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The Gift of Second Chances

“I choose joy… I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance… I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God”. –Max Lucado

We live in a world where change is constant, and it seems that things change these days at a more rapid pace than ever before. Some changes are for the better and some are for the worse. If teenagers can walk in this changing world and come through unscathed — we are grateful.  But some do not.

Some kids become victims to negative pressures in today’s culture; choosing a lifestyle of self-indulgence, willful disobedience, rebellion and self-destructive behaviors. It is sad to see that happening to otherwise great kids; and no one is saddened more than their parents.

I work with mothers and fathers who have cried over a wayward son or daughter. Words cannot describe the depth of pain and sorrow that comes to a parent’s heart broken by love. These parents experience a depth of feeling for their children that even the children do not understand.

One of the most difficult things parents face is the realization that although they have experienced life and gained wisdom from their own mistakes and failures, their own children will probably not benefit from them. They will not understand until they make the same mistakes and experience the consequences. And mistakes will be made.

In fact, one indisputable truth about human beings is that we have an infinite capacity to mess up. But even more infinite than our ability to sin is God’s desire to love and forgive us. For those of us who have accepted Christ as Savior, God forgives us every time we ask — again and again.

Remember this about your teenager; no matter what they have done, their life isn’t wrecked for good. The most loving, powerful Being in the universe wants to heal them, and He does have the power and creativity to do just that.

So, rather than dwelling on your mistakes, leave those cares to Christ, and celebrate their life instead.  That’s why I recommend that you pull out some old photos and recall the happier moments surrounding their birth and childhood. Let the photos bring to mind the joy of God’s gift of your child. His thumbprint was on their life when they were born, and it still is today.

May we all be grateful for Christ’s gift of second chances. He loves and watches out for our children more than we ever can; and what better gift is there than that?

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.


Keeping Hope Alive

When you’re struggling with a wayward teenager, it can seem as though your world is being turned upside down. Everything you’ve planned and hoped for in the child’s life appears to be fading away. In essence, you feel like a failure.

It is common for such parents to have sleepless nights… finger-pointing arguments… tears… and stress far beyond what they’ve ever experienced before. The energetic little boy who was so fun… or the sweet little girl who used to be full of hugs… has become someone totally different, and is teetering on the edge of disaster. It’s enough to make you lose all hope.

Over the past 30 years, my wife Jan and I have spent countless hours with teens and their parents, and we’ve seen God do some incredible, amazing things. And what I have learned is this: Because God is faithful, there is hope. There is hope for your teen… and there is hope for your family… no matter how desperate the situation may seem.

First of all, hope can be found by focusing on God’s promises and seeking support from other caring believers. Search God’s Word and let it speak hope into your life. Get into a small group of other parents going through something similar to what you’re experiencing. There’s nothing like having a crowd of people around you who are in the same boat trying to bail. Many times, people get involved in small groups just to talk. I would encourage you to get into a small group so you can also listen. When all you know to do isn’t working, the counsel of others might spark some new ideas or directions with your teen. There is wisdom and comfort in the presence of many.

Second, hope can be found by pinpointing possible underlying triggers of the problem. You see, good kids generally don’t make bad choices or hang out with the wrong crowd unless something else is bothering them. Knowing what those triggers may be — usually a loss or damage in their life of some sort — can help you better understand why your teen is acting the way they do. This isn’t to justify the behavior, but to better understand it. Pinpointing the cause of the struggle will help you realize that your teen isn’t necessarily choosing a lifestyle or turning away from you or your values at this point. They are simply responding to or covering up the hurts that they feel by grasping onto new things that their culture says will bring them joy, pleasure and satisfaction.

Third, hope can be found by tightening the boundaries. Just because someone is lost, hurt, or damaged doesn’t give him or her license to destroy you or your home, or constantly disrupt your family. When a teen has lost his way, he doesn’t know where he is, much less where he is going, so any attempt to get him somewhere or keep him from heading down a path of trouble is usually met with resistance. Parents can spend all the time they want telling their teen that the path he is on will take him somewhere he doesn’t want to be, but it will usually have little effect. So establish solid boundaries, which will give your teen a road map.  He’ll then know what to expect if he sways off the road. It also helps take some of the parental emotion and anger out of the equation.

And fourth, hope can be found through taking time to build a stronger relationship with your teen.  Begin with a conversation of restoration.  You do this by admitting where you may have been wrong as well. Tell your teen where you’ve made mistakes and how you’d like to relate differently in the future. Sharing your failures just might give her the motivation and example she needs to do the same, though usually not right away. Require that you do something fun together (fun to the teen, not necessarily you) once every week and then let the conversation flow naturally. It may take several weeks of outings before anything is said by the teen, but keep it up. This approach conveys the message that you can still love your child even though she is a mess, even though she is making mistakes and being hurtful. It lets her know that you can love her when she has it all together, and you can love her when she doesn’t. Isn’t this what we all desire?

You can rest assured that God is pursuing your child just as intensely as you are. And He won’t stop until your wayward one is found. God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). God has not left what He is building. This doesn’t mean you can just sit back and let God do all the work. He’s going to use you in that process. As an old Russian proverb about a group of sailors struggling to get to shore on a tumultuous sea says, “Pray to God that he will save us, but keep rowing until He does.”

 

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.


Allowing Teens to Break Out of the Box

Teens develop in maturity by doing, seeing, and experiencing. They crave freedom and they want to show the adults in their life that they are capable of making their own decisions. They want to break out of the box and have some control over what they do, where they go, and how they look.

But some parents prevent their teens from making mistakes at all costs (especially the same kind of mistakes they made when they were a teenager), so they apply more and more controls. This excessive sheltering can lead teens to a life of sneakiness (doing what they want to do behind the parent’s back), frustration, anger and eventually rebellion.

I can hear parents everywhere asking, “Isn’t this the time in their life when we need to rein them in? This culture is horrible!” I agree. In fact, it is precisely because the culture is so difficult that it is important for Christian parents to prepare their teen by helping them develop discernment. An overprotective parent accomplishes just the opposite, and the bud of discernment never develops into full-bloom.

I’m not recommending suddenly becoming an overly permissive parent. You can never just cast your concerns about your teen to the wind, nor let them make foolish decisions again and again. Instead, I am talking about looking for ways to help your teen develop discernment through expanding their freedom and through learning responsibility.

The best way to offer freedom is to couple it with responsibility. For instance, a sense of freedom can come from having a responsible job. To have some hours away from home, to make some money, and to think on their own will give them more freedom while still being responsible to a boss. On the other hand, an unwise freedom is to allow your teen more time to simply hang out with his buddies at all hours, aimlessly thinking up the trouble they can get into.

From my years of training horses I have learned to let the rope out a little at a time. I loosen the reins as the horse and I develop more trust in one another. There is a big difference between letting out the rope a little, and letting the horse out of the corral. Likewise, when I talk about giving your teen more freedom, you still need to maintain the “fences” or boundaries, but gradually loosen the reins so your teen has more freedom to operate within those boundaries.

I admit, it takes a leap of faith to get both you and your teen to the next level. However, finding a way to give your teen more freedom allows them to develop in maturity, before they become an adult and leave home altogether.  A wise parent will see a teen’s need for more freedom and find a way to give it to them before they ever ask for or demand it, and even if they are still reticent to experience it.  So, look ahead, and develop a test of their mettle that is age-appropriate. Explain the boundaries, rules, and consequences in advance, and then let them go.

Will they fail? Of course they will! They’ll make mistakes, and when they do, your job is to apply consequences, so they learn from those mistakes. Expect failure, and plan for how to address it.

Don’t shame them when they fail. We all fail.

Don’t purposely put them in situations where you know they’ll fail.

Don’t let your fears keep you from allowing your teen to try appropriate things.

Don’t fix the messes they make or lessen the consequences.

Don’t resort to, “I told you so,” or, “I should never have trusted you,” statements.

I love Chuck Swindoll’s definition of failure. He said, “Failure is the backdoor to success.” No parent wants their child to fail on purpose, but there are times when failure really helps a teen learn to be more discerning. As for me, I have been more blessed and learned more from the failures of my life than from the successes.

On the other hand, when a teen doesn’t fail, reward them! Give them some positive feedback and reasons to continue making right choices. Thank them for thinking it through and coming to the right conclusion. Use their good decisions as an opportunity to give them more freedoms and therefore, more opportunities to make right choices.

You’ll provide your teen with the strength and discernment they need later in life by spending less time sheltering and hovering, and more time helping them learn important lessons on their own. Appropriate freedom along with responsibility can be the catalyst to develop discernment and maturity in your teen.

Ultimately, you’ll have to put your teen in God’s hands.  He loves and wants to protect your teen as much as you do. So pray, trust God to direct your child’s path, and believe that He will make all things work toward His higher good. Pray for your teen’s protection, for the right people to come into his life and for the lessons he’ll learn as he begins to experience more freedom.

 

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.   Here you can download the Parenting Today’s Teens App, a great way to listen on your schedule.