fbpx

Raising Teens Is No Picnic

Written by Mark Gregston with Guest Bruce Sallan. 

“This article was written by a fellow named Bruce Sallan after he attended one of the seminars that I spoke at while in California a while back. Thought you would like to read his reflections on the seminar.

Here it is:

My wife dragged me to her church for an all-day seminar called “Turbulence Ahead–Parenting Teens Through the Bumpy Years.” I went along, in support of her and in support of her recent “turbulence” with our oldest son, who is 16½ and a handful. But, my initial reaction was that this was a long time to spend on a subject that I know pretty well.

At the seminar, it was quickly evident that my knowledge on the subject could certainly use a refresher, if not a full-on course. Within minutes, I grabbed the pen that we were given and I began taking notes. I ran out of space and in no time, I filled up the supplied notes sections of the program brochure.

The seminar was led and created by Mark Gregston, who is the host of “Parenting Today’s Teens,” a daily and weekend radio program heard nationally. He is the founder of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for adolescents in crisis and the author of several books. His credentials could fill this column, plus he’s an engaging speaker with a good sense of humor and self-deprecation vs. arrogance that some so-called experts display. As I see myself as a “layman expert,” I was appreciative of this approach and found the seminar enlightening.

At first, I just jotted down some of his powerful and smart quotations such as:

“The investment you make in your kids today pays off with your grandchildren tomorrow.”

“The AMA has increased the age of adolescence (from 19) to 23.”

“Our response to situations changes with our understanding of them (re: teens)”

“I think God may have once said: it was so much easier when there were just three billion down there.”

And, one of my favorites which is totally in keeping with one of my own favorite columns, “Best Friend or Best Parent” (http://bit.ly/bestparent) was:

“They (teens) don’t need a peer-ant; they need a parent.”

After the seminar, I went up to Mark and asked permission to do a column inspired by the day’s learning. He graciously said, “Yes” with no conditions. I’ve subsequently gotten his blessing.

This was one of those situations where my wife and I were either constantly jabbing each other with one of those “SEE” jabs or giving each other glaring looks that said, “That’s you!” I had the great opportunity, inadvertently set up by Mark, to make a funny comment about my wife’s Canadian citizenship to which she whacked me on the head with the brochure, to the delight and laughter of everyone.

But, this was not a light event. The subjects and the stakes are real and difficult. It will be impossible to detail all that we learned, but I will attempt to sum up the salient points that get parents off-track with raising their teens, in spite of our best intentions. Below are some of the suggestions imparted to us (my comments are in the parentheses):

We get sidetracked by things that are unimportant (example – worrying too much about the music our kids listen to, which Mark feels is totally unimportant and makes no difference in the long run).

Our goal as parents is not to control our teens but to give them control (what a great notion and how valuable it would be if we gave them control vs. coddled and spoiled them!).

When our teens mess up, we tend to approach it in a very negative manner when, instead, it should be of the “I’m here to help” vein wherein we might have a chance to be heard by them.

Conflict is a precursor to change (this was one in which I got whacked by my wife but his point is true. We often don’t want to confront our teens; we just hope the problem is really no big deal or will just go away. That’s wrong!).

Understand that your (parents) best thinking has got you in the situation you find yourself in (so he was suggesting we have to radically alter our thinking and behavior if we want substantive change with our teens).

Be intentional about your parenting: give them control of their lives, require responsibility from them, establish rules and consequences, and convey a message that you owe them nothing but want to give them everything.

Give them a message of hope: “There is nothing you can do to make me love you more; there is nothing you can do to make me love you less” (I might quibble with this one since I do think that there are some things that could affect a parent’s love).

As you can see from the above, and as I emphasize, these bullet points are just the tip of the iceberg of the wisdom shared by Mark Gregston. If you’re struggling with your teens, consider utilizing some of his many resources. No, Mark hasn’t paid me nor am I looking for a job with him. In fact, his only income comes just from his residential program for troubled adolescents. All of his other efforts are donated, from his writings and seminars to his radio show. He’s in it for the good he’s doing. And, I did secure his permission to write this column and his approval of it. You can find Mark and his various resources with any Google search, but start here: www.parentingtodaysteens.org.”

Bruce captured the essence of the seminar very well. Thanks, Bruce!

 

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.

 


Insightful Student Stories of 2015

Student Story: Various

There are thousands of books and articles written about raising kids. But sometimes, the most insightful advice comes straight from kids themselves! On this weekend’s edition of Parenting Today’s Teens, Mark Gregston invites us to rediscover several of his most memorable conversations with Heartlight students from the past year.

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


The Wrong Crowd

In school, kids are always trying to fit in with the crowd. Everyone goes through that and feels peer pressure from that. I know I did when I was growing up. I definitely wanted to hang out with the cool kids and tried to be something I’m not.”  ~Joe Jonas

There is a group of kids that parents fear most.  Moms and dads spend a great deal of time and energy cautioning their kids against this motley band of miscreants.  It’s most commonly referred to as “the wrong crowd.”  The group is usually made up of the kids who smoke the things they shouldn’t, boast about sexual conquests, bully others, or get involved in other harmful or destructive behaviors.  These are the kids that you warn your children to avoid at all costs.

Now, I don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news, but the truth is this “wrong crowd” is inescapable.  I have listened to parents who believe that taking their kids out of public school, or moving to the country, or limiting social interaction will protect their family from the dangers of bad influences.  But that’s just not the case.  Christian schools have the “wrong crowd” as well.  So do rural areas.  The fact is, there will always be peers and friends who steer your children down the wrong path.

Since stopping all interaction with all negative influences is impossible, perhaps it’s time to change our strategy.  As parents, how can we make sure our kids don’t assimilate into the wrong crowd?  Or how can we help our teen who maybe is the wrong crowd?

Turn the Tables

I’ve spent 40 years hanging out with the wrong crowd.  Every one of the twenty-eight hundred kids who have stepped through the doors of the Heartlight campus are what most people consider the “bad kids.”  But frankly, while I have dealt with teens who have battled serious issues, I have yet to meet a bad kid.  There is no such thing as a teenager who is beyond hope.  Even those kids who make up the wrong crowd can turn their lives around with the right motivation.  In fact, the teens that lead the pack are often highly charismatic, intelligent, and have great leadership skills.  Unfortunately, these amazing gifts are misapplied, which leads to the “wrong crowd” mentality and destructive behaviors.  Yes, troubled teens can unduly influence others, but that influence can be turned around and redeemed.

Instead of looking at the teen across the street as a perpetual troublemaker worth avoiding, view that troubled kid as a mission field.  Perhaps the reason God placed you in that specific neighborhood is so that you could be an influence on that particular young man or woman.  Or maybe that sketchy friend your son or daughter is hanging around with needs you to be a voice of reason and righteousness in their lives.  Jesus told us that if we see one lamb has gone missing, we’re to leave the others in the pen and go after the lamb that was lost (Luke 15:1-3).  God is passionately involved in going after the “lost,” and so should we.  Instead of fearing and avoiding those “dangerous” kids, let’s take the opportunity to reach out to the kids who may need our help.  You can flip the tables, so to speak, and begin to influence them.  If your teen has friends who are part of the “wrong crowd” who are lost and looking for direction, it’s a great chance to give them the direction they are looking for.

Lead, Don’t Follow

We can also help our kids avoid the traps of falling in with the wrong crowd by teaching them to lead, and not follow.  What teenagers crave more than anything is a sense of acceptance.  They want to feel validated and appreciated.  And when they find that in a particular group, they tend to stay in that group.  Unfortunately, there may be a price to be paid for joining certain cliques or crowds.  As my friend Paul Coughlin says, “cruelty is currency” in today’s youth culture.  Many of the groups roaming the halls at school or hanging out at the local skate park operate on the basis of bullying.  It’s a form of power that allows them to buy popularity.

Teaching our kids to stand out from the pack and stand up for others goes a long way in preventing our kids from becoming part of the wrong crowd.  I have written about the dangers of bullying in other articles [Recognizing and Preventing “Mean Girls”], but there are also hazards of allowing bullying to happen.  Recent studies by the American Psychology Association reveal that passive witnesses of bullying or cruelty show a sharp decrease in empathy, have higher cases of depression, and perform poorly in school.*  Even if our children aren’t the tormentors, the impact of watching others being injured can still harm kids indirectly.

As parents, we can also help our children avoid following the wrong crowd by teaching the “hows” and “whys” of bad behavior.  It’s not enough to say, “The Bible says don’t do that.” It’s about engaging your teenager in a conversation of why they should stand up to bullies, how drugs can damage your health and future, why pre-martial sex is not a good idea, and how the principles of the Bible are written for our good.  Curiosity is a powerful drive, especially in teenagers.  They are interested in (and probably questioning) everything, as they attempt to understand how the world around them works.  And many times the forbidden fruit is often the sweetest—that action or behavior that other kids are doing but they aren’t allowed to participate in.  But if we take the time to explain why that seemingly delicious fruit is rotten and bad, we start taking the power out of following the wrong crowd.

We can’t escape the negative influences surrounding our kids.  There will always be a “wrong crowd” that will attempt to bring our teenagers down.  But by being active in positively influencing those kids and coaching our teenagers to lead and not follow, we can break the power of these enticing groups and break the fear that our children will be drawn into them.

*Observing Bullying at School: The Mental Health Implications of Witness Status 

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.