Author of numerous books
Family physician, 20+ years; served as volunteer physician for U.S. Olympic Committee
Named in Distinguished Physicians of America, Best Doctors in America, Who’s Who in Healthcare and Medicine
M.D., Louisiana State University
A WORLD UNKNOWN
Teenagers today live in a world unknown by their predecessors. With modern technology, contemporary teens are exposed to the best and worst of all human cultures. The temptations are huge and include alcohol, drugs, overindulgence (obesity), body piercing, tattoos, sex, and teenage pregnancy.
“We live in a culture that is trying to suck them in and pervert them. The adult world isn’t willing to talk to them about these things,” says Walt. As he speaks to parents around the country, Walt sees that parents feel helpless but he believes that the role of parents has never been more important. He says all the research indicates that the most significant influence on the life of a teen comes from the parents with the most significant years being between twelve and eighteen.
Walt says there are essential principles that parents should integrate into their relationship with their children. “The biblical responsibility we have for raising our teens requires skills: learning, teaching and mentoring,” says Walt. “Those skills need to be learned.” He says teens need four things from their parents during preteen and adolescent years, and they are as easy as ABCD:
A: Affirmation. Every child needs affirmation
B: Blameless love. Teens need acceptance even when they drop the ball.
C: Connectedness. Parents must be willing to spend time with their teen.
D: Discipline. Right discipline defines boundaries and reminds teens there are consequences for breaching them.
Walt says parenting styles make a difference. Researchers show that parenting style captures two element: parental responsiveness (warmth and support) versus parental demandingness (behavioral control). “Marshmallow” parents are uninvolved, demand little, and respond minimally. “Dictator” parents are domineering, autocratic, and highly controlling. “Champion” parents are warm and nurturing and love blamelessly. “Best friend” parents are warm but parent inconsistently and resort to negotiating with their teen. Teens need balance in love and training, mercy and fairness, warmth and firmness, and tenderness and jurisdiction. “Parents who balance love and discipline have healthy kids,” says Walt.
FOR APPEARANCE’S SAKE
The Bible does not specifically address activities such as hair highlighting, Mohawk haircuts, and body art. But Walt says there is a difference between what is considered “normal” and what is rebellion. As a family physician, Walt has noted piercings in unimaginable places and, while many piercings may be a demonstration of independence or peer pressure, many represent psychological, relational, or spiritual disorders. (The Academy of Dermatology opposes all forms of body piercings except the earlobe. Unlike other areas of the body, earlobes are fatty tissue and have a strong blood supply.) Piercing sensitive body parts, tattooing from head to toe, cutting their flesh, taking dangerous drugs, or identifying themselves with death are definite signs of a teen’s cry for help.
Walt thinks of teen health much like the components of a sturdy wheel. The four “wheels” of a healthy teen are:
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