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What Do You Expect?

Do you ever wonder if you expect too much from your teen? Acting like you know what will help them, instead of truly learning how to best help them is like trying to become someone’s friend when it’s clear they have no interest. In that scenario, your cheerful invitations to get together with your friend are puzzling, because they refuse. Your phone calls to check-in or catch up with them are met with a cold shoulder. And any suggestions you make for having fun together are dismissed. You keep trying, and they keep refusing. In truth, they don’t want to be friends with you, for whatever reason.

The same can be true in your relationship with your troubled teen. You may be trying to connect with them in ways that simply make things worse, because you don’t know what you don’t know, and refuse to acknowledge that things in your relationship have changed.

Your denial about the truth of their problems is a big problem. Your unrealized expectations may be exactly what’s killing the relationship, or any possibility for one. In dealing with a troubled teen, parents do well to adjust their expectations in the face of their disappointments – not to support their wrong-doing, but to move forward in building the kind of relationship that will endure the troubled times.

Reframing your expectations for your teen should begin with you – ask yourself what you should and should not be handling on behalf of your troubled teen. For example, do you set yourself up for disappointment when trying to remind your child of an important work or school appointment, even though she has run away from home, been missing for two days, and you have to communicate the information by text because she won’t speak to you?

Ridiculous.

Does it bother you and make you more upset each time your child does not live up to your expectations in the areas of academics? So instead of letting him fail, you set the clock, wake him up, put his school bag into his hand, and drive him to school even though he’s skipped the last week of school and is failing in most of his classes?

Ridiculous.

Has your child lost your respect because she has an obvious problem with sexual purity, while your goal for her was to marry as a virgin and be monogamous, and in your way of thinking there is no way to regain a lost innocence? The truth affects your relationship so much, you act like nothing happened?

If this sounds like you, then it might be time to back off, and reconsider your expectations – for your child and for you.

When you expect someone to do something, and then that person doesn’t do it – it makes you disappointed, and even angry.

And when your child refuses to acknowledge their part in the failure, a parent’s anger can turn to bitterness. I’ve seen desperate parents set themselves up for repeated disappointments simply because they refuse to acknowledge the truth of a situation, and adjust their expectations accordingly.

The best help I can offer is to say that it’s really about acknowledging who is in control. Your teen is using his behavior to tell you – you are not in control anymore. And perhaps you are beginning to understand that this is true. Fortunately, God is in full control, and sees it all. So instead of fighting that losing battle, begin to decide what you can and cannot control in your relationship with your teen.

For example, you can’t force a child to believe what you believe, you can train them as best you can –but ultimately their choices are up to them. Just like God didn’t force Adam and Eve to choose differently, you cannot force your child to meet up with your expectations when they so clearly have no intention of doing so.

And at their point of failure, it is not your job to make things right for them. It is your job to adjust your expectations to meet with the real world consequences for how they choose to behave – and leave the decision to pursue a better path to them.

I’m not saying lower your standards. I am saying be more functional in your approach to your relationship to your teen. Don’t rescue them in their bad behavior; Don’t force their choices, or normalize their wrong-doing; Don’t tolerate manipulation, and above all – don’t act like you can rise above it on their behalf. You cannot.

All you can do is set the arena for which it becomes inviting for them to engage in the right ways. If you find yourself unable to stop rescuing, reminding, and reinventing the story to match up with your preferred version of history – then you have to ask yourself what it is about your own life that is affected by their refusal to comply? What is your motivation for having a certain expectation to begin with, and what is your motivation for refusing to acknowledge the truth of the problem you are dealing with?

As you look into your own heart, you may discover that being wrong about how you have parented, or missed something in your child’s heart is hard to embrace. Or, that being incorrect in your approach to their struggles is humbling, and admitting that you don’t know everything about your child takes supernatural strength. Rescuing when you should be holding to a higher standard of love causes you fear instead of telling the truth.

Whatever your motivation, ask God to help you get the expectations for your relationship with your teen in line with his expectations. He knows your heart, and he knows what needs to change. It’s a more humble approach to parenting, and one I believe works best for the long haul.

“People may think they are doing what is right, but the LORD examines the heart” (Proverbs 21:2 NLT).

 

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.


The Gift of Second Chances

“I choose joy… I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance… I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God”. –Max Lucado

We live in a world where change is constant, and it seems that things change these days at a more rapid pace than ever before. Some changes are for the better and some are for the worse. If teenagers can walk in this changing world and come through unscathed — we are grateful.  But some do not.

Some kids become victims to negative pressures in today’s culture; choosing a lifestyle of self-indulgence, willful disobedience, rebellion and self-destructive behaviors. It is sad to see that happening to otherwise great kids; and no one is saddened more than their parents.

I work with mothers and fathers who have cried over a wayward son or daughter. Words cannot describe the depth of pain and sorrow that comes to a parent’s heart broken by love. These parents experience a depth of feeling for their children that even the children do not understand.

One of the most difficult things parents face is the realization that although they have experienced life and gained wisdom from their own mistakes and failures, their own children will probably not benefit from them. They will not understand until they make the same mistakes and experience the consequences. And mistakes will be made.

In fact, one indisputable truth about human beings is that we have an infinite capacity to mess up. But even more infinite than our ability to sin is God’s desire to love and forgive us. For those of us who have accepted Christ as Savior, God forgives us every time we ask — again and again.

Remember this about your teenager; no matter what they have done, their life isn’t wrecked for good. The most loving, powerful Being in the universe wants to heal them, and He does have the power and creativity to do just that.

So, rather than dwelling on your mistakes, leave those cares to Christ, and celebrate their life instead.  That’s why I recommend that you pull out some old photos and recall the happier moments surrounding their birth and childhood. Let the photos bring to mind the joy of God’s gift of your child. His thumbprint was on their life when they were born, and it still is today.

May we all be grateful for Christ’s gift of second chances. He loves and watches out for our children more than we ever can; and what better gift is there than that?

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.


Your Son and Porn

Student Story: Kelly

In past generations, viewing pornographic images was considered shameful and taboo. But in today’s world, it’s widely accepted as a normal hobby for guys and girls of any age. This weekend on Parenting Today’s Teens, Mark Gregston coaches parents on how to talk to their kids about porn.

If you listen on a mobile phone or tablet, please download our Parenting Today’s Teens app available for Apple or Android. If you listen on a desktop or laptop computer, press the “play” button above to enjoy daily parenting advice.