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Teenage Girls and Inappropriate Behavior

Here’s a question I received this week from an assistant principal of a Christian high school who is struggling with a student displaying inappropriate sexual advances to the boys in her school.  His question is followed by my advice.

Q: Dear Mark,

I am looking for resources, articles, books, counseling ideas for situations that we are dealing with at our school.

For instance, we have a fifteen-year-old young lady who struggles with attraction to boys that ends up in inappropriate behavior.  She asked for help after she was caught kissing boys on the bus and in the band hall.  She says she is overly-interested in male attention.

She is aware of her “weakness” (her words) and fights it.  Her parents are supportive, but they do not want to see their little girl coming on to guys. She is spiritually aware and wants to grow; does well and then falls into the “trap.”  She is vivacious, athletic, intelligent, and attractive.

The next several years are going to become more and more dangerous for her.  So, do you have any suggestions on how to help her at this pivotal time?

A: Dear Sir,

I would say first of all that you are fortunate she is asking for your help.  But the kind of help she is seeking is not available in books or found in printed resources.  It would best be delivered by someone sitting down with her to help her process her thoughts, emotions, desires, and lack of self-control.

You can be thankful, in a way, that this young lady has normal attractions to the opposite sex.  Unfortunately, many her age are experimenting with same-sex relationships and are encouraged to do so by today’s culture.  It sounds as if she already understands appropriate boundaries in that regard, but she allows herself to occasionally cross other boundaries, which can lead to trouble.

In the scheme of things, kissing on the bus, in the band hall, and other places is not really that big of a problem, but it can (and probably will) lead to more serious issues, as I’m sure you are aware.  Since her internal control mechanisms aren’t quite mature enough to keep her from displaying inappropriate behavior, you’ll need to establish some external controls that place her at less risk for disaster. It is easy for young girls in this mode to quickly move from kissing to becoming more intimately involved, to stepping way over the line.

I recommend implementing healthy boundaries that keep her from engaging with guys in uncontrolled settings.  This may mean changing the way she gets to and from events, classes, or other venues for awhile.  Keep those boundaries in place until a counselor can make some progress with her.

In cases like this there is usually something beneath the behavior that perhaps you or her parents don’t see or are unwilling to admit.  A teen doesn’t exhibit abnormal behavior or act out without fuel from somewhere else.  It may come from some sense of loss in her life, or involve a broken relationship with an adult male figure or a parent.  It would help for a counselor to dig deeper with this young lady to see what is feeding the fire.

Most of all, the best thing for parents and school officials to do is to offer her unconditional love, even when she makes mistakes.  Don’t respond in anger.  Don’t shame, belittle, embarrass, or condemn her, as it will only push her further into the behavior and deeper into those unhealthy relationships.  Let her experience consequences for inappropriate behavior, but also let her know she is loved and cared for.   She’s going through changes common to all adolescents, and perhaps some uncommon hidden struggles, but she will get through this.

Just make sure that she gets on the “other side” with her relationships with you and her parents still intact, realizing your concern and support for her life more than your disappointment with her inappropriate behavior.

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.


Some Common Questions About Teens

I lead seminars throughout the country and without fail, I get a number of similar questions that are always asked. Here are few that seem to always come up. 

My son has been displaying a lot of anger toward us lately. Even the littlest thing seems to set him off. How can we find out what’s causing these outbursts and if it’s as serious as it seems?

Anger is an emotional response to not getting what one wants. And chances are your son feels frustrated about something that you are doing or saying. Young boys want to grow up and become young men, and that process is many times hampered by parents who don’t give freedom soon enough, allow choices to be made early, or treat their son like he “was” rather than who he wants “to be”. Giving more freedom and learning to nag less, gives a young man the opportunity to make choices thus assuming responsibility for his actions, thus develop maturity in the process.   That anger you speak of will then be self-directed, motivating him to make better decisions in the future.

Another reason teen boys express frustration and anger about their position in life is that they don’t feel prepared to face the world in which they are to live. This happens when parents spend more time teaching and less time training as a child walks through their adolescent years. They know “what” to do; they just don’t know “how” to do it. So, moms and dads, spend more time giving your son opportunities to make decisions and choices so he can flex his decision-making muscle and be prepared when to handle the “heavier” stuff the older he gets.

Adolescence is a time when teens search for their identity and begin to apply all of who they are to their world. They find that some of their stuff works, and some doesn’t. Frustration increases as they experiment and learn to apply their knowledge to their world. As Alison Gopnick reminds us, “If you think of the teenage brain as a car, today’s adolescents acquire an accelerator a long time before they can steer or brake.”

So as they traverse the new teen highway and hit curbs, brake too quick, and accelerate way to fast, a few bumps in the road might make this new road a bit more challenging than the path of their earlier years. But as they make this transition, Moms and Dads can help them learn to make the drive a little smoother by not always correcting, telling them how they can do it better, and what they should have done different. No one likes a back seat driver. So buckle up and sit next to them and help them, not discourage them. They’re having a tough enough time already to have people they admire become critical.

My daughter has gotten into a rut regarding her friends. We are trying to get her involved with activities at church or school, but she always responds with “I don’t want to do it unless my friends are doing it.” I know relationships are important to teens, but how can we help her see that she can’t plan her life around her friends?

Friends are important to any teen and the desire to “belong” or “fit in” are strong motivating factors, more so when they are younger than older. And if you have a daughter that is more of a follower than a leader, you’ll find that you’ll have more of a chance to get her involved in activities by encouraging and enticing her participation through rewards and enticements. It’s saying, “if you will do “this”, we will do “this” to make it worth your while. In time, their involvement in these activities you’ve “encouraged” them to participate in will teach them of their ability to develop new friends, thus eliminating the “friend factor” in planning their activities.

Here’s the transition we have to make about our teen’s desire to be more concerned about their friends than about most other things. While we don’t want them to plan her life around friends, teens do. It’s a fact. They’re trying to find their place and create some protection around them through their wall of relationships. Friends are important. And they’re more important to our teens today than ever before because of the vast “disconnect” happening among adolescents. Teens today spend more time in the shallow end of the “relationships pool” than the deep end. So in the shallow end of that pool, teens will have more people surrounding them, in hopes of finding like-minded peers who will venture into the deeper end of spectrum.

So help them in their adolescent journey. Help them socialize and develop more and more social collateral so that these friends can go deeper and sharpen your child, just as iron sharpens iron. They need relationships around them who will help them get to the “deep end of the pool”. So help them and don’t restrict them so much that they will never have the opportunity to put into practice the way you’ve taught them to swim.

My son seems reluctant to try new things. Sometimes, I wonder if he’s just being lazy and doesn’t want to bother himself with getting outside his comfortable “bubble.” But I also wonder if he’s suffering from low self-esteem and a fear of failure. How can I know what’s going on with him and help him gain the confidence to branch out?

It’s sometimes hard to motivate a teen once they’ve found their “comfort zone” and I’m sure that laziness, low self-esteem, and the fear of failure all come to play in trying to get them to move elsewhere. Have a heart-to-heart talk about how you desire to do something together with him. Find something you both like to do and make it a habit to do it together, even requiring it if needed, and encouraging his participation with reward. Discussions are best with young men side-by-side, rather than face-to-face. When you do something together, then have the discussions you desire to teach him about the need to always live life outside one’s comfort zone.

What kid wouldn’t want to “stay put” when faced with a culture that you and I have said, “We’re glad we don’t have to grow up in this culture!” Well they do. So when you see these signs of not being motivated to move into new arenas of social interaction, you might have to help make it happen… in a gentle way. It may mean that you have to eliminate some of those comforts at home to help push them out of the nest, but I would encourage you do so in a way that helps your child make the transition into their new world.

Be intentional about engaging about the deeper things in his life by learning to ask questions and giving him opportunity to respond. And when he does respond, don’t share your opinion unless he asks. Remember, he’s not wanting more information… he’s wanting wisdom. And he’s wanting it from you. Help him understand this world and be the one that he can come to when he finds frustration entering into it. Fear keeps most teens from venturing to places they want to go. So be that parent that helps them get there; not one that ridicules them for not trying.

If you have questions that you’d like for me to answer, please send them our way.

 

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.


Communicating with Teens

Every parent of a teenager wants to build a strong line of communication with their teen. But sadly, the opposite is most often true. I’d like to share with you some simple tips to improve your communications with your teen.

You may wonder what the best timing is for building good lines of communication with your teen or pre-teen. That’s simple.  Do it NOW, before problems, struggles and difficulties begin. And never stop working at it, even when there is conflict.

As your children move from the elementary years into early adolescence, it’s essential that you adapt your style of communication to the changes taking place with your child. What was non-hormonal, now becomes laced with hormones. Total dependence moves closer to independence, and that affects how your teen interacts with you.  Unless you change with them, there will be conflict and broken communications.

There is a scripture that I believe 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 teens 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, and a life of training, has already been done. Moms have the tendency to do the “Energizer bunny” communication that just keeps on going. And dads have that tendency to tune out when communication is most needed.

Moms, your over-correcting does not provide the rest your child needs. And dad, your refusal to speak up does not restore. What is crucial for your child is the balance of the mom and dad mix, which will result in that place of rest.

But to achieve this balance, it is important for us as parents to transition with our children, to change our style of communication. If we can successfully make this transition, then the day when our children begin to struggle or have difficulties and desperately need someone to talk to we are the ones they will turn to.

Now, let me give you some advice on how to build that bridge–how to make that transition…

  1. Start by laying down some new rules, not ones that dictate, but those that invite. In fact, these are rules for yourself, not as much for your child, including making it a priority to have one-on-one time with your child. For example, you might state that a new rule for your house is to go on a mother-daughter, or father-son special vacation each year. Another might be a Joke Night that gets everyone laughing, just laughing, no spiritual lesson attached, just pure fun time together.
  2. Ask Thoughtful Questions… create a sense of wonder. Instead of always telling your child the answers, offer them thoughtful questions. And remember, not every question has to be answered immediately, or at all. They will learn to think on their own, and begin to ask you questions as you model one who asks questions. The questions themselves can lead to the right answers, without preaching.
  3. .. and wait to be invited. Hold off on the tendency to always drive the conversation and share your own opinions (Scripture says that a fool delights in airing his own opinion). Don’t break genuine interest, but poignant moments of silence (especially when they are not accustomed to silence from you) will move a child to ask, “What do you think?” Try not to force your opinion unless it is invited.
  1. “I Was Wrong” diffuses difficult discussions. If you handled a situation poorly, admit where you are wrong.  You will take the fuse out of the firecracker when you do that. Once you admit you blew it, the issue can no longer be held against you.  Anger puts up barriers and must always be diffused before communications will open up.
  1. Give Them Respect… consider others to be more important. Easy to say, and sometimes tough to do.  It’s basically putting your child first and showing them respect, even as you demand that of them. This should affect the way you speak to them (you wouldn’t yell at, belittle, or talk down to someone you respect), the way you discipline, the way you show grace and the way you respond when you are disappointed and upset.

I want to challenge you today to commit to building a relationship with your child, and that starts with good communications. Make time to communicate and really get to know your teen. And no matter how strained or difficult your relationship might be, there is always HOPE.  It may take time and persistence, but keep at it in a loving and natural way and they will eventually open up.

Remember, 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.

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.