Excerpts from Chapter 1

There is Good Reason for Hope

After thirty years as a high-school counselor, I know exactly what Get outta my face! looks like. After raising six teenagers, I have endured seasons where I had to live with that attitude, day in and day out. I’ve had plenty of angry, unmotivated, or disinterested teens send me the same clear message. Usually, they don’t even need to speak. Whatever I may be trying to help them with, their expression says it all: Get outta my face! I don’t want to hear another word.

Having talked with hundreds of parents, counselors, and youth workers over the years, I know I’m not alone in this. Nearly all of us stumble from time to time when we try to talk to an angry or upset teen. Am I suggesting it’s our fault when one of them gives us a Get outta my face response? Not completely. But the vast majority of the time, it is preventable. Those walls that go up so easily between adults and teens certainly involve sin on the teen’s part. Yet I’m convinced that most of us who try to reach young adults are completely unaware of the profound and extensive counsel Scripture offers us—counsel that can often keep those walls from going up in the first place.

The good news of this book is that it is not difficult to learn how to reach teens. In the following pages I attempt to unpack some of the rich, timeless wisdom of Proverbs and other sections of Scripture that God has given to equip us. As you continue reading, you will learn:

  • How to talk effectively to an angry, disinterested, or unmotivated teen (who usually doesn’t want to talk to you)
  • How to nurture this young person’s willingness to make better choices (when he or she often doesn’t think that other options make any sense)
  • How to restore a rich relationship (when both adult and teen may have given up hope that the relationship can get better)

The truths in this book are not new. They are rooted in the 2,000- and 3,000-year-old wisdom of the New Testament and the book of Proverbs. Remarkably, many youth counselors, parent advisors, and public-school counselors and educators now use some of these principles to help angry and at-risk teens. In most cases however, they do not know where these truths come from or why they work so well. Therefore they have no idea how to use them to produce anything more than a temporary, external change.

But Christian parents can be encouraged to know that the Designer has shown us in Scripture how to talk effectively to anyone made in his own image—even teens whose sin breaks out in anger, bitterness, complacency, rebellion, defiance, or disinterest. The Bible’s testimony about God’s Word being a “light” and a “lamp” for his people (Psalm 119:120) is not vague idealism. Get Outta My Face! aims to summarize common experiences parents have with angry teens and illustrate how biblical principles can bring remarkably clear and useful light to these situations. The aim is to position these truths on the bottom shelf so we can all reach them and put them to use them with angry, unmotivated teens—even if we’ve made serious mistakes in our previous efforts. We all want to help these young people recognize their self-destructive ways, learn new and effective methods of dealing with life, and ultimately come into a deep and life-changing relationship with Christ. That’s the goal of this book.

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Getting the Conversation Started

Get Outta My Face! shows parents, youth counselors, teachers, and other teen workers how to make contact with the kind of angry, needy young people whom adults most often come across: those who are not looking for our help. The following pages discuss some of the key guidance God has given us in his Word for speaking effectively to young adults. Utilizing these principles will often get their attention, hold their attention, eliminate their “push back,” obtain their commitment to change, produce rapid positive change, and provide an entrée to the heart—our most critical target. Sound too good to be true? It would be if these principles were not in sync with how God has made us. It would be if God did not teach us in his Word how to employ these principles. But he has both formed these principles in us, and taught us how to use them for our good.

These principles are not an ironclad guarantee of success with every teen. Like us, teens are individuals made in God’s image. They are not some unusually sophisticated machine that can be programmed or managed by behavior modification techniques or verbal gimmicks. There is essentially just one thing that will determine how a particular teen responds to your use of these principles. Ultimately, he will respond on the basis of what he wants. The principles shared in this book often work because they allow you to connect to angry and unmotivated teens via the wants and desires of their hearts. Much more will be said about this in Chapter 3.

This book has a narrow focus and a limited goal. It does not present a full-scale method of youth counseling or parenting. Nor does it show parents how to hold their teens accountable for their foolish choices. Others have done these things quite well. This book brings principles of the biblical Wisdom literature primarily to the front end of the conversations you need to have with angry or complacent teens. Its purpose is to equip parents and others to take the initiative as communicators with teens who probably don’t want to talk.

Read excerpts from Chapter 2

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