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Teen Girls in a Culture of Seduction

Teenagers today live in a world of seduction and permissiveness. Sexual images are everywhere, not just in an occasional movie or magazine.  Younger than ever, they are being torn between living a lifestyle that is deemed acceptable and desirable by their peer group, and doing what has been taught them by their families and church. More times than not, the pressure to “fit in” with their culture wins out when they are away from home.

While teens do understand and welcome (most of the time) their parent’s “messages” about modesty and abstinence, the overwhelming influence of their peers and their culture will dwarf those positive messages. They are feeling a pressure to give in and “belong” that you wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Easy access to pornography, the display of sexual images and themes across all forms of media, and the promotion of “alternative sexual lifestyles,” coupled with messages of instant gratification and a “do what you want” mentality, all set young girls up for a “fall.” By overexposure, they are being convinced that sex is as natural and healthy for them to participate in (before marriage) as breathing or eating, so it is simply no big deal.

If you learn your teenage girl has become sexually active, first try to understand those pressures and why it may be happening. Then, I encourage you to take a couple of “steps back” and don’t respond with your first inclination. Let things “sit” for a time. Gather your thoughts, think through what you want to say, and seek counsel from someone you trust. Just having someone else hear your thoughts and respond to your emotions with a sense of wit and wisdom is always helpful.

You will undoubtedly look at their sexual activity differently than they do. You’ll think of it as a loss of something, like their virginity, innocence, purity, or childhood. But your teen will feel that they’ve gained something, like experience, a stronger relationship, or coming into womanhood. The friction between your sense of loss and your teen’s sense of gain may cause so much heat that your relationship can go down in flames.

I’m not trying to justify your teen’s sinful actions, nor am I “buying into” this seductive culture, but I do know that if handled wrong, you can make your teen feel as though they are unforgivable, forever unclean, and “out of the club” because of their poor choice. It’s where we lose so many teens from our families, from our churches, and from our communities today. Shame on us, for shaming them.

Instead, maybe we should think about how God would approach it. God assures each one of us of His presence always. He doesn’t leave us when we make a mistake, nor does he turn His back on His children when they sin. He doesn’t disappear when the road gets dark, nor does He abandon us during a time of need. He moves toward us, in hopes of change, restoration, forgiveness, and reconciliation. I would encourage you to “Go thou and do likewise” when facing your teen who has fallen into sexual sin.

It does no good to shame the teen. Consequences for sinful and inappropriate behavior? You bet!  Stronger boundaries or even a major change in the teen’s life to keep it from happening again? Absolutely! But not a demeaning presentation of judgment and shame. This type of approach only destroys your relationship, and builds walls of resentment. This is no time to be burning bridges. Your daughter needs you to help her understand that there is a better way. You’ll have no way to do that if the relationship is destroyed.

It’s easy to love a teen when they’re doing well. It’s harder to love them when they’re struggling and making mistakes. But it may be the time that they need it the most. We are never more like Christ than when we give our teen grace in the face of a struggle. And, giving grace when it surely is not deserved may change the direction of the struggle, or even bring it to an end.

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.


Staying Ahead of the Turbulence

I’m blessed to work with teens and their families.  It’s taught me more about parenting and how teens think today than I could have learned any other way.  All parents have to go through the sometimes-bumpy teen years. There’s no way around it.  So, in the dawning days of adolescence they often ask me, “How can I get ready for the turbulence ahead?”

Parenting is a Special Calling

Parents are placed into the authority role in the life of their child, and should consider that role as a calling from God.  It’s tough to remain in a right relationship with a child that chooses a less inviting path through adolescence.  But hang in there!  Understand how today’s teen culture will begin tugging on your child and you’ll be better prepared with positive strategies for when the waters of adolescence begin to churn.  Most of all, kids secretly want their parents to exert parental authority and remain in that role, so don’t disappoint them.

Don’t Push off When You Receive the Brush Off

Listening is one of your best weapons in the fight for right in the life of your child.   Spend more time listening than offering your own opinion.  Wait for your teen to invite you or ask for your advice, before blurting it out or lecturing. Learn to be quieter, to sit and to listen to your teen’s heart.  This will communicate, without words, that they are valuable and accepted, even when they or you are upset or distressed.

Be Watchful

A normal part of growing up is the need to feel acceptance and love not only within the family but by peers.  As teens attempt to find a place among their peers, loosen the reins a little, but remain watchful.  Continue to have a presence in their life – not one that dominates, but one that guides and limits when necessary, and sets free and soars when appropriate.  Learn how to use the tools of their trade (text messaging, cell phones, social networking) to stay in touch.  Call them for reasons other than telling them where to go or what to do.  And spend the time.  Go with them to new places they’ll enjoy, and take along one of their friends.  Invite their friends into your home and you’ll be letting their friends learn your values and know how much you care.  Offer teens freedom, but only as they are willing to take responsibility, and be watchful for signs of maturity and growth all along the way, allowing you to reward them with more freedoms.

Remain Connected

All too often I see a huge disconnect between parents and teens, and my goal is to help parents find ways to bridge that connection.  Teens desire to remain connected to their parents, even if they don’t show it.  The goal is to help parents of teens to move from always correcting their child to helping them make decisions that will lead to maturity, even if they at first make mistakes.  Allow pre-established consequences to do the correcting, not your anger or disapproval.

Don’t Ever Quit:  Be to your child what God is to you, an ever-present help in time of need.  If you consider the times God has propped you up, helped you out, caused you to grow, or disciplined you in order to get you to a better place in life, then you will easily understand how to view your role. Nurturing a child the way God nurtures us requires grace.  And grace includes the determination to never, ever give up on your child, even when they seemingly give up on you. Don’t ever quit.

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.


Remodeling the Family Home

 

Parents with a rebellious teenager tell me that their house seems to be falling apart at the seams.  The whole family is in a constant state of turmoil and walking on eggshells.  But I tell them that their house can again become whole; in fact, with some hard work, it can become their dream home.

Do you live in your dream home, or has it fallen into disrepair?  Sometimes my life gets so busy that I simply dream of being home once in awhile, but that’s not exactly what I mean here.  Most people think of their dream home in terms of a house on the lake, a mansion on a hilltop, a quiet cabin in the woods.  But many parents I work with would rather live in a mud hut than a beautiful mansion, if they could just have some peace in the family and good relationships with their children.

When I talk to parents about the dreams they have for their home and family, they say what they most long for is a place of close-knit relationships; where siblings truly care for one another, and where children show their parents respect.

And what about your teen?  What kind of a home does she want?  It may seem like she would like a home where she is totally in control and where she can do whatever she wants, but that’s usually not the case. In spite of her disrespect or disobedience, she still wants a good relationship with you; she’s just lost sight of how to get there.  Somewhere along the line she has lost a connection with you and cannot find her way back.

If your dream home has fallen into disrepair, a little remodeling will get it back to where you (and your teen) want it to be.  Remember, parenting isn’t for the weak and timid; it is not a spectator sport, it is something for which you must become proactive in order to get different results. So, don your overalls and strap on your tool belt.  It’s time to get to work!

Here are a few remodeling suggestions – things you can do right now to begin to make a change in your family, and work toward making your house the home of your dreams.

  1.  Give your child a responsibility or freedom they’ve never had before.

Sometimes parents stir up the rebellious side of a child because they provoke them without meaning to.  For example, if you believe curfew for your 16-year-old needs to be at 9 o’clock on Saturday night, and they want it to be 10:30, you may need to look at that again.  Your rules need to be age-appropriate and, of course, appropriate to the maturity of your teen.  Most parents need to loosen the reins just a little, but hold their teen responsible for everything that happens with their newfound freedom.  If you’re worried, make it a requirement for them to check in periodically.  A small change that forces your child to behave more responsibly can make a big difference.  And if they make a mistake, back their curfew down to an earlier hour for a time. Giving them a little more freedom also gives you more leverage to take away that freedom as a consequence.

  1. Ask a trustworthy friend to offer advice and let you know if you are on the right track.

In business, I answer to my board of directors.  I may not always agree with them, but I trust them to tell me when I might be doing something wrong.  They’ve frankly helped me see the forest for the trees sometimes and have kept me from making some business mistakes.  You need friends around you like that; wise and trustworthy friends who can give you the same kind of feedback. Tell them what you’d like to see happen in your family and the struggles you are having.  Ask them to be completely honest with you.  You might be surprised what they say.  If they give wise advice, don’t ignore it.  Perhaps God has provided them in your life to expose your blind spots, which may be the reason your home is not yet your dream home.

  1. Believe that change is possible.

Sometimes the hardest thing in dealing with troubled families is for the parents to come to believe that all is not lost. They simply don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Many are like a leopard that never grows a new spot; they find it hard to believe things will ever change.  But, scripture teaches us that God is a God of change and second chances.  People are capable of changing at any time – both you and your teenager.  When the pain of your current situation forces you and your teen to look to God and others around you for help, only then will things begin to change.

  1. Begin with your mouth and your ears.

You’re probably sick of hearing me say this, but the one way I tell parents to bring about dramatic difference is to simply be quiet. Don’t engage in negative battles. Get in the habit of asking questions more than offering advice or lecturing.  Close your mouth and open your ears.  Maybe your teen doesn’t talk to you like you hoped because you spend too much time talking or responding and too little time listing. Even if you don’t agree with what they say, you don’t always have to react. Sometimes they are just thinking out loud and don’t even believe what they are saying. But if you react harshly, they could quickly “own” that statement and square off to defend it.

  1. Take parenting to the next step.

I encourage you to evaluate your methods and expectations — again, making them age-appropriate.   For example, does our child lack responsibility because you still make his lunch for him, do his laundry, run his homework to school, and fold his socks? Take the next step and force your child to care more for his own needs.  By the time he moves out of your dream home, he should be well-trained and able to take care of things on his own.

  1. Focus on relationship.

There is no replacement or substitute for you taking the time to sit down with your teenager at least once a week to build your relationship. No matter how many times I say this, it still bears repeating.  Take the time, and make it happen every week!  Just listen.  Have fun.  Don’t be serious or confrontational.  Don’t lecture.  Relationship is built on mutual interest and joy.  So find the one thing you can do together that you both enjoy, and do it every week.

 Can your house again be the home of your dreams? You bet!  It may need some refurbishing right now, and it may look worse until it gets better, but with a lot of hard work you can surely get there.  Keep in mind that continuing doing what you’ve been doing has gotten you nowhere – the plaster is peeling and the roof is about to collapse – so start by realizing that drastic change needs to happen.  Begin by taking practical steps toward refining the way you engage with your teenager, helping them feel honored and respected in your home.  Work on your relationship and give your teen more freedoms, coupled with responsibility and consequences. When you honor your child with your time, your relationship, and your respect, they will honor and respect you and your rules in return; eventually, once they get past the “shock and awe.”

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.org.  You 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.