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The Cost of Running from Conflict

Student Story: Ethan

Nobody likes confrontation. Could the wall of silence you encounter with your teens just be their way of avoiding conflict? This weekend on Parenting Today’s Teens, Mark Gregston introduces a positive routine to help your teen address hidden conflicts, diminishing build-up, and open the way to understanding and hope.

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Maybe It’s Time to Shut-Up

There is nothing so demeaning as assuming your child can’t think for himself. There is nothing so disrespectful as throwing your child’s mistakes back in his face and condemning him. Keep in mind that I am referring to teenagers here, not your 2-year-old.

So, here is my advice… until you have a better understanding of how to handle it – JUST SHUT UP!  I say that with a smile on my face but with the intent of getting across a message that is rolling around in your teen’s head when the discussion stops and the lecture begins.

Growing up, I was told I was never to say, “Shut Up” all the while hearing that I needed to “shut your pie hole” and “put a sock in it.”  I understand this method of asking someone to “tone it down” may be a little brash, but I don’t want anyone to mistake the intent of the message.  Sometimes its very difficult for parents to learn to “nip it” and “stop!”, but all so necessary if you want to maintain a great relationship with your teen who is now in more need of someone who will listen, than someone just to throw more information his or her way.

“Even a fool when he keeps silent is considered wise.” Proverbs 17:28

If you invited your teenager to come hear your lecture about his life’s mistakes, how do you think he would respond?  Do you think he’d show up?  If he did show up, would he feel great about it when you’re finished?

“Sure Mom, I’d love to hear you drone on and on… I like being lectured, warned, and criticized about absolutely everything.”

OF COURSE NOT!

Yet, that is exactly what your child may be feeling about the way you communicate with him or her.

So, I encourage you to take the “Shut-up Challenge”…

I’m not trying to be rude in saying “shut up” (it is a no-no in some households) but I am dead-serious. Just shut up for 24 hours and see if it makes a difference in your home! In case I haven’t made myself clear enough, that means, be quiet, stay silent, zip it, don’t speak.

Try it for a day, and watch what happens. When your teenager drops a “jewel” on you and says something you feel needs “correcting,” just be quiet. Don’t flip out, argue, or try make it right. Just let it go. Stop lecturing, start listening.

You may be surprised to find that:

  1. You can’t do it! You just can’t keep quiet. You are not a good listener, and that listening to your child is an area you need to grow in.
  2. Your child has a mind of his own, and is fully able to use it without constantly pointing him in the direction you think he needs to go.
  3. Your child wants to talk to you more when you don’t verbally beat him down every opportunity you get.
  4. Your child has ideas of his own that are different from yours, perhaps he doesn’t want what you want, and you need to change your mind about some things.
  5. Your child may learn the important lessons in one teachable moment, and you don’t need all that other verbal garbage to make your point.

“But Mark,” you say, “I can’t teach my child what he needs to know by being quiet!”

Yes you can – you can, and most of the time you should, because most of the time, your teen isn’t saying anything earth-shattering or profound… he is just processing what’s happening in his world.  Not every teachable moment needs to be one.  Because of the way that kids receive information today, and by the mere numbers of sources of their information, they are told when they’re wrong, how they’re wrong, why they’re wrong, how they can do it better, and ways to get from getting it wrong in the future. So when they come home and are corrected, told how to do something better, or encouraged to do something different, they shut Mom and Dad down.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t correct your child.  I am asking that you become aware of what too much correction does to you child.  It pushes him away.  It causes your daughter to “shut down”.  So be wise and quick to listen, and slow to speak.

For those times you need to address an “issue” I recommend trying a different approach. Instead of making your point, try asking a question. Not a rhetorical question either – that’s just back-alley lecturing. Asking the right question may help him arrive at the right answer in a way that engages his thinking process and system of beliefs. You may be surprised to find he comes to the right conclusion all on his own.

For example:

I never thought of it that way, what makes you think so?

What do you think will happen if…?

Success in the “Shut-up Challenge” means you create a space in your relationship with your child by taking a verbal step backwards. This will allow your child to move toward you. Give your child room to ask some questions of his own and come to his own conclusions.

Instead of always pushing to lead the discussion, or to turn it into a one-way lecture, you might just be invited by your teen to participate in the best two-way discussion you’ve ever had.

Try it out.  I’d love to hear how your teen responds.

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.

 


Fired By Your Teenager

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” –Jeremiah 29:11-13

“You’re fired!” are two words we never expect to hear. That kind of feedback conveys a message to the ears of the one receiving it that says; “You’re no longer worthy. You’re a failure. We don’t need you anymore. You didn’t do well. You didn’t make “the mark.” You are a loser. You are wrong. You can’t do anything right. We’re better off without you.”

The impact of those two little words can be overwhelming: “Your dreams are gone. Things won’t turn out the way you thought after all. How could I have been so stupid? What a waste of time this was… what’s wrong with me? I must not be good. I must be a failure.” Being fired from a job can pull the rug from underneath you, making you feel lost, alone, betrayed, and even, helpless to know what to do.

Oddly enough, these are exactly the same feelings parents tell me they experience when dealing with their struggling teen. The feelings of being fired are much like those of a parent coming to the realization that what they thought parenting was going to be, and what it has become are actually two distant realities. And when their parenting skills aren’t working or the outcome isn’t what they expected, the same messages of being fired, and the feelings of losing their heart’s desire are devastating.

In 1988, Jan and I were living in Branson, Missouri, where I worked for a ministry I loved. The people, the outreach, and the setting were just great. I thought I was doing really well, and that all my efforts were producing worthwhile results. I thought that my relationships were fine. Then “out of nowhere” twenty-one years ago today, came those two words – and they changed my life…”You’re Fired!”

The first people to console me were dear friends from Kanakuk Camps, Joe and Debbie White. When they visited, neither said much, but I do remember when Joe said, “Mark, this is going to be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you.” I thought at the time that he was crazy, and that he had misunderstood what had just happened to me, or that he was trying to be overly optimistic. Later, his words echoed in me as I fought my hurt and disappointment. Truthfully, I wondered if God had abandoned us.

As the sting of being fired grew less painful, words from Proverbs 19 captured my attention: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” And, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

A light began to dawn in me – God’s plans were not my plans. His plans weren’t what I expected, but one day I would be able to thank him for all he had done to accomplish his purposes in my life, just as my friend Joe has predicted. I still wasn’t having the “great time” Joe had forecast for my life, but I began to understand that being fired was part of God’s plan. The loss had already begun to move me to a better place personally, and spiritually. I learned to ask better questions, listen to the answers, and move in the directions God showed me.

Ultimately, had I not been fired, Heartlight would not exist today. When I was fired, we relocated from Missouri to Texas where we purchased some land and opened our doors to struggling teens and their families. What I first saw as devastation and trouble, God used for good, not just in my life, but in the lives of thousands of others. Today, I look at my life, my work, and my happiness about fulfilling God’s purposes and I get excited. I never imagined that one day I would have opportunities to help others like I have these days. Never! It all started from that point in time when I felt hopeless, lost, and without any direction.

For parents struggling through issues with their teens, the feelings of being fired by your teen are similar to those I experienced when I was fired. It is a devastating loss. Like me, you may wonder if God has left you to deal with these problems all on your own. Let me encourage you, you may not know it, feel it, understand it, or welcome it, but I can assure you that the struggle with your teen is part of God’s plan, and it may even turn out to be the best thing that has ever happened in your life.

Hard to believe isn’t it? God is in control, and one day you will thank both Him and your child for the struggle. So let me forecast God’s great promises over your life – He promises to use everything you experience for your good, your teen’s good, and good in the lives of others – it may not happen the way you planned it, but it may, indeed, be part of God’s plans for your hope and your future.

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.