Category: Teenagers

Q&A: Dealing with a Secretive Teen

Q: Gary, my teenager is somewhat secretive. How do I monitor their activity without violating trust?

Gary Chapman: I think teenagers being secretive often has to do with their whole move toward independence. This is a good shift because we want them to be independent by the time they’re 18 and moving on to college or joining the military. At the same time, if they’re being secretive about things that are detrimental to them, that’s a different matter. Even at the expense of their thinking you are violating their space, if you think something very negative is going on, you should violate their space. You should find out and confront them with it because you don’t want to let it get established as a habit in their lives.

53 Hours a Week

Is technology bringing your family closer together, or is it driving your family apart? The average American child spends 53 hours a week with media and technology. It is easy for parents to use the screen to entertain their children and keep them happy (which normally means quiet).

Screen time that is not purposeful tends to be a waste of time and a negative influence. Children are like wet cement, and many children are being imprinted by screens not by parents. In my book: Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen Driven World, Arlene Pellicane and I seek to give parents practical help with screen management.

In Conflict with Child’s Sexual Behavior

In the fifties it was called “shacking up”. Today it’s “cohabitation,” or simply “living together.” So what are Christian parents to do when they find themselves in conflict with their child’s sexual behavior? Some parents have tried the ‘ostrich’ approach, denying that it’s happening. Others take the ‘missile’ approach, launching verbal condemnation. I believe the Christian approach is to speak the truth in love. “I think you know that I don’t approve of what you are doing. I think it is detrimental to your future. But I know that you are an adult and I cannot make decisions for you. I do request that you respect our beliefs and not sleep together at our house.” Then treat the couple with love and respect. Pray, and give God a chance to work.

Understanding Homosexuality

I am meeting more and more Christian parents who are struggling in their efforts to understand homosexuality. Almost all parents – even those who say we should tolerate all lifestyles – will feel shock and deep pain if one of their children announces that he is homosexual. The initial reaction is that they have failed their child in some critical way. The fact is that research has failed to discover the causes of homosexuality. We simply don’t know why some people have “same sex” attraction. So what’s a Christian parent to do? The example of Jesus would lead us to spend time with them, communicate with them, and demonstrate love for them, even though we do not approve of their lifestyle.

Positive Influence

Children are greatly influenced by parents. We want to make sure that the influence is positive. First, we love our children. Then, we train them. Training involves having rules and setting consequences. Never make a rule without also telling the child what will happen if they break the rule. Then, consistently apply the consequences. If you don’t put your bicycle away at night, you loose the privilege of riding the next day. Setting the consequences will keep the parent from over-reacting in the heat of the moment. Kindly and firmly applying the consequences will teach your child responsibility. Make life easier for everyone: have clear rules and reasonable consequences.

Developing Responsibility

If we want our children to become responsible adults, we must teach them when they are young. Requiring a child to ‘make his bed’ or vacuum her floor are first steps in developing responsibility. And what of good manners? Corporate America is now hiring ‘etiquette trainers’ because employees don’t know the simply rules of courtesy. If as parents we believe that ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ are better than ‘gimmie’ and ‘yuck,’ then we have rules that teach such manners. Rules must be clearly explained to children. Unspoken rules are unfair rules. In most cases, parents are older than children. So, they have the responsibility to make rules that will protect and guide the child.

Discipline Is Not a Negative Word

The word discipline is not a negative word, nor is it to be equated with spanking or yelling at children. The word discipline means literally “to train”. Without positive discipline children will self-destruct; they cannot train themselves. Training begins with love, followed by a clear statement of the rules. There are some things we do and some things we don’t do. Rules should always be reasonable. Some rules keep children from danger. “Look both ways before crossing the street.” Some rules protect property. “Never play baseball in the back yard.” Some rules teach children responsibility. “Always put the football in the garage when you finish playing.” Simple rules develop character and responsibility.

Ways to Help Your Child with a Drug Problem

Alcohol and drug-related problems have become the downfall of many adolescents and young adults. Parents are frustrated and often do not know what to do. Here are three specific ways you can help if you suspect that your child has a drug problem. First, pray and ask God for wisdom. He can and will guide you in finding the help you need. Second, seek counsel from a qualified person on what steps you should take. Don’t try to solve the problem on your own. Third, practice “tough love”. Tough love means letting your child suffer the consequences of their drug and alcohol abuse. This is the fastest way for your child to become willing to go for treatment. Be kind, but firm in refusing to bail them out.

Accepting Your Teen

In order to feel loved, teenagers need to feel accepted. The opposite of acceptance is
rejection. Research indicates that almost all violent teenagers feel rejected by their
parents. But how do you communicate acceptance, when you don’t like their behavior?
God is our model. We are “accepted in Christ,” even though God is not always pleased
with our behavior. The message we seek to communicate is “I love you because you are
my child. I don’t always like what you do, but I will never reject you. I will always be
here doing what I believe is best for you. I will love you even if you don’t follow my
advice, but because I love you, I must give you my advice. I love you no matter what.”

Connecting With Your Teen

We’ve heard a great deal about the importance of bonding between parent and infant. What we haven’t heard is that bonding is no less important for the teenager and his parents. Bonding requires time together spent in a positive atmosphere. The opposite of feeling connected is the feeling of abandonment. The teen who feels abandoned will have emotional struggles. Emotional connectedness requires communication. Where do you talk with your teenager? I’d like to suggest a radical thought. Have at least one meal a day with your family, and share what is happening in your lives. A second thought: Do something with your teenager at least once a week. Follow these suggestions and your teen will likely feel connected.

Categories