“Ron, how do I get through to a Goth-dressing, Satan-worshiping cynical teen?” Well, I recently had the opportunity to do that when his parents sent him to me for the summer to "fix" him. They were exasperated, having done "all they could do" to get through to him. The first day, I took him to breakfast, and he told me he worshiped Satan; he knew I was going to try to get him close to God, and he was informing me that it was never going to happen. I didn’t look shocked or try to cram Jesus down his throat. I just said, "Hey, do you like to ride dirt bikes?"
His face lit up and a few days later, we went riding. We went to lunch several times. We went jet-skiing together and laughed, played and had small talk. Little by little he began to open up about his life, his family and his heart. I took him on trips out of town (like I do with my own kids). He shared a little more. Before the summer was over, he had renounced Satan, committed his life to Jesus, was reading the Bible like crazy, and had forgiveness in his heart toward his parents. All it took was time and love.
Parents who say, “I have done everything I can do,” should rethink that statement. While these parents wanted me to “fix” their son, all I did was what they should have done all along: Spend time one-on-one with him.
A parent’s common excuse is, “I just don’t have time to spend one-on-one.” My answer to that is, “Do you have time for therapy?” Do you have time to take your kids every week for three years to somebody who can help them and talk through issues with them?
When doing my master’s degree in counseling/ psychology one study talked about a rabbi, a priest, a psychologist and a friend who were all compared (I know, this sounds like a joke) for their effectiveness in helping a person talk through a problem. What was the difference between going to a professional for help versus talking to a really good friend? The study found that there is actually NO DIFFERENCE. Think of the significance of that. A friend is just as good at helping someone through his or her problem as a trained psychologist with a Ph.D.
When we get into a regular rhythm of meeting with our kids one-on-one, you must proactively create an environment where they will feel like they want to share their heart, or the heart-sharing will never happen.
Listen to your child’s heart, even if he or she talks a really long time. Be careful to guard yourself from the temptation to jump in and correct, coach or fix everything. Let your child talk! A major part of her need is to be able to talk it out. She may not want a logical answer; she may just need for you to hear her. If you wait to give advice, you might even go away and come back with better thoughts on what to share than if you tried to fix the problem immediately.
We as parents want, and need, to be the relational center of our kids’ lives. We don’t want them sharing their hearts with friends, through a blog or in a gang. The only way we are going to be the one they go to is if we create this relationship. If at first your child is not comfortable one-one-one, think of fun and adventurous things to do together; they will soon begin to look forward to your time together. I guarantee it; they will come around. Your children will benefit from having the relational center of their life be how they connect to you, not to other people.
Maybe you have done everything except the thing your child needs the most: one-on-one time with you.
This article was adapted from Ron’s latest book, Re-Create: Building a Culture in Our Homes That Is Stronger Than the Culture Deceiving Our Kids. This book contains practical tips to deter your family from this cultural invasion your home. Look for it at your nearest bookstore, or visit www.battlecry.com for more information.
Ron Luce is the president and founder of Teen Mania Ministries, a Christian organization reaching millions of young people worldwide. He passionately declares the Gospel through Acquire the Fire TV broadcasts, youth events, camps and media resources, challenging teens to take a stand for Christ. www.teenmania.org