In nearly every aspect of life, I tend to be well-prepared and deliberate. A thinker, I am typically slow to react, though not quite at the snail’s pace I’ve found some church committees move. In music, I’m well-rehearsed. In writing posts here, I edit multiple times before clicking “publish.” Even my clothing selections for Sunday mornings are pretty well thought out. For instance, I know I can’t go too many weeks without working in some khakis, instead of my preferred denim. But there’s one area—at least one I’m familiar with—where I feel like I’m constantly reacting, instead of planning ahead, forecasting, and appropriately responding to the mini crises that happen along. Perhaps as a husband too, but certainly as a parent, I’ve become merely reactive.
I just finished a great book for parents of teenagers that will help Cindy and me become more proactive and strategic in our parenting. Quite timely considering Lindsay just turned fourteen and Jacque soon will be thirteen. The author of Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How Not to Get Blindsided by Your Child’s Teen Years, Mark Gregston directs a residential counseling center for teens, in addition to having parented, along with his wife, two teens of his own. Gregston explains a healthy process for parenting through the years, starting with pleasing our children in the first few years of life to protecting them in the elementary school years, providing for them and starting them on the road to responsibility in the middle school years, and finally, in the high school years, preparing them for adulthood. Sadly, many parents get stuck in the earlier stages and fail to prepare their children for life on their own—they please and protect.
Little princesses are coming home with broken tiaras wondering if they really are the royalty their parents always said they were. Young men begin to realize their physical and mental limitations. They come home often feeling like losers when all they’ve been taught is that they’re winners.
Other parents place unreasonable demands on their teens in a time when most kids are battling uncertainty and inadequacy in school and peer relationships.
If you don’t change your parenting style to accommodate the changing atmosphere of your child’s life, your teen might begin to hear your message of encouragement and hope as a negative judgment and reminder of her inadequacies, inabilities, failures, and incompetence.
Gregston emphasizes the parents’ relationship with their teens, over any exertion of authority. At his ranch, Gregston has managed, for instance, to get countless teens to open up to a gray-haired, bushy mustached cowboy because he works at the relationship, rather than immediately demanding respect, like some kind of drill sergeant. Lead your kids “to an understanding of your authority,” he encourages, “through the healthy, loving relationship you establish with them.” To nurture this relationship, Gregston recommends weekly “meetings” with your teens, wherein you’re intent on getting “to know your child, their thinking, and their personality.” Asking questions will give them opportunities to share answers “that show you where their interests are, where their confusion is seated, what conflict of values they might be struggling with, and why they’re behaving the way they are.” My tendency is to state my opinion, thinking our girls want answers, instead of engaging and responding to them in ways that will help them discover solutions.
If there were just one thing I’m grateful for in Tough Guys and Drama Queens, it’s Gregston’s exhortation for parents to stop controlling and begin trusting our kids. Of course, they’ll make mistakes, but when they’re younger, they can learn from their mistakes when the damage is far less costly than when they’re on their own. For us as parents, that entails trusting them with opportunities and responsibilities. This is something I want to do better at, especially as it relates to privileges we’ve to this point not granted, including cell phones, texting, and Facebook. It’s so easy as parents to say, “We didn’t have those things when we were kids.” True, no one needs any of the things our girls complain everyone else at school has. But with privileges come opportunities to grow in responsibility. As a dad, I need to begin not only trusting our girls but, even more, God’s Spirit in their hearts.
I definitely recommend this book for parents of teens and almost-teens. Gregston comes across as a regular guy but with a lot of experience in relating to teens and helping them grow into thriving adults.
The fact that you’re reading this book speaks volumes to the probability that you’ve taught your kids well during their elementary school years. Now start trusting that all those seeds you have sown into the life of your child will come to fruition. Know that the truths your kids have learned will always eventually win out. Trust what you’ve done. Third, trusting God’s involvement in your kids’ life is imperative.