Search our Blog contents

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hope for Your Struggling Teenager

Mark Gregston
When you're struggling with a wayward teenager, it can seem as though your world is being turned upside down. Everything you've planned and hoped for in the child's life appears to be fading away. In essence, you feel like a failure.

It is common for such parents to have sleepless nights... finger-pointing arguments... tears... and stress far beyond what they've ever experienced before.  The energetic little boy who was so fun... or the sweet little girl who used to be full of hugs... has become someone totally different, and is teetering on the edge of disaster. It's enough to make you lose all hope.

Over the past 30 years, my wife Jan and I have spent countless hours with teens and their parents, and we've seen God do some incredible, amazing things. And what I have learned is this: Because God is faithful, there is hope. There is hope for your teen... and there is hope for your family... no matter how desperate the situation may seem.

First of all, hope can be found by focusing on God's promises and seeking support from other caring believers. Search God's Word and let it speak hope into your life. Get into a small group of other parents going through something similar to what you're experiencing.

There's nothing like having a crowd of people around you who are in the same boat trying to bail. Many times, people get involved in small groups just to talk. I would encourage you to get into a small group so you can also listen. When all you know to do isn't working, the counsel of others might spark some new ideas or directions with your teen. There is wisdom and comfort in the presence of many.
Second, hope can be found by pinpointing possible underlying triggers of the problem. You see, good kids generally don't make bad choices or hang out with the wrong crowd unless something else is bothering them. Knowing what those triggers may be -- usually a loss or damage in their life of some sort -- can help you better understand why your teen is acting the way they do.

This isn't to justify the behavior, but to better understand it.  Pinpointing the cause of the struggle will help you realize that your teen isn't necessarily choosing a lifestyle or turning away from you or your values at this point. They are simply responding to or covering up the hurts that they feel by grasping onto new things that their culture says will bring them joy, pleasure and satisfaction.

Third, hope can be found by tightening the boundaries. Just because someone is lost, hurt, or damaged doesn't give him or her license to destroy you or your home, or constantly disrupt your family. When a teen has lost his way, he doesn't know where he is, much less where he is going, so any attempt to get him somewhere or keep him from heading down a path of trouble is usually met with resistance. Parents can spend all the time they want telling their teen that the path he is on will take him somewhere he doesn't want to be, but it will usually have little effect. 

So establish solid boundaries, which will give your teen a road map.  He'll then know what to expect if he sways off the road.  It also helps take some of the parental emotion and anger out of the equation.
And fourth, hope can be found through taking time to build a stronger relationship with your teen.  Begin with a conversation of restoration.  You do this by admitting where you may have been wrong as well. Tell your teen where you've made mistakes and how you'd like to relate differently in the future. Sharing your failures just might give her the motivation and example she needs to do the same, though usually not right away.

Require that you do something fun together (fun to the teen, not necessarily you) once every week and then let the conversation flow naturally. It may take several weeks of outings before anything is said by the teen, but keep it up. This approach conveys the message that you can still love your child even though she is a mess, even though she is making mistakes and being hurtful. It lets her know that you can love her when she has it all together, and you can love her when she doesn't. Isn't this what we all desire?

You can rest assured that God is pursuing your child just as intensely as you are. And He won't stop until your wayward one is found. God says, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). God has not left what He is building. This doesn't mean you can just sit back and let God do all the work. He's going to use you in that process. As an old Russian proverb says, "Pray to God, but keep rowing to shore."

Mark Gregston is the host of Parenting Today's Teens radio and the Founder and Executive Director of Heartlight Ministries, a residential counseling program for struggling teens which can be reached at 903-668-2173.

Ten 'CAN'-mandments

by Rick Warren

In our Devotionals series, Pastor Rick Warren discusses the Bible passages that inspire him the most. Today's Devotional is based on this passage:
"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 NIV).

So often we think of commandments as a list of don'ts. Instead of focusing on what we can't do, let's start looking at what we can with this list of ten "can"-mandments!
1. Instead of thinking, "It will never fly," think, "Through God's strength, it's worth the try!"
2. Replace the thought, "It won't work," with faith that, with God's strength, it will work!
3. When someone says, "It's never been done before," respond by saying, "That means God's giving us the opportunity to be the first."
4. "What if we fail?" What if we fail to try, knowing God says we can do everything through Him who gives us strength?
5. "We don't have the money." Where God guides, he provides so that we can do everything he has called us to do.
6. "We don't have the time!" Perhaps God is telling us to re-evaluate our priorities as we rely upon his direction and strength.
7. "We don't have the expertise." Maybe not, but we can learn as God directs our path.
8. "It's been tried before." But we're wiser now because we know we can do everything when we rely on God's strength instead of our own.
9. If someone says, "There are so many problems with it," respond by saying, "Yet, there are so many possibilities when we're trusting God instead of ourselves."
10. Instead of saying, "It's not working out," say instead, "Let's try it one more time, but this time focused on God and the truth that we can do this through Him who gives us strength."
"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse" (Philippians 4:8 MSG).

news: Church of Sweden Elects Lesbian Bishop


June 2, 2009

UPPSALA, Sweden (RNS/ENI) -- The newly-elected Lutheran bishop of Stockholm says that being a lesbian means she wants to stand alongside people who feel powerless.

"I know what it is to be called into question," the Rev. Eva Brunne said in an article on the Web site of the Church of Sweden after her Tuesday (May 26) election. "I am in the lucky situation that I have power and I can use it for the benefit of those who have no power."

Brunne, who is currently the dean of the Stockholm diocese, is the first Church of Sweden bishop to live in a registered homosexual partnership, the Uppsala-headquartered church said, and she is believed to be the first openly lesbian bishop in the world.

Brunne, 55, lives with priest Gunilla Linden in a partnership that has received a church blessing. They have a three-year-old son.

"Once you have been baptized, no one can say you cannot be part of the Church because you are homo-, bi-, or transsexual," the Web site of the French periodical Ttu quoted Brunne as saying.
She clinched the post by 413 votes against 365 votes for Hans Ulfvebrand; she will succeed Bishop Caroline Krook, who is to retire in November.

In 2003, the consecration of a V. Eugene Robinson, an openly gay man who lives with a male partner, as the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire triggered a deep division and threatened a schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Lutheran churches throughout the world hold different views about matters of human sexuality, including the acceptance of homosexuals in church life and blessings for same-sex relationships.
The Church of Sweden, which offers a special blessing for same-sex couples, has faced criticism from some other Lutheran churches, particularly those in African countries.

Copyright 2009 Religion News Service and Ecumenical News International. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Confront People without Offending Them

by Whitney Hopler of Crosswalk


A husband who won't help his wife with household chores. A spendthrift woman who's constantly trying to borrow money from her friends. A boss with an anger problem who alienates his employees. A grandma who's tired of being asked to babysit so often that she doesn't have enough time to herself. These are just a few examples of the many issues that, if not dealt with, can permanently damage relationships.


All too often, people either avoid conflict or deal with it in clumsy, ineffective ways. Such approaches only make conflicts worse. But if you follow God's call to confront people without offending them, you can resolve conflicts, strengthen relationships, and grow personally in the process.


Here's how you can confront people without offending them:


Aim for a goal. Before confronting someone, clarify what you hope to achieve through the confrontation. Retaliation should never be your goal. If you have a vengeful attitude, confess it and ask God to cleanse your thoughts toward the person you want to confront.


Aim to use a confrontation to resolve whatever issue is causing conflict between you and the other person. Consider what specific outcome you'd like to see result from the confrontation – having someone stop a negative behavior, start a positive behavior, or make some other change – and keep that goal in mind when you confront the person.



Confront whether you're the offended or the offender. God wants you to try to resolve conflict through confrontation whether someone else has offended you or whether you've offended someone. If you've been offended, don't repress your feelings; that will only lead to bitterness that will poison your soul and express itself in unhealthy ways in your life.


If you've offended someone, remember that it's your responsibility to take action toward reconciliation. Work to overcome excuses and defensiveness no matter what the situation. Be willing to confront to try to work out the issue, since God has given you a mandate to initiate reconciliation whether you are the offended or the offender.



Understand different conflict management styles. Dictators handle conflict by charging, commanding, demanding, directing, imposing, mandating, ordering, proclaiming, ruling, calling the shots, and laying down the law. Sometimes that style is necessary because moral values are at stake or the common good is being threatened. But often, dictators need to focus more on hearing and valuing other people's input.


Accommodators handle conflict through adapting, adjusting, conforming, indulging, obliging, pleasing, or accommodating to other people's needs and desires. Accommodators are good at listening, which is a key skill in working through conflicts. But they need to learn to set boundaries to let others know that their negative or insensitive behavior toward them is not acceptable.


Abdicators handle conflict by retreating, bowing out, quitting, stepping down, separating themselves from situations, dropping out, walking away, abandoning, resigning, surrendering, or yielding. But by running away, abdicators make it impossible to resolve their conflicts. They need to express their needs through "I" statements that tell others what they feel when they experience the behavior that's causing the conflict and explain what they'd like to see happen.


Collaborators deal with conflict in the healthiest way, through cooperating, joining forces, uniting, pulling together, participating, and co-laboring to find a way to resolve the issue. Consider what style you tend to use the most, and think and pray about how you can better work with others as a collaborator. Do you need to be more respectful of authority, value other people's input more, or communicate more clearly? Try to choose the collaborator style as often as possible when managing conflict.



Prepare for the encounter. Before you confront someone, first be honest about why you've decided to confront him or her about the issue. Do you have an ulterior motive (such as trying to make the person feel guilty) or do you want to see a genuine change in behavior? Remind yourself that your goal should be to resolve a specific issue for God's glory.


Choose the right time and place for the confrontation, and try to make sure that you talk with the person when you all can be alone instead of in front of others. Pray to prepare your heart and mind before the confrontation.



Own the problem. Speak on your own behalf, explaining how the problem has affected you personally or how you perceive the issue rather than shifting the attention to other people's perspectives. Take responsibility for expressing your own thoughts and feelings clearly and directly to the person you're confronting.



Speak the right words. Pray for the wisdom to choose the words that will help you most effectively communicate with the person, and for the peace you need to deliver those words in a calm tone of voice. Describe specifically what you've observed or experienced, since being too general will make it easy for the person to deny wrongdoing or misinterpret your message.


For every negative statement you need to make while discussing the issue at hand, try to make a positive statement affirming the person's worth and your commitment to the relationship both before and after making the negative statement. That will help the person know that you are rejecting his or her behavior, but not him or her as a person.


When you criticize, do so constructively, giving the person information to help him or her solve the problem and being careful to preserve the person's dignity. Listen to the person with an open mind. Admit your own mistakes. Work with the person to find mutually agreeable ways to move forward.




Listen well. When you listen, you create an environment where the person you're confronting feels that he or she has been heard and his or her thoughts and feelings have been validated. That will motivate the person to try to resolve the conflict with you. Try to fully understand the person's intentions and objectives rather than jumping to conclusions. Verify facts before making accusations. Explain your own actions when the person has questions about them. Ask questions to clarify what the person is telling you; then paraphrase what you think the person has said to make sure you understand correctly.



Negotiate future behavior. Try to work out a mutual agreement on how to move forward after the confrontation. But keep in mind that the only behavior you have the power to change is your own.

Determine how much you're willing to compromise without violating your core values or self-respect to achieve harmony.



Forgive the offender. Let your gratitude for how much God has forgiven you motivate you to obey His call to forgive those who have offended you. Decide to forgive – despite your feelings – and rely on God's help to do so, trusting that your feelings will gradually change in the process.


While your decision to forgive should be immediate, restoring trust in your relationship with the offender is a process that may take a long time. For true restoration to take place, the offender must first repent and show consistent behavior that gives evidence of his or her change of heart. However, whether or not the person who has offended you ever apologizes or repents, you must forgive him or her to obey God's call and free your soul from the poison of bitterness. If you're having difficulty choosing to forgive someone, pray for that person, and God will help you become more willing to forgive.


After you choose to forgive, stop rehearsing the offense in your mind. Leave it in the past and focus on your future.



Get to know various temperaments. Understand your own temperament and that of others influences how each of you naturally communicate. Figure out the needs, fears, preferences, and propensities toward certain behaviors that come naturally to yourself and other people. Keep that in mind to devise strategies with each person to improve the way you interact with him or her. 

Published May 22, 2009

Adapted from Confronting without Offending: Positive and Practical Steps to Resolving Conflict, copyright 2009 by Deborah Smith Pegues. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or.,      

Deborah Smith Pegues is an experienced certified public accountant, a Bible teacher, a speaker, and a certified behavioral consultant specializing in understanding personality temperaments. As well as the bestselling 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue (more than 300,000 sold), she has authored 30 Days to Taming Your Finances and 30 Days to Taming Your Stress. She and her husband, Darnell, have been married for nearly 30 years and make their home in California.