Teens Who Demand and Parents Who Don’t

Teens Who Demand and Parents Who Don’t

Teens today seem much more demanding than recent generations.  That’s relatively new, but what’s not new is that teens are also less mature today.  Add the two together and what you get is kids who expect their parents to be a walking, breathing ATM machine.

Parents who continually meet the financial demands of a teen fail to realize that they are unwittingly postponing their teen’s development into a responsible and mature adult.  That’s because generosity and a parent’s desire to provide for their child often gets misinterpreted by the teen, leading them believe that this provisional lifestyle will continue endlessly.  They want more and more and appreciate it less and less.

It echoes the attitudes of the Prodigal Son found in scripture, with one difference. Today’s prodigals don’t leave home.  In fact, they are comfortable at home because they can continue a self-centered and lavish lifestyle right under their parent’s noses, with no real-life consequences to help them come to their senses.

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing inherently wrong for parents (and grandparents) to want to do great things for their children. But when the teen years come along and the child has not learned how to earn and manage their own money, then the over indulgent parent is unintentionally cutting short their teen’s ability to make it out in the real world.

I hear from parents every day who want to place their teenager in our Heartlight Residential program for troubled teenagers.  Many of these kids come homes where parents have lavished on them everything they ever wanted and required nothing of them in return.

We have little ability to change the materialistic world in which our teens live. But I have no doubt of our ability to change what we will and won’t give a child.

So, my recommendation is this. Let the demanding teenager know that it’s time to take more responsibility for what they want or need. Tell them that good ol’ mom and dad will help them make good buying choices and may provide ways for them to earn money, but they will no longer give them everything they want.

I’m usually pretty straightforward with a teen in such a conversation. I’ll say, “Thanks for telling me what you want. But I need you to know something.  Every time you ask, I get a feeling that it’s more of a demand than a request. I just want to let you know that as your parent I owe you nothing, but I want to give you everything. For right now, my greatest gift to you would be to help you learn how to make and manage your own money.”

This immediately lets your child know they need to lower their expectations about what you will provide, and allows them to begin assuming responsibility for what they want.

For instance, “Honey, your asking for a cell phone is important to you, and I know you would really like to have it. It’s important for me to allow you to take responsibility for it, so let’s talk about what you can do to make it happen. I’m willing to help you find an inexpensive way to have a cell phone, and you’ll need that since you’ll be paying for it.”

But if your child is still young, you can head off such “entitled” attitudes. Begin early to teach them financial responsibility. For instance, when they are 13 they can begin to manage a checking account and pay for minor expenses like lunch money out of a weekly allowance. When they are 15 they can get themselves out of bed for school, do their own laundry, clean their own room, learn how to cook for themselves, and get a summer job to cover some of their own wants and needs.  When they’re 16 and can drive, an after-school or weekend job will help them pay for gas, auto insurance and other needs.

Let alone keeping idle hands busy and out of trouble, starting sooner to teach your teen how to work to make money will give them a greater feeling of independence and self-confidence and prepare them for the day in the future when they tell you they are starting out on their own.


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 39 years, has two kids, and 4 grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, 2 llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.  His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with over 2,500 teens, has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents.

You can find out more about Heartlight at www.HeartlightMinistries.org.  You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our Parenting Today’s Teens website at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org, It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Here you will also find a station near you where you can listen to the Parenting Today’s Teens radio broadcast, or download the podcast of the most recent programs.

Getting Teens to Grow Up

Teens Growing UpRemember Alice in Wonderland?  There’s one part of the story that finds a diminutive Alice trapped in a room where everything is bigger and taller than she is.  But there, at her feet, she finds a piece of cake labeled “Eat Me.”  After one bite from that questionable dessert, Alice grows exponentially, transforming into a full-fledged adult in the space of a few seconds.

I know many parents who would love to feed a bit of that kind of “maturity cake” to their own kids!  It seems that more and more teenagers in this generation are becoming stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence.  Instead of growing into healthy adults, a rising number of young people are prolonging their childhood.  In fact, the American Medical Association has recently increased the age of adolescence to 27.  That means we have a bunch of twenty-somethings running around behaving like kids!

No parent wants his or her child stuck.  Our desire is to see our kids develop into mature, responsible, and independent adults.  So how can we get young people to grow up?


Before we work to fix the problem, we first have to identify the cause.  Now, we could blame society for this generation of childish teens.  But here’s the honest truth—parents, the fault lies with us.  Young people will remain kids as long as we allow them to be kids.  When we entertain their every desire, cater to their every need, protect them from every threat, and fund their every activity, why would they ever feel the need to be mature or responsible?

Another cause for stunted growth could be related to how we communicate with our teens.  When we constantly criticize their behavior, we stop their decision-making processes and send a clear message that they can’t function on their own.  As they move through the process of maturity, remember to transition from lectures to discussions.  Parents; stop the constant correction of your kids!  I realize that sometimes they need it, but communication made up entirely of criticism can stunt a child’s growth.  If you want your child to grow into an adult, begin to treat him like one.  If your son or daughter makes a mistake and doesn’t always listen to your advice, that’s okay.  The consequences of bad decisions are often better than any correction you could give.


When your child shows no desire to hold a job, move out of the house, pursue goals, or further her life, it’s time to ask some tough questions.  Are you giving too much and expecting too little?  Are you nurturing a child’s inner adult or catering to an adult’s inner child?  Though on the outside it looks like a maturity problem with your child, a teen stuck as kid is really a family problem.  And it needs to be corrected!

Zookeepers know that you can turn a ferocious grizzly bear into a non-threatening stuffed animal by providing for their every need and limiting their freedom.  But don’t make that mistake with your teens.  Allow them opportunities to reach, grow, and mature, even if that means they make mistakes along the way.  We want our teens to survive in the jungle, not a controlled habitat at home.

Start by making a detailed plan of moving your child through maturity.  It could look something like this:

  • Age 13: Start washing his or her own clothes
  • Age 14: Pick up more chores around the house
  • Age 15: Get involved in helping others at church or in the community
  • Age 16: Get a summer job
  • Age 17: Be responsible for his or her own school career, including homework, tests, and activities
  • Age 18: Manage personal money, including clothes budget or gas

These are simply examples, but you can see that the goal is to slowly nudge your children to deeper levels of maturity and growth, and lovingly train them to stand on their own two feet.  Mom and Dad, start taking the emotional training wheels off your child’s bike early and often.  This doesn’t mean we can’t help him steer or balance the bike from time to time.  But we don’t allow our eighteen year-old to keep riding around on a tricycle!

No teen is past the age where you can teach maturity.  Maybe you have a 19-year-old living in your basement, playing video games and contributing nothing.  Now’s the time to take action and give him a big push in the right direction.  Announce that you’ll be charging rent next month.  However, maybe the first month you’ll cover half the payment, the second month you’ll cover a quarter, and by the third month you’ll expect a full rent payment.  The ramp-up will give him time to get on his feet.  Or make the decision that gas money, insurance, and clothing allowances are contingent on going to college or holding down a job.  Set the rules, then don’t give in!  Stick to your guns.  If you don’t do anything now, two years down the road, instead of a 19-year-old living in your basement, you’ll have a 21-year-old living there!  Make a decision to help your teen move forward right now, and put it at the top of the priority list.

Though the American Medical Association says that 27 is the new 18, we don’t want that to be the case for our kids.  It starts with us as parents.  Let’s take the initiative and begin offering our teens opportunities to nibble the cake that will help them grow up.  Stop the constant correction, take off the training wheels, and make a yearly maturity plan for your teen.  Use these tools to get your teen moving forward into adulthood.



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.

Teaching Your Teenager How to Handle Money

Teens and Money“Make all you can.  Save all you can.  Give all you can.” ~ John Wesley

In order to figure out the wisdom God really wants us to remember, a good rule of thumb is to pay attention to how many times that issue is mentioned in Scripture.  And when it comes to handling finances, there are 2,350 verses in the Bible on the topic!  Discussions about money and possessions comprised close to 15 percent of what Jesus taught.  Obviously, the proper handling of money is a big deal.

If dealing with money wisely is important to God, then it should be important to us, as well.  When I speak to parents, there are very few things I tell them that they need to do.  But teaching kids how to handle money is one of them.  In the face of a broken economy, an entitled generation, and fractured marriages as a result of financial troubles, teaching the next generation to make, save and give money is a crucial task we can’t afford to ignore.

So where do we start?  And what are the tools we can give our kids to help them handle their financial futures?  It starts with one of my favorite quotes from John Wesley:  “Make all you can.  Save all you can.  Give all you can.

Make All You Can

You can’t teach your teenagers how to handle money simply by giving it to them.  Now I know that as parents, we naturally want our kids to have good things.  And since a teenager can’t always buy certain things on a part-time job’s wages, we’re ready to step in and open up our wallets.  Or maybe our teens are so tightly scheduled with extra-curricular activities, getting a job and earning money is out of the question.  So we hand over cash for everything they need, thinking that we are helping their future.  But the truth is, we’re not.

Let’s be honest.  Most kids will not turn out be soccer stars or world-class ballerinas.  But they will always be dealing with money in one way or another.  The extra sports and classes on the weekends may be great for teens, but if those activities get in the way of teaching them how to make and handle money, we are doing them a huge disservice.  Worse yet, when parents buy everything, teenagers can develop an entitled attitude and a stunted understanding of money.

So start teaching your kids how to make money early.  There’s nothing wrong with giving your child an allowance every month.  But let that money be tied to work, whether it’s regular chores around the house or small projects outside the home.  If you child asks for help funding a birthday gift or a trip with friends, assign extra duties and responsibilities so they can earn it.

When teens get older, decrease their allowance and encourage them to find a job to supplement their income.  Let them pay for the car insurance, gas and maybe even clothes.  It might be hard to see your child go without once in a while, but on the other hand, you are giving your teen a sense of control and responsibility over their lives.  And that is worth far more than anything you can buy for them.

Save All You Can

There is no doubt it is important to teach teens how to make money.  But it’s equally important to instruct them on how to save money, as well.  And this lesson on financial responsibility only comes by first modeling it yourself.

Someone once said, “I inherited my financial ability from both my parents; my mother’s ability for spending money, and my father’s ability for not making it.”  As a parent, you know that kids will watch and pick up on your habits—good or bad.  So teach them how to handle money wisely by demonstrating those principles in your home.  It might be something as simple as having a coin jar on top of the refrigerator where you collect all your loose change at the end of the day.  You can also set up a family vacation fund where family members contribute money each month.  As it grows, announce the totals to show how close you are to that trip to Disneyland or the Grand Canyon.

It’s also a good idea to show your teenager how you budget each month.  I know some parents who wanted to show their kids how a household budget is conducted, so one month they took their paychecks, cashed them, and dumped all the money onto the kitchen table.  Their kids’ eyes got huge as they gazed at that small pile of wealth sitting right in front of them.  Then my friends started counting out money toward the different bills for the month.  They took out the mortgage payment, the car payment, school tuition, the electric bill, the water bill, the gas bill, insurance, church tithes.  The pile of cash on the table got smaller and smaller, and their kids could physically see how the family money was spent each month, and the amount of cash that was left over.  What a great illustration for a teen on the value of budgeting!  They were able to see where the family money went, and the importance of saving for a rainy day.

Give All You Can

Along with budgeting, show your kids how to give.  We can teach our sons and daughters how to make money and save money, but if they don’t learn to be generous, their character will suffer.  So start the process by letting them see you write a check and put it in the offering plate at church.  Ask their opinion on what charity or organization you are going to give to that month.  When teenagers have a hand in making decisions, not only will it teach the value of giving back, but it makes them care about that choice all the more.

If you give regularly, there is no reason your kids can’t do the same.  With pre-teens, tell them to set aside a fixed amount of money from their allowance each month to give to a charity of their choice (and it can’t be the “Buy-myself-a-new-iPod fund).  When teens get a job of their own, make it a requirement that they regularly contribute to a charity, whether it’s church, missions, children’s hunger fund, save the rainforests—any charity will do, just as long as they are learning how to be generous.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that handling money wisely is one of the most important principles we can teach our kids.  It’s something they will be dealing with their whole lives.  By giving our teens the tools they need to make money, save money, and give money, we are providing them with one of the very best resources for a successful and meaningful life.



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.