Christmas Without Conflict

The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”  But for many families, this is the most chaotic, conflict-filled and crisis-inducing time of year.  This wonderful holiday, when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, is often anything but peaceful in homes with teenagers.  The good news is that even with the extra stress and pressure that comes along with the holiday season, you can have Christmas without the conflict.  (Yes, it is the season of miracles!)

The key to having a Christmas without conflict is to not forsake good parenting skills.  You may be taking off several days from work for the holiday, but you can’t take off from being a parent.  So don’t slack off.  Focus on maintaining a solid relationship while still honoring your rules, even if your teen calls you “Scrooge” or “Grinch.”

The Power of “Nevertheless”

When a conflict begins, respond by agreeing with your teen in some way, while holding your ground in regard to enforcing the rules. Let me share with you one of my favorite words when it comes to managing conflict; the word is, “nevertheless.”

Sweetheart, I’m aware your friends think this is a great movie, and they may be right, nevertheless… our rule for that is that we don’t go to R-rated movies.

Darlin’, you may have merit for being upset and I’d probably be upset too, nevertheless… our rule is that everyone in our family is required to be respectful of one another, even when we’re angry.

Son, I’m sorry you don’t like the new curfew rule. I didn’t either when I was a teen, nevertheless… our rule is that curfew is midnight.

Handling Christmas conflicts in a more intentional way sends your child the message – “Honey, I love you and I understand why you feel the way you do, but we’re still going to live according to our household rules. If you choose to disregard the rules, consequences will follow.”

Remind Them of Consequences

Rather than leaving your child to wonder about the consequences, those should have been determined and communicated to them in advance.  How else can the teen properly choose?  They can’t.  They need to be able to say to their peers, “If I do that, I’ll lose my car for a month,” or, “If I’m late now, my curfew will be even earlier for a month.”

But you’d be surprised at the number of ways parents avoid enforcing consequences.  Make it a rule for yourself, if nothing else — the consequences I’ve communicated to my teen will be enforced, one way or another.  Get some outside help with structuring the consequences if you need it.  And, always present a united front with your spouse.  Beyond the normal rules and boundaries for curfew and chores and such, there should also be some rules you may not have thought about.

For instance:

  1. We MUST Spend Time Together

Your relationship with your teen needs time to develop in a way that moves beyond entertaining them or simply providing for them.  Christmas is a great time for building memories and doing things together.  But if your kids are spending the entire holiday season at parties, games and functions with their friends, the family relationship will suffer.

Get a calendar and determine in advance what days and times the family will be doing certain activities.  This allows your teens the freedom to “fill in” the schedule with other things around the family rather than competing with it.  And giving them the freedom to make their choices for the open dates lets them feel an important level of control over their own lives.

  1. Everyone Listens

Some of the best advice I give dads and moms is encompassed in a simple mandate: Keep Quiet!  Instead of always nagging, correcting, cajoling, or critiquing – just be quiet.  Look for opportunities to lead into a discussion where you can ask your teen to explain their point of view, their solution to a problem, or how they arrived at a conclusion, then allow them to talk. Don’t try to correct their thinking – just let them talk.

Some parents just need to zip it.  They need to turn the table and allow their teen to ask questions for a change.  Teenagers today need to know someone will truly listen to them and not judge them for what is said.  So sharpen your own listening habits, and your teens may grow as well.  The point is, make your home a place where everyone listens and enforce it as a rule.

  1. Lighten Up!  That’s an Order!

Some families need to learn to laugh together as much or more than anything else.  Christmas can be a great time for fun.  Making cookies or gingerbread houses isn’t just for little kids.  Watching Dad’s elaborate construction fall apart or Mom “decorating” by putting frosting on his nose are things that open doors to more than just immediate laughter… they create an atmosphere your kids will want to be in.

Parents today take themselves and their teens way too seriously, at times.  Let your kids see just how goofy you can really become, and make it a goal to make someone in your family laugh every day. Bring some fun things into your home, be impetuous, and smile a little more.

A Relationship That Doesn’t Stop

Your teen needs the kind of relationship that doesn’t stop even if they overstep the boundaries (and there will be times when they do).  At all times, keep reminding your teen: “There’s nothing you can do to make me love you less, and nothing you can do to make me love you more. In other words, to do something wrong won’t end our relationship. I will love you just the same regardless of your actions, but that doesn’t mean I won’t enforce consequences for breaking the rules.”

What your child wants more than anything else is to have more freedom, while also having a solid relationship with you. If you plan the events of the Christmas season, they will be able to experience the benefits of freedom without destroying the beauty of “peace on earth.”

May your home be filled with peace, laughter, joy and love. Merry Christmas!


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.


Making This Christmas Better Than the Year Before

Merry Christmas from Parenting Today's Teens“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager.’  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.’” ~ Luke 2:10-14

Have you ever wanted to have that Norman Rockwell kind of Christmas?  The type of holiday where the relatives visit with smiles and hugs, the kids are pleasant and happy, the Christmas dinner looks like something from a gourmet magazine and everywhere you look there is peace and harmony?

Maybe you desire a perfect “Christmas card” holiday because your Christmases resemble something more like the painting The Scream.  Emotions run high as you try to mend fences with the family, cope with a struggling teenager, purchase gifts in time and get through Christmas without killing anyone.  But let’s face it—no one’s holidays are perfect.  Just because it’s the twelfth month on the calendar doesn’t mean that all the problems of the year melt away like the snow.  But while it’s not possible to have a picture-perfect Christmas, it is possible to make this season better than the last.

Start A Tradition

What are the Christmas traditions in your family?  If you can’t think of anything other than Aunt Ethel yelling at Uncle Joe, or you burning the Christmas dinner, then it’s time to start some brand new traditions.  They don’t have to be elaborate or costly.  My family and I started a tradition of working on a puzzle together during the holidays (of course, I’m the one that always has to finish it).  Sure, it’s a little bit nerdy, but it has become a cherished custom that brings us all together each year.

Consider starting a tradition of cutting down the family Christmas tree, walking through the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights or throwing a holiday party for your kid’s friends and their parents.  Whatever you choose to do, make sure it involves the entire family and allows you to relax, have fun and enjoy being together.

Write a Christmas Blessing

The Christmas season is an opportunity to lay aside the grudges of the past year and embrace peace.  If you want to make this Christmas worth remembering, take a break from the shopping and decorating to write out a blessing for everyone in your family.  It’s a meaningful gesture I learned from my friend John Trent.  Start by writing three paragraphs about someone in the family, whether it’s a spouse, a child or even your extended family.  The first paragraph should focus on a character quality that you admire.  You could say, “Son, I noticed how easily you make friends, and it is amazing to see.  You truly have a gift for connecting with people.

The second paragraph should be about a trial that the person is dealing with currently, or has struggled through.  An example would be, “Honey, I know that you have been dealing with some mean girls at school, and I want to say how proud I am of how you’re dealing with them.  It’s been a struggle, but this year I’ve seen you really mature and grow in spite of cruel comments.”

The third and final paragraph should include your prayer for that person’s future.  Let them know what you’re asking God to do for them in the coming year.  You could write, “My prayer for you this year is that you would experience God’s love in whole new way, that you would stay away from things that could hurt you, and that you would discover the strength of God in your life!”

Then, at dinner one night, hand your Christmas blessing to each person and see if it doesn’t strengthen your relationships this season.

Find the Joy

I know Christmas can be a difficult season for many people.  Maybe it brings up painful memories.  Or perhaps the season is already so far removed from “good” that you can’t imagine it any different.  I may not know the exact problems you face this holiday, but I can tell you that it’s still possible to rejoice this Christmas.  Even though it is hard, strive to find the joy in your circumstances.  Be thankful for the family God has given you.  Find happiness in the love of God and the birth of His Son.  Discover peace in knowing that God has brought you to the end of another year all in one piece.

Our attitude will make the difference between experiencing a wonderful Christmas and dragging ourselves through another miserable holiday.  So reflect on all the good in your life this holiday, and stop dwelling on the negative.

Focus on the Experience

I think we can all agree that Christmas gifts receive a little more attention than they really deserve.  Last year alone, Americans spent $563 billion dollars during the holidays.  All this materialism is definitely getting out of control!  But Christmas is not about the presents; it’s about living in the present.  It’s all about enjoying the experience of the season.

I can’t remember what I got for Christmas when I was a kid.  But I can relate in detail all the wonderful memories and experiences I had growing up with my family.  Those are the things we remember and take with us.  Just look at the gift God gave us.  It wasn’t anything material.  It was the person of Jesus Christ, who now offers us a meaningful relationship with Him and the Father.

I’m not saying we should throw the presents out the window, but I am saying that great Christmases aren’t about the gifts under the tree.  Instead, it’s about time together.  Maybe you’ll choose to sit around the fire, drink hot chocolate and share stories.  You’ll take a trip to the grandparents, and sled down the nearby hill.  This year, look to experience the season with your kids, not with toys or money but with memories that last a lifetime.

End the Year Well

It’s a common saying, but it’s so true: “It’s not how you start that matters—It’s how you finish.”  This year may have started off poorly.  But now you have an opportunity to end the year on a high note.  So make the time count.  Offer forgiveness to that child who has been breaking your heart this year.  Seek peace with the family member that has hurt you.  Defuse the problems in your home instead of escalating them.  Overlook offenses in the spirit of Christmas.  End the year on a better footing than you started.  It will make for a happier, more peaceful Christmas, and may even carry you into the next year!

I understand that the Christmas season is a chaotic time full of stress and anxiety and maybe a few family issues, as well.  But it doesn’t have to ruin our celebration.  You can make this a better holiday than years past.  It will take some effort, but the result is a lasting memory of a peaceful, loving and happy Christmas with your family.

From all of us here at Parenting Today’s Teens, wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas!


A special message from Mark

I do hope and pray that this Christmas season is a wonderful time of celebration and reflection for you and your family.  It’s a special time for all of us at Parenting Today’s Teens, and the only time that we ask folks to partner with us financially to help support our work with teens and families.  If these newsletters, or any of the Parenting Today’s Teens resources have been beneficial to you, would you consider a gift to our ministry in your year-end giving?  You can do so by clicking here.

Give Your Gift Today


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.

Make it a Great Christmas


The Christmas season should be a happy and peaceful time.  But for many families the holidays come with increased tension and turmoil.  So join us for today’s edition of Parenting Today’s Teens, when Mark Gregston provides some useful steps on restoring joy in your home during these holidays.  Put the “merry” back into your Christmas when you listen to Mark Gregston and Parenting Today’s Teens!

Special Guest: John Trent