Don’t Ever Quit, Not Even If Your Teen Hates You

I have seen many parents wonder what in the world happened to their family. They seemingly woke up one morning to a teen who completely changed overnight. Their loving, kind and thoughtful kid is now a person they no longer recognize.  It is easy for them to feel they are not prepared for all of this — but who is?

No matter how good a parent you are, there are forces at work in our culture that can send your kid spinning off in a direction that you could never imagine. It’s a culture bent on undermining the values you have tried so hard to instill into your teen’s life.

Should you ever wonder if your teen’s troubles have something to do with what you did or didn’t do as a parent, remember this: There are no guarantees or perfect formulas in parenting! Every parent who raises several children will struggle with one adolescent or another.

Most of the kids who have ever come to live with us at Heartlight were from great Christian homes, with loving and caring parents.  Some were from the families of well known Christian leaders. They were just as shocked as you are that their child took a turn away from them, from God, and from everything they hold dear.

So, it’s a mistake to believe that Christian families are safe. Christian kids are as susceptible as any other. But I can guarantee you that God loves your family as much as you do, and more, and there is hope. There is a way through the difficult teen years, and there are tools that we have developed to deal with difficult teens. While it can be hard work, it is worth it.

Perhaps you’re going through a difficult time with your child and you’re trying to find the meaning of “What just happened?”  Or you wonder if you’ll ever make it to the other side.  Or, maybe you see something coming and you want to prepare yourself.  In all of this, I say, “Don’t quit!”

Don’t quit — when your efforts to intervene in your teen’s terrible choices fail.

Don’t quit — when family harmony disappears, and everyone is on pins and needles.

Don’t quit — when it is 3am and you have no idea where your teen is, or what to do next.

Don’t quit — when you have to enforce consequences for improper behavior.

Don’t quit — when your teen says he hates you or threatens to run away.

Don’t quit — when you simply can’t live like this anymore.

What do I mean by saying, “Don’t quit”? I mean, don’t give up your parental role. Don’t try to befriend your teen instead of parenting them, and don’t ever give in to their disrespectful or self-destructive behaviors.  It’s hard being in the leadership role, but that’s exactly where you need to be, for in the absence of leadership, there is anarchy.

In the midst of your darkness, God will come in the light of time with a promise of His presence and companionship.

Whatever your situation, you need to understand that God is still there… He hasn’t abandoned you.  When there is confusion and darkness, God is still there.  He promises to turn your “ashes into beauty,” “sadness into joy,” and “mourning into dancing.” These are not empty promises.  They are truths about God that reflect His power and they reveal His ability to help those facing difficult times. They are for parents of teens who are struggling through things they never thought they would.

Your relationship with your teen several years from now and for the rest of their life may be affected by how you handle their struggles right now, so don’t quit, and don’t forsake your relationship or your love for them, no matter how they act. Ask God for help, rest in His presence, and again, don’t ever, ever quit.  And if you’re ever tempted to quit, please call us. We’ll help you work through it.


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.orgYou 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 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.

Tough Guys and Drama QueensFree online course: Tough Guys and Drama Queens

This free two-week online course will help you to parent your teen in a counter-cultural way. You will  walk through topics like appearance, performance, authority and respect, setting boundaries, and many more.