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Ten Ways to Turn

Around Your Teen




PO BOX 480 Hallsville, TX 75650

PHONE: 903-668-2173





Reproduction or duplication in any form of any portion of the material contained in this publication for the purpose of selling or gaining any form of remuneration for this material or any part thereof is strictly prohibited by U.S. copyright law.

Mark Gregston is the founder of Heartlight Ministries, a residential counseling program for teens, and the author of several books and workbooks. A popular speaker and seminar leader, Mark offers Biblical insights and practical wisdom for parents wanting a deeper relationship with their teen.

For over 30 years, Mark has been helping families and teens through the challenges of adolescence. In the words of Dr. Tim Kimmel, “Mark Gregston has never met a teenager he can’t believe in or a parent he doesn’t want to help become better.... [he] has a clear ‘big picture’ grasp of effective parenting. It’s formatted by the power of God’s grace and seasoned from decades of experience.” Mark and his wife Jan have been married for 34 years and have two children and two grandchildren.


Introduction……………….……………….……………….…………. 1 1 – Loosen the Reins and Empower Them………………. 5 2 – Learn to Manage Conflict……………….…………………. 15 3 – Establish a Belief System for Discipline……………… 27 4 – Give and Expect Responsibility……………….…………. 41 5 – Understand the Problem Triggers……………….…….. 48 6 – Understand the Teen Culture……………….…………… 59 7 – Get Help for Yourself……………….……………….………. 64 8 – Engage with Your Teen……………….…………………….. 71 9 – Confront Inappropriate Behavior……………….……… 76 10 – Rebuild Your Relationship……………….………………. 93 Closing……………………………………………….…………………… 100 Addendum – Warning Signs……………….…………………… 105 T


hinking that anything a parent can say, do, or offer to their children as they grow up will guarantee a smooth and trouble-free adolescence is just plain wrong. I’ve learned that there are no such guarantees in parenting.

Stuff happens in the teen years that is out of a parent's control, even if you do everything right. Raising one "angelic" teenager can lead one to think you have found the right formula, right up until you see your next child go down a completely different path. Welcome to the real world — a world where God gives each child a free will.

One parent wrote me saying, “We’ve done everything right. We took our son to church, raised him in a Christian home, sent him to a great Christian school, homeschooled for a few years, have taken him on mission trips and poured our life into him. What has gone wrong? How can he reject all that we’ve taught, and all that we’ve been striving for?” These parents raised their teen in the church and taught him good and strong values. Then one day he decided that those things no longer worked for him, so he started “trying on” other values – values of his peer group. He was not interested in how his behavior made his parents feel. He was “in control.” He acted as he chose to act. Every trick in their parenting bag failed. Their arsenal was empty. Did they do everything right? Possibly.

Pain and stress comes when a child has chosen poorly and is clearly heading down the wrong path in life. This is not just when their choices are self-destructive — drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, etc. — but also when they abandon their faith or decide after years of hard work, that college no longer matters.

When your teen is struggling to discover his or her identity in a quest to become independent, it can be an extremely frustrating and painful process for all involved.

But it helps us better understand how God must feel when He see His children fail.

No parent is perfect, nor is perfection the answer, for even though God is perfect He still had a couple of rebellious kids.

So, it’s not always about the parents, and it’s not always about how a teen is raised.

It’s all about your child and his God-given gift of individuality and free will, which will be fully exercised during adolescence.

3 ■ Ten Ways to Turn Around Your Teen I’m sure you laid a firm foundation for your teen. You did a great job! You did such a great job that your teen feels capable of creating his own immature views. It may not seem like it now, but that is a very good thing. It's how a teen matures into well-grounded adults, who contributes positively to this world. It's how they stretch their wings and prepare to fly.

Sometimes these “first flights” are hard for parents to experience, especially when they typically involve several failed attempts. The important thing is to be there when your wounded teen wobbles back to the nest; to offer encouragement for a stronger and more skilled flight the next time around.

Being a parent of a teenager can be hard work. There is emotional pain and even feelings of betrayal when your child gets off track in the adolescent years. But I know this — it makes us parents spend a lot more time on our knees! Therefore, the process is worthwhile. For in our journey, no matter how bumpy the turbulence, we may learn what God is trying to teach us as well.

I'll be giving you a number of tips in this e-book, but my recommendation for most Christian homes is to loosen your grip, and let go of the rope, just a little. Allow your teen some healthy freedoms, and open the doors of your heart and mind to trusting God a little more, and a self-made, isolated existence a little less. It is tough to trust God this way, and even tougher to watch your teen navigate the rough waters of today’s evils. But by the grace of God and the wisdom of parents willing to take their parenting to a level that is more effective – it can be done.

Stop Lecturing…Start Listening Stop Answering…Start Asking Stop Worrying…Start Praying Stop Frowning…Start Laughing Stop Controlling…Start Releasing Stop Reacting…Start Responding Stop Punishing…Start Disciplining Stop Ruling…Start Enforcing Stop Teaching…Start Trusting Stop Ending…Start Beginning Stop Talking…Start Hearing Stop Deciding…Start Empowering Stop Doing…Start Being 4 ■ Ten Ways to Turn Around Your Teen T

-1Loosen the Reins and Empower Your Teen eens develop in maturity by doing, seeing, and experiencing. They crave freedom and they want to show the adults in their life that they are capable of making their own decisions. They want to break out of the box and have some control over what they do, where they go, and how they look.

But some parents prevent their teens from making mistakes (especially the same kind of mistakes they made when they were a teenager), by applying more and more controls. This excessive controlling and sheltering can lead teens to a life of sneakiness (doing what they want to do behind the parent’s back), frustration, anger and eventually rebellion.

I can hear parents everywhere asking, “Isn’t this the time in their life when we need to rein them in? This culture is horrible!” I agree. In fact, it is precisely because the culture is so difficult that it is important for Christian parents to prepare their teen by helping them develop discernment. An overprotective parent accomplishes just the opposite, and the bud of discernment never develops into full-bloom.

I’m not recommending suddenly becoming an overly permissive parent. You can never just cast your concerns about your teen to the wind, nor let them make foolish decisions again and again. Instead, I am talking about looking for ways to help your teen develop discernment through expanding their freedom and through learning responsibility.

The best way to offer freedom is to couple it with responsibility. For instance, a sense of freedom can come from having a responsible job. To have some hours away from home, to make some money, and to think on their own will give them more freedom while still being responsible to a boss. On the other hand, an unwise freedom is to allow your teen more time to simply hang out with his buddies at all hours, aimlessly thinking up the trouble they can get into.

5 ■ Ten Ways to Turn Around Your Teen From my years of training horses I have learned to let the rope out a little at a time.

I loosen the reins as the horse and I develop more trust in one another. There is a big difference between letting out the rope a little, and letting the horse out of the corral. Likewise, when I talk about giving your teen more freedom, you still need to maintain the “fences” or boundaries, but gradually loosen the reins so your teen has more freedom to operate within those boundaries.

I admit, it takes a leap of faith to get both you and your teen to the next level.

However, finding a way to give your teen more freedom allows them to develop in maturity, before they become an adult and leave home altogether. A wise parent will see a teen’s need for more freedom and find a way to give it them before they ever ask for or demand it, and even if they are still reticent to experience it. So, look ahead, and develop a test of their mettle that is age-appropriate. Explain the boundaries, rules, and consequences in advance, and then let them go.

Will they fail? Of course they will! They’ll make mistakes, and when they do, your job is to apply consequences, so they learn from those mistakes. Expect failure, and plan for how to address it.

• Don’t shame them when they fail. We all fail.

• Don’t purposely put them in situations where you know they’ll fail.

• Don’t let your fears keep you from allowing your teen to try appropriate things.

• Don’t fix the messes they make or lessen the consequences.

• Don’t resort to, “I told you so,” or, “I should never have trusted you,” statements.

I love Chuck Swindoll’s definition of failure. He said, “Failure is the backdoor to success.” No parent wants their child to fail on purpose, but there are times when failure really helps a teen learn to be more discerning. As for me, I have been more blessed and learned more from the failures of my life than from the successes.

On the other hand, when a teen doesn’t fail, reward them! Give them some positive feedback and reasons to continue making right choices. Thank them for thinking it through and coming to the right conclusion. Use their good decisions as an opportunity to give them more freedoms and therefore, more opportunities to make right choices.

You’ll provide your teen with the strength and discernment they need later in life by spending less time sheltering and hovering, and more time helping them learn 6 ■ Ten Ways to Turn Around Your Teen important lessons on their own. Appropriate freedom along with responsibility can be the catalyst to develop discernment and maturity in your teen.

Ultimately, you’ll have to put your teen in God’s hands. He loves and wants to protect your teen as much as you do. So pray, trust God to direct your child’s path, and believe that He will make all things work toward His higher good. Pray for your teen’s protection, for the right people to come into his life and for the lessons he’ll learn as he begins to experience more freedom.

Empower Your Teenager Sometimes the most powerful – and the most difficult -- thing you can do as a parent is to give some of your power over to your teen. A line from the 1994 publication Flight of the Buffalo says it best; “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have — and underestimate the value of what they gain by giving it up.” I tell parents all the time, if you want your child to grow up, you have to let go of some of the power and control over their life.

It boils down to one very simple concept — the best way to empower your teenager is to gradually share the power you have, allowing them more and more control and responsibility for their own decisions.

To empower your child, hand them the responsibility for their own decisions.

When empowered, your teen’s expectations will shift away from leaning on mom and dad to fix everything, to understanding that they are the ones responsible for how things turn out. They may make many mistakes before they begin to understand what good decision-making looks like. And they may even try every trick in the book to get you to rescue them out of their poor choices. But don’t do it! Hold them responsible, just as they will some day be held accountable as an adult.

Sometimes, we feel that the only way we can be a good parent is to be in control of our teenager and prevent them from making mistakes. And that’s not true. A good parent gradually gives control back to the teenager and helps them learn through the decisions they make.

And when the teen displays immaturity and irresponsibility, or makes a really bad decision, we parents are often too quick to snatch back control and clamp down even harder on the rules. In those situations, protecting our teen from making any more mistakes may be doing more harm than good.

7 ■ Ten Ways to Turn Around Your Teen “The problem with over-control is this: while a major responsibility of good parenting is certainly to control and protect, they must make room for their child to make mistakes. Over-controlled children are subject to dependency, enmeshment conflicts and difficulty setting and keeping firm boundaries. They also have problems taking risks and being creative.” — Dr. Henry Cloud So, my advice is to gradually allow your teenager to have some control, and avoid taking it back…

• Let them assume more and more responsibility

• Encourage them to make thoughtful decisions

• Set reasonable boundaries

• Let them learn from their mistakes and don’t soften the blow

• Spend more time in discussion rather than dictation

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