The DNA of Parent-Teen Relationships: Discover the Key to Your Teen's Heart


What's the key to a teen's heart? And how can parents prepare their son or daughter for life as a successful, solid Christian adult? Find out in The DNA of Parent-Teen Relationships: Discover the Key to Your Teen's Heart. Written by best-selling authors Gary Smalley and his son Greg, it focuses on the key element that will make any relationship great, as well as how to create a safe atmosphere for transparency. Along with humorous glimpses into what it was like “growing up Smalley,” you'll get practical steps to ...
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What's the key to a teen's heart? And how can parents prepare their son or daughter for life as a successful, solid Christian adult? Find out in The DNA of Parent-Teen Relationships: Discover the Key to Your Teen's Heart. Written by best-selling authors Gary Smalley and his son Greg, it focuses on the key element that will make any relationship great, as well as how to create a safe atmosphere for transparency. Along with humorous glimpses into what it was like “growing up Smalley,” you'll get practical steps to building a rewarding relationship with your teen. Tyndale House Publishers
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589971639
  • Publisher: Focus Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/28/2005
  • Series: Focus on the Family Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 722,534
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Read an Excerpt


Discover The Key to Your Teen's Heart
By Gary Smalley Greg Smalley

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Gary Smalley and Greg Smalley, Psy.D.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-58997-163-9

Chapter One

Any adult who behaved the way that teenagers behave would be judged as certifiably insane.

One time when Greg was a teenager and our family was driving from Arizona to Missouri, we saw a clear example of why it's so dangerous to allow anger to take root in a home. But we also saw how honor can erase anger in a matter of minutes.

Near the New Mexico state line, Greg and I (Gary) started arguing about an unresolved conflict. Norma, my wife, was in the back of the camper with our other two kids, so she couldn't hear us. Greg had taken some money from Norma's purse to buy a video game. She had given him permission to take $20, but he'd taken $30. What he called an "advance" on his allowance, I was calling stealing. We had argued about the details but had gotten nowhere. I didn't like the fact that Greg wanted to keep this a secret. But he was upset because he'd returned the extra money and didn't feel his mother needed to know about it. He was also afraid she'd get angry.

The other problem was that I'd been pretty harsh with my tongue. I'd blown up during the original discussion at home and called Greg a liar and a thief. I could tell his feelings were hurt, but I had no idea that anger had infiltrated his heart. At least I didn't know until we approached New Mexico. Then, like a volcano, his anger erupted in my face.

As Greg and I argued once again about telling Mom, the discussion quickly escalated to the point that I had to pull the camper off to the side of the road. Suddenly, Greg jumped out of the vehicle, hopped a fence, and disappeared over a hill. As he ran, I could hear him screaming, "I want out of this family!" Then he was gone.

Teenagers! I thought as I rolled my eyes. Watching all the cars and trucks that I'd passed earlier roar by, I wondered how long this was going to take. "This will certainly put us behind schedule!" I yelled to no one in particular.

Since this was my first runaway situation, I didn't know what to do. Should I wait until he came back? Should I run after him? It was so hot outside that I was leaning toward staying in the air-conditioned camper. However, the rest of the family made my decision when they collectively screamed, "Go get him!"

Now I was really frustrated. Greg was pretty fast. Who knew how far he'd run by this time?

As I approached the fence Greg had jumped over, I noticed a sign that read: NO TRESPASSING! DANGER!

Danger? I thought. What could possibly be dangerous out here in the middle of nowhere? So I climbed over the fence and walked to the top of the hill behind which Greg had disappeared. Then I quickly realized what made the sign necessary. Danger was everywhere.

The scene was like something out of the movie Dances with Wolves. An entire herd of huge buffalo was grazing down below. The thought passed through my mind that instead of driving to this area in our camper, we should have traveled in a covered wagon. I had been instantly transported back into the Old West.

As I scanned the area for Greg, I discovered that he had descended the far side of the hill and walked about 20 yards into the herd, then suddenly stopped. I smiled as I thought about how his stubbornness had carried him far into the herd but not all the way through. His strong will had given way to fear. Greg now stood face-to-face with a large male buffalo. As they stared at each other, the buffalo started snorting and stamping his foot, inching toward Greg. I knew very little about buffalo, but that didn't look good.

Greg was searching for an escape route when his eyes found me. His expression turned to one of great relief. We still had no idea how to solve his dilemma, however. I slowly walked down to where he was standing, thinking the buffalo might charge at any moment. Instead, though, he simply snorted a few more times and then walked away. Thankfully, my presence must have confused the great beast.

We later found out just how dangerous buffalo can be. We heard that if they're frightened, they can run through a wagon load of people in seconds, scattering their remains. Hearing this disturbing news caused the hair on our arms to stand straight up!

When we were out of harm's way, Greg and I stood on the other side of the fence and resolved our conflict. I asked him to explain why he'd run.

"It really hurt when you called me a liar and a thief," Greg choked out, not looking at me. "I know what I did was wrong, but it really killed me to hear you say those things. Having them brought up again today only made it worse. I just wanted to forget the whole thing happened."

Hearing his pain, I realized my sarcasm had deeply hurt my son. I wanted to say I had just been kidding, but he needed to hear me say I was sorry. So I asked him to forgive me for attacking him as a person. Then I put my arms around him and held him for a few seconds. When I could tell he'd forgiven me, I said, "Watch out-the buffalo is right behind us!" He jumped about three feet into the air, and then we laughed about our adventure.

Although Greg had been in the wrong for taking the money, I had been equally wrong for flippantly calling him names. The anger that had developed in his heart had started to cause serious damage. But once I asked him to forgive me, the bitterness melted in his heart, and he was able to seek forgiveness as well. When we got back to the camper, Greg and Norma had a long talk. Our other two children, Kari and Michael, asked what had happened, and I simply said, "It's a long story. Greg will tell you later. In the meantime, let's just say that it will be a while before Greg wants to visit the buffalo exhibit at the zoo!"

As Norma and I were reminded through that experience with Greg, it's so important to increase honor and decrease anger in the hearts of our teenagers. (Seeking forgiveness for the wrong we've done is one of the most honoring things we can do for one another.) In fact, doing those two things is the key to making our kids' teen years our best parenting years. What is it about increasing honor and decreasing anger that is so important in creating a healthy home? One word: Safety.

People are designed to hunger for intimacy and deep connection. God designed us to connect with others and experience relational intimacy, especially in the key relationships within our families. This basic desire for intimacy can feel like a deep yearning.

If you are like us, you long for relationships in which you feel completely safe. You want to feel free to open up and reveal who you really are, share your deepest thoughts and dreams, and know that you will be loved, accepted, and valued-no matter what.

Yet, many of us-especially teenagers-struggle with various aspects of intimacy because it requires openness, and openness makes us vulnerable. We're not quite sure what others will say or do or how they'll use what they learn about us. This is why a lack of desire to connect-or an avoidance of intimacy in general-usually is an attempt to avoid feeling hurt, humiliated, embarrassed, or just plain uncomfortable.

As a way to lessen the risks involved, we come up with many strategies to try to connect without getting hurt. We put up walls and try to project an image we think people will approve of so that when they look at us through the camera lens, they like what they see. We may keep parts of ourselves closed and protected. We may ignore or deny how we actually feel. We may get angry or demanding as a way of distracting ourselves, or our family members, from our own vulnerability. There are a whole host of options we may use in an attempt to avoid relational risks. Unfortunately, these strategies usually limit the quality of the intimacy in our relationships because it's hard for people to get close to us if we're hiding behind a thick wall or a mask.

In spite of the risks, the potential benefits of an intimate relationship are many. Intimacy creates the ideal opportunity to: love deeply and be loved; experience a significant sense of belonging; have a clear sense of purpose in life; have the ability to make a major difference in another's life; and have a way of fully expressing the best of who we are. As a result, we will look for ways to create that experience.

In order for intimacy and deep connection to occur, hearts must be open. This is why 1 Peter 1:22 says, "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart" (NIV).

For a moment, think of all the ways we try to create intimacy in our marriages. We learn about each other's love languages and emotional needs. We create romance by buying flowers and cards. We have candlelight dinners. We go on date nights with our spouse. We attend relationship conferences and read marriage books. We join small groups and talk about our marriages. While on some level these things appear reasonable, in reality they are unnecessarily difficult strategies due to our inherent resistance to the dangers of emotional vulnerability.

An easier approach is to focus significant time, attention, and energy on creating an environment that feels safe-physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. As mentioned, people are, by nature, inclined to want to be open and connect with others. Logically, openness can be understood as the default setting for human beings. No state of being takes less energy to maintain than openness that involves being yourself and just relaxing. Maintaining defenses, walls, and fortresses takes tremendous energy. Working to get people to see you a certain way, by projecting a certain image, or trying to get them to like or accept you also requires significant energy. Simply expressing who you are and "being" does not. As a result, when people feel truly safe they prefer to be open and use their life energy to live and create and enjoy life.

When people are together in a state of openness, intimacy naturally occurs. It doesn't necessarily require work or effort. It may or may not include words. The mistake many make-knowing that they want to experience intimacy and that openness is required-is to either throw open their hearts (which can be reckless) or to try to create intimacy by talking or some other activity. Either focus makes getting to true intimacy harder than necessary. The easier approach to intimacy is to focus on creating a safe environment for yourself, your spouse, and your children. When each person feels safe, you will be naturally inclined to relax and be open, and intimacy will simply happen.

Let us say it again: When people feel safe they are naturally inclined to open their hearts. Safety will help you create a climate in which you can build open relationships that will grow and flourish. It will help you build relationships in which you and the other person will feel cherished, honored, and alive. It will set a soothing tone that will allow you to feel relaxed in your relationships.

If that sounds like paradise, maybe it's because Eden was a supremely safe place. Adam and Eve felt no fear there. Before their sin, they enjoyed an amazingly intimate relationship with God, themselves, and each other. The couple felt so close to one another that God described them as "united into one" (Genesis 2:24). Nothing came between Adam and Eve-not insecurities, not sharp differences of opinion, not even clothes! They were completely open with each other-no walls, no masks, no fear. Their relationship blossomed.

In your quest to have the "best of the best" in your marriage and family, we want to encourage you to make creating safety with your teens a top priority. Start this process by answering some basic questions:

1. 0-10 (with 10 being the most safe), how safe is my marriage for my spouse and me? For our children?

2. How have I made it unsafe for my spouse? For my children?

3. How do I make it unsafe for me?

4. What do I do in response to feeling unsafe?

When your teenager knows that you are committed to creating a safe environment, you begin building a foundation for a great relationship. Ideally, your home should feel like the safest place on earth.

How do you make your home feel safe-like it's the safest place on earth? By increasing honor and decreasing anger.

Increasing Honor and Decreasing Anger

We (Gary and Greg) feel so strongly about this subject that we decided years ago to write this book together. When we first wrote this book, I (Greg) was not long out of the teen years myself, so many of the changes and challenges were still fresh in my mind. And in the hope of helping you to be a better parent to your own teen, I'm willing to discuss in these pages some of my problems and victories during those turbulent years.

In addition to recounting our family's experiences, to help provide the best information possible, we're going to offer what we've learned from surveying more than 5,000 former teenagers at our monthly seminar. We asked those adults to tell us two primary things:

1. What were the best things your parents did for you during your adolescence?

2. What do you wish your parents had done differently?

We have been stunned by the answers we got to these two questions, and we've sprinkled the results throughout the book.

For now, we'll tell you that both our experience and our research indicate that increasing honor and decreasing anger in the home are the two main principles in raising healthy teenagers. Talk about simplifying the struggles of adolescence! We're convinced that if these two things are dealt with daily, parents and their teens will find a much more satisfying life together, and teens will be much more open to their parents' advice. Also, a lot of the pain and heartache often associated with the teen years will be avoided.

In fact, increasing honor and decreasing anger make up the foundation of all healthy homes and relationships. Honor fortifies love; anger kills it-if left unresolved for weeks, months, or even years, anger becomes an acid that eats away love and maturity in teens as well as adults. That's why everything we discuss throughout this book will run through these two themes. And that's why we want parents, teachers, coaches, doctors, youth ministers-anyone touching the lives of teenagers-to know about the great importance of honor and anger.


Excerpted from the DNA of PARENT-TEEN RELATIONSHIPS by Gary Smalley Greg Smalley Copyright © 2005 by Gary Smalley and Greg Smalley, Psy.D.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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