Your Teenager Is Not Crazy - but they may trigger you something awful!

I usually invite my guests to sit with me (figuratively) on that comfy orange couch in my living room, but today's friend agreed to join me (literally) at a conference, and I was so blessed by her wisdom and fellowship I wanted to bring you into our conversation. Last week, Jerusha Clark and I shared a booth at The Great Homeschool Convention with my book, Triggers: Exchanging Parents' Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses rubbing shoulders with her most recent release, Your Teenager Is Not Crazy: Understanding Your Teen's Brain Can Make You a Better Parent.

Triggers-Mockup541+f2AFR3uL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_with Jerusha

What I learned, as we conversed with moms both separately and together, is that teenagers can be a trigger in their very own category! However, like every trigger that Amber Lia and I address in our book, the more you know about your triggers, the less likely you are to be triggered by them. Same is true for the teen who's pushing boundaries, talking back, and looking for their growing sense of autonomy and independence there in your home.

The more you understand their developing brain, the more grace and help you can offer them as they grow.

Welcome, Jerusha!




The Biological Trigger Most Parents Don’t Even Know Exists…

by Jerusha Clark


Ever heard of mirror neurons?

Neither had I, until I started trying to understand the teenagers living in my house, that is.  Turns out, these tiny brain cells play a major role in parenting anyone from 11-25 years of age.  Yeah, they’re kind of a big deal.

God created mirror neurons to help your kids (and you!) learn by example.  They’re also crucial in developing empathy.  When you watch someone laugh hysterically, drink a cup of steaming coffee, or burst into tears, the mirror neurons in your brain fire.  Your senses vicariously participate in what you observe.  This explains, in part, why women like me cry at sappy commercials (C’mon; I know I’m not the only one!)  It also helps explain why, when your teen wigs out, you feel like wigging out, too (and vice versa.)  

While scientists are still learning about these amazing brain cells, studies suggest that when mirror neurons activate, imitation of both positive and negative behaviors occurs. In other words, your teen’s brain is constantly watching, evaluating, and reproducing your emotions and actions. Talk about evidence that parents need to model appropriate behavior! Next time you feel like blowing your top at your angry teen, take a moment to let your mirror neurons calm down (more on this later)!

My husband and I have spent several years exploring scientific research and biblical wisdom about parenting adolescents.  It’s been absolutely fascinating to witness how neuroscience is just now catching up with and proving the timeless wisdom of Scripture.  Consider this well known verse in light of what you just learned about mirror neurons:

“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1). 

God not only gives us “good advice” in the Bible; He actually designed our bodies and brains in concert with His truth.  Mirror neurons are at play when you respond to your tweens and teens. It’s wonderful and wild, isn’t it?!

I know it’s tough raising adolescents.  I’m right in the thick of it!  But I’ve got good news for all of us: we don't have to throw our hands up in defeat.  I’d love to share two practical tips for anyone who wants to move beyond “getting through” their kids’ tween and teenage years and actually thrive during this season.

  • Don’t be a diversion. When you lose emotional control, adolescents divert energy to evaluating your behavior rather than their own. You don’t want this. Instead, keeping your cool forces your teenager’s feelings and the heart motives behind them to the surface. In a fascinating series of studies, researchers determined that when adolescents fixate on someone else’s emotions, their ability to process other information weakens. In other words, your angry expression and tone of voice dulls your teenager’s capacity to hear the content of your message (those powerful mirror neurons are going crazy!) If you want to have an effective conversation with your adolescent, don’t allow your emotion to distract him from what you’re communicating.
  • Take ninety seconds. Social neurobiologists study how brain chemistry impacts relationships. Their research shows that emotions follow a predictable ninety-second arc. This means that any emotion you or your adolescent feels will rise and fall within ninety seconds if proverbial fuel isn’t added to the fire. Here’s the practical application: If you know your feelings aren’t under control, remove yourself from the situation. Excuse yourself to get a glass of water, go into the bathroom (even if all you do in there is silently scream), or flat-out say, “Look, I need to take ninety seconds here.” Some of you may be thinking, “That may work for others, but I’ve tried the whole counting to ten thing, and my kid just pushes and pushes.” Fair enough. This may happen, and it may happen often. Remember, however: you are the adult. Despite what a teen does, you can communicate, “I am trying to get my emotions under control, so I’m not going to talk again for two minutes.” Chances are, the first few times you say something like this, your teen or tween may be annoyed or angered. Hold your ground. After seeing you take ninety seconds a few times, your kids may start to experience the same calming sensation that comes from riding out the neurological rise and fall. In a non-combative moment, explain the biology behind your ninety-second discipline. You may be surprised at your adolescent’s reaction. Flipping out doesn’t feel good. Unbridled anger and bitterness are poisonous emotions that leave us feeling worse than when we started. Your teen or tween may see the benefit in taking time to allow the heat of emotion to pass. Ninety seconds doesn’t solve the situation, but it puts out some of the emotional flames and lays the groundwork for healthier communication.


I invite you to learn more about your adolescent’s brain, because understanding it can make you a better, gentler parent!  If you’re ready to forego those knee-jerk reactions when your teenager is acting like a teenager, check out Your Teenager Is Not Crazy, available from Baker Books at bookstores and online.


4b647c_31a1ee10ddce4e47877ff77d3fb3fd94Jerusha Clark co-authored four books with her husband Jeramy, including three bestsellers, prior to launching her own writing and speaking ministry, focused on helping others glorify and enjoy God, one thought at a time.

On quiet days, you can find Jerusha body-boarding, reading, or singing around a bonfire at the beach, her absolute favorite place. Jeramy and Jerusha have two amazing teenage daughters and love ministering together at churches, retreats, schools, and conferences.





The Shepherds - Day 22 - a holiday haiku

Welcome to Day 22 of our Holiday Haiku Challenge One of the joys of the season is reading again the account of the very first Christmas. The star, the wisemen, the angel chorus, and the shepherds keeping watch. Here is a fresh translation:

An Event for Everyone (Luke 2:8-20, MSG)

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were amazed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!


Today's challenge is to write one haiku, just 17 syllables, inspired by those lowly characters,


the shepherds



The Shepherds

by Gayl Wright In Luke 2 we read that the night Christ was born some shepherds were staying in the fields nearby, "in the neighborhood", watching their sheep. Imagine their surprise when an angel suddenly appeared and then a whole host of angels praising God! The shepherds didn't waste any time getting to Bethlehem to find Jesus. Everything was just as the angel had told them. Bursting with the news they began telling others what the angel had told them about the Child. Scripture tells us that all who heard were amazed. As the shepherds made their way back to the fields they glorified and praised God. They were in awe of everything they had seen and heard. It's a familiar story but seemed to come alive as I took time reading and pondering it.


Shepherd haiku



gayle picToday's guest, Gayl Wright, has been one of the most faithful haiku participants in the series. If you start at the beginning and work your way through all 21 days thus far, you'll find her daily offerings in the comments section of each day's post. While they're all wonderful, I especially love the words she recently included on her own blog. It's a longer poem, however, each stanza is made out of haiku. It's entitled Make Room for Jesus.

Gayl Wright makes her home in upstate South Carolina. She is a seeker of truth who looks for beauty in ordinary things. A self-taught poet, photographer and artist, she loves to capture what she finds using her talents to encourage others and glorify God.



Christmas Contentment - Day 21 - Holiday Haiku Challenge


Welcome to our 23rd day of the Holiday Haiku Challenge Today's haiku challenge is to write 17 poetic syllables inspired by the often ellusive concept,


Christmas Contentment


My dear friend Amber Lia shares a personal story on the subject, then wraps it up at the end with a haiku. If you are inspired, leave your own #holidayhaiku in the comment thread below.


Christmas Contentment

By Amber Lia


My husband thought it was a fun idea to put a pink feather boa and other gag gifts in my Christmas stocking that first year of marriage. Meanwhile, I thoughtfully wrapped all his favorite things. Ten years later, he still struggles with what to get me. Just today, I bought a gift from him, for me. He’ll wrap it. I’ll be happy and he won’t have to sleep on the couch.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Like you, I want Christmas to be less about “stuff” and more about rejoicing over the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, but even with my best intentions, I can become disappointed when holidays roll around. My prayer for 2015 was that I would hunger and thirst for righteousness more than anything else. I wanted to grow in contentment and truly feel like peace ruled my heart and mind this year, despite my circumstances. When December arrives, my contentment can be severely tested. My birthday is the day after Christmas and so many expectations come into play. I want to focus on what really matters—the many blessing that are already mine to treasure. I also want to humble myself, much like we see in Jesus’ example:


“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11


Jesus, the King of Kings came into the world in total humility, for the sake of the cross. And now He reigns exalted! Christmas is the ultimate opportunity for us to humble ourselves and to be content! Just as God loves His Son, I cherish the gift of my own three boys the most this holiday season. They bless my socks off and bring me so much joy! This year, I know that I won’t be getting diamond earrings or a fabulous handbag. But it’s not going to induce a pity-party. I have Jesus and my family. Everything else is blessing upon blessing.



contentment haiku


If you've missed any of our Holiday Haiku Challenge, head on over to the beginning.


Emmanuel - Day 20 - holiday haiku


Welcome to Day 20 of our Holiday Haiku Challenge Today's charge is to  write a haiku inspired by the Name of Christ,




emmanuel haiku


by Tara Ulrich


Emmanuel "God with us" is such a beautiful reminder that we are never alone. I love Eugune Peterson's translation in the Message when he states "Jesus puts on flesh and blood and moves into the neighborhood." Can you just picture Mary, Joseph, and baby Joseph moving in next to you?

Would you bring them gifts fit for a king? Would you be oohing and aahing over this precious gift not even knowing that this infant was the promise Messiah? During this Advent season, may you welcome this promised Messiah into your heart, and extend Him out into your very own neighborhoods!


tarapicTara Ulrich lives in Minot, ND where she serves at a Lutheran church as the Director of Home and Family Ministry. She is a rostered Diaconal Minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Diaconal Ministers grew out of the Catholic understanding of deacons and deaconesses; Word and Service rather than Word and Sacrament). Prior to coming to Minot, she lived in Moorhead, MN and served at a church in Dilworth, MN for approximately 6 1/2 years. She is a graduate of the University of Mary (Bismarck, ND) and Wartburg Theological Seminary. She loves to spend time with her friends and family, reading, writing, and on the beautiful prairies of North Dakota.

You can follow her at her blog Praying on the Prairie. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.



Christmas Hospitality - Day 18 - Holiday Haiku


Welcome to Day 18 of our Holiday Haiku Challenge If you've missed any of our series, head on over to the beginning.

Today's charge is to write 17 syllables inspired by the truly Christlike quality of


Christmas Hospitality


Kris haiku


The Hospitality of Heaven

by Kris Camealy


As we prepare our Christmas table, I am continually laid low by the hospitality of heaven, that God would send His own Son to be our Host, to show us what it means to make room for one another. Jesus' coming reminds me to make a habit of preparing not only room for God in my own heart, but that I would make an effort to invite God-in-the-hearts of others to join me at the banquet as well. His Word reminds that by doing so, we may be entertaining angels unaware. May we be willing to open our hearts, our doors, and our tables to others in all seasons, inspired by Jesus' own generosity and graceful example. May we receive Him daily, and offer Him to those who hunger and thirst after that which alone satisfies eternally. Kris_Camealy_Round


Kris Camealy is a sequin-wearing, homeschooling mother of four. She's passionate about faith, family, friends, and food. A slow-comer to the notion of God’s grace, Kris has “tasted and seen” and longs to see others filled with the same grace that transformed her heart. She’s been known to take gratuitous pictures of her culinary creations, causing mouths to water all across Instagram.

Kris is the founder of GraceTable and the author of the book, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement and the follow up, Companion Workbook. You can read more from Kris at