How do I teach my teen to make a difference in this world? Here are six ways:

kindnessI have recently re-engaged the Facebook world, after taking a few years away from it.  (Today is not the day to explain that sentence, but perhaps I will do so soon.)  At the time of this writing, it seems my feed is flooded with impassioned posts regarding: gun control, LGBT rights, ISIS, the wonderful potential of each US presidential candidate, the horrible potential of each US presidential candidate, Radical Islam, Christianity, haters, and the list goes on and on.  We are all painfully aware that our world seems to be increasingly filled with evil, corruption, hatred, violence, and ignorance.

What are we to do about it?  And as parents, what can we do to train and equip our children and teens to make a difference?  Can they make a difference?  Is there anything we can do to actually empower them to be agents of change in this world that seems to be growing increasingly ugly?  As followers of Christ, we have been filled with the Holy Spirit of God.  Surely that gives us some kind of power with which we can fight back against the tide of evil.  There must be something in particular we can do to teach our young people how to improve the world around them.  But what?

Well, here is a simple list of six actions we can take, as outlined by our Lord in Matthew 25:31-46.  And this is about as practical as it gets!

  1. Give food to the hungry.
  2. Give drink to the thirsty.
  3. Welcome the stranger into your home.
  4. Give clothes to the one without something decent to wear.
  5. Visit the sick.
  6. Visit the prisoner.

Don’t think these are really so important in the grand scheme of things?  Doubtful these simple actions can help your teen change the world?  Well, Jesus seemed to think these are the kinds of acts that matter for all eternity.  And, interestingly enough, I didn’t see anywhere in his narrative an admonition for us to be sure we post lots of powerful stuff on Facebook.  Or Twitter.  Or Instagram.  Or our blogs.

He told us to make a difference in the lives of the people who live in arm’s reach of us.  He instructed us to show compassion to those who need it most.  He urged us to give what we have, without keeping track of it.  He called us love well and share generously.  And this remains His call to us today – to live as he showed us how to live.

Our teens are watching us to learn how to make a difference in this world.  And how we treat the people around us will make a FAR greater impact upon them, and upon the world through them, than whatever message we shout from our digital billboards.

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Before They Leave The Nest

TreehouseSitting in my office today, I noticed this picture of my son in his then brand new tree-house, taken maybe five or six years ago.  Since that time, despite my friend and I building the house with an extra-tall roof, the lad has outgrown the tree-house.  Both physically and developmentally, he has just outgrown climbing up into that small space for imagination and play.  When I was a kid, I used to dream about having a tree-house and making all kind of great memories of adventure in it.  While I never did get that tree-house, my son did.  Seems as if time is up for him to make those memories.  I wonder what stories he would share with you, if you asked him about his time in it.  What memories did he make?  What lessons did he learn?  What impact did his experiences up in that little tin-roofed shelter make upon him?

A couple of years ago, I got an app on my phone that was being promoted through our church.  It’s called Legacy Marble Countdown, and it is built on the simple concept that if you were to put a marble in a jar for every week you get to invest in your child from birth to high school graduation, you would begin with 936 marbles before they steadily dwindled away over the weeks and years of his or her life in your house.  It seems the Tree-House Jar is now empty of marbles.  Those lessons and experiences are now over, and exist only in his memory.  According to my app, as of this posting, I have 255 marbles left in the Home Jar.  255 weeks until he moves that tassel from one side of his funny little flat hat to the other side, walks down off that stage, and moves on to whatever horizon God may lead him.  Mercy!  Since the time that tiny little rascal came home from the hospital, we have already spent nearly 3/4 of the time we will have together before he formally steps forth from our home as a man facing the world on his own two feet.

May my wake-up call today be yours, as well.  Let us invest intentionally, courageously, lovingly, and wisely.  Let us teach, encourage, train, correct, inspire, share, uplift, and coach our teens in preparation for the years that lie beyond wearing the silly hat with the tassel.  Let us mold their hearts and minds with the Word of God.  Let us fill their spirits with love and encouragement.  Let us train them in the skills they will need to live lives of purpose and independence.  And let us do so before we lose our marbles.  Because, let’s be honest…some of us may be getting closer to that day than we realize.  😉

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Five Reasons to Bring Me to Your Church, School, or Organization to Speak

DSC06416Whatever your reasons, I know you are already considering seeking some kind of guidance or encouragement from me – you’re reading my blog post.  So, I think it’s safe to assume you (and probably several others you know) could use some inspiration and direction.  Given that, here are five reasons to consider bringing me to speak to you and your people in your church, school, or other organizational community:

1.  I’m better in person.  My goal for my website has always been to help and encourage as many people as possible around the globe, regardless of whether or not we ever meet face to face.  And I continue to work in this pursuit.  But I’m a people person, for sure.  And that means you will get my best when we are in the same room, sharing ideas and stories, and responding to the energy we see in one another.

2.  You’ll have better community support.  Whether you need help parenting an unruly adolescent, overcoming an addiction in your life, facing the daunting task of moving your life in a new direction, or help in a troubled marriage – by being a part of a larger group seeking help together, you won’t feel so alone.  And we always make better, more lasting improvements in our lives when we do so in community, rather than in isolation.

3.  It’s less intimidating than therapy.  This may be what I do for a living, but I get it.  Setting an appointment with a therapist can be intimidating.  You don’t know what to expect.  You don’t know what I’ll ask.  Or what I might challenge you to do.  You wonder what others will think.  I know there are numerous barriers that can keep many folks from setting up a first therapy appointment, even at times when you know in your heart you need some kind of serious help.  Setting up and attending a workshop or seminar can be a great alternative that feels much less daunting.

4.  It’s a very affordable option.  Oh, yeah, that’s the other big reason many may not even consider scheduling a therapy appointment with me – the cost.  If that’s what has been stopping you, ask around!  If you know even a handful of people in your school or church community who have also held back on seeking help due to the cost, chances are there are more than you realize.  And given what most organizations will charge per registrant for a seminar like mine, you will be paying about 1/5 the price you would pay for the same amount of personalized time in my office.  That’s some serious savings!

5.  It may be the best way you can help that friend of yours.  Many of the business cards I give away are to people who are concerned about a friend or family member, and they are hoping this person will be willing to get help.  Sometimes I do hear from them.  Oftentimes, I do not.  For all the same reasons I listed in number 3 above, inviting your friend or family member to a seminar may offer much more readily acceptable help to them than urging them to call me for therapy.  This is especially true if you tell them you will also be attending, and you have paid their registration fee for them.

If you are curious to get a preview of what you might experience with me at a live event, check out my YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/DrButner  I will be adding more videos from my office and clips from my seminars in the coming weeks and months.  Please let me know what you find helpful!

I look forward to meeting you and the people in your life community very soon.

Posted in addiction/recovery, Christian parenting inspiration, dynamics of adolescence, inspiration, manhood, marriage / relationships, parenting encouragement, Speaking Engagements, spiritual formation, teen media issues | Leave a comment

Six Ways Your Teen Can Invest in a Worthwhile Summer

teen yard work

Sleep until at least midday.  Lay around the house all afternoon using various digital screens, preferably with headphones on to tune out any and all parental input.  Stay up well past midnight interacting with friends via gaming connections or various social networking options.  Sleep until at least midday…

Such is the lofty dream of many an American teenager for how to best spend their summer months.  And while there is certainly a place for some lazy, relaxing summer vacation time, if this becomes the daily norm for our teens throughout their three month break from the school routine, they will have very little to show for it.  As parents, we need to be prepared to help them aim higher than this.  Here are six different ways your teen can do something valuable and productive with his/her summertime, rather than simply wasting the entire time on lazy self-indulgence.

1. Get a job.  Whether full-time or part-time, spending the summer months in gainful employment offers so many benefits for a maturing adolescent.  You could even encourage your teen to look for a job opportunity in a field related to their career aspirations.  I’ll never forget how impressed I was with the young lady who took a job as a receptionist/secretary as a college student in a counseling center where I once worked.  She was very interested in becoming a professional counselor, and wanted to get a closer perspective to see if it was really the best career field for her.  Today, she is a successful counselor!

2. Volunteer.  Some teens may find even greater life benefit from volunteering in a worthwhile organization during their summer break, rather than working in a paid position.  Not only is this an experience that looks great on a resume for college, graduate school, and a career position, but it also can be a powerful means for shaping a teen’s heart toward considering and caring for others.

3. Summer School.  This is certainly not something I would recommend for every teen.  However, for those students who have either been struggling in certain subjects, or may be interested in getting a jump on their college experience, summer school may well worth sacrificing that coveted break from the academic routine.

4. Camps.  These days, it seems there are enough summer camp options to make your head spin!  From sports to music to academic to art to science to fitness to faith-building – there are great options for piecing together an enriching and rewarding summer experience.  Take some time now to explore the various summer camp options available near you, or even away from home.  It may just be the best investment you make in your teen all year.

5. Extracurricular Lessons/Classes.  Check with your local colleges/universities and library system to find out if there are any community classes available this summer that would be of genuine interest to your teen.  Perhaps the summer months would be the ideal time to try enrolling in that swimming, martial arts, community theater, private music lessons, or other ongoing activity that just wouldn’t fit into the normal school-time schedule.  If the summer trial goes well, you and your teen may just decide to adjust your family schedule when school starts up again, to ensure that this experience can continue throughout the year.

6. Have Regular Household Responsibilities.  While I would recommend assigning your kids ongoing household responsibilities throughout the year, beginning even before their teenage years, summer break is a time when this may need to be stepped up a few notches.  Especially if your teen will not be regularly involved in any of the previous suggested activities.  Manual labor, both inside and outside the home, is good for the body, mind, and spirit of teens and adults alike.  While they may not thank you for it, don’t deprive your growing kids from the valuable experiences and lessons of doing some good old fashioned work for the family that doesn’t directly benefit their bank account.

*Regardless of the particulars of how your teen spends her/his summer days, I highly recommend having a regular expectation of getting out of bed by 9 am at the latest, except during days that are truly designated as vacation time.*

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The Wonder Years: Putting My Dissertation Research Into Practice

The Wonder Years

When I decided to pursue my Doctorate back in the day, I was eager to study the dynamics of family life and entertainment media.  At the time, television was still king, so to speak.  Smart phones and tablets had not yet emerged.  Laptops were not common.  Netflix and Redbox weren’t around.  It’s mind-boggling to consider how the media landscape has changed in less than two decades!

At any rate, I put together a research design to study the relationship between the healthiness of family functioning and how families interact with television.  While there are many more screens in the mix these days, the good ole TV set still serves as a family focal point in most homes today. And what I learned then continues to be true: the strongest, healthiest families not only have clear guidelines and limits regarding TV viewing, but they intentionally and actively engage in conversation around what they watch together.  Television content is used to spark meaningful discussion.

We “cut the cable cord” several years ago, so whatever TV viewing we do (not counting watching movies on DVD and Blu-ray) is via Netflix streaming.  One of the delightful benefits of watching shows this way is being able to start at the very beginning of a series and watch every episode in order.  My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Everybody Loves Raymond, Cheers, Friends, Arrow, and other series together after our son is in bed.  His entertainment preferences these days lean much more toward playing Plants vs Zombies on his laptop or watching YouTube videos of gaming commentary – both with his Beats firmly fastened around his ears.  And since we regularly enjoy (okay, sometimes we insist) spending family time together around board games and reading stories aloud, we decided it’s time we began using the “big screen” as an active family gathering place as well.

The choice of shows to begin this new adventure together was clear: The Wonder Years.  The pilot episode begins with Kevin and his friends, Paul and Winnie, entering Jr High.  My son is making his way through his first year of middle school.  We loved the way this series faced so many coming of age and culture issues in such an endearing manner.  Perfect!  And so, we began.  I must tell you, we hadn’t gotten ten minutes into the first show when my wife and I looked at each other and questioned if we should be sharing this with him.  But we took a breath, hit pause several different times, and calmly discussed the various life issues that Kevin and his family presented to us.  I’d like to share updates from this journey with you from time to time.  Not to convince you to watch The Wonder Years.  Rather, I hope our family experience will inspire and enlighten you to share the same kind of conversations with your teens and tweens.  Let me know what you think.  And I hope you will share with us your own experiences along the way.

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5 Ways You Are Building Walls Between You and Your Teen

tear down the wall

I applaud you for taking the time to take a look at this post – especially since it sounds like an accusation.  Got your attention, didn’t it?  Hopefully, you aren’t placing all these barriers between you and your teen.  But even one or two of them can seriously diminish the quality of your connection and your ability both to understand and to guide your teen through the critical transition years to adulthood.  I invite you to seriously consider each one.  Then ask your spouse for input.  If you really want to go all the way…ask your teen about it.  And LISTEN.

1.  You react when you should be listening.  If you are paying any attention at all, there are going to be times when you see and hear things in your teen’s life that concern you.  That’s just real life.  But your concerns don’t have to erupt into reactions.  The moment you let your concerns, fears, disapproval, or disgust overtake you and spill out in some form of emotional reaction, you can count on your teen shutting down and shutting you out.  Because what your teen is hearing from you in that moment is quite simply… You can’t handle it!  Take a breath.  Make mental notes.  Ask some questions.  But keep on listening!

2.  You’re expecting answers and conversation in the wrong time and place.  As a parent, you certainly have the right to ask questions of your teen.  In fact, that’s good parenting.  But if you really want to hear the full story, you need to learn your teen’s personality well enough to know what kind of atmosphere feels the safest and most inviting for him or her to open up and get real with you.  It may be very different from one of your kids to the next, and may even change over time with each one.  Pay attention.  Your teen may get more chatty and responsive when you are alone together in the car.  Dinner time together (yes, sharing a meal while sitting in the same place) is perfect conversation time for some.  Bedtime is a great let-your-guard-down time with my son.  Others may open up during active play or exercise time with you.  When you take the time to study and learn the best setting for your teen, you communicate very plainly how much you value and respect her or him as a person.  And that is a great way to encourage anyone to open up and share!

3.  Your idea of talking seems WAY too much like lecturing to your teen.  There are times in any family when authoritative correction needs to happen very directly and clearly.  But even then, it is best to keep “lectures” as brief and to the point as possible.  When you establish a parental environment where lecturing, complaining, and criticizing become the norm, don’t expect your teen to really tune in to what you are saying.  And you can forget about them opening up and sharing anything real or meaningful with you.  Work on turning your lecturing tone into positive instruction and encouragement.  Your teen will feel much more respected by you, and may just begin to respect  and trust you more in the process.

4.  You aren’t asking about the things your teen actually wants to share with you.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Our kids don’t care how much we know…until they know how much we care.  One of the best ways we can communicate care, value, and respect to our teens is to show interest in what is important to them.  Sure, this isn’t always fun for us.  Sometimes, it may seem downright weird.  SO WHAT?!!  If something grabs our teen’s attention, we better be willing to invest the time and effort to understand why.  And that means we have to ask.  And listen.  Without reacting.  Keep breathing.  And praying.  You got this!

5.  You are too quick to disapprove of your teen’s friends.  I know this can be one tough issue.  Sometimes teens just keep being drawn to kids that really are bringing them down.  And we should be paying close attention.  We just need to be very careful about how quickly and decisively we voice our disapproval of the friends they choose.  When you do have concerns, ask questions first and really listen to and consider your teen’s responses.  Work on asking questions that invite your teen to consider important relationship dynamics for him or her self.  And when you see things that you simply must point out in concern, do it directly and respectfully, not through sarcasm or cheap shots.

Perhaps posting this simple passage of Scripture in a prominent place in your home will help you remember and practice the essence of what I am sharing with you today…

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.      – James 1:19-20 (NIV)

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Three Ways to Help Your Teen Manage Digital Dating Boundaries

teens in love with phones

Remember back when you were dating as a teenager, and you wondered why your girlfriend or boyfriend hadn’t responded to your text within thirty minutes?  So frustrating, wasn’t it?!  It’s like, “What’s the problem?  Did I do something wrong?  Is he cheating on me?  What did I say?  Is she mad at me again?  Maybe I should switch to Snapchat and see what’s up there?”

No?  Oh, that’s right.  None of these dynamics existed when we were teens.  My, how the landscape has changed!  Today’s teens live immersed in a digital world that has profoundly changed what it means to be in a dating relationship.  Chief among the many ways this has transformed relationships is the fact that they can now stay in direct contact with one another 24/7.

Sure, this may afford them more opportunities for fun and flirting and such.  But have you considered the kind of pressure this adds to the relationship dynamics between two adolescents who still have a great deal of growing and maturing to do?  Their brains, hormones, and spirits can be so easily overwhelmed by the digital deluge.  And whether they like it or not, whether we like it or not, they desperately need our guidance in maintaining reasonable limits for their communication with one another.  I am working with more and more teens and parents where this is clearly a problem area in need of direct intervention.  Here are some of the guidelines I typically recommend to parents of teens.  I would love to hear any other ideas or concerns you have about this subject.

1. Have a clear consistently enforced digital curfew.  In order to really make this happen, you are probably going to have to have a screen turn-in time.  Phones, tablets, laptops, etc. are either handed in to parents or placed in a designated spot that allows for some rest time away from digital dating communication well before bedtime until the next day.  Be sure to emphasize that this is not about punishment or snooping.  And it isn’t because she or he has done something wrong.  It is simply about helping your teen keep a healthy balance while in a relationship.

2. Directly check your teen’s digital communication on a periodic basis.  Yes, this is where things get really dicey.  First of all, I recommend telling your kids very directly that this is something that will happen.  While there are occasional situations where “snooping” is warranted, I have found an open policy to work best for the norm.  In this spirit of openness, I suggest telling them once or twice a month (more frequently, if there have been problems in this area) to hand over one or more of their digital devices and log you in to wherever you want to check.  Again, explain that this is not about mistrust, but rather about proactively guiding them and ensuring they are not in water over their heads.  When you look through their activity, don’t scrutinize every single element of their communication.  Look at the big picture, check for any glaring problems, and be sure to note places where your teen is using healthy and mature judgment in their digital conduct.

3. Regularly discuss with your teen how they are doing in their dating relationship and how things are going with social media and digital communication.  Be sure to listen more than you lecture.  Offer encouragement and support in addition to guidelines and limits.  Doing your best to maintain a healthy, respectful, and open relationship between you and your teen is one of the most powerful ways you can help them navigate the complex landscape of life!

I know this whole issue can be so daunting and difficult in so many families.  Let me know if you need more help, and I will continue to share more ideas as we move forward together in this constantly changing digital culture.

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Let the Good Times Roll!

catching beads

“Okay, everyone – raise your hands if you think parades are fun!”

Yes, it’ Mardi Gras time down here in Cajun Country.  And, truth be told, my family and I are not really into the whole parade scene.  But they do certainly represent high energy fun in a very special way.  So I thought this would be a good time to remind us all of one very important element of family life…

HAVING FUN!

For some families, it can be easy at times to forget how important it is to play, laugh, and enjoy life together.  This is especially true during difficult seasons when teens may be particularly agitated, contrary, or distant.  When times get tough, sometimes the parenting default becomes correction, lectures, scrutinizing, excessive monitoring, and punishment.  Not much fun at all – is it?  While it is important to watch, correct, and discipline throughout our kids lives, and sometimes especially during teen turbulence, sometimes we just need to break up the serious grind by having some good fun.  Here are a few practical ways you can bring a smile to the faces of your family and remind everyone that life is still good and joy is still readily available to anyone who seeks it:

  • Play a board, card, dice or other variety of game together.  Yes, you’ve likely heard me emphasize this before.  Because it is such a great way to invigorate family life!
  • Have a family video game challenge or tournament.  And let your teens or kids pick the game.  Sure, they’ll likely destroy you if it’s their pick.  But don’t you think that will be more fun for them, anyway?  : )
  • Karaoke night.  If you can find a family-friendly place nearby that has an organized karaoke night, go for it.  If not, create your own.  If your teens think it would add to the fun, invite some family friends or let them invite some good buds.
  • Give each of your kids a chance to pick a fun family activity.  Rotate turns, so everyone gets to pick from time to time.  And feel free to put a reasonable dollar limit on it.  This really is a good way to show your kids and teens they still have a genuine voice in the functioning of your family life.
  • Family role play drama time.  Plan a time where each family member gets to put on their best performance at acting out the part of another family member.  In order to help keep this a fairly positive and fun activity, have an award ready to present to the one voted Best Actor.
  • Family Triathlon/Pentathlon/Decathlon.  No, this one isn’t for hard core fitness families, only.  Plan a weekend or longer, depending on the number and types of events involved.  Each family member gets to determine one “event” in which the entire family must compete.  It can be anything that every family member has at least a reasonable shot at accomplishing.  Laundry speed folding, jigsaw puzzle racing, high score on Plants vs Zombies, basketball free throw shooting, gaining the most views on YouTube within a set time, etc. – anything your family members would consider a fun way to compete.  The prize goes to family member who racks up the highest total score on all combined events.  Make it annual event with a serious trophy.  Who ways we can’t get serious about family fun?!

Whatever you do, just remember to Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

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Six Ways to Inspire Your Teen to Rise to a Higher Standard

 

 

 

 

 

As loving parents, we all want to see our kids thrive, succeed, and reach their best potential.  As Christian parents, we want to see them doing seeking and depending on God to lead them on their best path, so their lives will make the greatest impact for His Kingdom.  Giving our teens our best as parents means more than teaching them life skills and correcting them when they are out of line.  We must also seize opportunities to inspire them.  Here are six ways we can do just that.

1.  Share your own stories of success and failure with your teen.  As long as you aren’t constantly hitting them with a barrage of your own stories, your teens are eager to hear how you have succeeded and failed in life – especially the failures.  Just be sure you emphasis isn’t on telling your kids to be more like you.  Use your life experience to share how you can actually related to them, and how you learned some of your own valuable lessons.  Give them permission to ask questions about the details of what happened and how you responded.  It’s a great way to inspire them while building a solid relationship that will be there in their own times of struggle and triumph.

2.  Be compassionate when your teen fails.  There are times for bringing an arrogant youngster down a few pegs, for sure.  But when your teen is discouraged, hurting, or ashamed from failure, this is the time to reach out with genuine loving compassion.  Don’t relish the moment of your son or daughter paying a price for foolishness or whatever led to the downfall.  Even if you know it was a much-needed lesson.  Fine.  Let the failure make its own point.  You be there with compassion and care to lift up her/his head, speak words of life, or simply offer a much-needed silent embrace.  This kind of parental response offers much in the way of inspiration.  It says you know this low point isn’t the final chapter, or even the defining moment.  It says you believe and you care.

3.  Regularly invite your teen to share his/her life-dream with you.  If you don’t believe in your son’s or daughter’s Big Dream, then who will?  Listen.  Encourage.  Offer constructive feedback and guidance.  Even if your teen has a dream that seems far beyond realistic, spend more effort showing you believe in who they are, rather than trying to convince them what they can’t do.  Being a true supporter, cheerleader, and coach on your teen’s journey toward the Big Dream is not about you believing in the dream.  It’s about you believing in the dreamer.

4.  Ask questions of genuine curiosity about your teen’s daily life and interests.  Sure, the music or YouTuber or games or fashion or Instagram star may seem weird or even just plain obnoxious.  Some of her friends may totally rub you the wrong way.  The stuff your son is hanging on his bedroom walls these days may genuinely scare the bajeebers out of you.  If you want to truly inspire your teen to rise about the current whatever this is and reach her/his full potential, don’t lead with criticism.  Lead with curiosity.  Find out what is so appealing about these mysterious elements of your adolescent’s daily life.  Get past the unpleasant surface appearance or sound.  Find out the meaning beneath it.  And don’t just hold you nose and try to survive the conversation.  Take mental notes.  Write down some actual notes after conversations, if it helps.  Then you can blow your daughter’s or son’s mind at a later date when you actually remember and understand something important to them, no matter how weird it may seem to you.  This kind of energy and attention communicates importance and significance, which are great foundations for inspiration.

5.  Be honest about your own shortcomings, and be quick to apologize to your teen when you are wrong.  WHAT?!?  Yes, that’s right.  Having the humility and integrity to openly acknowledge and correct our wrongs and shortcomings is an incredible way to earn our kids’ respect and inspire them to live a virtuous life.  It also makes it much more likely your teen will listen to you when the time comes for correction, because you have earned the right to be heard – so to speak.  While it wasn’t really something I had done wrong to him, I will never forget the day my son and I went to go watch the first Andrew Garfield Spidey flick.  My son is reasonably knowledgeable about comic book lore, while most of my experience comes through the many comic-based feature films that have been produced in the last couple of decades or so.  Long story, short – I very arrogantly and curtly dismissed his argument on the way to the theater that Spidey uses “gadgets” to shoot his webs.  Thanks a lot, Tobey Maguire!  My son ate up every word of my meek apology, and the two of us still laugh about that one.

6.  Reward superior attitude and effort in your teen’s life.  Medals are great and trophies are wonderful.  They certainly represent moments and seasons to be celebrated and cherished.  But if you want to inspire the most in your teen, always be ready and eager to recognize a winning attitude and champion effort – regardless of whether there are any bleachers or auditorium seats nearby.  Not only will you offer great encouragement to keep walking along the right path, but you will also be a living example of God’s love for your teen and His ready celebration of every moment of victory, even those moments never recognized by another soul.

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5 Questions I Dare You To Ask Your Teen!

teen questions

Asking good questions is a great way to build any relationship.  It helps the questioner learn more about the other person, as well as communicating a certain level of genuine caring for that person.  Why bother asking, if I don’t really care, right?  In the spirit of opening important doors of conversation and facilitating a more powerful relationship between you and your teen, I have five questions to share with you.  While some of these could certainly overlap in the same talk together, I wouldn’t try to fit them all into the same conversation.  In fact, I would recommend prayerfully looking for, or perhaps creating, the right time for each one.  Buckle up!  This could be quite a wild ride!

1. What is your biggest fear?  Understanding your teens fears allows such an incredible window into their spirits.  You may already have a good idea what some of these might be.  But you never know what else may be haunting or taunting your adolescent between those Beats headphones.  Ask and be ready to gently reassure and guide.  How you respond to what your teen shares with you can make a huge impact on how likely he/she is to talk to you about other bigger things in the future.

2. From whom or where have you learned the most about sex?  I told you to buckle up, didn’t I?  The responses to a question like this one will vary greatly, based on experiences, personality, and the quality of your relationship with your teen.  If you have shown your teen over the years that you can calmly handle big issues, and you have taken time to have good heart talks along the way, you may just hear more than you would have imagined on this one.  Be sure you make it clear that this isn’t a setup to “bust” your daughter or son.  The hope is simply to discover how your teen is being led regarding sexual information and values, and to make it clear that you are there as a primary resource and guide.

3.  Who is your greatest role model, and why?  Seriously, wouldn’t you like to know?  And for goodness sake, don’t pressure her/him to name you as their role model!  Create conversations and emotional space that invite the truth, not flattery, avoidance, or manipulation.  This could really be a fun one to discuss.  Make the most of it.

4.  What have you never heard from me, but wish you could?  This one may not evoke much response.  It may not be a big deal for your kids.  If not – great!  But I can tell you as a therapist that this is a question, if asked with sincerity and compassion, that has the potential to lead a son or daughter on a better path for the rest of their days.  Think about this: what if your Mom or Dad asked this question of you?  Hmmmm…

5.  Is there any way I have ever hurt or seriously disappointed you that I have never addressed or tried to make right?  Again, there may not really be anything to this one in your relationship.  But far better to ask than assume.  This question has the power to heal and transform your teen’s spirit in ways you may not even be able to imagine.  Be bold.  Be compassionate.  Be genuine.  And ask.

If asking, or even considering, any of these questions stirs up dynamics you don’t know how to effectively handle, please feel free to reach out to me.  Or find a Christian counselor or other helping professional in your area that can help provide you with the space and tools to work through it in the most effective way for the growth of your teen and your family life.  Blessings of openness and honesty to you and yours.

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