World Mental Health Day: How to talk to your teen about mental health

Is talking with your teen about mental health daunting? World Mental Health Day, October 10, is an opportunity to engage with your teen in a meaningful way. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, a staggering one in five children ages 13 – 18 live with a mental health condition. Even if your teen never struggles with mental health, chances are strong that one of their friends may. This is a conversation parents cannot overlook. Explore these five tips to start the conversation about mental health.

1) Choose the right time.

Select an appropriate time to talk with your teen about mental health. Bringing it up right after an argument will not be fruitful. Rather, choose a time when you are both well-rested and calm. Some parents might find it helpful to begin the conversation while you are doing an activity together like driving in the car or cooking dinner. Think of opportunities that will work for you, and then choose your timing wisely. Choosing the right time and setting will help both you and your teen feel comfortable discussing this sensitive subject.

2)  Be genuine.

Before you even begin the conversation with your teen, remember empathy. The adolescent years are a challenging time for teens, as they build their own identities. Be genuine in your concern and love for them as you begin the conversation. Let go of your frustrations and start with an open mind and heart. Feel free to share your own experiences with them, too. When you include yourself in the conversation, it shifts from lecture to discussion.

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3) Ask questions and listen.

Ask your teen how they have been doing lately. Give them space to speak. Be quick to listen as they share their emotions with you. Be careful not to trivialize their feelings or experiences. Your teen opening up is an important first step in the journey to healing.

4) Share concern for your teen.

If you have noticed signs that your son or daughter may be struggling with a mental health problem, share observations that you’ve seen in your teen’s behavior. Frame these as “I” observations rather than “you” statements. For example, you might share, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been feeling very stressed about school lately. How have you been feeling?” For a list of mental health signs and symptoms, learn more here.

5) Continue the conversation.

Do not let the discussion begin and end on October 10. Make mental health an ongoing conversation with your teen. The more normal the conversations become, the easier it is for your teen to get help. Remind your teen that even when they struggle, you are there to support them — no matter what. Your teen has an advocate in you, and they are not alone. This builds trust between you and your teen.

If you observe mental health issues in your teen including depression, suicidal thoughts, drug abuse, alcohol use or others, reach out for help. Consider Shelterwood Residential Treatment Agency while you explore options that will be best for your family. Shelterwood Residential Treatment Agency recognizes that every teen’s needs are unique. Our relationship-based approach to treatment wraps teens in love when they are at their worst. At Shelterwood, we see the decision to enroll your child in a residential treatment agency as a new beginning and a chance for lasting change. Give us a call. We would love to answer all of your questions: (866) 585-8939.

Five Strategies for Listening Well

Listening is a challenging aspect of communication, particularly when parenting a struggling teen. When you listen well, you show your teen that their opinions, thoughts, feelings and perspective are valuable. You demonstrate that your child is worth your time — and you encourage and empower your teen too. Here are five strategies that you can put into action today to improve your own listening skills — and, at the same time, model for your teen what it looks like to listen well:

Be present.

With our smartphones always within reach, it is very tempting to rush to respond to text messages or check app updates as soon as you hear that telltale notification. Unfortunately, media can easily pull us out of the moment, both distracting us from the conversation and making us seem uninterested in the person we are with. Strive to set your phone aside until after the conversation is over, and ask your teen to do the same. The conversation will be much more productive that way, and people will remember that you made an effort to be as present as possible.

Expect disagreements.

Adolescence is the time when teens naturally establish their own opinions and preferences, and building this independence can be healthy! Walk into conversations knowing that you and your teen may not share the same perspective. This helps our minds remain open, and helps us stay focused on listening rather than reacting. We will be less likely to let our own thoughts and beliefs interfere with listening well. Do not be afraid to share your thoughts, but never let them override the importance of hearing others.

5 strategies for listening well Five Strategies for Listening Well

Be intentionally inquisitive.

Look for naturally occurring space in conversation for asking appropriate questions. When you do, you show your teen that you are paying attention, you are interested in what he or she is saying and you are committed to learning more. Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, your teen will leave knowing you care.

Keep an open mind.

Soak in what you are hearing. Just as you expect your teen to learn from you, you can also learn more about your teen through this conversation. Jumping in with our own response is tempting, particularly when the topic is volatile or challenging; but, if all we do is wait for the other person to stop speaking, we entirely miss what they are saying as we prioritize our own thoughts and beliefs over theirs.

Listen between the lines.

When you listen well, you can get to know your teen’s heart. As you hear their words, try and step into their shoes and imagine how they’re feeling in the moment. Once you think you have a handle to on what emotions are being represented, ask questions to make sure you understand correctly. This is a pivotal step in showing empathy for your teen.

Listening well is one of the best ways to open doors in relationships and creates a much deeper level of understanding — both for you and for your teen.

Conflict resolution: Four tips to diffuse conflict with your teen

The clock says 11 pm when you hear the front door unlock. Your teen is finally home — an hour past curfew, and for the third time this week. When you and your teen are at odds with each other, a conflict can get out of control rapidly. In this moment of worry, panic and anger, you both raise your voices.

What started as a calm conversation escalated quickly: you are no longer having a discussion, but a shouting match. Sound familiar? Here are some tips to diffuse conflict and get back to healthy conversation with your child:

1.) Take time to cool off.

Conflict cannot be solved in the face of strong emotions. If the conflict has escalated to a point where you or your teen cannot stay calm, take a step back. Whether in ten minutes or even the next morning after a good night’s sleep, be specific with your teen about when you will resume the conversation. When you take time to breathe and regain your focus, you give your teen the gift of opportunity: both of you can choose your responses logically, rather than behaving in a way you may regret.

How to say it: “We are both feeling angry right now, and we need to cool off. We can both take half an hour to catch our breath and calm down, and then I will see you back here for a healthy conversation.”

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2.) State the problem using “I” messages.

If things are starting to sound less like cooperative, productive conversation and more like the blame game, shift the tone toward one of personal responsibility by using “I” messages. Conflict can easily put us on the defense. Speaking with “I” as the subject instead of “you”  takes conflict in a positive direction.

How to say it: “I felt worried when curfew came and you were not home yet. We agreed as a family to a 10:00 curfew on weeknights. I was expecting you on time. What happened?”

3.) Use reflective listening to restate what you heard your teen say.

Reflective listening demonstrates that we care enough to hear the other person’s side of the story. Rather than focusing on yourself exclusively, it fosters empathy. To show your teen that you are listening, restate what you hear your teen saying.

How to say it: “So when you are out with friends whose curfews are later than yours, you feel that 10:00 is not a fair time to come home. You feel that you do not have the freedom you want.”

4.) Affirm your son or daughter with a simple reminder that they are loved, valued and important.

In times of conflict, heart rates increase, our logic gets distorted and we often think in simple, black-and-white terms: I am good, you are bad. Stop the emotional flood by simply affirming your teen. This quick, effective exchange reminds your teen that you do not love her any less, and she is just as cherished now as she was before the conflict.

How to say it: “I am feeling frustrated about the problem we are having with your curfew, but you are more important than this conflict. I love you no matter what, and you are priceless. We are on the same team and it is us against the problem, not us against each other.”

Conflicts with your teen do not need to be volatile and negative, and how we deal with conflict determines the outcome. If conflicts are becoming the norm with you and your teen, Shelterwood can help. Contact us to start the admissions process.

Emotional Decisions

Don’t let emotions screw up your decisions

Think about a time when you were weighing an important decision at work or at home. Such decisions are inherently complex, and no matter how much experience you have making them – working through the pros and cons of each choice can be overwhelming.

Your emotional reactions to these choices may help direct your attention and energy toward what you feel are the most important aspects of the decision. Yet intense emotions may lead you to make misguided or out-right disasters decisions.

Imagine, for instance, that you hit heavy traffic while driving home from work and are forced to miss dinner and your son’s basketball game. Frustrated and tired from work, you sit down on the couch only to be confronted with an important decision. Your daughter is asking to stay out late with her irresponsible boyfriend.

Even though the request is a separate issue and we all assume we have pushed our earlier frustration aside, Francesca Gino (Harvard Business Professor) has found that we are often unable to separate our emotions. His research emphasizes that emotions triggered by an event completely unrelated to a new situation often influence our thinking and decisions in that situation. In related research, Scott Wiltermuth of the University of Southern California, and Larissa Tiedens of Stanford University, found that anger triggered by something unrelated to the decision also affects how we evaluate the ideas of others.

They found that those who were induced to feel angry were less interested in evaluating others’ high-quality ideas. Anger appears to increase the appeal of criticizing others and their ideas. Our feelings can offer relevant and important feedback about the decision, but irrelevant emotions triggered by a completely unrelated event can take us off track.

The next time you get slammed with an unexpected workload or have an argument at work, consider how your emotional reactions could linger as you enter into the important task of parenting. Fortunately, we often can choose when to perform each of the many tasks required of us at home. This should allow us to evaluate ideas from others when we believe we are most capable of doing so objectively and thoroughly.

DO LESS and Teach More Responsibility

My kids play competitive sports, and I love to see them improve with every game! We work hours every week developing skills outside of team practices and games so that they might develop. Something I’ve had to develop over time is the ability to pull away from the figurative microscope that we look through when developing those skills when it is actually time to play the game!

When my daughter steps up to the plate in a softball game, it isn’t the time to critique, point out nuances of the swing, or challenge her form. It’s time to let her shine or fail!

Screen Shot 2015 09 16 at 1.44.29 PM 300x172 DO LESS and Teach More ResponsibilitySomething similar happens to us parents when it comes to monitoring our kids’ school performance. Over the past several years, many school systems have started utilizing online grade books so that parents can monitor their student’s grades. This can be a blessing and a curse to parents who want the best for their children.

I find myself checking my kids’ grades often. When I would notice an assignment missing, or a low quiz score, I often times am able to discuss it with my child that VERY night! What an awesome tool, right?

Something I noticed was that my kids became very guarded and stressed out that I was keeping such a close watch. Can you imagine if that happened at your job? This does indeed happen to adults, and it’s miserable! Instead of living life with your child and letting him take ownership of his academics, we become a micro manager. This doesn’t make for an easy relationship with your teen.

Recently I had a conversation with my teen about her grades after I noticed a couple of assignments missing in the online grade book. She let me know she had it handled, and that it stressed her out that I was watching things so closely. We came up with the agreement that I would only check the grades once a week, and would only mention something if I saw a trend developing over time. That’s still a very close watch on her progress, but I am committed to giving her some breathing room.

Give yourself permission to pull back from the microscope. You aren’t being neglectful; you are empowering your teen to grow and take responsibility!

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Give us a call and learn some other small steps you can take to teach responsibility in your home.

866.585.8939

Parenting without Tears

Is parenting without tears even healthy? Find out why it is important to have a soft heart.

Have you ever been told that becoming a Christian would make your life better? I have, and I am still waiting for that truth.  When my daughter was struggling with depression and anxiety, it was the most painful time in my life, filled with distress and lots and lots of tears.

praying dad copy 206x300 Parenting without TearsIn church this week, our pastor spoke about ‘lamenting’ and what it means to ‘sow your tears.’  In Psalms 126, David talks about reaping a harvest of joy after tears have been sown. It seems paradoxical, but the pastor gave such a meaningful explanation of grief and suffering that made it seem, well, much more positive and hopeful.  In the book of Ezekiel, God talks about taking hearts of stone from his people and replacing them with hearts of flesh. So, when we become followers of Jesus, our pain actually increases as our hearts are made softer than they were before.

Often our daughter would tell us, “Other parents don’t care if their kids drink, stay out, have sex… so why do you care?”  Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much, but my relationship with Jesus has actually softened my heart so much that I can’t help but notice and care.  The world tells us to “let go.”  Even counselors will sometimes suggest that your authority and power is limited and so if we can’t stop certain behaviors, we should just accept them.  After all, “they are just teens” and we should just “expect certain behaviors.”  This idea to care less is difficult for a soft heart that recognizes the eternal nature of our humanity.  I am not sure that what we are walking through with our teens as parents should just be endured or ignored.  Maybe instead we should open ourselves up and allow ourselves to feel this pain more deeply and sow our tears…let ourselves feel the full brunt of sorrow.  Throughout the Bible, grief and deep sorrow is one of the first steps in how believers grow and this might be key to how we become better leaders in our homes.

So, what are we supposed to do with all this pain? How do we plant our tears in order to reap joy?  Some of us are really good at trying to overcome our pain, or we minimize it, stuff it down and just hope it goes away. Our culture of individualism even teaches us to ignore pain, have a stiff upper lip, and resolve issues with our own strength. This is destructive because it is not in our nature to ‘hold’ pain and if we don’t recognize our pain we will transmit it to others.  The way to sow our tears is to bring our sorrow, suffering and pain to the God who knows what it feels like. No other god in this world was a sufferer…not one of them was ever weak, vulnerable or in pain. Jesus was. His heart of flesh was perfect, which is why we read that he cried so many times in the stories of His life. He is One who relates to pain, has felt sorrow in the deepest places of His heart and was able to pray and worship His way through those times. Don’t be afraid to lament…to lay down those ugly feelings and get real with Jesus. When we sow these tears, not only does He collect them, but He also plants them into our lives and then brings a harvest of joy out of the dry ground. Try reading through some of the Psalms of lament and use them as your prayers during difficult times. You might be surprised what you reap.

 

Mistakes Therapists Make

Four common errors that therapists make with teenagers, that Doré E. Frances has come across in her practice.

Mistake 3: Improving Family “Communication”

Screen Shot 2015 06 02 at 12.50.45 PM 300x202 Mistakes Therapists MakeThe most pervasive idea in both individual and family therapy is that young people run a muck because the family doesn’t “communicate” well. Too many therapists, in my opinion, focus on discussing what each member of the family feels without acknowledging any difference in status between children and parents.

They seem to believe that children may comment on parents’ sex life or spending habits as freely as parents would address the same subject with their child. When a young person is out of control and drunk on power, this attention to open communication is like throwing gasoline on an open flame.

I once told a 14-year-old client who was insulting his parents in a coaching session to stop speaking that way. He jumped up, pointed at me and shouted, “You’re my advocate. You have to let me say whatever I want as long as it’s what I really feel!”

I realized that this is what he had been taught by his former therapist at home before he entered a wilderness therapeutic outdoor program..

Therapists commonly teach parents and children to speak in “I” messages, and when no power struggle is going on, this practice is perfectly reasonable. However, when adolescents are angry and explosive, there is typically a power struggle going on, and this level of communication inflames it by raising an out of control teenager’s status to that of an equal partner with their parents. In power struggles, teenagers challenge parents about the content of an issue, and parents respond in the same vein.

John then screamed at his mother, “This is just bullshit! You always pull this kind of controlling shit on me. Everyone else’s parents are letting them go to the party. We’re not doing anything wrong mom.”

She responded to the content, defending herself by saying, “this isn’t bullshit.” She insisted that she and her Screen Shot 2015 06 02 at 12.50.09 PM 257x300 Mistakes Therapists Makehusband didn’t always control John and that she didn’t care what other parents allow. Some therapists might encourage this kind of interaction, thinking the teen and parents are communicating, when, in fact, the teenager is defining the issue and browbeating his parents. The communication approach I prefer simply acknowledges the process of the interaction and keeps parents from lapsing into a defensive position.

So with John’s mother, she might have said, “You know what, young man? As long as you’re talking to me that way, you aren’t going anywhere.” 

Often, I actually coach parents to be more mysterious and indirect by keeping their knowledge and plans to themselves. For instance, as a parent learns more about their teen’s friends, we encourage them to accumulate that knowledge until it can be used as part of a cohesive plan of action.

For instance, when parents learn about an illicit party this coming Friday night, instead of confronting the teen, it may be better to organize several parents to show up there together to break it up.

Difficult teenagers often work very hard so that parents don’t learn anything about their lives outside the home, while parents usually talk constantly, sharing all their plans and giving away whatever strategies they may be developing. Teenagers usually will resist their parents’ taking control of information by threatening further misbehavior or escalating the confrontation on the spot in an attempt to make parents capitulate.

By paying attention to process and not giving in to the temptation to explain and justify, parents can maintain their calm and gain greater authority.

Check out this interesting video on The Principle of Confusion

Errors that Therapists make

Taking back authority in the counseling office and in the home

Most therapists I know agree that teenagers can be among the most difficult clients they see in their practice.

iStock 000007761349Small 200x300 Errors that Therapists makeThey often refuse to attend sessions, refuse to speak when they do attend, swear at parents and therapist, and storm out of the room when they hear things they don’t like. Difficult teenagers often argue head-to-head with adults and professionals using arguments such as, “I’m not going to give them any respect if they don’t give me respect,” and “It’s my life.” At times such teenagers have thrown objects across the office. One particularly aggressive thirteen-year-old girl threw her high heel sandal directly at her therapist while hollering, “I’m glad I’m not one of your kids!”

Some teens are so direct that they come out and say, “There’s nothing you (the therapist) or them (their parents) can do about me.”

Any therapist treating domestic violence takes one look at a husband who is dominating and abusing his wife and recognizes that he exercises power over her. Yet, when a teenager threatens, dominates by shouting and imposing guilt and controls their parents by threatening to run away, most therapists fail to realize that abuse may be going on. Adolescent and preadolescent behavior begins at younger ages as our culture educates them more rapidly. Parents are walking the fine line between being authorities / parents and friends with their children. However, this tightrope is precarious and requires a lot more knowledge and patience than, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” As psychologist David Elkind pointed out decades ago, children are growing up more quickly and losing their childhoods too early in our fast-moving society.

As teenagers become adult-like at earlier ages, they see themselves as “equal” to the adults. Our society isn’t teaching them the distinction between being of equal value versus having equal authority as adults.

Teens are extremely vulnerable to believing that they can handle everything and don’t need adults.

They are struggling to take control of their lives as parents struggle to give them that control only as they’re ready to handle it. There’s a natural power struggle. So, how does an excellent therapist treat a struggle between a teenager and their parents?

Do they ignore the power issues and treat everyone as equals, or understand the need for order in a child’s life through support and leadership? Therapies that advocate support without leadership fail, giving teenagers too much control, in my opinion.

There are four common errors that therapists make with teenagers, that Doré E. Frances, has come across in her practice. They are surprisingly simple to grasp, and they always make matters worse:

Mistake 1: Courting the Teenage Client

Mistake 2: Falling Prey to Therapeutic Tunnel Vision

Mistake 3: Improving Family “Communication”

Mistake 4: Telling Parents to Back Off

We will discuss the first mistake that is often made by inexperienced counselors or weak therapeutic boarding schools. Courting the teenage client can often begin with the initial phone call from a parent.

The first words out of a parent’s mouth often are something like, “The counselor at the school said we need to bring Tammy in for family therapy, but Tammy says we’re the crazy ones and she won’t come in. She said she wouldn’t talk even if she did come in.” In the residential setting, a parent might be concerned that while their teen needs help, he or she would never allow it to happen and would possibly runaway or act out before they could get them to the facility.

This is the number one power tactic teenagers use to keep therapy from happening.

Weak therapists accept this story, suggesting that in order for someone to change they must be willing right from the beginning. They quickly empower the threat of the teen by saying, “oh well I guess there’s nothing to be done when their child won’t cooperate”. When this is the message to your family the therapist might as well say, “Sorry folks, you better get used to your daughter running your family.”

The best therapists, I have come across, when confronting this situation, tell parents on the phone that they treat kids who “won’t cooperate” all the time, and that they, the parents, must decide whether therapy is to happen.

Even in therapeutic boarding schools, teens try to avoid counseling. We recommend that our counselors tell the teen that the session is scheduled and they are expected to be there, and if they are not, the grown-ups will meet anyway. We also coach the parents, who are our clients, to point out to their teen that the adults will be talking about them and making decisions about their life. Most kids come to the first session after hearing this.

When they don’t attend, the therapist agrees with the parents in the first session to change something major at home, and when their adolescent gets angry about the change, to simply say, “Oh, we decided that at the therapy session.”

Teenagers almost always come to the second family session. As long as parents are reactive, and feel helpless and hopeless, the young person wields the power, dominates, controls, and simultaneously suffers. Another way that many therapists court teenage clients and make matters worse, in my opinion, is by according them the same treatment status as adult clients. The prevailing belief–not supported by law–that teenagers are entitled to a confidential relationship with their therapists leaves a teenager who is drunk on power thumbing their nose at the parents. A lot of therapists operate under the same standard of privacy with their teenage clients that they have with adult clients, which they feel requires them to withhold critical information from parents. Many angry parents come to our program with this complaint, stating that their teen’s therapist was withholding important facts, such as the teen’s sexual activity, smoking, drugs or criminal behavior, from them. Confidentiality in families is held within the family and not by individual members. Therefore, the therapist has latitude to share whatever needs to be shared.

The best therapists make it clear that they are closely involved with parents and they will use their judgment as to what they share with them.

After all, what’s the point of a teenager telling a therapist they are using drugs when the therapist can’t help the teen discuss it with the parents and find a solution? Creative therapists invite teens to withhold information from them until they decide they can be trusted. I find that teens then share sensitive information with their therapist even though they don’t give them a guarantee of confidentiality.

By Doré E. Frances, PhD

Education Consultant

Teachable Moments

Screen Shot 2015 03 24 at 7.12.13 PM 300x139 Teachable MomentsI’m a morning person and can’t wait to get the day going. In the morning I feel like a corvette peeling down the highway! However, my teenage son is NOT a morning person. Hence, we have found ourselves in consistent conflict when my cheerful, “Good morning!” is met with a grunt or mumbled, “Morning.” As soon as I feel his lack of energy I often think and occasionally say, “What’s your problem?” And the corvette goes crashing into the slow-moving VW bug.

It’s easy to get offended when your friendly overture to your teenager is met with ambivalence, if not passive hostility. It’s also easy to get frustrated when you are a schedule-oriented, goal-driven parent with a teenager who can’t seem to locate his schoolbooks because the floor is covered with clothes, and who comes within seconds from missing the bus every morning.

What I am learning, or trying to learn, is to breathe and then look for the teachable moments to instruct on matters of disagreement or frustration, rather than reacting at the moment of escalation. Knowing my child is not a morning person helps me make a wise mental “note to self” to discuss the matter later in the day when our discussion will be more effective.

Each summer we take Shelterwood students on hiking trips in Canada and sometimes run across bears. Of course, we encourage our students to literally never ‘poke the bear’ as it escalates the bear’s anger very quickly. And this is a good reminder for parents. Why poke your teenage bear in the morning? More research might need to be done, but I am sure there is significant science behind the idea that teens usually struggle in the morning for a number of developmental reasons. So why would I choose to poke my son in the morning before he’s ready to interact? So I am trying to tone down my morning ‘songbird routine’ when I am around him, and yes, he is still expected to respect me as his dad, but timing is critical when it comes to dealing with conflict.

It isn’t easy but I am really trying to be a proactive parent. It takes discipline, patience, and grace to not react to my son’s attitude and behaviors. Being observant enough to notice and patient enough to wait for the teachable moments takes practice.

Greg Stone
Long Time Shelterwood Staff & Father of Teens

Parent with Purpose

Screen Shot 2015 03 20 at 3.01.18 PM Parent with PurposeIt is that time of year again, March Madness. It is full of excitement and is often an emotional roller coaster for players and fans around the country. It also reminds me of my own experiences playing college basketball many years ago. As I think back, I always feel like I could have had greater success if I had not been so distracted and had approached the game with a little more purpose. It might seem silly to feel some remorse or disappointment in myself after all of these years, but as I watch my kids leave home and go off to college, l can’t help but feel that same regret on some level.

As I think back to my basketball days or of my days parenting, I am reminded of how important it is to have a purpose. In college, I was probably more focused on dating and having fun. My lack of purpose led to less fulfilling accomplishments on the court. As a parent, it is also easy to lose sight of the higher purpose of our leadership in the home. It might be the work life, the carpool thing, or maybe the cultural noise (music, drugs, boyfriends, etc.) that keeps us distracted and disconnected from living out our core values.

At times parenting has felt like the days on the basketball court when all I was focused on was playing defense. There was an imbalance; I was not being assertive with offense because I wasn’t shooting the ball well. Parenting might feel that way to you sometimes as well – a very defensive focus. What with dating, drugs, alcohol, pornography, movies, dress…I mean, it can really come at you! And we certainly need to protect our kids; after all, it is one of our primary roles. But it is also easy to begin to feel desperate, lacking confidence and unsure of what to do. Of course, you can’t win many basketball games if you only play defense.

The problem is that most parents have never identified what is at the heart of their purpose in Screen Shot 2015 03 20 at 3.08.50 PM 300x245 Parent with Purposeparenting. As a result, that core purpose doesn’t impact their normal day-to-day lives. It is like we don’t have an offensive game plan and aren’t running any plays. We are just throwing the ball at the hoop and quickly running back to defend.

The key to any core purpose is that it is authentic. Imagine asking our teens to run a certain play on the court while we run around doing something completely different. It will not make sense to our families and our kids might actually quit, throwing the ball up in the air out of frustration.

I once worked with a father that wanted me to help his son quit smoking marijuana, which seems like a reasonable goal. The problem was that his purpose was hypocritical. He wanted his son to quit because he kept stealing the pot from the father’s stash. Hypocrisy creates battles as teens have a real sense of justice and will almost always engage in a fight for their right to live the lives they see modeled.

Many of us struggle to see the hypocrisy in our own lives. We value faith and hope that our kids follow us in our beliefs. So we surround them with like-minded people. We enroll our kids in Sunday school, youth group, and seek out positive religious influences. And these activities are really good. But really they are intended to just be a net. It is not the core – the core is the family. The net around it is the supporting structures that help us build an environment around our family that helps us get where we want to be as healthy families.

Screen Shot 2015 03 20 at 3.47.21 PM 150x150 Parent with PurposeStudies show that we do more harm than good when we go to church on a Sunday morning and live another way the rest of the week. Kids want authenticity. During adolescence, kids really step back from authority and evaluate the authenticity of the message. They want to see if our behavior matches our words and if it is really worth following these values into adulthood.

When you think about it really though, it’s not just that kids in this culture want authenticity. It’s God Himself that wants it. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken and contrite heart. He wants us to come to Him in honesty.

As parents we should stop and think about this. If somebody went to our kids, and asked, “What matters most to your mom and dad?” would our kids have to think? What would be on the list they’d come up with? What do you think they are seeing around the house?

Examine these answers and ask yourself what you might need to do differently. Am I just going to acknowledge it and feel ashamed, guilty, and like a failure as a parent? Or, am I going to examine my game plan, establish a fresh purpose with input from my spouse, and begin to practically work that out in my relationships with my children? This new game plan can be established around the values of my family, around my schedule, around how I order my life, and it can begin to reflect a heart that really does love God, and is passing that heart on to my children.

 

So watch March Madness, notice the focus and purpose with which they play and enjoy a few  bracket busting games.