Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, national radio host, and the founder of Heartlight (http://www.heartlightministries.org), a residential counseling opportunity for struggling teenagers.
Posted 5/4/12 at 1:53 AM | Mark Gregston
In our country, grateful Americans set aside July 4th to celebrate a grand holiday. The festive fireworks, mouth-watering barbeques and fun with family and friends remind us about the value of our independence. But there’s another Independence Day that most parents dread. It’s the day your child walks out your door to begin life as an autonomous, responsible citizen.
As he crosses the threshold from the safety of your home into the dangers of the real world, you won’t be thinking about the petty battles you fought during the adolescent years. It won’t matter whether your teen’s room was clean, whether he watched too much television, or whether you liked his friends. What will matter most is whether you taught him what he needs to survive in the jungle that awaits him.
In this regard, independence is earned … not granted. It’s not enough that your teen has turned eighteen. He needs to mature and gain wisdom in order to enjoy an independent lifestyle. FULL POST
Posted 3/10/12 at 9:05 PM | Mark Gregston
Our world is confusing place for kids. Nearly every day, our sons and daughters are confronted by some form of bullying, disrespect and a complete disregard for authority. These conflicting elements create an environment that makes it tough for teens to be kind. It’s hard to be gentle and meek when you’re constantly fighting against cultural trends and peer pressure.
If you’re like me, you can still remember bad stuff that happened from your teen years. I was bullied by a group of guys, and whenever the projector of my memory rolls the film on those ugly encounters, I still get emotionally wrapped up with anger.
As a parent, you might be the only authority in your child’s life to model how to engage in kindness.
Good parenting requires weaning our kids away from their childish dependence on us. It’s a long process of gradually taking away the creature comforts we once provided in order to force our teen to begin operating independently from us. Whether it’s drawing boundaries for them or coming to their rescue when something goes wrong, as they grow older, we need to employ an intentional plan for creating autonomy. FULL POST
Posted 6/3/11 at 5:27 PM | Mark Gregston
Sometimes we think of peer pressure as something that only affects our kids. But it is a natural part of our makeup, and it affects us all.
I visited a Harley rally not too long ago. Now, I’m in my 50s, and there were a lot of guys there even older than me. (Really.) I can tell you that I saw evidence of peer pressure there too, everywhere. People were conforming to the “biker look,” wearing things they wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing at home or work, because they wanted to fit in. I sat for awhile and just watched them go by, shaking my head in amazement.
But it wasn’t just “them.” I walked into one of the shops, lined in front with one Harley after another parked exactly the same, to buy a new helmet. I put it on and looked in the mirror. My first thought was, “That doesn’t look cool.” Then I realized how silly it is at my age to be worrying about looking cool. If I ever had a cool phase (I’m pretty sure I didn’t) it’s long behind me now. What was going on? I wanted to fit in with everyone else there. That’s a natural part of our makeup and character. So it should come as no surprise to us that peer pressure is such a powerful force in the lives of our teens. FULL POST
Posted 6/3/11 at 5:21 PM | Mark Gregston
It’s important that our homes be a place where everyone can release their tension in appropriate ways and find a respite and relief. If not, your teens will find ways to self-medicate the tension away through drugs, alcohol, promiscuity or self-harm. The pressures of their world are far greater than when we were kids, so let me share with you some practical ideas for relieving tension in your home.
Hold the Drama
I got a question recently from the distraught mother of a sixteen year old. She asked, “How do I get my daughter to stop being a drama queen and upsetting the entire family? I feel that I have to protect my younger children from her blowups.” I told her that drama occurs because drama works—teens do it because it produces a result they desire. It is an easy way to gain center stage.
Drama is usually crisis-driven; something has happened that they’re responding to by creating drama. And if it works for them one time, they’ll do it again, and again. Of course while that helps them release their own tension, it tends to add tension for everyone else in the family. So I told this mother to say something like this, “If you can’t control the drama; if you insist on being the center of attention by acting out, there will be consequences. Drama is not an appropriate way to deal with whatever is bugging you.” Putting an end to the drama in your home will help relieve a lot of tension for everyone, and especially you. FULL POST
Posted 6/3/11 at 5:14 PM | Mark Gregston
Recently I read an article about a new trend in America—parents allowing their teens to drink at home. Apparently, the idea behind this is that drinking in the home setting will demystify alcohol and help the young people learn to drink responsibly.
Before I tell you what I think about that trend, let me share this fact with you. 11% of the alcohol consumed in the United States is consumed by underage kids. That’s a staggering statistic. Alcohol abuse among teens is becoming an enormous problem in America.
With that in mind, here is my comment on parents letting or even encouraging their teenagers to drink at home. With all the kindness and Christian charity this Texan can muster I ask these parents: Are you nuts? If you follow that same line of thinking, then you’ll also allow them to have sex at home, take drugs at home, lie and cheat at home. That’s just crazy!
It reminds me of a recent graduation party I heard about for some kids from a Christian school. The parents provided all the alcohol the kids could drink, reasoning that if they drank at the party and gave them a ride home, they’d not be out on the streets drinking and driving. Not only was this a stupid idea, it landed the parents in jail (and rightly so!). FULL POST
Posted 6/3/11 at 4:59 PM | Mark Gregston
“I can do this on my own!” “I don’t need your help!” “Quit treating me like a child!” How do you respond to statements like these from your teenager? Do they upset you, or do you see these as signs of a necessary process taking place?
Rather than considering them a slap in the face from an ungrateful or rebellious child, I encourage you instead to view them as signs that your training is working and that your child is getting ready for adulthood. I’m not saying that parents should allow disrespectful words or a really bad attitude, but we need understand that these statements are not inherently rebellious. Look behind the words to what is really going on; it may be that you are holding on too tightly and not giving them enough opportunity to assume responsibility and independence.
A parent asked me recently, “How do we know at what stage to give them more independence?” That’s a great question. Here’s how I suggest you go about answering it for your child. First, sit down and establish what you want to accomplish with your child in the next six to twelve months. Come up with a plan to move them from dependence to independence in certain areas. Once you have identified the areas, instead of waiting, do it now. Don’t wait. FULL POST
Posted 4/8/11 at 8:50 PM | Mark Gregston
The culture has changed, but teenagers haven’t. They are still focused on trying to fit in with their peers and to make sense out of life. But parents can get confused by their changes in attitude and the independence they seek, assuming their teenager is becoming rebellious.
It’s normal for teenagers to fail to do their chores without ten reminders, to put off their homework, to be emotional, to lose important things, to like music that is too loud, and to sometimes counter or question authority. That’s all pretty typical, though it can be aggravating to parents.
To compare, let’s look at what’s abnormal . . . sudden profound changes in personality, angry outbursts of profanity, extreme disrespect for people and things, addictions, sudden failing grades, not sleeping or sleeping too much, extreme weight loss, eating disorders, self-harm, running away, or self-imposed isolation.
Do you see the difference? Normal stuff has to do with being distracted, ditsy, trying to fit in, or flapping their wings of independence. It passes in time, as the teen matures. Abnormal behavior and true rebellion is represented by a growing darkness, hatred and anger in their soul, which tends to only get worse over time. FULL POST
Posted 4/8/11 at 8:39 PM | Mark Gregston
Does anyone like conflict? No. It’s not a fun or enjoyable experience; however it is necessary, and if used properly, conflict can be a precursor to change. It’s very unlikely that a lasting change will come without at least some measure of conflict and struggle. As Ben Franklin put it, “The door to success swings on the hinges of opposition.”
Conflict usually turns ugly when it is met with reluctance, insensitivity or immaturity by either party. It’s a given that our kids will act immature, so it is up to us parents to be mature and take the higher road.
Conflict in and of itself is not what produces change for the better, it is how we respond to it.
Conflict can be a force for good in families, but only if it is dealt with properly. The way we react can either deepen the relationship, or it can tear it down. Most kids simply want to know that they are being heard! Refusing to understand that, and shutting off any form of conflict, can build a wall between you. FULL POST
Posted 3/24/11 at 12:31 AM | Mark Gregston
Laptops, iPhones, iPads, iPods, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Yourspace, IM, Droids, apps, downloads, wireless, 3G, 4G, iTunes, Blackberry, bluetooth, Xbox, Wii…everything about how we engage with and communicate with other people has changed. It can be overwhelming. And perhaps the most dramatic impact of all this “progress” on our teenagers has been the decline of personal relationships.
Texted words, symbols, characters and acronyms have largely replaced verbal conversation for teens today. Kids are spending less time truly interacting and more time “connecting” superficially through digital devices of one kind or another. In fact, I regularly see kids in the same room texting each other, instead of walking over and talking face to face. Now, these devices and other forms of digital entertainment aren’t wrong in and of themselves, but they can become all-consuming to the teen, to the point that nothing else matters.
This generation has never known a world without the Internet, iPods, cell phones and video games. They regard things as normal that we didn’t even dream of when we were teenagers. They are tech-savvy. (Even my five year old granddaughter can scroll through the iPad with skill and speed that puts me to shame!) They know all about communication devices and are highly skilled at instant messaging and social media…but all too often, they know almost nothing about true and meaningful relationships. FULL POST
Posted 3/23/11 at 3:14 PM | Mark Gregston
I have a word of advice that is applicable to almost every parent of a teenager in today’s world. Stop! More specifically, stop doing so many things for your teen. By doing too much, you are likely stifling their motivation, limiting their creativity, promoting irresponsibility and postponing maturity. You may even be taking away the sense of accomplishment, pride and self-esteem they would otherwise have.
Most parents do not require enough from their kids today; nor do they train them to handle responsibility. There was a time in our society when young people were expected to do many things for themselves. On the farm or in larger families they were expected to help out around the house, take care of their siblings, and even help support the family in some instances. Along with the conveniences of modern day living has come the prolonging of immaturity well into the mid-twenties.
Fact is, teens are capable of handling plenty of responsibility, but too often parents get in the way. We can underestimate their abilities and stifle new challenges, so they don’t mature. I often hear parents say things like, “They’re too young for that,” or, “I’ll just have to redo it anyway.” Regardless, they need to learn and they’ll only do so when we stop doing everything for them. I don’t think kids should drive a car at age 16, or vote or go to war at age 18, but that’s the real world. Is there risk involved in the process? Of course. But there’s no way to avoid it. Exposure to some difficulty and risk is a necessary part of the growing process. FULL POST