Category: Teenagers

Q&A: Non-Christian Friends of Your Teenager

Q: My husband only wants our teenage daughter to have Christian friends. What do you think?

Gary: Teenagers are going through a very dramatic stage of life. They’re changing physically, emotionally, and intellectually, rethinking their spiritual values; it’s such an important time. Yes, I think we need to be friends with Christians and non-Christians but be very careful whom your teenager spends time with. If they spend time with non-Christians who have a non-Christian philosophy of life, they may well get pulled into that lifestyle. I think both of you have legitimate concerns. Continue having conversations with your child about what is going on in their life. Don’t back away from them this is a time during which they need parental guidance.

How to Influence your Teen

If I had one message to give to the parents of teenagers it would be this:  Please remember that you still have the greatest influence on your son or daughter.  We have heard so much about peer pressure, that many parents have given up on trying to influence their teen.  All of the research indicates that parents have far more influence on the behavior of teens than do their peers.  Your own behavior is your greatest influence.  If you are a person of honesty, loyalty, and commitment, you are greatly influencing your teen.  If you give them a model of a loving marriage you are creating for them emotional security.  Teens respect parents of integrity.  They want you to be their hero.

The World our Teens Are Growing Up in

In my book, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, I try to help parents understand contemporary teens.  Their world is vastly different from the world in which we grew up.  Think of these five areas:

Technology – They are bombarded with sights and sounds.

Knowledge and exposure to violence – It is daily and they are keenly aware of it.

The fragmented family – One teen said, “I’m the only student in my class living with my real mother and father.”

Knowledge of an exposure to sexuality – Overtly sexual messages bombard our teenagers daily.

Neutral moral and religious values – They are told that there are no moral absolutes.

Do you understand why I am so concerned that parents learn to love teens effectively?

Loving “Argumentative” Teens

Adolescence is the age of reason. Teenagers are beginning to think logically. We say, they are argumentative. Many parents have said through the years, “I think my teenager is going to be an attorney, he is so good at arguments.” In reality, the teen is developing his mental skills. If parents don’t realize this, they can create an adversarial relationship where the teen does not feel free to flex his intellectual muscles. How do we create a positive atmosphere where we can have meaningful dialogue with our budding philosopher? In one word – love. When the teen feels loved, he still may not agree with parents, but he will respect them; and be influenced by their opinions.

Differences with Your Teenager

Do you ever get frustrated with your teenager? The teenager has a strong pull toward independence and is going through radical physical and emotional changes. They are greatly influenced by their peers. In fact, we often speak of ‘teenage culture’. That culture focuses on music, dress, language, and behavior. This has often created a great divide between teens and parents. So, at a time when the teen most needs moral and spiritual guidance, parents are often rejected. Don’t allow your differences to keep you from loving your teen. Love keeps the door open for your positive influence. Learn your teens’ love language and speak it daily. They never outgrow their need for love.

Influencing Teens

Did you know that 70 years ago, teenagers did not exist? That is, as a separate cultural group. Before the industrial age, teens worked on their parents’ farms until they got married. With industrialization, teens had a choice. They could be a weaver, a cobbler, or a machinist. But they still lived with their parents until they got married; usually in the late teens. In the modern world, young people have high school, college, and often graduate school before they get married. So they are with parents much longer. This is good news, because it gives greater opportunity to influence their lives for good. Remember, the quality of your marriage is your greatest means of influence. They will remember your model long after they have forgotten your words.

A Daughter Needs Her Daddy

A few years ago, I teamed up with Dr. Ross Campbell, a psychiatrist whom I greatly admire, and wrote a book called The5 Love Languages of Children. In that book, Dr. Campbell made the point that “during the preadolescence stage, girls have a particular need for expressions of love from their fathers. At the same time, fathers often withdraw from hugging and kissing their daughters, feeling it is inappropriate at this stage.” In reality, the daughter needs the hugs and kisses of her father; and if he withdraws, she will likely seek physical touch from another male and often in an unwholesome manner. Certainly there is no place for sexual exploitation, but your daughter deeply needs your loving and affirming touches.

The Difference You Can Make For Your Child

Did you hug your child when you sent them off to school this morning? I hope so because your hug may make the difference between emotional security and insecurity throughout the day. A hug when the child returns home may determine whether your child has a quiet evening of positive mental and physical activity or makes a rambunctious effort to get your attention. Home should be a haven, the place where love is secure. Physical touch is one of love’s strongest languages. When a child is young they will sit on your lap while you read a story. As they get older you must use different types of touch: wrestling, playful hitting, bear hugs and high-fives. During the grade school years you are preparing your child for the most difficult part of childhood—adolescence. Loving touch is one of your best tools.

Children Need To Be Touched

When is the last time you touched your child? Studies indicate that many parents touch their children only when it is necessary: when they are dressing or undressing them, putting them in the car, or carrying them to bed. It seems that many parents are unaware of how much their children need to be touched, and yet touch is one of the primary languages of love. The language of touch is not limited to hugging and kissing but includes any kind of physical contact. Even when they are busy, parents can gently touch a child on the back, arm, or shoulder. Perhaps physical touch does not come natural for you. Take the first step: pat your child on the back. Do it for seven days and then try a hug. You may be surprised at your child’s response.

Q&A: Discovering Your Teen’s Love Language

Q: “Gary, do you have a resource for teens to help them discover their love language?”

Gary Chapman: That is an important question because if you don’t know your teenager’s love language, you are not likely to speak it. First of all, observe their behavior—how do they respond to you and how do they respond to other people? Their behavior towards you and others will give you a clue towards as to what their love language is. Secondly, listen to what they complain about. If they often say comments like, “You didn’t bring me anything home from your trip?!” they are telling you that Gifts is most likely their language. Lastly, what do they request of you most often? “Can we take a walk after dinner?” often means a teenager is seeking some Quality Time.

If you do these three things, you can rather easily discover a teenager’s love language.

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