Responsible Weightlifting

Every time you go to the gym to work out with weights, you know you’re headed for pain.  Pumping iron hurts!  Why?  We build muscles by tearing down muscles.  All that pain eventually delivers impressive results, but it ain’t always fun.

Parenting today’s teens involves the same painful process.

As parents, we are responsible to help our children build the muscle they need to lift the heavy issues of life.  But as their virtual personal trainer, it takes a lot of discernment to help them understand how much weight they should lift.  I can tell you from my experience with kids at Heartlight, teens are quite capable of handling tough issues, but they can’t do all the heavy lifting on their own.  Teens are still trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world.  You get to help your teen manage their muscle-building program, and all of us go through lots of blood, sweat and tears along the way.

When your child appears weak and insecure, it’s tempting to want to step in and rescue them from the pain of failure.  Or, we become over-controlling and smother them with advice, lecturing and counsel.  In these times, we do little to help our teen build the muscle they need and, in essence, we try to manipulate what only God can do in their life.

Psalm 1 describes a process that a person follows when he is learning something.  First they walk, then stand, and eventually they sit.  The psalmist wrote,

Blessed is the one 

    who does not walk in step with the wicked 

or stand in the way that sinners take 

    or sit in the company of mockers, 

but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, 

    and who meditates on his law day and night. 

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, 

    which yields its fruit in season 

and whose leaf does not wither— 

whatever they do prospers.

When your child is young, you can’t demand a lot of that child because you know he doesn’t have the skills, experience, or wisdom to make the decisions on his own yet.  Your child walks in the way that you direct him, looking to you for guidance in placing each step.  But your teen is in transition now.  He is in the standing position, getting ready to take his position on life.

Remember this when you interact with your teen!  When your child is standing, you can transfer opportunities for him to build his muscles while you are still standing next to him.  But this means you need to know where he is standing as well.  What are his challenges?  Who are his friends?  What are his needs?  With open lines of communication, you will have a greater opportunity for sharing your own experiences and wisdom with your teen.

In a few years, your teen will choose where he will sit.  Which way will he be facing?  What outlook will he take on life?  What things that you have taught him will he hold onto and what will he discard?  Everything he has experienced up until this point will help him make that decision.

If your goal is to help your child grow up, then be intentional in your relationship with your child.  This doesn’t mean turning a blind eye when bad stuff happens, but it doesn’t mean holding onto the reins so tightly either.  Teens aren’t perfect.  Parents aren’t perfect either.  But when you allow your teen to exercise his freedom and to face the consequences in a safe environment, surrounded by people who love him and want him to succeed, he’ll be able to flex his muscles and grow.

I would never want to run a marathon without any training.  In fact, if I signed up for a marathon, I’d be out there every day getting ready for my 26-mile trek.  Bit by bit, I would run farther and faster.  And eventually, I should be able to reach my goal.  The day is coming when your teen will leave your home and be on his own.  Sure, working out right now might create some risk as you and your teen determine his boundaries, but if you wait until that day to allow him to experience freedom, he may not be able to handle his newfound liberty

When you train your body as a weightlifter, the key to success is to keep at it.  There are days when you won’t want to get up and pump iron, do squats or run on the treadmill.  It’s the same way with your relationship with your teen.  If your family isn’t intentionally building strength together every day, the muscles you are trying instill in your child’s body will atrophy.

If you have been holding onto the reins tightly, try starting off with some light weights.  See how he responds to responsibility, and then gradually increase the weight.  If you have been taking a hands-off approach, get a sense of whether your teen might be struggling under too much weight.  Remove some of the freedom until he is able to show that he can handle the responsibility.

When you give your teen the opportunity to succeed and the opportunity to fail, he will either make a mistake, face the consequences, and try his hardest not to do it again, or he will succeed and remember how good it feels.  With every choice that is made, your teen will strengthen his ability to handle the harder decisions and responsibilities later on in life.  When that day comes, you can look back with deep satisfaction knowing that God used you to be his personal trainer.

Mom, dad, keep up the good work.  Your son or daughter is well worth the effort!



Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas.  For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website.  It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent.  Go to www.heartlightministries.org.  Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com.  You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.  Hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.

Stop Controlling, Start Inviting


No parent wants their child to get hurt.  But when protection turns into control, it can cause even greater problems.  On this edition of Parenting Today’s Teens, Mark Gregston encourages parents to stop controlling and start inviting kids to take on new responsibilities.

Special Guest:  Joey O’Connor

The Battle for Control

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a fight with your teen, thinking:  how can we be seeing this so differently?  Why can’t my teen understand that I’m doing this to protect him?  

Often, when we argue with our teens, we are fighting for two different things.  Parents fight for protection.  Teens fight for control.

As a parent, we have a tendency to control our kids to protect them.  It makes sense.  We want to ensure that our kids have the best opportunities for life.  But in that protection, our high-control techniques keep them from exercising muscle that will actually strengthen their character in the long run.

It’s like getting a new car.  When you pull your new wheels into the driveway, it looks gorgeous.  It’s clean, sleek, and perfect.  And then, you drive it.  After you put on a couple thousand miles, it gets dings in the door and scratches in the paint.  The shine wears off.  You have the choice to keep the car in perfect condition, but you would need to keep it in the garage to do so.

The way we control our kids is similar.  If you keep them away from the world, they won’t experience the pain and hurt that normally comes with everyday life.  But keeping your kids isolated in the garage has an inherent problem:  someday they will be forced to drive out into the world.  Do you really want the first time your child gets hurt or makes a mistake to be when they are away from you?  Whether that’s away at college, or when their primary relationship is with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the mistakes they make will be a lot more costly if they aren’t in relationship with you.

Adolescence is about the transition teens make from childhood to adulthood.  In order to allow this to happen, they need to have opportunities to make choices in their lives.  Teens really want three things:  to make decisions about themselves, to feel like they’re in control, and to have opportunities to prove their maturity and to show you that they can do it.  It’s not a surprise that they want these things.  When your kids were young, they learned about growing up.  They used you as their model and formed their own hopes and expectations for adulthood on what they saw in you.  Now that they are teens, they are breaking away from having their identity tied so tightly to you as their parent, and because of this, they encounter this struggle for control.

As a parent, when you don’t allow your teens to have opportunities for control, they can respond with rebellious behavior.  Sometimes, they withdraw from opportunities.  They may become aloof or lazy and will just coast through life.  Other times, teens can fight for control through making choices without your counsel, or will intentionally rebel against how you have counseled them.  At some point, you aren’t going to be able to influence your teen.  Whether your teen is out of the area for college, the military, or a job, your ability to speak into your child’s life will decrease.  When this happens, what you have done up until that point will be the primary source of guidance that your teen will have to reflect on – so it’s wise to make the most of the time you have with them right now.

If you aren’t sure whether you are controlling your teen’s life, ask them!  Hey, I’m sure your son or daughter will be brutally honest when you simply ask the question.  And an open line of communication is one of the most important things you can do to strengthen your relationship with your teen.  Whether or not your teen thinks you are controlling, give them more things to be responsible for.  Think about chores around the house, and responsibilities they have in school or extracurricular activities.  Every piece of life is an opportunity to give your child a chance to grow his own ability to apply the lessons you have taught them.  If you are controlling every aspect of your child’s life, later on, they will not know how to respond to the things that life throws at them.

As you give your child more opportunities for responsibility, be ready to support them in both success and in failure.  Having your teen become more responsible may be exciting to you in the beginning, but if you don’t build that sense of trust between you and your teen that you will be there when they fail, the responsibility you give them will end up demoralizing and frustrating them.

With the right balance of responsibility and opportunity, your child can begin to build a sense of independence and character needed to transition from adolescence to adulthood.  On this weekend’s Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast, we will talk to pastor and father of four, Joey O’Connor.  Joey shares his perspective on this matter and I’m confident you will appreciate his insight.

It’s hard to think about your teen growing up.  We like the young and innocent phase, and it’s a little threatening when our children begin to emerge as young adults.  At times, when your teen makes goofy choices or makes stupid mistakes, you will be tempted to seize control so that you can protect them.  The secret is finding a healthy balance to allowing freedom while building trust with your teen.

As parents, let’s do our best to stop controlling and start inviting our teens to greater levels of responsibility.  The rewards will be rich as we watch them develop into responsible and independent adults.


Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas.  For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website.  It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent.  Go to www.heartlightministries.org.  Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com.  You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.  Hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.