It would have been easy for them to insist on their rebellious daughter being treated exactly the same way as their other girls, but it might have resulted in her being forever lost.  Jim says, "When we don't really listen, it's easy to miss their cues and to misunderstand their behavior."  Looking back, his daughters felt valued by the time he spent with them, and for treating them as individuals.  Instead of taking a cookie-cutter approach to parenting, he chose to "hang out" with them individually and listen to what was on each of their hearts. That's what effective parents do.

Look Past the Pushback to Welcome Them Home

Some pushback typically does begin in the teen years.  But I think that the job of a parent is to raise a responsible adult rather than an always obedient teen. Testing their wings of independence is part of the maturing process. You have to have boundaries, but the purpose of those boundaries is not to ensure 100% compliance but to protect your child and to show them how to live.  Years ago any challenge or question (especially questioning their faith) was regarded as rebellion that needed to be squelched.  I think today we have a healthier view that instead of pushing kids away, we take the time to work through things with them individually.

You've heard the expression that teens have to disown their parent's faith so they can own their own faith.  Likewise, we need to allow teens to test and even disown our ideals so they can create their own.  When they do, they may get lost for a time, but they'll naturally steer toward what they've been taught throughout their life.  Like salmon returning to the stream where they were spawned, they'll eventually find their way back home. Don't taint that stream with emotional sewage, or dam it up with bad attitudes.  All they need to hear is that they are welcome to come home.

Robert Frost wrote, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."  Create a home for your teen where they know they will always be loved and accepted, and you will have a home they will always want to come home to…no matter how far away they've been, or how lost they've become.

We talk about this issue in-depth on our radio program titled "Leading Your Lost Teen Home." Listen online here (or look for the program at www.parentingtodaysteens.org).

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential program for struggling adolescents located in East Texas. To learn more, go to www.heartlighministries.org or call 903-668-2173.