gone to jail for a very long time, and he has since learned to be grateful for the second chance he’s been given.  Being at Heartlight has allowed him and his parents to begin the hard work of repairing their relationship.  And Gabe tells us that it’s a challenge, but it’s one that he’s up for as he looks forward to the future. 

Conclusion 

Mom and Dad … your teens need you desperately.  They need your genuine and authentic lifestyle that displays the values and the biblical insights that you’ve gathered through all your years.  So, it’s important for them to see the value of a connection with you and for you to value them as they mature and learn to spread their wings.  I’m sure if you’re like me, you don’t want their preteen years to hold their greatest memories of your relationship.  You want your relationships to grow as they do.  And you want to maintain and deepen your relationship in the days ahead.  To do that, you’ve gotta know their needs and strive to meet their needs, just as God endeavors to meet yours. 

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 4 grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, 2 llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.  His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with over 2,700 teens, has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents.

You can find out more about Heartlight at www.HeartlightMinistries.org You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our Parenting Today’s Teens website at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org. It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Here you will also find a station near you where you can listen to the Parenting Today’s Teens radio broadcast, or download the podcast of the most recent programs.


When Parents Feel Like Failures

by Mark Gregston

March 9th, 2020

Show me someone who is perfect, and I’ll show you someone who is putting up a really good front. On every person’s résumé of life there are always a few disappointments. Things we should have done, but didn’t. Things we shouldn’t have done, but did anyway. Missed opportunities. Squandered talents. Some bad decisions. A few regrets. Each of us has a list of failures all our own. We may be able to shake our heads at the blunders that have hurt us. But when we think about how our failures have hurt our teens, our mistakes are magnified and we start to feel like failures ourselves. Mom and Dad; we don’t need any outside help when it comes to pointing out our flaws. We do a pretty good job of that on our own, especially when we look at how our teen is struggling and the questions start to pile up. “What did I do wrong? Is this my fault? Was I a bad parent?

Have you had those conversations with yourself?

Let me offer encouragement to moms and dads who are feeling like failures and wondering if their teens would be better off without them.

DON’T FOCUS ON APPEARANCE

I get it. When teens make mistakes, moms and dads often take it personally. A kid’s bad behavior makes us ask, “Did I teach them well enough? Was I too strict with her? Was I too lenient with him?

There is a time and place for self-reflection about your parenting style. But when you begin to feel like a complete failure because of the actions of your children, what you really need is a shift in perspective. Sometimes we become consumed with what we’re teaching our teens, instead of what our teens are learning. If our daughter comes home pregnant, we question our instructions on maintaining sexual purity. When our son continues to fail his classes, we wonder, “Did I spend enough time highlighting the importance of education?” We start to believe that because our teens are making bad decisions, the years spent teaching them was a waste. But that’s not the case. In fact, it’s in those mistakes that teens may be learning the most. Just because a teen got the answer wrong, doesn’t mean that you didn’t show them how to arrive at the right answer. Adolescence is the time when kids are flexing their decision-making muscles, developing their independence, and putting what you’ve taught them into practice. Those bad decisions aren’t necessarily evidence that you didn’t teach your kids well enough. Rather, your teens are learning the value of what you’ve taught them.

Kid’s failures are not a reflection on you, mom and dad. In many ways we are responsible for our teens, but in many ways we are not. As our kids get older, they are growing in their responsibility to make choices for themselves. Talk to me in person, and I will give you many examples of great parents who had teens that struggled. In the same way, I know there are some truly bad parents who’ve had upstanding kids. Your child is not a personal mirror. Your teen is a developing adult who needs to learn and grow through the experience of making mistakes. Don’t judge your parenting successes or failures on the short-term behavior of your child. That’s like using a funhouse mirror to try on clothes. It won’t give you an accurate account of reality.

DON’T SUCCUMB TO THE FEELINGS

Feelings are impossible to control. That’s why I never tell parents, “Well, stop FEELING like a failure!” There are moments where our own parental disappointments will hit us full force. We might feel guilty, or discouraged, or depressed. But here’s the key; don’t allow those feelings to control you. You might feel like a failure, but you don’t have to respond to those feelings. Guilt, shame and depression shouldn’t be the driving force behind our parenting. But they will be if we give in to those feelings of failure.

So don’t give up! I know you feel like quitting. I know that you may feel inadequate or underprepared to raise a teenager. Keep going. The fact you are reading this article proves you care about your child and want the best for them. And that means you’re a good parent! You are not a failure; so don’t act like one. This period of teenage transition is hard, no doubt about it. But your teen needs you. You are an important presence in your child’s life. Mom and Dad; don’t quit!

DON’T THINK CHANGING MEANS FAILING

I have sixty kids at a time staying at the Heartlight residential campus, and each parent who sent their teen for help struggled with the decision. They felt that admitting they needed help was an admission of failure. Each parent said they felt like they were giving up.

But the kids aren’t at Heartlight because of parenting failures. They are the success stories! It takes courage and strength to make a big change in your family. It takes determination and vision to go look for help. If you give up what you’ve been doing to help a teen that’s struggling, that’s not failure. That’s an investment in the future of your family.

I had a dad sit down and talk with me recently about his 18-year-old son at Heartlight. He had done all he could to help his son learn responsibility, maturity, confidence and leadership. He coached his son’s sports teams. He spent time in conversations. He modeled being a husband and father. But no matter what the dad tried, his son sunk deeper and deeper into his problems. So he made the decision to send his son to Heartlight and get the counseling and help he needed. “Mark,” he said, “I didn’t want to send him away. But my son is just too valuable to me to simply do nothing.

Change is not failure, Mom and Dad. Change may be just what your teen needs. Maybe it’s a shift in parental focus. It could mean a different approach to discipline and consequences. Perhaps it means getting a counselor involved, or looking into Heartlight yourself. Those steps towards change are marks of parental success.

Perfect parents are as mythical as unicorns and leprechauns. They simply don’t exist. We all make mistakes in our parenting. But that doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human.

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 4 grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, 2 llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.  His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with over 2,700 teens, has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents.

You can find out more about Heartlight at www.HeartlightMinistries.org You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our Parenting Today’s Teens website at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org. It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Here you will also find a station near you where you can listen to the Parenting Today’s Teens radio broadcast, or download the podcast of the most recent programs.


Grandparents Can Be Superheroes

#570 – Student Story: Abby

with host Mark Gregston

Grandparents are a wonderful treasure and can influence children in ways that parents can’t. Your voice of wisdom in your teen’s life can speak volumes!

So, how can grandparents make the most of this special relationship?

This weekend on Parenting Today’s Teens, Mark Gregston shares how grandparents can be superheroes in the eyes of their grandkids.

For free parenting resources, please click here.

For the latest on how to parent your teen, please visit the Parenting Today’s Teens website or our bookstore.

If you listen on a mobile phone or tablet, please download our Parenting Today’s Teens app available for Apple or Android. If you listen on a desktop or laptop computer, press the “play” button above to enjoy daily parenting advice.

For any more info on Parenting Today’s Teens or Heartlight, please visit https://parentingtodaysteens.org/ -or- https://www.heartlightministries.org/