We Don’t Give Up

We Don’t Give Up

Recently I concluded a guys only Support Group at a local high school which, at the time, I thought was pretty successful. I had built some strong relationships with those young men, found common ground, and seemed to gain their trust. A measure of success for me with teenagers is their willingness to talk about the real stuff – and these guys had no problem telling the truth, even to the point of being uncomfortable. 

Fast forward a few weeks. I walked into another group which is at a local drug rehab for adolescent boys. One of the guys from my previous group was there. He had broken his probation for drug use and was mandated a treatment program. I had also found out two other boys from my previous group got caught up in some heavy drugs and kicked off their school campus. So, what I thought was a successful guys group turned out, at least on its surface, to be a bust. 

If you work with teenagers very long, you will face some disappointment. Really, it’s part of signing up. But, it isn’t why we get into it. 

I got into working with teenagers because I felt like they were a lot of fun to hang out with, I could relate, and maybe I could contribute to their growth in some way. That’s why most people get into a helping profession involving kids. We just love being around them. 

But we aren’t always motivated by what it really takes to be successful with teenagers – the long haul. This is especially true in cases involving teenagers in crisis, that is, students who have significant risk factors at play in their family and development. 

Part of leading a group with those guys helped me understand more about their background. They all had at least one parent who had either rejected them or was no longer in the picture because of prison or by choice. Their systems failed. People failed. Bad choices were made. Labels were applied. They were now “bad kids”. 

Then, one by one, the adults surrounding these guys gave up on them. These boys in return gave up on the adults around them. Everyone just gave up. 

And, after working with these guys for a long time and watching them just fall back into drugs and bad choices, made it tempting for me to give up on them too. They knew what I hoped for them. They remember our conversations. It was really discouraging to see their choices and what path they traveled. 

But here is the thing. At the drug rehab, my young friend lit up when he saw me. I was a familiar face in a difficult situation. We got to talk, and he expressed to me his desire to get things together. My other two friends connected with me as well, and we were able to process the consequences they were about to endure and what they could do differently in the future. 

I chose not to give up on them. And, that is a choice I will likely have to make a few more times before the story is complete. 

Why am I writing this? Don’t give up. That’s what I’m saying. For those of us who work with teenagers – we don’t give up. It isn’t an option. So many others will give up. You don’t have to. 

If you are an adult in a relationship with a teenager who is disappointing you – don’t give up. 

Keep the relationship first. 

Set realistic expectations. 

Keep your eyes on the future. 

Process mistakes and set different goals. 

Don’t give up. 

We don’t give up. 

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
Hey Mom, Put Down Your Phone!

Hey Mom, Put Down Your Phone!

I had an interesting conversation in my group the other day. We got to talking about the students’ relationship with their parents, and it quickly turned into a discussion on family time and phone distractions. For probably the first time in one of my Support Groups, every single group member was on the same page! Here are some of the things I heard around the table that day:

  • My mom makes us have “family time” and watch a movie but stares at her phone the whole time.
  • My parents are constantly on Facebook or playing Candy Crush when we are together.
  • Why do they say I’m always on my phone when they are even worse than I am?
  • My dad always sends emails at the dinner table, but I get in trouble if I look at my phone.
  • I tell my parents “family time” doesn’t count if they are on their phones but they say all that matters is that we’re in the same room.
  • Were your parents always on their phones too?

First, let me just admit that I am not yet a parent, but I struggle with this as well. When I sit down to watch a show with my husband, it is easy to mindlessly scroll through Instagram or Facebook out of habit. Sometimes I don’t even notice I’m on my phone until he points it out! Second, it is never fun to get called out by teenagers, but my group issued a challenge that I feel obligated to pass on!

Also on a side note, I laughed out loud when they asked about my parents and their phone use when I was a teenager. When I was in high school, we didn’t have internet on our phones, and we certainly didn’t have fun games like Candy Crush (RIP Snake Game). This is fairly new territory for parents!

Technology isn’t going anywhere, phones aren’t going to phase out, and social media will probably always be king of the internet. So how can we better model how to balance family, work, and fun? We have to be the example in this area; otherwise, our kids will never learn acceptable boundaries and healthy practices.

Before I offer some suggestions, there are a few things I would like to point out about their statements and questions.

1. They watch you and notice.

You know the phrase, “Do as I say and not as I do”? That doesn’t fly with teenagers. They watch you. They see what you do and will push back if what you do is different than what you say. Telling teens to put down their phones while yours is still in front of your face sends a clear message that you probably aren’t intending to communicate.

2. They don’t see a difference between work and social media use of phones.

They don’t care if you are on your phone for work – if they see your phone out, it is a distraction no matter what it’s purpose. Sending email, making calls, checking your Facebook, it is all the same to them. If you are on your phone when you should be spending time with them, your excuses don’t matter – just so you know 🙂

3. They think you have a technology problem.

This absolutely cracks me up! As adults, we read books, listen to podcast, and attend seminars on helping our teenagers manage social media and their phones. We talk about this generation and their problems with connection, but they think adults are the ones with the problem! I am not saying that teens have technology under control or use it appropriately all the time, but until we prove them wrong, I do believe we are the ones with the problem.

4. They actually care about “family time.”

When they were having this discussion, they weren’t upset that they had to be present for family time. They were mad that their parents were violating the time that they set aside. One student even said that he enjoys hanging out with his mom when she isn’t distracted by her phone.

I really don’t want you to miss this point, so I will say it again in case you’re still in shock…teenagers actually care about “family time”! Even when they act like spending time as a family is the worst inconvenience, the stories they tell when you aren’t around would say otherwise.

 


 

As I said above, this is a newer problem for parents. Just like we are trying to figure out how to help our teenagers have boundaries, we are walking the same blurry line. I want you to have a good relationship with your teenager. I want you to be able to take advantage of family time – if they are willing to set aside their phones, don’t ruin it by being on yours!

While I could write several blogs on this topic, let me start with two tips that I believe could make a huge difference in your home!

Do what you ask of your kids.

This seems simple and like a no-brainer, but the more I talk to teens, the more I realize that we are failing at this. While their are perks to being an adult and setting the rules, when they are around and watching you, follow your own rules! If you ask them to put away their phones for a specific time or activity, do the same. Do they have a time limit on how much they can be on their phones? Try to stick to a similar schedule!

They are watching you, and you set the example of how to interact with your phone. This is especially true for when you drive. Ouch…but if you don’t want your teenager to text (or tweet) and drive, put your phone away in the car. Don’t text, don’t have phone conversations that can wait until you get to your destination, don’t be catching up on your Facebook comments while you are driving your kids. Show them how to be responsible and safe!

 

Make “family time” sacred.

Find small ways to make the time you spend as a family special. While it may be unrealistic to expect your teenager to put their phone away anytime they are are with a family member, you can set aside specific times that are phone-free. Some examples could be dinner time, the first 15 minutes after they get home from school, special family activities, or when you watch tv or a movie as a family. Once you ask them to make the activity you decide on phone-free, follow the rule above and put yours up as well!

This might mean that you put your phone on “do not disturb” to keep you from reading texts, checking email, or answering phone calls. Unless it is an emergency, anything on your phone can wait until that sacred time is over. You communicate the importance of family time by your actions. Distractions and phones can kill a family moment – don’t let your teenager down by not giving them your full attention!

So, what do you think? How have you set boundaries in your home? How have you made family time sacred and special? Share with us – we always love new ideas!
Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
4 Tips to Parent Smarter

4 Tips to Parent Smarter

This post was originally titled “Parenting Isn’t for Everyone,” but that sounded a little too negative. That said, it is still true; however, it is also true that anyone can benefit from parenting if they choose to commit to the path of parenting. Does that seem confusing? Let me try to come at it this way. It is possible for everyone to be a parent. We see this all around us. The act of, or result of an act, that ends in being a parent happens all the time. The difference is that some people choose to continue on the parenting path and others choose to quit.

 

This was my dad. He quit being a parent. He chose to let other life choices distract him from being the father and husband he had committed to be, and instead quit all of it. Since becoming a parent myself, it is becoming more and more real how he could have given this up, it is hard. Some days are VERY hard to parent. I mean there is the whole “I’m not adulting today” movement that has caught on. This is often related to parenting, but they are two very different things.

 

I am guessing this sounds likes a downer of a post but stay with me. The foundation for wading through this very real journey is that parenting is very hard and very worth it. I want to offer the four reasons below in hopes that they will help you, and me, be a better parent. My hope is that trend will then continue until you are done parenting – something many people believe doesn’t happen, but I assure you it does. You may never stop feeling like a parent, but your parenting will end maybe even sooner than you think.

 

These 4 tips aren’t about whether you should be a parent or not. They’re about when you are a parent and what you can get out of that. So if you haven’t had kids yet, use this as a way to decide how you will handle things if you do. If you have kids, use this to reframe or renew your perspective about being a parent.

 

  1. Parenting isn’t about you. This is one I am having a hard time with. My tendency is to take things personally. I want my kids to be a reflection of me. I mean people say this to us all the time, even my good church friends. “You can tell you’re good parents because your kids are so good.” Or some version of that. We really need to change this. Yes, there is influence and modeling, but your kid is their own person. They make their own choices starting at an early age, and it’s supposed to be that way. Our job as parents is to teach them values, character and morality. Then, it is up to them, and it’s not our fault if they choose to throw that stuff out the window. This also means we don’t get the praise if they choose to succeed. That hurts a little, but maybe it’s the way it needs to be.

 

  1. You can’t compare your situation to anyone else’s. This past January, we finalized an adoption. Our family grew, in less than 3 minutes, by 3 people. There are now 9 of us requiring a 12 passenger van to transport us anywhere we go. We have people tell us all the time, “I don’t know how you do it,” or “I could never do that. It’s a lot of kids.” You know what, you’re right. But you also need to know you have no idea how hard this is for us. There are many days that the only reason I make it is because I don’t quit. Does that make me a horrible person because I don’t love every minute of parenting? No! It makes me not a quitter. My commitment is strong and with that comes the decision to not complain and use “what if” phrases, which leads us to number three.

 

  1. Realize balance is about making everything equal. Many of us see parenting as something that gets in the way of us accomplishing what is really important in life. I know this because I have felt that and heard plenty of talk socially about that attitude. This was recently emphasized for me at a business event I went to. The speaker said, “Balance is not dependent on circumstance. It’s about what you choose to spend your time on.” This choice puts us as parents in the mindset that when I am choosing to spend time with my kids, it is valuable time. This also means that when I am choosing to spend time on work, that is valuable time. I once heard an interview that was highlighting a dad who had his 3 year old say that she didn’t want him to go to work, and he realized what was most important. WHAT?! No, she’s 3. Yes spending time with her is important, but she has no perspective. It’s just as important that she know her daddy is spending time working so that their family has their needs met. It’s also important so that she also learns to love work. I mean this with the assumption that you don’t become a workaholic. But we also have to realize that work, in it’s proper place, is a great part of life and needs to be seen that way.

 

  1. Parenting ends sooner then you think. Andy Stanley is a preacher and speaker who has a great perspective on this. He and his wife break parenting down into 4 stages. If you stick to these stages, you will have a greater peace about being a parent. If you try to jump ahead or skip a step, you will regret it – most likely in the teen years, the years I hear are the worst but that I am looking forward to. Why am I looking forward to them? Because I’m done parenting by then. I am working my butt off to work through the first 2 stages, discipline and training, so that I have the opportunity to then coach and be a friend to my kids in their teen years and beyond. What I’m saying is parenting is done at around age 12! This perspective has yet to play out for me, so we will see. What if you already have a teen? Is it too late? No! Start shifting your perspective and making small adjustments that let your teen know you are 100% there for them, but you are done trying to correct every error or miscalculation on their part. You want them to make the right choice every time, but they won’t. So offer to be there, but let go of hovering and trying to catch them at every corner so you can make sure they choose correctly. Instead, take the posture of coach. Remind them what you have taught and trained them in and offer to help them figure out how to get back on track, but ultimately it is their choice.
These 4 tips do not lead to parenting bliss. They are a learning process that I am guessing never ends but rather shifts and changes over the years. My hope is that reading through this helps you make a positive shift in your parenting so that you can be committed to the process to ensure the highest possibility of success for your child. In order for them to succeed, you have to stick to being the parent, and in order for you to feel like you have succeeded, you have to make sure you know what success looks like.

I do not have this figured out. What would you add to this? What perspectives on parenting have helped you stick with it through the hard times? How have you hung on when it feels helpless or pointless? Share with us, I definitely want to keep learning.

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 7, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.
4 Ways Our Teen Friends Teach Us Courage

4 Ways Our Teen Friends Teach Us Courage

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 In this episode of the Stay Calm, Don’t Panic! Podcast, Chris Robey and Sarah Brooks discuss how adults can learn valuable lessons about courage and inner strength from teenagers. Teens are uniquely equipped and positioned to make a difference in the world. It is easy for us as adults to press our own agendas on teenagers, but maybe it is time to learn something from them! Take a listen to this awesome conversation and walk away with some insight into the awesome lives of teenagers. 

In this episode, Sarah Brooks discusses teenagers’ ability to teach…

  1. Courage to explore and be uniquely you.
  2. Courage to make friends.
  3. Courage to change the world.
  4. Courage to tell the truth.
Ask yourself…
  • What can I learn from teen courage?
  • How can I be intentional about diversifying my own relationships?
Go ask a teen…
  • How do you show courage in your everyday life?
  • What do you think it would take for the world to look better?
Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:

Sarah Brooks is a blogger, mom of 3 boys and social media expert! She has spoken across the country at various groups, churches, and schools about social media (the good, the bad, and the confusing), most of which stemmed from a post she wrote called Parents: A Word About Instagram. As a Millenial herself, she is passionate about bridging the gap between parents and teens. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram!

Chris Robey is the Program Director for Teen Life. Earlier in his career while working as a youth minister, Chris earned a Masters Degree in Family Life Education from Lubbock Christian University to better equip his work with teenagers and families. Chris’ career and educational opportunities have exposed him to teenagers from a variety of backgrounds. Follow him on Twitter!

Karlie Duke started working as Teen Life’s Communications Director after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Communications with a minor in Family Studies. Karlie has worked with teenagers for the past 5 years and is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram!

Have a question?
If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
A Few Words on Courage

A Few Words on Courage

The older I get, the more I think it’s all about courage. When we find new and creative ways to instill courage into the lives of our kids – they win.

And, I’m not really talking about “getting ahead”. I’m talking about the small things of life.

Tests.

Telling the truth.

Looking out for the little guy.

Trying something new.

Saying you are sorry.

And, meaning it.

Putting the work in.

Taking responsibility.

Showing up.

Leaving.

Failing.

Getting back up.

Trying again.

************************

Teenagers, of all the people in this world, are positioned well to live with courage. For the most part, people don’t depend on them for their livelihood, so they can explore, make mistakes, and pivot when necessary. Within the bounds of the law, the consequences for failing tend to be less than adults who have families and careers. Teenagers tend to see the world with more naive and hopeful eyes – issues that can be solved or addressed with just one good idea. While those who are older roll their eyes and pat on the head – teenagers seem to expect their actions to actually make a difference and change environments.

The adolescent years are the perfect space to live courageously and with meaning. Those who do gain experiences and tools to do so as adults with families and careers. They know what it means to try and fail, doing so with the protection and support of the loving adults in their lives.

That’s where you come in. When the teenager you love comes to you with a wild and crazy idea – help them figure it out. Support them. Ask good questions. Help them take it a step further.

What would things look like if we lived with a little more courage? What would it look like for the teenagers in your life to be more courageous?

I think we can all agree on that answer.

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
The Power Of Service

The Power Of Service

This past Friday night, we hosted a packing party at the Birdville High School cafeteria. It was an amazing event that is also a fundraiser for Teen Life to keep offering our programs in the schools. For this event, we asked people to reach out to friends and family to sponsor them to come and serve by packing 10,000 meals for hungry kids in our area. This went over extremely well. It was so exciting to see everyone come together to fill bags with rice and nutrients that families without food can benefit from.

 

We were able to capture a time-lapse video of the event that you can watch below! As I put the clips together, watching the hustle and bustle that was going on and thinking about how much effort and dedication went into making this happen, I was blown away at how it all worked together.

 

I am writing this blog as much for me, and us as an organization, as I am to share with you. I believe there are some valuable principles that can be seen from an event like this.

 

In the past, we have hosted a 5K Run/Walk. The benefits of this have been amazing. People were exercising, accomplishing a goal, being outdoors. All of these benefits helped anyone that came feel better about themselves and doing it with others helped build a stong bond. So I am not arguing that this service focused event is better, but it is different and I would recommend it if you are hoping to help people connected to your organization experience some of these benefits.

 

  1. There is power in numbers. We packed 10,000 meals with around 70 people and that means over 1,600 families will receive a bag of food with 6 servings in it. These numbers are great! I am so glad that we could be a small part of providing something meaningful.
  2. It’s not about the recognition. The people that served and the ones that will receive the meals will likely never meet, and that’s exciting to me. The fact that people would put in 3 hours of work for people they don’t know and probably never will says a lot about the human race. We care for each other even from a distance.
  3. Modeling has huge benefits! We had around 20 elementary age kids show up to help pack meals. They were able to scoop the food, weigh it, carry it to the boxes and even tape the box. This is a big deal because it gave them the opportunity to know that the work they do is valuable. These kids packed over 600 meals with just a little help from parents. It was amazing to watch the joy they had working hard to get the job done.
  4. We had some “firsts” at this event. It was the first time we were at a local school. It was the first time we had a current student join us. It was the first time we had an alumni from one of our groups join us. It was the first time over $50,000 was raised! These partnerships, extended relationships, increased funds, and more exposure all mean that Teen Life has more opportunities to reach teenagers and change lives.
It was a process planning this event and it is hard to believe it is already over. Thinking through all of these things gets me excited about what next year could hold.

What is an event you have attended and noticed details that help you live better? Share them with us, we always love learning from you.

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 7, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.