Why Teens Seek the Wrong Crowd
- Monday, September 19, 2011
We parents do a ton of stuff for our kids, but what if they still don't feel valued? Should we do even more, or less? Are we doing the right things, or all the wrong things? How can we best instill value in our teenagers? And why is that so important?
Think of it this way; there are four things you can offer your teenager to make them feel valued: your unconditional love, your experience, your time, and your wisdom. Each of these builds value. Being valued makes a teenager feel like they belong; they are accepted and they are therefore at peace with the world. Being valued builds their self-esteem and helps them have the confidence to say "No" to their peers. Being valued helps a teenager want to maintain their own sense of value and not accept anything less.
When I talk about ways to instill value, you'll notice that I'll never mention using "your money" or "your faith" to instill value. Material and spiritual things are needed and certainly valuable, but they don't build the kind of value that only a parent's attention and love can offer. They are, in fact, often used as crutches by parents not interested in instilling real value in their children. Nearly every teen that has come through ourHeartlight counseling program has either been given an abundance of material goods or spiritual guidance in their lifetime, or both, but for some reason they didn't feel valued by both of their birth parents, so they crashed in the teen years.
As children grow in independence, so does their desire to be valued as independent individuals. This desire may become so intense, they may violate their own values and destroy everything in their life in order to find it. They may even do unbelievably stupid or dangerous things to gain acceptance from their peers. If they feel neglected by their parents, or if they still have open emotional wounds from being abandoned or abused as a child, they will often seek to have their value validated outside of the family.
The point is this…does your teenage child feel valued? If not, and if they lack true identity and significance as independent individuals in your family, you may lose them to the wrong crowd.
The Roles We Play
Parents tend to play different roles in helping their children find value. Moms instill a sense of value, and dads validate it. But dads can sometimes be lax in regard to discipline and hurt the mother's ability to instill value. Things get all out of whack, because mom then needs to become the sole disciplinarian and enforcer — the bad guy — while dad becomes the good guy. It can hurt the mother's relationships and her ability to instill value. And if dad is missing altogether, problems will usually follow.
All children need their father's blessing. When dad's stamp of approval is not there, the child will look for validation somewhere else. This is especially true of teenage girls. They need their dad to meet that need for validation - something only he can really fulfill. And with 12- to 14-year-old girls, this need is greater than ever. But sadly, many dads get too busy or otherwise emotionally move away from their daughters at this time in their life. I've seen many times where a dad thinks that he's involved in the life of his daughter, but she feels something completely different.
Scripture tells us that God is like the mighty warrior, but He's also the tender loving mother who plays with her child. Is God a man or a woman? Well, He has characteristics of both. He created us in His image and He created us male and female, so He encompasses both characteristics as He both instills and validates our value. But Christian parents can sometimes undermine the value God tries to instill in us by confusing it with constant messages of guilt and shame. A teen can begin feeling as though there is no way to please their parents (or God). But that's not true Christianity. Jesus said, "Come to Me, you are weary and heavy laden." He set the standard of offering forgiveness and grace while also holding up the standard of proper living.
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