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When Teens Shatter Your Dreams

In a recent discussion with Dr. Crabb, he shared the struggle he experienced with one of his own teens, and what he learned from going through that. Here are some of his key points and worthy of note.

Their Struggle Our Struggle

Dr. Crabb reminds us that sometimes God uses our own children to speak to us concerning something we need to change in our own life, or even to reveal that we have valued our child more than our relationship with our Maker.

Lesser Things and the Greater Good

In the midst of the struggle and heartache, never forget that nothing can separate us from God’s love and care. Stop “settling” for lesser things in life, and seek the greater good that God wants for us. If we could really see what God is up to, we’d be singing during those times of pain and tears, instead of just focusing on our own pain.

Suffering and Glory

God promises glory on the other side of this struggle if we will commit our way (and our teenager) to Him. We need to abandon our teenager to God’s care and allow Him to take some of the parenting load off our own shoulders.

Spiritual Companionship Will Help Us Survive

We should make known the struggle that is going on with our teen to a trusted companion. It is important to seek out a pastor, an elder, or a friend who is willing to come alongside us and literally pick us up off the floor, encourage us, and listen to how we hurt when our hearts have been broken by our teenager.

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.


Undoing Parenting Mistakes

Don’t you wish there was a great big “Undo” button in life; where you could completely erase your parenting mistakes? I bet some parents would give anything for such a button.

Unfortunately, there is no such “undo” button.  But perhaps the best way to avoid the need for one is to avoid the kind of mistakes parents sometimes make.  To learn what those could be, you might sit down with a few veteran parents to ask them what they would have done differently if they could turn back time; in other words, what they would have “undone” if they could have.  And that’s exactly what I did recently through our Facebook page.  Hindsight is always 20-20, and if the regrets expressed by these parenting veterans are taken to heart by current and upcoming parents, it may help the “rookies” avoid some of the same heartaches.

IF PARENTS COULD DO IT OVER AGAIN… They’d be more consistent, worry less, seek to spend more time together, and interact more lovingly.

I have to admit, I was surprised by the direction of the answers. I was half expecting people to feed back to me some of my recent parenting tips, like: “I should have gotten my teenager a part-time job and a checkbook to manage earlier,” or, “I shouldn’t have allowed her to date so young.”  But those who responded seemed to be thinking a few levels deeper, which tells me that they put some heavy thought into their brief responses. I’ve grouped them into three main areas of concern: “worrying less, “being more consistent,” and “spending more time together.” These definitely came to the forefront.

Here are some of their “If I could do it over again, here’s what I would change” responses…

MORE CONSISTENCY…

I’d be consistent and make my “no’s” count.

I’d learn how to be consistent!

I’d be more consistent.

I’d  have been more consistent and disciplined about chores and physical activity.

I would have been more CONSISTENT.  Not being consistent causes problems every time.

I’d have created home rules and backed them up. We did too much discipline “on the fly” which made us very inconsistent.

I’d be more consistent.

I would make sure my husband and I were on the same page in parenting BEFORE we had problems that needed addressed!! That is most important — to be consistent — and not being so has caused many heartaches.

WORRY LESS…

I’d not worry so much about what I may be doing wrong. I have found that you can do everything “right” and still make mistakes. I’d just relax and enjoy parenting and enjoy my kids — they are fantastic!

I would not have been so protective of my oldest son during high school. He never gave me reason to not let go. I was just so worried about him getting hurt that I said “no” to way too much. Now he’s in college and we rarely see him because he is finally “free.”

I would not worry so much.

I’d not worry about the little stuff!

I would tell myself not to worry so much.

I’d worry less about being normal…what’s normal anyways !?!?!

I’d worry less… someone once told me that if I was worrying more about their schooling, future, etc . , than they were, I was worrying too much. Come to find out they were right!

I’d relax. Surrender. Trust. Enjoy…

SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER…

We’d have more family time!

I have a 17-year-old daughter and I did not spend enough one on one time talking or spending time together. There is a distance between us that I hope not to make the same mistake with my younger daughters.

We would have more family time and one-on-one.

I would’ve turned off the TV more and pursued mutual interests with my kids.

I’d spend more time with the kids, work away from home less often.

I’d play with my child more when she was little, like play dolls, pretend, tag, hide and seek and catch more fireflies.

I would have gotten used to less television and electronics (and other distractions) and more games together inside and outside.

We’d have more dinners together. No matter if we talk… we are together.

I’d not work as much and be home with family more.

The thing that strikes me about all three of these categories is that they have more to do with the parents’ attitudes and attempts at relationship than the actions of their kids.  In fact, they have little to do with the teenager and mostly to do with how the parent responded or didn’t respond.  But as you read between the lines, the remorse felt by these parents is likely brought on by the resulting damage to the relationship they have with their children, which perhaps continues to be strained today.

The other main category of response has to do with parent-child interaction; and again, it has more to do with the parent’s interaction than the teenager’s. Here is what they said…

INTERACT MORE LOVINGLY AND RESPECTFULLY…

I’d listen more and lecture less. I’d not force everything down their throat and expect them to obey as it does not work that way anymore… they will REBEL and that causes all the heartaches!

I’d apologize more.

I’d not yell as much.

I would have stopped yelling and given them more respect.

I wouldn’t argue with my husband in front of my children. I would allow my kids express themselves more, and not suppress their feelings.

I’d listen more, lecture less and ask their opinion on issues more. Stay engaged when the going was tough.

I wouldn’t argue with them, even though they seem to thrive on arguing.

I’d teach the entire family how to have loving healthy communication.

I’d love unconditionally.

I’d give more hugs and kisses (even when they become a teen). Sometimes we parents feel that “uncomfortable” feeling because they are getting older… that is when they need it the most.

These parents came to the conclusion that their own actions may have contributed to how they interact with their adult children today, or how their children continue to cope with life today.  If they had access to an “Undo Life” button, they’d surely make some changes.  So, take care in your own parenting.  The teen years — though they may seem arduous and never-ending with some kids — are actually short-lived.  Then you have the rest of your lives together.  The wise advice from these parents?  Be consistent… spend time with them… interact more lovingly… and worry less.

 

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.


Creating a Thankful Home

When was the last time you heard, “Hey, thanks Mom for helping me with this school project. That meant a lot!” Or, “Thanks so much for dinner, Dad. It was delicious!” We’re not parenting for the kudos, but wouldn’t it be nice to hear “thanks” once in a while?

It’s not impossible to train our kids to be grateful. But it does mean pushing back on an entitled generation. Many teenagers today are growing up with the belief that the world owes them everything–from college to cars to jobs and a comfortable, trouble-free lifestyle. No wonder our kids aren’t developing a sense of gratitude! As parents, we know that few things are handed to us on silver platters. We can’t allow our children to grow up believing that they automatically deserve all the good things of life. But above and beyond a sense of entitlement, we know that grateful people are happy people. We want our kids to appreciate all the blessings of life and find contentment with what they have, and not complain about what they don’t have. For the health and maturity of our kids, we need to create a thankful home.

Be a Model

When I advocate for an attitude of gratitude in the home, I don’t exclude myself from the conversation. As parents, thankfulness is a characteristic that we, too, can grow in. So instead of demanding gratitude from my family, I first work towards modeling it. Let’s face it; parenting can be a thankless job. No one is running up to give you a pat on the back every day. But if you can show a thankful heart, your kids will recognize it and eventually pick it up as well.

Instead, of complaining about your job, let your family know how grateful you are to be working. After dinner, thank your spouse for their work in the kitchen. When your teen does a nice job washing the car, sincerely thank them for their hard work. When family comes over, be intentional about appreciating aunts and uncles, rather than talking about the ways family annoys you. When out in public, demonstrate appreciation and gratitude for your restaurant server, grocery store clerk, and others. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to genuinely model gratitude.

Be Sacrificial

If we’re serious about creating a thankful home, we may have to make some sacrifices along the way. It may start with cutting down on watching TV all the time. Have you noticed that a lot of stuff on television is designed to tell you what you don’t have and why you should go out and buy it? Good marketing is built on dissatisfaction. From vacuum cleaners to fast food burgers, television wants to tell us about all the things we’re missing out on. So building a sense of gratitude in your home may require sacrificing time around the tube, and doing something else with the family. It also may mean scaling back on social media use. A recent study found that social media is making us unhappy. Researchers saw that people who use Facebook frequently are less happy and their overall satisfaction with life declined consistently over time. They also discovered heavy social media use makes us more envious. The more time people spent browsing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other sites, the more envious they felt. Researchers said it’s the result of social comparison. Learning about the achievements and possessions of others makes us discontent with ourselves.

Are you constantly hopping online or turning on the TV to kill time? Well, gratitude is not likely to happen if we never pause to think—if we never pull the plug. It takes discipline to take a break from technology and to help our teens to do the same. But the more we limit the things that make us jealous, envious or unhappy with our lives, the more thankfulness has a chance to grow in our home.

Be Creative

Expressing our thanks can happen in a lot of different ways. We can swap stories with our kids about times we were grateful for something or someone in our lives. We can ask our teens, “Do you think I’m thankful for you?” and let that spark a bigger conversation. Sometimes on cold nights out here in Texas, I’ll go out and cut the power to the house, and the grandkids and I will grab candles, make a fire, build a fort, play games, cook some food, and talk about how great it is to have electricity. I tell you that those times with my grandkids have been some of the best moments I’ve had with them. Makes me wish I cut the power to the house more when my own kids were growing up!

You could take your teen on a trip and let them see how people in other countries live. Seeing first hand the impoverished places of the world will definitely grow a sense of thankfulness in your child for what they have in life. There are a million creative ways to get a child to feel gratitude. You don’t have to make them write “thank you” cards or say five things they are thankful for, but start exploring different ways to grow a heart of gratitude in your child. You may hit on a great family tradition of your own!

Be Consistent

If the only time we stop to say “thanks” is around the table at Thanksgiving, then our teens will never make gratitude a habit. As parents, we have to be intentional and consistent about thankfulness in our home. It’s time to realize that our privileged kids may be creations of our own making. I know with my own children, I crossed that dangerous line many times and gave them things that I shouldn’t. I thought I was loving them, but those extravagant gifts only reinforced their perception that I was obligated to fulfill every one of their desires. While I saw these good things as gifts, they saw them as rights. This might sound harsh, but as parents, you do not owe your children anything! I have a principle I’ve shared with many other kids and their parents. I will often tell kids, “I want to give you everything, but I owe you nothing.

Of course, if we love our children, we will meet their needs of housing, clothes, food and basic necessities. But you are not obligated to buy your teen a car, fund their college, or pay their phone bills. By providing for every one of their needs and wants, we are actually robbing our kids of gratitude and the ability to take care of themselves. Plus, why would a child ever leave the nest if every craving and desire has been met? A bald eagle will intentionally make her nest more and more uncomfortable as time goes by, to encourage her baby birds to fly the coop. With our teens, we should be making their responsibilities a little tougher every year to foster independence and a sense of thankfulness for what they have and what they’ve accomplished.

Our society doesn’t owe us a career, a home, a car, or a family. These are things that we have to work for and earn. That’s why developing a sense of gratitude starts with instilling a good work ethic in our teens. Don’t shy away from assigning chores and responsibilities for your kids. At the Heartlight campus I even make up work for my kids to accomplish. Whether it’s raking pine needles, walking the horses, or cleaning up the rooms, I want to give our students the gift of work. Using their hands and minds to achieve routine tasks provides them with a feeling of responsibility, independence, and community. They get a feeling of contributing to the group and accomplishing something for themselves. And when I pay them for the chores they do, it reinforces the idea that work equals reward.

Mom and Dad, don’t feel that giving your teen work will hurt them or make you a bad parent. It’s really the best gift you can give your kids, and one day, they will be grateful for it. By modeling thankfulness, sacrificing those things that steal gratitude away, being creative with how we show appreciation, and refraining from meeting every one of their needs, you can make sure that your a teen has a long list of reasons to be thankful.

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.   Here you can download the Parenting Today’s Teens App, a great way to listen on your schedule.