Hope For Parents With Struggling Teens

Parenting Pinocchio

August 08, 2023 Brandon Joffe, LCSW
Hope For Parents With Struggling Teens
Parenting Pinocchio
Show Notes

Today my guest is pastor Kyle Zimmerman from Orange Friends Church, who recently gave a Sunday message that I feel applies to parenting struggling teens.

Whether you believe there’s a God or follow Christianity or not, you’re going to get some good wisdom out of his insight about boundaries, parenting, and the definition of real love.

Pastor Kyle used an illustration from the story of Pinocchio in his message and related it to the ideas of God’s caring nature, the Gospel, and what healthy, mature love can look like.

First, we dive into the topic of Pinocchio’s unwise decisions in the storyline, and how Geppetto showed wisdom and patience, along with healthy boundaries, as he pursued his wayward child. 

Geppetto had created the wooden boy with great care and intentionality and desired a loving family relationship. 

But when Pinocchio went to school and experienced rejection and alienation, he was vulnerable to the deceptive appeal of “Pleasure Island,” where everything is supposedly free and oriented towards instant gratification. This can be viewed as an allegory to a troubled teen falling into addiction or other self-destructive behaviors, often without the necessary awareness of the dangers.

This of course puts Geppetto in a tough predicament, where he finds himself asking: What am I willing to sacrifice to try and save Pinocchio? And, where is the line between the efforts I should make to retrieve him, and losing myself? 

Geppetto does pursue Pinocchio, and sells his valuable clocks to do so, but demonstrates boundaries in his decision to not enter into Pleasure Island himself, and resisting resentment against the boy.

When teens struggle, some parents sacrifice everything, some sacrifice nothing, and many seek to find the right line in between. Every case is different, and Kyle suggests that God will lead parents slightly differently in each family scenario. 

When considering whether to make a sacrifice for a teen, one question parents can ask themselves is: Will it hurt any other important relationships in my life? This can include relationships with other children, spouses, God, or others. 

You also don’t give something that is going to take away from your identity, or that will creep into the realm of enabling. It’s also important to make sure any sacrifices you make are not harming future security for yourself or others you’re responsible for.

We talk about letting our children go through things and experience the natural consequences of life. Instead of trying to eliminate consequences for a child, focus your efforts on guiding them through the experience. Geppetto couldn’t take away the pain that Pinocchio was experiencing in life, but he didn’t add to or exacerbate it.

We also discuss the difference between loving your child - which most people do - and loving ON your children in effecting ways that are actually going to get internalized by them as loving.

I know you’ll enjoy this engaging episode as we explore what love can look like and where it should be rooted.