HELP WANTED: PARENT OF TEEN
A Parental Job DescriptionThe trouble with being a parent is
that by the time you’re experienced…you’re unemployed.
The job description of a parent is to provide a secure environment that
champions solid standards.
Obviously, every kid at every age needs this. But with teens,
such an environment provides fertile ground for them to respect and
trust us, look to us for guidance, and talk more honestly and openly
So what does this haven of rest—with unconditional love as its
This safe haven is framed with standards—the plumb line by which
life is measured and the starting point for discerning right from wrong.
These standards provide the structure for everyday life. And in many
ways, they determine the very quality of life.
Do you ever wonder which standards you should champion? With
the glut of belief systems today, how do you know which standards
are best? Because the Bible is the ultimate and perfect
source of standards, let God’s Word be your guide.
Parents’ actions speak volumes about their own standards. Because
how we live—not what we say—is the clearest reflection of what we
believe. When we reflect strength of character and love to our children,
we pass along those standards to them. And then, when they are no
longer living under our roof, those standards will be their North
Star…pointing to abundant life.
The solid standards mentioned above can only be developed in a
secure and loving environment. Teenagers need a safe and loving place
where they can develop their own beliefs, values, and identities.
Are you providing this kind of environment? Does your teen feel
safe enough to discuss anything and everything with you?
As a youth pastor, I (Kent) spend a lot of time talking to
teenagers. Since recently moving back to Atlanta after several years, I
have reconnected with some of the guys, now in their late twenties,
who were in my first youth group fifteen years ago. One guy, whom
I’ll call Jay, always had a great relationship with his mom and dad.
When we recently met for coffee to catch up on old times, I asked him
how his parents were doing. He proceeded to go off for ten minutes,
telling me how great they were and how much he respected them. As I
dug deeper, I asked him what made his parents so great. He replied
without hesitation, “I’ve always been able to talk to them about anything.
They love me unconditionally.”
As Jay grabbed at the chance to talk about the secure environment
his parents had created for him, I couldn’t help but think of a very different
story—about a very different family. A few weeks earlier I had
done some catching up with another guy named Blake. As we sipped
our coffee (yes, I love coffee), he asked my advice on a number of
issues. When I asked him what his parents’ take was on these things,
he said, “We don’t talk about stuff like this. My family is detached relationally.”
Amazing! Here was a young man, almost thirty years old, who
still didn’t feel safe enough with his parents to discuss issues that were
very important to him.
Like we said…security is a big deal.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can fool some of the people
some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
But when it comes to relating to teens, we would have to say: “You
can’t fool any of them ever!”
Yes, when it comes to character, teens have a sixth sense. They can
smell a fake a mile away. If we don’t live what we say we believe, they’ll
see right through us. Even more, they’ll never confide in us because
they don’t feel they can trust us to safely guide them in the right way.
But, if they can trust us to point them in the right direction, down a
path we are already on ourselves, they will look to us for guidance.
Bottom Line: Teens talk more honestly and openly in a secure home
environment where solid standards are championed.CHAPTER TWO
AIN’T NOTHING LIKE THE REAL THING, BABY!
Authenticity Is HugeActions speak louder than words, especially for parents and pastors.
In May of 1990, my (Connie) dad had quintuple bypass surgery. My
youngest daughter and I flew to Oklahoma to be with my parents
while my husband and twins stayed back at our home in Omaha. For
the next week we became extremely familiar with the hospital. In fact,
when my cousin Jeanette asked my not quite two-year-old daughter
where her new home was, she replied, “The hospital.”
Since visiting hours were limited, we had a lot of time on our
hands and would often visit the hospital gift shop. On one such visit, a
plaque on the wall caught my attention.
Small and simply framed were these poignant words:
Your walk talks
And your talk talks
But your walk talks more
Than your talk talks.
As we briefly mentioned earlier, teens are geniuses at zeroing in on
hypocritical behavior. If we want our teens to talk to us and—far more
than that—if we want our teens to respect us, we need to make certain
our walk and our talk line up.
For instance, let’s say Johnny just turned thirteen. As he and his
dad walk toward the ticket booth at the movie theater, they both look
at the large sign indicating ticket prices are five dollars for children,
ages three to twelve; and ten dollars for adults, ages thirteen and older.
Dad and son look at each other and give the signal—they’ve done this
before. Johnny is thirteen, not twelve, but Dad buys him a childpriced
ticket anyway—both know they’ll spend the “saved” money on
concessions. Of course, the ticket agent doesn’t question the dad
because he doesn’t look like someone who would lie.
Dad may have thought he saved five dollars, and Johnny may be
happy with his extra large popcorn and soda. But something of much
greater value than a measly five dollars is at stake here: Johnny knows he’s
thirteen. Dad’s probably told him that lying and stealing are wrong, but
this little lesson in lying, cheating, and stealing says just the opposite.
Johnny may not know what the word integrity means, but in his
gut he knows that the deception was wrong…and he knows his dad
knows it too.
There really isn’t any such thing as a little white lie. Involving children
in lying, cheating, and stealing is always a very big thing. And yet
many parents don’t even think twice about telling their children to tell a
caller that they’re not home—when they are! Or telling them to tell their
teachers they were sick—when in fact you extended your family vacation.
On the one hand, we ask our kids to tell lies when it’s convenient
for us, but then on that same day we ground them for lying to us
when it’s convenient for them.
Talk about mixed messages! No wonder they don’t bother talking
So this brings us to the question: Who wants to talk over the issues of
life with a thief and a liar? Not anyone we know. Sure, our kids may still
talk to us, but it won’t be about anything of much depth or significance.
Even if we are honest most of the time, our kids will still notice
the couple of times we shade the truth to our own advantage…and
they will wonder why we preach one message but live a different one.
Kids are smart. If we can’t be trusted to be honest with a five dollar
difference in the price of a ticket, why should they trust us with what is
near and dear to their teenage souls?
Bottom Line: Your character shouldn’t be “for sale.”
Excerpted from How to Get Your Teen to Talk by Connie Grigsby. Copyright © 2003 by Connie Grigsby. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.