Even though my kids are all under eight years old, I was eager to read Mark Gregston’s book, Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How Not to Get Blindsided by Your Child’s Teen Years. I figure it’s never too early to prepare for teenagers and what I found in this parenting book did change my mind about some parenting strategies in order to raise responsible adults, who, more importantly than anything else, don’t abandon their relationship with God or with mom and dad!
The beginning of the book focuses on the drastic changes in culture, mostly from media and social networking, that have occurred just within the past five years, Of course, this is an ever-evolving thing. Within the next few years, surely new cultural phenomena will shift the dynamic even more. The bottom line is that teens hold conversations like text messages–short, superficial interchanges. The air-brushed media pressures them to look a certain way. The easy access to FB and twitter give bullies a whole new realm to command—posting nasty pictures and sarcastic comments without bothering to pause and think first.
I’m not that old, and this isn’t at all how I grew up.
So, Gregston argues, given how much culture has changed, shouldn’t we begin to adjust some of our traditional parenting techniques? I would have said “no, absolutely not,” without giving this book a read. I’m more of an “old school” kind of mom. But I began to appreciate the logic of his argument. If the kids themselves are different because the society is different, then surely the way we parent our children should be different, too.
This makes sense when you consider Gregston’s background working with teens in a residential facility. The stories he tells repeatedly are about troubled teens who came from “good Christian homes.” No Internet, no cell phones, church attendance requirements, no dating—lists and lists of rules and expectations. Lots of authority. But no relationship. Lots of consequences. Not much room for growing independence. Lots of high expectations. Not so much grace.
Let me be clear here, Gregston absolutely does not argue that we should throw out all rules or let teens run wild with no consequences at all. What he does suggest is narrowing those rules down to a manageable few and establishing consistent and reasonable consequences. Choose your battles, he says. He argues that we shouldn’t try to eliminate the culture’s influence on our kids, but instead help our teens learn how to navigate the world of FB and cell phones safely and wisely.
Ultimately, our goal of encouraging gradual independence doesn’t mean we throw our hands up and leave our kids to their own devices. Instead, our goal is always to put our relationship with our kids first. We make home a safe place. We allow for mistakes and show grace. We choose to focus on what matters.
Will you agree with everything Gregston says? Maybe not. It’s hard to find any parenting book that fits your particular child and parenting style, personality, and family situation perfectly. But what he says might just enlighten and encourage you. And, it might save your relationship with your teen. What could be better than that?
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”