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Teen Spin Control

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Are you dealing with a struggling teen in your home? Are emotions running high and hope running low? I’d like to offer you some advice to help you find peace in the midst of this struggle.

There is nothing worse than living with a struggling teen who is spinning out of control, and no worse feeling than the hopelessness parents experience in the process. It is difficult to know what to do and how to react when your teen daily reaches new lows in disobedience, dishonesty, and disrespect, and chooses every wrong thing.

Your teen is caught in “The Spin Cycle,” and he or she needs you to intervene.  The downward spiral can have tremendous destructive potential with lifelong consequences, or even bring a young life to a quick end.

It is frightening to think about the damage he or she may be doing to his or her future.  But that’s just what we parents do…we worry about our child when we see the warning signs (grades dropping, hanging around with the wrong crowd, drug use, depression, defiance, sexual promiscuity).  The unknown is always scary, but we cannot watch over our teenager every minute.  We also personalize our teen’s struggles as a direct reflection of who we are as people and how good we have been as parents.  This personalization often causes more pain and anger within us than the current situation should cause.

When teens spin out of control, they need a responsible adult to respond, not react.  In responding to a spiraling teen, you offer calmness, honesty, love, grace and support.  If you are instead reacting, you are emotional, angry, hurt, quick to judge, and often harsh.  These knee jerk, seemingly instinctive interactions are almost always counterproductive.

Reacting to your teen’s misbehavior or lack of respect is probably never going to give you the response you intended or wanted.  Responding correctly in the midst of chaos is difficult, but parents of teens must learn to stop their mouths, think about what is to be said or done, and only then speak or act – Stop, Think, Go.

Most people in times of crisis are in Go, Stop, Think mode, which will only bring more pain and chaos.

So, Where Do You Begin?

You can start with a simple truth and consequences message, “Honey, we’re not going to live like this anymore.” or, “I will no longer stand by and watch you destroy yourself. We’re going to address what’s going on, get some help, and get through this together.”  Make the message clear, “The negative behavior we’re seeing will no longer be allowed or tolerated in our home.”

Don’t expect your teen to like the new rules, nor the related consequences.  And they probably won’t appreciate your attempts to deal with their bad behavior.  Their first response will most likely be anger or resentment.  Be prepared for their behavior to get worse – more screaming, more name calling, etc.  They are upping the ante; forcing you to back down.  They want to see if you are really serious about these new rules.

The time your child may spend hating you is short, and compared to the entirety of a life, it’s just a blip on their radar.  Secretly, he or she may feel relieved and thankful you cared enough to intervene, giving them a good excuse to say “No” to their peers when asked to participate in the wrong things.

Usually, a teen figures out that life will be much easier if they change their behavior so they can work things out with their parents, but not always right away.  And sometimes they simply don’t figure this out at all, or this behavior is too entrenched to handle it all on your own.  You may need the help of a counselor, or may even need to place your teen in a program like Heartlight for a time.

Then What?

Once you start down the path of responsible parenting, don’t stop, and don’t be pulled down to their level with childish fighting.  Stay calm and focused on what you want for them and deal with the heart of the issue.  There will be days when you mess up and yell back.  After you calm down again, go to your teen and apologize for yelling.  Don’t turn it into a lecture or blame her for you losing your cool.

There’s never a good time in our busy lives to be faced with a crisis like dealing with a teenager caught in the spin cycle.  It can be very difficult, but keep in mind that more parents of teens are going through the same thing with their own teenager.  Seek them out and find a place where you can share your feelings and gain strength and support from each other.

Most parents describe the struggle with a troubled teenager as a “roller-coaster” or a “powder keg,” and for many it can either be a time of the family banding together, or it can tear them apart.  With what is at stake, the most important thing you can do for your teenager is to keep your relationship strong and prevent the struggle from becoming the focus of your life.  You’ll have those “valley” days.  Walk through the valley, and keep on walking, for as long as it takes.

Do not stop to build monuments to your grief, anger, or fear.  One thing that can help at the low times is to pull out old pictures and videos to remember the good old days when your teen didn’t treat you like dirt.  It will give you better perspective and strength to keep fighting for what’s right for your teenager even though it may be a totally one-sided and unappreciated fight for his future.  Celebrate the good days.  They’ll likely be few and far between for a time, but that’s okay.  Let them prop you up.  Enjoy each victory.  Laugh with your teen.  Reflect on the good, and hope for a future filled with more days like it.

Do not worry about anything, instead, pray about everything.

Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which

is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.

-Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

Be sure to give the reins to God, and He will give you peace, strength, and the right perspective to deal with your teenager. Look at what may need changing in your own life.  And finally, no matter how they’ve hurt you, and no matter what they’ve done, love your teen unconditionally, as God loves us.


Parenting Lifeline: New Hope for YOUR Family!

You visit this blog because you’re concerned about your teen or preteen. You’re looking for help to keep them on track . . . or get them back on track.

It’s because of caring, involved parents like you that we’re planning a brand-new resource, the Parenting Lifeline audio series.

I envision the Parenting Lifeline series containing a DVD and multiple CDs. That way, you can learn at your own pace and refer back to any part as often as you need. It will be something you can listen to in the car or anywhere else that’s convenient for you—filled with the proven, practical, biblically grounded answers that have already changed so many lives as well as the encouragement you need to apply them to your own family.

But before plans like the Parenting Lifeline series can become a reality, we need to end this fiscal year “in the black.” To do that, we need to raise $70,000 by midnight on August 31.

Help Make It a Reality!

We’ve built some great momentum over the past year. Parenting Today’s Teens was awarded the National Religious Broadcasters Program of the Year, and thanks to an amazing outpouring of support during our Hope for Moms campaign, we were able to provide many scholarships for single moms to our Families in Crisis Conferences and even create a special retreat just for them.

The Parenting Lifeline series is just one plan in the works to keep that momentum going. I believe we could have it produced, packaged, and ready to go by Christmas or the first of the new year, if the Lord provides the resources. And if you ask me, that won’t be a moment too soon for thousands of families.

Will you help Heartlight reach out to countless families—including yours—by giving a gift now to help end the fiscal year strong? Together, we can make Heartlight Ministries the place where millions of parents turn when their teens turn away from them. Thank you for caring!


The Teen Spin Cycle

There is nothing worse than living with a teen spinning out of control, and no worse feeling than the hopelessness parents experience in the process. It is difficult to know what to do and how to react when your teen daily reaches new lows in disobedience, dishonesty, and disrespect, and chooses every wrong thing.

Your teen is caught in what I call, “The Spin Cycle,” and he or she needs you to intervene. The downward spiral can have tremendous destructive potential with lifelong consequences, or even bring a young life to a quick end. When teens spin out of control, they need a responsible adult to respond, even if they do everything they can to keep you out of it. In fact, you must! You cannot ignore or overlook inappropriate behavior, or simply do nothing.

If you’re caught in that cycle with your teen, then my advice is to act now.  Don’t wait and don’t ignore the evidence that your teen is spinning out of control.  Act today based on what you know is true – your faith, your own beliefs, and what you know is best for your child. And, by the way, I’d like to help you as well!

So, Where Do You Begin?

You can start with a simple truth and consequences message, “Honey, we’re not going to live like this anymore.” Or, ” I will no longer stand by and watch you destroy yourself, we’re going to address what’s going on, get some help, and get through this together.” Make the message clear, “The negative behavior we’re seeing will no longer be allowed or tolerated in our home, and if it doesn’t stop, you will not be able to live here.”

The point is not to kick them out so you don’t have to worry about them anymore (neither can you if they are underage), but you can use the threat of losing the comfort of your home as a tool to get them thinking about the consequences of continued inappropriate behavior.  There are many programs and schools designed to deal with struggling teens and keep them safe, like our Heartlight residential program in Texas. If you need help with finding such a program, simply give me a call and I’ll help you find the right program. Fact is, just having boarding school, boot camp, military school or wilderness therapy program materials on the counter for your teen to see may be enough to get them to sit up and take notice that you are serious about making a change.

Don’t expect your teen to like the fact that you are calling a halt to their inappropriate behavior. They probably won’t appreciate your attempts to deal with their bad behavior. Their first response will most likely be anger or resentment. But the time your child may spend hating you is short, and compared to the entirety of a life, it’s just a blip on their radar. Secretly, he or she may feel relieved and thankful you cared enough to intervene, giving them a good excuse to say “No” to their peers when asked to participate in the wrong things.

Usually, a teen figures out that life will be much easier if they change their behavior so they can stay at home and work things out with their parents, but not always and not always right away.

Then What?

Once you start down the path of responsible parenting, don’t stop, and don’t be pulled down to their level with childish fighting. Stay calm and focused on what you want for them and deal with the heart of the issue. Give them permission to struggle with things knowing that your love for them will never change. But set the limits and boundaries you know he or she needs, and above all be firm.

Don’t

Don’t – Act out of anger – remember Ephesians 4:26 – “be angry, but do not sin.”

Don’t – Get physical – if tempers flare and voices are raised, take a break, keep it cool.

Don’t – Ignore what is happening in hopes it will just go away, it won’t.

Don’t – Build monuments to your grief, or park yourself in the valley.

Don’t – Give in when you know you should stand your ground.

Do

Do – Put your hope in your faith and act on the truth.

Do – Understand that God is teaching both you and your teen during this time.

Do – Seek help from qualified professionals and connect with support outside your family.

Do – Handle yourself in a manner that keeps your relationship with your teen alive, as it may determine the kind of relationship you’ll have 10 years from now.

Do – Change your own bad habits when it’s obviously your fault.

There’s never a good time in our busy lives to be faced with a crisis like dealing with a teenager caught in the spin cycle. It can be very difficult, but keep in mind that more parents of teens are going through the same thing with their own teenager.  Seek them out and find a place where you can share your feelings and gain strength and support from each other.  The struggle may seem endless, and you may feel hopeless at times, but the time to act is now, and it may very well save your teen’s life.  Doing nothing is not an option for a caring parent.

 

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 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, or you can 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.  The Parenting Today’s Teens radio program was recently awarded the 2014 Program of the Year by the National Religious Broadcasters.