Five Questions to Ask as You Discipline Your Teenager

Five Questions to Ask as You Discipline Your Teenager

Doug FieldsAuthor of Intentional Parenting

When I was growing up and did something I knew that I should not do, my parents would spank me. My dad had an interesting spanking technique. I can remember him getting mad, deciding he was going to spank me, and then he’d say, “Douglas, go get me something to hit you with.”

Today, this sounds funny. Back then, it sounded completely rational.

I eventually learned that the longer I took to get something for him to hit me with, the more he would cool off and the easier the spanking would be. Once I was tempted to return with a pillow, but it didn’t seem like he would think it was funny.

Spanking a younger child may thwart inappropriate behavior, but there can be a high cost connected to it—emotionally, relationally, and physically. And when kids become teenagers, then what is the parent going to do (especially if the teenager is now bigger than the parent)?

Understand that discipline is unique to each situation. There’s no one-way to handle each disciplinary situation, but just smacking a kid when he or she messes up may make a parent feel better for awhile, but there has to be a better, more effective method.

There is no one way to discipline children, but some ways are better than others.

Here are five questions Cathy and I tried to use when we had to discipline our teenagers:

1. What did you do?

2. Why was that behavior wrong?

3. How could you have handled it better?

4. Next time, what do you think you could do?

5. Should you repeat the wrong behavior, what would be a fair and natural consequence?

These questions gave us some cool down time and also helped us teach our kids to think about their actions. Sure, there were many times when it would have been a lot easier to simply scream at them, smack them, or send them to their bedrooms.

But healthy parenting requires parents to use wisdom, discernment, confidence, and often times, patience. So remind yourself over and over again of the goal of discipline: to teach teenagers responsibility for their own behavior. Then, when the moment for discipline arises, do your best to help both you and your teen to reach the goal.


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Five Ideas for Communicating Christ to Your Kids

Five Ideas for Communicating Christ to Your Kids

Jim BurnsPresident of HomeWord and Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University

If you find it challenging to talk with your teen about God and spiritual issues, you are not alone. It’s not that parents don’t want to talk about faith with their kids, but rather that they don’t know how to get started. Here are five practical suggestions to get faith conversations started in your home.

1. Be yourself. You don’t need a seminary degree to talk to your kids about God. You don’t have to speak like a pastor giving a sermon. Just be yourself in conversations with your teenager. Share your understanding of who God is and why He matters to you in a way that reflects the real you.

2. Don’t limit your faith conversations to Sunday mornings. Don’t get caught in the trap of compartmentalizing faith issues to certain days or times. Let you kids know that spiritual issues are important in your life all of the time! Don’t go overboard, but make faith issues an ongoing discussion with your family.

3. Let your kids catch you in the act of doing something spiritual. Spending time alone with God is great, but how will they know about the value you place on spiritual disciplines if they never see you engaged in them? Let your kids “see” you involved in these disciplines. Your actions teach your teenagers much about your faith, and likely communicate more than your words.

4. Look for natural opportunities to engage in faith conversations. Be on the lookout for opportunities along the road of life where issues almost beg to be discussed in light of your Christian commitment and faith. Try utilizing news items and entertainment media sources as springboards for faith conversations.

5. See yourself as a “fellow-learner” rather than a teacher. Taking the posture of a “fellow-learner” takes much of the pressure off of you and sends the message that you don’t claim to know everything about the Christian faith. It’s truly healthy when your teen asks a faith question that you need to reply with, “I don’t know the answer. Let’s figure it out together.”


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Now What? Reading Between the Lines of Current Research

Now What? Reading Between the Lines of Current Research

HomeWord. com

Family Environment Impacts Kids’ Future

Two recent studies provide a good reminder for parents that the family life your child experiences now significantly impacts her or his future life as an adult.

In one study, researchers from the University of Alberta examined data from 2,970 people who were interviewed at three stages of life from adolescence to young adulthood spanning ages 12 to 32. The study found that teens who shared a good relationship with their parents enjoyed healthier and high quality romantic relationships as adults. Researchers also noted that recognizing the type of relationship teens share with their parents earlier on can help them stay away from future heartbreaks.

In another study, scientists at the University of East Anglia (U.K.) used brain-imaging technology of teenagers, ages 17-19, to investigate potential links between home life and brain development. The study found that brain scans revealed children who experience ‘mild to moderate’ family problems up to the age of 11 suffer impaired brain development and could be at risk of psychiatric illness. These problems include arguments or tension between parents, physical or emotional abuse, lack of affection or communication between family members.

Those who had encountered ‘mild to moderate’ family problems when they were younger than 11 had a smaller cerebellum — a part of the brain linked to skill learning, stress regulation and sensory motor control. A small cerebellum may indicate an increased risk of psychiatric problems later in life, said the researchers.

The study also revealed one ‘significant and unexpected’ finding — stressful experiences at the age of 14 might actually benefit the brain. Children stressed at this age were found to have developed a number of larger brain regions by the time they were 19. The exposure to mild stress during the early teenage years may serve to ‘inoculate’ children and help them cope better with difficulties later in life.

Now What?

– Parents should work to establish and maintain healthy relationships with their kids. Times of conflict with adolescent children are inevitable, but how parents process and act to resolve conflict is critical. The life modeling parents display now can set the example for how kids will deal with relationships in the future.

– For younger children, keep most marital or family conflict “behind stage” where kids are not continually exposed to family problems.

– As kids grow into adolescence, some exposure to dealing with family or marital conflict is healthy for proper brain development and it provides (hopefully) healthy modeling kids can imitate in adulthood.


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Empty Nest? Not So Fast

Empty Nest? Not So Fast

HomeWord.com –

If you find yourself in the midst of parenting a teenager today, you might already be dreaming and even planning your new life of freedom once the chicks leave the nest. That bedroom your teen has been hogging all this time is just a few years away from becoming a den, craft room, or man cave, right?

Not so fast.

In unprecedented numbers, today’s generation of young adults are still living at home with their parents. Recently, Pew Research Center performed an analysis of Census Bereau data and found that 23.6% of young adults, ages 25-34, are living in a multigenerational household. (For most, this means living at home.) This percentage has increased from 18.7% before the recession, according to Pew. (Note: Pew did not even include young adults in the 18-24 years-old group in their analysis!)

Pew reports that the largest factors at play in young adults living with their parents are the slow economic recovery and the recent trend in delaying adult independence.

What Should Parents Do?

– Start thinking now about what you want your life to look like in future years. Does it include having an adult child living at home with you? If so, what will this look like? What will it mean to your household financially? How will it affect your plans for retirement? And if you are looking for the more traditional empty nest experience, how are you preparing your teenager now to move toward adult independence?

– Start having discussions with your teenager about what she or he wants their life to look like in the future. Would he or she be happy living at home with you? If you would welcome having an adult child living at home with you, what are your expectations about responsibilities and financial contributions? How will you help them become as independent as possible despite living with you?

– Give some forethought to how you might handle unplanned circumstances that might affect both you and your adult child, such as another recession, poor job availability and wages, burdensome college student loans, and extended seasons in post-graduate studies.


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Discussion Questions to Get Your Family Talking

Discussion Questions to Get Your Family Talking

HomeWord.com

Getting your teenagers talking can be quite a challenge. You’ve probably had a conversation that went like this:

Parent: Did you have a good day?
Teen: Yeah.
Parent: What did you do?
Teen: Nothing.
Parent: Did anything exciting happen?
Teen: No.
Parent: Any plans for the weekend?
Teen: Not really.

Some of the challenge in parent-teen conversation is due to the type of questions parents ask. When parents ask questions that can be answered with one or two words, they usually don’t lead to great conversations.

To get your family talking, try using open-ended questions that create the possibility for more engagement in conversation. These won’t guarantee long answers from your teen, but the more thought you put into the questions you ask, the better the chances are that your kids will engage with you.

Here are some suggestions for open-ended questions which may help you get thinking about creating your own:

– What was your understanding of what happened when _____________?

– What would you like to see happen when you ____________?

– What do you think caused them to ____________?

– What were the two best things that happened to you today?

– What was the most surprising thing about your day?

– What do you hope your life will look like 10 years from now?

– How has your opinion of our family changed over the years?

– If you could change something about our family, what would it be?

– If you had to choose, what would you say is the best decision you’ve ever made?

– What sorts of things are most important to you in life right now?


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Discipline Demonstrates Love

Discipline Demonstrates Love

Doug FieldsAuthor of Intentional Parenting

At some level, most parents fear the possibility that using discipline with their kids might drive them away. Yet the reality is that discipline is needed, and (for most kids) it works.

Many kids aren’t mature enough to realize that if their parents don’t ground them; if they don’t attach consequences to actions that are outside the established boundaries, their parents are not acting in love toward them.

Healthy discipline is a sign that parents love their children. Let’s think about God for a moment. The Scriptures tell us that He disciplines us because He loves us: “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” —Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT) This passage in Proverbs ties God’s discipline to the human discipline a parent provides to his or her child, and this is how we know that discipline (provided in a healthy way) is a demonstration of love.

I believe the healthiest and most effective way to discipline teenagers is to set up consequences for violating boundaries ahead of time. When consequences are set ahead of time, you set up the dynamic where it’s not you versus your child, but rather you and your child versus the consequences. For example, if my daughter comes home late, missing her curfew, and I meet her at the door, I can tell her, “I’m so bummed that you missed your curfew and now you have to spend the next three weeks with Mom and me.”

I don’t have to get angry. I don’t have to yell. I don’t even have to raise my voice. I can actually be empathetic toward my daughter, because the reality is that we agreed to the consequence ahead of time. It’s my daughter and me against the consequence.

No teenager is ever going to go up to a parent and say, “Thank you. Thank you. I love it when you ground me!” But, loving guidelines and strong parental boundaries are a sign of love. Beyond applying consequences, your kids need you to help them process bad decisions and help guide them toward learning from the mistakes they’ve made. They need your coaching and encouragement to build confidence that they are capable of making good decisions.

Your kids are not going to ask you to ground them or bring more discipline into their lives, but they need it! Discipline is a sign of love! Just make sure you discipline in a reasonable and loving ways!


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Danger: Keep Away From Insidious Porn

Danger: Keep Away From Insidious Porn

Doug FieldsAuthor of Intentional Parenting

I was walking through the Beatitudes with my 9th grade small group, and we came across the dreaded passage from Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” After we talked about it a bit, I made what I thought was a bold statement. I said, “I’m just going to assume that all of you guys are struggling with pornography. If you’re not, that’s great! But, I’m going to start with the assumption that it’s a struggle for everyone. Let me know if it’s not a struggle.”

Every one of those guys admitted that pornography is a struggle in some way. Several made commitments to have an accountability program (XXXchurch.com) installed on their computer. A few even listed me as their accountability partner.

Pornography is insidious. Its lure is powerful and its addictive capacity is a bottomless pit. These days, with porn just a mouse click away, there’s never been greater access to this destructive evil. Everyone is vulnerable, from teens to parents to Christian leaders. One survey found that 87% of men admit to using porn in the past month. Another study set out to research the affects of porn on young men compared to those who had never viewed it. When researchers couldn’t find any young men who had not viewed porn, the study was abandoned!

When I assumed all the guys were struggling, I had hoped I was wrong. I wasn’t. Everyone is just one mouse click away. This issue isn’t going away. If we’re not talking about it with our teenagers, we’re missing great opportunities to help them. I believe the tormented boys in my small group really want to talk, they want help, they want freedom!

The Scriptures warn us (with good reason!) to flee immorality. No good thing will ever come to your life—or your kids’ lives—relationships, marriage, family, or ministry from exposure to pornography.

If you or your kids haven’t been caught in porn’s snare, wonderful! Keep doing what you are doing but know that everyone in your family is vulnerable. If you or your kids have been ensnared, let me encourage (and challenge) you: it isn’t the unpardonable sin. Do your best to flee or help your kids flee. God wants to help. Use accountability tools. Help is available. Get help. And let me tell you, as I told the guys in my small group, I know you (and your family) can win this battle. I believe in you!


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Dad, Can I Download This Song?

Dad, Can I Download This Song?

Jonathan McKee –at TheSource4Parents.com

Without a doubt, whenever someone purchases my book, Candid Confessions of An Imperfect Parent at one of my parent workshops, I always see them turn straight to Chapter 6: Dad, Can I Download This Song? Parents are looking for ways to help their kids make good media decisions, and open dialogue is the answer.

I think it’s a good sign when kids feel safe to talk with their parents freely about music. Today’s “poets” share a lot of heart and feelings in their music, and kids often resonate with the messages shared. Whether we like it or not, our kids are inundated with these messages daily. Parents are smart to respond the same way the Apostle Paul did in Acts 17, and use these messages as “springboards” for discussion.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying let your 12-year-old download all of Lil Wayne’s music as long as you talk about it. It’s okay for a parent to say, “Sorry, no.” What I’m encouraging parents to do is have the conversation. Many parents just set a weak guideline like “Don’t download anything explicit.” This legalistic morality teaches our kids, “Cuss words are the only unacceptable element in music.” Is cussing all you are worried about? What kind of content is in today’s top songs? (Take a peek for yourself—Google some of the lyrics of the non-explicit songs in the top of the Billboard Hot 100 right now.) We need to have the conversation.

Consider these 3 tips to open the doors to conversations about music:

– Make it a dialogue, not a monologue. No kid wants to hear us pontificate about all our wisdom and experience with music and entertainment media. Ask questions. Asking questions transforms our lecturing into listening. And more importantly, asking questions puts the burden of thinking on them. Ask them to explain what they hear from the song and what they think it means. Ask them how they think most young people will respond to that message.

– Don’t go on a witch-hunt looking for dirt. Approach music with an open mind. What is this song really communicating? What are young people truly taking away from this song? At the same time, realize our kids probably don’t think the lyrics affect them. Experts would disagree. The Journal PEDIATRICS spells the research out clearly, the lyrics affect young people. So approach this conversation innocently and shrewdly (here’s an example with Nicki Minaj).

– Give age appropriate trust. If your 12-year-old daughter wants to download Katy Perry’s song, This is How We Do, then have her print out the lyrics so you can look at them together and you decide. If your 15-year-old wants to download it, maybe you don’t require her to bring the lyrics to you, but ask her about the lyrics, ask her what she recommends and then you make the final decision. If your 17-year-old, however, wants to download it, talk about the song, tell her to make the choice and then tell you what she thinks of her choice a week later. This practice is often referred to as incremental independence.
 

Is the door open for these kinds of conversations in your house?


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Culture Snapshot: Teens Don’t Want to Work and don’t gain important life lessons and experience as a result

Culture Snapshot: Teens Don’t Want to Work and don’t gain important life lessons and experience as a result

HomeWord.com –HomeWord.com 

In recent years, the state of the economy has made the prospect of teens holding part-time jobs much more difficult.

Competition for jobs traditionally held by teenagers from older, more experienced workers have squeezed them out of the workforce. The numbers of working teenagers has plunged over the past decade from 44 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2011. And teen unemployment remains strikingly high at more than 20% (over 3 times the general unemployment rate of 6.3%).

But that’s not the entire story. A growing number of American teens don’t want to work. A report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas that analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding teen summer jobs, found that teens dropping out of the workforce represents only a small portion of those not working. Most teens are simply not choosing to work and the number of kids in this group has steadily increased.

Why? While there is little hard evidence to draw from regarding the reasons teens don’t want to work, it’s likely that some teens live overly busy lives already. Adding a part-time job only adds to the problem. Some teens, discouraged by the scarcity of jobs give up the desire to work. For others, a growing trend of parents who don’t want kids to work is likely a factor.

Whatever the reasons, teens that work formal part-time jobs reap real life lessons and experience that prepare them for adulthood. And kids who don’t work miss out on these benefits:

– Learning the dignity of work and of earning a paycheck
– Learning the value of contributing to the success of an organization
– Discovering the value of receiving a regular paycheck
– Learning discipline, responsibility, and time management
– Learning that their time and effort are valuable
– Learning important social and work skills
– Mastering skills and contributing builds confidence
– Learning how to manage money
– Those who work receive higher earnings in adult life
– Gaining experience in the real world of work

As kids journey through the adolescent years, parents should give adequate thought to how part-time teen employment can fit into an overall strategy for helping them become independent and responsible adults.


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Culture Snapshot: Benefits of Teen Drinking Don’t Outweigh the Dangers

Culture Snapshot: Benefits of Teen Drinking Don’t Outweigh the Dangers

HomeWord.com –HomeWord.com

A Purdue University study found that teen girls might benefit from having a few beers with friends. Really. Before we dismiss the notion as crazy, it’s important to note that research does not often deal with morals and values, but with behaviors their effects, and their causes.

In this case, the researchers reached their conclusion noting that teen girls who occasionally had a few beers with friends were less depressed because of their ability to “blow off steam, get together, have fun, and joke around with their peers.”

On face value, teen drinking is largely a social behavior. Not many occasional teen drinkers are pounding beers by themselves.

But the study was unclear as to the role the beer drinking played. Could it be that the social interaction itself — the blowing off steam, getting together, having fun, and joking around with peers –was the cause of the benefits? Frankly, it is likely that the beer drinking only provided the context for the social interaction to take place between teens. Perhaps the important (but lost) finding was that social interaction among teens reduces depression.

Let’s be clear: teen drinking –whatever the context — is far more dangerous than any perceived benefits might imply.

Studies have shown that teen drinking can lead to dangerous consequences, such as driving while drinking, alcohol poisoning, and sexual abuses. Occasional drinking for teens can also lead to heavier drinking, drunkenness, alcoholism, and other at-risk behaviors.

Yes, there’s a good possibility that your teenager will experiment with alcohol before he or she graduates from high school, but hang in there. Stay the course in setting clear expectations and consequences for drinking. Helping your kids make wise choices regarding alcohol is the best course of action.

And when it comes to social interaction among teens, yes, there are some great benefits in providing kids with opportunities to be kids: to blow off steam, have fun, and joke around with peers. But surely you can help them to identify and choose better options than drinking beer.


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