Teenagers: They Are Not Like My Truck!

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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I am currently offline, disconnected from all types of social media right now, while vacationing with my family in Florida. While I'm away, I'm pleased to host several great writers on this blog. 

This is a guest post from my good friend Bruce Humphrey who is about to become the lead pastor of Mosaic Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. You can read about he and his family by clicking here, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter

I wish my students were like my truck, but they are not. Students are not like my truck because there are many gauges on the truck to let me know if there is something wrong with it. Then I can take it to someone who is knowledgeable about vehicles to help me out.

Unfortunately, when emotional needs of a teenager get out of whack, their gauges usually flash warnings through inappropriate behavior– often-destructive behavior. Sometimes their gauges will indicate that there is something wrong through silence or withdrawal.

The truth is, no matter our age, we all have physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. However, when we mix in everyday growing-up with the developmental needs of teenagers, suddenly we face an overwhelming need.  How do we meet the needs of a growing teenager? I am reviewing a book I once read by Rodney Gage called, “Why Your Kids Do What They Do.”

Gage writes about four developmental needs of a student. I’ve condensed his chapters into four short paragraphs. All the information comes from his book; I encourage you to read it.

Physical Growth: Teenagers’ bodies change drastically.

This creates awkward, uncoordinated, embarrassed, confused, and moody KIDS!! Physical development can be irregular, quick, uneven, and often painful. Hearts and lungs double in capacity and stomachs grow almost one-third larger since adolescence began. The grocery bill goes through the roof! Pimples! Sleep!! Irritableness!! I often hear from parents as they discuss their kids: “I have no idea who this kid is and I want my other one back.”

Sexual Growth: Teenagers are one big walking HORMONE

The development of sexual growth stirs guilt to amazement. Yes, I am about to talk about sexuality.  Guys think about sex. Girls think about love (fantasy). Guys deal with squeaky voices and muscular bodies. Girls become like flowers. They start to bud. Hormones not only relate to sexual development but also influence ricocheting emotions (BAD MOOD swings) and curious behavior.

Often teenagers experience exaggerated feelings and it becomes an emotional rollercoaster ride. A simple “good morning!” can bring a flood of tears or a tongue lashing about how there is nothing good in this world. The greatest joy can be quickly followed by anger.

Social Growth: Friends are everything

In social development the teenager moves from the same-sex, best friend relationships of younger youth to a circle of friends where the teenager interacts with both sexes. The development of their personality deepens. One thing I have learned is this: they constantly worry about what others say about them, how others see them, and what others think about them. This self-centeredness of younger youth gradually gives way to awareness of others, as the teenager gets older. I believe that “friends become their god”.

Mental Growth: Critical Thinking

Certainly this involves the amount of information a teenager learns, but also the way that information is processed. They move from a more concrete understanding of black or white (seeing life in basic terms) to processing everything abstractly. In other words, the transition from concrete thoughts, where everything is one way or the other moves to abstract thoughts, where nothing is known for sure. Teenagers face doubt and indecision.

  1. Concrete operations (ages 7-11)–As physical experience accumulates, the child starts to conceptualize, creating logical structures that explain his or her physical experiences. Abstract problem solving is also possible at this stage. For example, arithmetic equations can be solved with numbers, not just with objects.
  2. Formal operations (beginning at ages 11-15)–By this point, the child’s cognitive structures are like those of an adult and include conceptual reasoning.

Spiritual Growth: Loving God and Loving Others

A younger student who has been exposed to healthy living through home and church might begin to question those beliefs and values as he’s exposed to secular humanism and moral relativism at school. Social relationships certainly play a vital role in their spiritual development. They are struggling to find their personal faith.

Often they treat their youth group as an extra-curricular club. It becomes a supplement to enhance them rather than a lifestyle choice that develops qualities like meekness, humility, and service.

Working with students is a process. Understanding these growth patterns will help you guide and direct them toward a deeper understanding of God and his Word.  This is what we want: we want all students to deepen their faith in God. We want students to know God’s Word and God’s Word to know them.

Question: Are you raising teenagers right now? How have you navigated some of the growth areas listed above? Leave a comment in the comment section…

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.