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Maybe It’s Time to Shut-Up

There is nothing so demeaning as assuming your child can’t think for himself. There is nothing so disrespectful as throwing your child’s mistakes back in his face and condemning him. Keep in mind that I am referring to teenagers here, not your 2-year-old.

So, here is my advice… until you have a better understanding of how to handle it – JUST SHUT UP!  I say that with a smile on my face but with the intent of getting across a message that is rolling around in your teen’s head when the discussion stops and the lecture begins.

Growing up, I was told I was never to say, “Shut Up” all the while hearing that I needed to “shut your pie hole” and “put a sock in it.”  I understand this method of asking someone to “tone it down” may be a little brash, but I don’t want anyone to mistake the intent of the message.  Sometimes its very difficult for parents to learn to “nip it” and “stop!”, but all so necessary if you want to maintain a great relationship with your teen who is now in more need of someone who will listen, than someone just to throw more information his or her way.

“Even a fool when he keeps silent is considered wise.” Proverbs 17:28

If you invited your teenager to come hear your lecture about his life’s mistakes, how do you think he would respond?  Do you think he’d show up?  If he did show up, would he feel great about it when you’re finished?

“Sure Mom, I’d love to hear you drone on and on… I like being lectured, warned, and criticized about absolutely everything.”

OF COURSE NOT!

Yet, that is exactly what your child may be feeling about the way you communicate with him or her.

So, I encourage you to take the “Shut-up Challenge”…

I’m not trying to be rude in saying “shut up” (it is a no-no in some households) but I am dead-serious. Just shut up for 24 hours and see if it makes a difference in your home! In case I haven’t made myself clear enough, that means, be quiet, stay silent, zip it, don’t speak.

Try it for a day, and watch what happens. When your teenager drops a “jewel” on you and says something you feel needs “correcting,” just be quiet. Don’t flip out, argue, or try make it right. Just let it go. Stop lecturing, start listening.

You may be surprised to find that:

  1. You can’t do it! You just can’t keep quiet. You are not a good listener, and that listening to your child is an area you need to grow in.
  2. Your child has a mind of his own, and is fully able to use it without constantly pointing him in the direction you think he needs to go.
  3. Your child wants to talk to you more when you don’t verbally beat him down every opportunity you get.
  4. Your child has ideas of his own that are different from yours, perhaps he doesn’t want what you want, and you need to change your mind about some things.
  5. Your child may learn the important lessons in one teachable moment, and you don’t need all that other verbal garbage to make your point.

“But Mark,” you say, “I can’t teach my child what he needs to know by being quiet!”

Yes you can – you can, and most of the time you should, because most of the time, your teen isn’t saying anything earth-shattering or profound… he is just processing what’s happening in his world.  Not every teachable moment needs to be one.  Because of the way that kids receive information today, and by the mere numbers of sources of their information, they are told when they’re wrong, how they’re wrong, why they’re wrong, how they can do it better, and ways to get from getting it wrong in the future. So when they come home and are corrected, told how to do something better, or encouraged to do something different, they shut Mom and Dad down.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t correct your child.  I am asking that you become aware of what too much correction does to you child.  It pushes him away.  It causes your daughter to “shut down”.  So be wise and quick to listen, and slow to speak.

For those times you need to address an “issue” I recommend trying a different approach. Instead of making your point, try asking a question. Not a rhetorical question either – that’s just back-alley lecturing. Asking the right question may help him arrive at the right answer in a way that engages his thinking process and system of beliefs. You may be surprised to find he comes to the right conclusion all on his own.

For example:

I never thought of it that way, what makes you think so?

What do you think will happen if…?

Success in the “Shut-up Challenge” means you create a space in your relationship with your child by taking a verbal step backwards. This will allow your child to move toward you. Give your child room to ask some questions of his own and come to his own conclusions.

Instead of always pushing to lead the discussion, or to turn it into a one-way lecture, you might just be invited by your teen to participate in the best two-way discussion you’ve ever had.

Try it out.  I’d love to hear how your teen responds.

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.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 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.

 


Communication Hints with Your Teen

As a child moves from his elementary years into early adolescence, it’s essential that the style of communicating with your child change with them. They are moving from “concrete” thinking to “abstract” thought. What was “non-hormonal”, now becomes laced with hormones. Total dependence moves closer to independence. While they have always wanted to listen, now they want to express.

It’s important for parents to transition with their child, to change their style of communication rather than not talking at all. Sadly, if this transition is not accomplished, then the next time that communication or lack thereof, shows itself, is when your child begins to struggle or have difficulties, and desperately needs someone to talk to and with.

There is a scripture that has always stuck with me as one of those that accurately reflects the “condition of most teens”, and the “should-be role” of most parents. It’s when Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden (the condition of the teen’s part), and I will give you rest for your soul” (the parent’s part). The hope is that we, as parents, become that place of rest for our kids… a place where they might be restored.

Too many times parents become a place of added burden or hardship, or an extra “measure” of correction when correcting has already been done. Moms have the tendency to do the “Eveready bunny communication” that just keeps on going, and dads have that tendency to not “go to bat” and just ignore those situations when communication is needed the most. Moms, your over-correcting is not giving your child rest. And Dad, you’re not “speaking up” is not restoring anyone. The balance will be that place of rest, so work hard to find that medium of the “Mom and Dad mix”.

The time to build lines of communication is before there are problems, struggles and difficulties. The time to maintain these lines is always. Never stopping just because there is a conflict. Here’s an idea. Come to the dinner table, and instead of “laying down the law”, lay down some new rules. Not ones that dictate, but those that invite. Those rules might include that you (as the parent) want to have one-on-one time with your child and will be finding a special time each week to spend together. You might state that a new rule for your house is to go on a Mother-Daughter, or Father-Son special vacation each year, and do so as long as you’re alive, another might be a Joke Nite that gets everyone laughing…. just laughing… no spiritual lesson attached…. just pure time of worship called laughing.

A changing child asks for a change in the way they interact with their parents. Try some of the following tips, and see if they help in your communication:

  1. Create a sense of Wonder. Instead of always telling your child the answers, leave them with a question. And remember, not every question has to be answered immediately. Give your child time to think, time to ponder, time to look for an answer using all that you have given them, and time to wonder. They will learn to think on their own, and begin to ask you questions as you model one who asks questions.
  2. Wait to Be Invited. Hold off on the tendency to always share your opinion (Scripture says that a fool delights in airing his own opinion) and wait for your child to ask you what you think. Silence will move a child to ask “What do you think?” Don’t always enter the conversation unless invited. Remember that other Proverb, “Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house, or he will grow to hate you”. Wait to be invited.
  3. Diffuse Difficult Discussions. Admit where you are wrong, and take the fuse out of the firecracker. Once you admit to that where you have wronged, that issue can no longer be held against you.   Give it up. What have you got to loose? Whenever anyone admits to me of their fault, it moves my discussion with them to a place that doesn’t have to spend so much time proving who’s right and who’s wrong.
  4. Consider Others to be More Important. Easy to say and tough to do, especially if you’re as selfish as I am. It’s basically putting them first, not me. And this should affect the way I speak to them, the way I discipline, the way I show grace and the way that I respond to them when I am disappointed and upset.

Over the last 40 years, I have met with thousands of families countless hours in desperate and difficult situations. One thing that I do know. There is hope. That more times than not, the difficult phases that a teen goes through are temporary, and “this too shall pass”. The struggle for most parents is remaining engaged during those difficult times. Don’t give up, for God promises to turn your ashes to beauty, your sorrow into joy, and your mourning into dancing. The God that has put His thumbprint on the life of your child still holds him (and you) in His palm.

Hey, here are a couple of questions that came in this past week that I wanted to be sure to answer. Hope my answers help.

Questions

Q – My teen is unruly and disrespectful. What is the most effective way to discipline without loosing control of the situation?

A – They are unruly and disrespectful for a reason, and their inappropriate behavior is usually behavior that is reflective of other things happening in their life. Ask questions to probe if there is something else going on. Their immaturity demands tighter boundaries, and their rebellion demands consequences. But first make sure of what it is causing the unruliness and disrespect (ask questions). Disrespect should not be allowed or tolerated and severe consequences should be levied against that child who chooses not to respect.

Q – Sometimes I get so angry at the choices my teen is making. How can I keep anger from controlling the way I discipline my teen?

A – The focus seems to be “your” anger… not your child’s. Anger is an emotional response to not getting what you want. It might do well to reflect what your child is doing that is not giving you what you want, and ask why it is so important that they do that. Doesn’t mean the reasoning is right or wrong, but does help in getting to the root of the anger. Don’t discipline out of your anger. Discipline for wanting something “for your child”, out of a longing to have them not go in the direction they are going for their benefit.

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.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 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.

 

 

 

 


Sharing Your Past With Your Teen

Parents often worry their teen will learn about their own past mistakes. Perhaps they think their teen will repeat some of those same mistakes if they are revealed.  But I say just the opposite is true.

More than ever, kids today are in desperate need of parents who are honest and willing to be vulnerable in sharing their own failures. Teens can benefit from knowing how their parents handled or mishandled decisions when they were the same age, and what they learned from those mistakes.

Sharing your brokenness will reveal the end result of making bad decisions. And brokenness often causes one hurting person to be drawn to the brokenness they sense in another. So telling the story, and how it negatively affected your life is a great way to give your teen cause to reveal their own mistakes.

Kids won’t tell you their problems or mistakes if they feel ashamed or afraid of your response, or if they feel that you cannot relate to their feelings.

Mistakes are obviously best avoided, but a part of growing up is the understanding that nobody’s perfect, and that everybody makes mistakes – including parents. The truth can lead to a different type of discussion with your teen that is more vulnerable and open:

When you acknowledge your own imperfections and the lessons learned looking backward, it builds a bridge to your teenager.

When you blow it – admit it, and apologize to those you wronged, in front of your teen.

When you see your teen about to make the same mistakes as you, tell him how those mistakes hurt you and express remorse – “If I could only do it over again, I’d do it differently.”

Tell your teen, “You know, I’m not perfect, and neither are you… or anybody else. Making a mistake won’t change my love for you, though it will usually bring consequences.”

When you are wrong, just be wrong, and admit it. Don’t make excuses.

Assign some consequences to yourself when you make a mistake! Better yet, ask your teen what the consequences should be for your current failures.

Failing forward is an important trait to teach your teenager, since wallowing in past mistakes can lead to depression, psychological disorders and even suicidal thoughts.

Most people fail multiple times, but they can still be successful in life if they “fail forward.”  In other words, they learn something from failing and then keep on moving on. Do you allow your teen to move on, or do you keep bringing up their past mistakes?  Part of moving on comes from just expressing the mistake they made to you, instead of holding it in. Does your teen feel secure in sharing mistakes with you?

Like it or not, your children will emulate you. By being open about the poor choices you’ve made, you can make sure they’ll emulate how you would have done it differently if you could have. By your example and the remorse you express, they’ll learn a better way to deal with their own decisions and they’ll be more likely to open up to you about their own mistakes.  When a teen understands that his parents aren’t perfect, it gives him freedom to express and confess his own failings, and to also identify his own need for a Savior.

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.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 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.