Counseling

6 Ways to Bring Light to Heated Talks with Teenagers

The following article is from William P. Smith:

Every parent I’ve met has felt frustrated by repeatedly stumbling into difficult conversations with their teenage children. Those conversations seem to come out of nowhere, pack lots of energy, and leave everyone bruised and tiptoeing around each other . . .  until the next one.

I suspect hard conversations would take place even if we removed sin from the equation. By definition, teenagers are transitioning out of childhood. They’re figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and how to handle greater independence and responsibility, all while still living in your home. You’re both trying to redefine a relationship that should (rightly) no longer be what it was when they were younger. There’s simply no way you both can navigate this process without at least some bumps and mutual learning along the way.

While there’s no surefire way to guarantee easier, better conversations with your child, there are some things you can do to help them see you as more of an ally than a threat during these defining years.

1. Not everything that goes through your mind should come out of your mouth.

Think before you speak. Proverbs has a lot to say about the words we choose, but it comes down to the wise person being careful with what they say, whereas the fool blurts out whatever comes to mind (Prov. 12:23). If what you’re thinking really does need to be said, you can always bring it up later. If it’s foolish, though, you can’t get it back after it’s left your mouth.

2. Don’t interrupt or talk over your child.

Don’t talk over them any more than you want them to interrupt and talk over you. It’s the law of love: Do to them conversationally as you would have them do to you (Matt. 7:12). Somehow, it’s easy to overlook Christ’s command when speaking to our children—to interact with them in ways we wouldn’t dream of with someone we just met. Imagine your child as someone you respect; then talk to them accordingly.

For the rest of the article, click here.

20 Quotes From John Kwasny's New Book

Our very own Dr. John C. Kwasny has released yet another book and this time on counseling teenagers. This is a fabulous book and certainly a must-read for youth workers and parents. Teenagers would also benefit greatly from getting this and reading it themselves. It is a great book to read straight through but also very beneficial as a resource book throughout the years. The structure of the book is laid out to be very accessible as it is divided up into topics. What I wanted to do in this post was give you 20 quotes from John’s new book to entice you to go to Amazon and buy it. Here we go:

  1. “Sadly, many teens are left to themselves during these years, dealing with the temptations and the struggles of their hearts and minds all on their own. Yet, all through the Book of Proverbs, young people are taught to gain wisdom through listening to and obeying their parents and other wise adults. If teenagers are to listen and learn wisdom, then parents and other mature adults are to speak wisdom and live wisely before them!” p. 13

  2. “When foundational views of God and people are faulty or deficient, the counsel that emerges from them will miss the mark as well. If you examine the advice given to teenagers today, including counsel given by some Christians, you will quickly learn that the main problem is that their underlying presuppositions are not Biblical.” p. 22

  3. “Teenagers have bodies and souls that are not fully developed, brains that are still maturing, and body chemistry that is still in flux. To not recognize teens as bodies and souls will keep us from recognizing the influence of their bodies on their souls. But the fundamental error on the other side of the coin is to only see teenagers as a mass of chemicals and hormones!” p. 27

  4. “Biblical change occurs when they learn to destroy the idols of their heart and constantly return to the right worship of God. As God’s Spirit and His Word do their joint work in hearts, change will be reflected on the doing and feeling levels as well.” p. 35

  5. “Biblical counseling is a gospel-driven, Christ-centered series of conversations between parent and child, counselor and counselee, leader and student. It is the essential work of relational dialogue that seeks true Biblical change, growth in grace, repentance and faith, knowledge and wisdom.” p. 37

  6. “So when teens are struggling with diverse problems, they need Biblical truth from the lips of their parents. They require the proper application of Scripture to their problems. They need parents who teach Biblical wisdom as well as ones who are living wisely in front of them.” p. 55

  7. “The starting point for just about any problem is for a person to actually acknowledge there is a problem.” p. 73

  8. “Don’t confront your teen’s anger with your own anger. Do show true compassion for the pain the teen is experiencing. Don’t excuse all anger as being simply a normal emotion.” p. 82

  9. “To rightly deal with anxiety that is either specific or generalized, the starting place is to recognize that our hearts are easily tempted to worry due to many difficulties in this life. Even that admission is difficult for many teens who act like they everything under control.” p. 89

  10. “When your teenager speaks about being depressed—or is displaying some of the common symptoms—it is essential to step back and get a bigger picture, a better view, of the problem. Why do we need to get the big picture of depression? Because it keeps us from oversimplifying the problem and assuming a singular, universal cause to all types of depression.” p. 106

  11. “As much as it’s vital to deal with heart issues like spiritual slavery and worthless false worship, our teens’ sinful thought patterns must be addressed as well. We literally have to answer the question: ‘What are they thinking?’” p. 131

  12. “Opal needs to see that her love of self has to be confessed and repented of before she can actually look at her body in the right way. This love of self is also connected to pride in our hearts, as we think we are entitled to be healthy, look good, or be at a certain weight.” p. 147

  13. “Our teens need to be reminded that being cleansed from sin is a fact, whether we feel it or not.” p. 167

  14. “Complete change is never promised to us in this life—of any sinful desire. We will only be fully cleansed of our sin in glory. Whatever the result, the Christian teen who believes the truth of God’s Word doesn’t just wait for desires to change, but works, by the Spirit to combat these thoughts and feelings—and not act on them.” p. 181

  15. “What teens must deal with is their tendency and temptation to love themselves more than they love God or other people. So, while Angie may be extremely self-critical when it comes to certain aspects of her body, this is really out of a deep love and concern for self.” p. 197

  16. “Pornography offers a place of escape—a way to sinfully engage imaginations—that seems to have no penalty involved. Rescuing our teens from the land of fantasy is a big part of solving the porn problem. We must keep them grounded in the real life that God has created for them, even when that reality is difficult or frustrating.” p. 209

  17. “How do we counsel a teenager with [the hook-up culture mentality] and overall pattern of behavior? The first question which needs to be asked: Is he even a Christian? It is extremely difficult to rationalize how sexual conquest with various partners is compatible with a love for Jesus.” p. 227

  18. “Teenagers rebel because they have rebellious hearts. They are not anomalies among a planet full of good, decent, moral people. This truth may not be comforting, but it is essential when we are addressing the problem of rebellion.” p. 239

  19. “Often times teenagers are rebelling partly because they are longing for the love and attention of their parents. That may sound overly simplistic, but even teenagers can behave in ways simply to get attention—even if it is purely negative attention.” p. 244

  20. “If joy only comes in the context of entertainment media, then everything else will become boring and lifeless. Even worse for the teen’s heart and mind, entertainment media can become the sole way to escape from the pain and suffering in this life. Keeping a God-centered holiness is what we desire to see in our teens as they grow up. Managing the impact of technology and media is an essential part of the sanctifying process.” p. 298

4 Ways RTS Jackson Has Shaped Me

Tomorrow night my wife and I will be attending an event hosted by RTS (Reformed Theological Seminary) where they have some students doing a panel discussion on their experiences at RTS Jackson. While thinking in anticipation for this, there have been many thoughts go through my mind about the different ways RTS has shaped me in my time there. Although I am not done until December, I have already seen several ways that my life has been changed because of my studies there. This list could be pages and pages long but I wanted to give just a few that might be helpful. Keep in mind, I transferred to RTS from another seminary because I knew that what RTS was doing at the moment was some of the best in the world and I could not afford to miss out on it.

  1. Big God Theology
    There is no replacement for sitting under teaching for four years while soaking in theology that drowns you (and I’m not talking about theology that you can’t understand because the terms are strange and the wording is complicated but rather the theology that a child can read but an adult is overwhelmed by). True theology “happens” not when people write or teach in a complicated way where only the academic elites understand but rather when they write and teach in an overly simple, relevant, and applicable way but the truth of it is so weighty that it knocks you on your spiritual back. We live in an overly man-centered age of the Church and RTS has battled against that by showing us a God who cannot tamed. If the foundation of sin is built upon pride then the best way to combat against sin is to look to an infinitely glorious God. RTS certainly done that. I cannot tell you how many days I have walked away from class thinking, “I know nothing. I am so small.” Hopefully, you’ll laugh at that thought because we have all been prideful in our thoughts about God and need to be humbled by how “big” He really is. Two of the professors I have to thank for this first reason are Derek Thomas and Bruce Baugus.

  2. Preaching a Big God in a Simple, Clear, and Applicable Style
    What good is it to know all the theology in the world if you can’t help others understand it? Christ has commanded that all Christians live on mission (shoutout to Dr. Elias Medeiros) and that means to present the gospel in word and deed. RTS has shown us that the depths of theology are for the Church. Theology is not left for the academic elites while the rest of the Church just focuses on “Christian living”. If salvation is to know God (John 17:3) and if the entirety of the Word is what sanctifies us (John 17:17) then that means that every Christian needs to understand the depths of theology. The primary way this happens is when a man learns to preach a “big” God in simple ways. One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten came from Reverend Patrick Curles (Associate Minister at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, AL) when he told me, “If you can’t preach the gospel to the elementary kids then you can’t preach the gospel to adults.” His point was that if you don’t know the depths of the gospel so clearly that you cannot present it simply to those who can’t read then you don’t really know how to preach the gospel. RTS has put a big emphasis on this. There is no such thing as good preaching if it cannot be understood. There is also no such thing as preaching if you only explain the text. The Bible jumps out at us and redefines all of life and if the preacher does not “apply” the text to the real lives of his congregation then he is not preaching. I am very indebted to Dr. Charlie Wingard for giving us straightforward feedback on the seven sermons that we preach in front of him (and that he graciously sits through). I am also greatly indebted to Dr. Sean Michael Lucas for showing me what it was to proclaim Christ all the time.

  3. We Must Be Pastor-Scholars
    There is an unnecessary division between a pastor and a scholar. I believe it was Sinclair Ferguson who once said that this has only been a recent development in Church History. Through much of the church’s history the pastor has been the scholar and the scholar has been the pastor. RTS has sought to develop pastor-scholars rather than either/or. We make a wrong division when we say that the pastor shouldn’t be someone who studies more for the sake of shepherding the people or that the scholar shouldn’t be someone who relates his studies to the people. The pastor is the “local theologian” for the people and where the pastor is not a theologian then the people tend to be ignorant. Again, RTS has done a superb job of not just teaching us the truth but lighting a fire in us to keep pursuing a greater knowledge of the truth that applies to our people. My father is a long-time veterinarian in Montgomery and he told me once, “Vet school does make someone a veterinarian; it only gives someone a license to learn how to be a veterinarian.” In the same way, seminary doesn’t make a pastor-scholar. Seminary only gives someone the license to learn how to pursue to being a pastor-scholar. The pastor is someone who must always been studying and always learning. For this, I have a massive amount of thanks for Dr. Benjamin Gladd, Dr. Guy Waters, Dr. Miles Van Pelt, and Dr. Mike McKelvey. These four men have not merely convinced me that lifelong study is necessary but also have lit a fire in me to do so.

  4. No Other Way To Prepare Youth Workers
    Unfortunately, youth ministry is seen by many churches and pastors as a “practice round” for future pastors. Youth ministry is often treated as the “minor leagues” while the senior pastor is the “big leagues”. Here’s the problem: the students that I am leading today are the elders for tomorrow. The students I am preaching to tonight are the pastors and counselors for tomorrow. Working at Pear Orchard while pursuing my studies at RTS has been the best preparation for preaching to youth, counseling youth, and leading youth. The Church cannot afford to overlook youth ministry because where youth are neglected the Church is neglected. Our youth are growing up in a Church culture where there is much biblical illiteracy and this is greatly hurting not only the Church but the world. What we need now more than ever is better preaching to youth, better teaching to you, better counseling to youth (massive shoutout to Dr. John Kwasny—yes, the same John Kwasny who is at POPC!), and better discipling of youth. RTS has taught me that the big parts of theology are not left for the “big leagues” but rather they are of utmost necessity for the seventh grader who feels like they have no friends. The tenth grader who struggles with pornography doesn’t need just some web blockers or tips to not look at porn. What they need now more than ever is a “big” God who transforms their lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ. If our youth don’t have “big God preaching” then they will never be transformed. We have too many youth workers who give students fluff and lightweight lessons because they don’t think they can handle the more “weighty” matters of Scripture. I have seen from experience and word of others that when a “big” God is preached in simple, straightforward, relevant, and applicable ways that youth not only listen but are transformed by it. For this, I am forever indebted to RTS for training me in this way.

For all of this, I am forever grateful to Dr. Ligon Duncan for his leadership and passion for RTS and the training of future church leaders.