Stop dwelling on past mistakes

This month I was interviewed by Host Maggie Johns on Canadian TV show 100 Huntley Street about my parenting mistakes… and what I’d do over.

The interview provides good news for parents. We’ve all made mistakes. Instead of beating yourself up, ask, “How can I learn from this? How can I make changes? Lets stop dwelling on the past and let’s look at the future.”

Here’s a six minute clip they posted on YouTube:

I always enjoy talking with Maggie– we always have great conversations about parenting today’s teenagers. Like our prior conversation about smartphone obsessed kids, or the previous conversation about becoming our kids go-to person about sex.

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When teasing goes too far

Do your kids resonate with 13 Reasons Why?

Do they ever feel, or have any friends who feel bullied, teased, mocked, or pushed too far?

My longtime blog readers might remember me talking about a book I have been writing literally for years now—the story of a high school kid who was teased and mocked beyond the tipping point. I finished the book and hope to get it published this year.

That’s where you come in.

I never release a book until I’ve had a bunch of people preview it first and give me feedback.

Would you like to preview this fiction book? Or do you know some teenagers who are readers that might want to give it a test run? (Any fan of my ZOMBIE fiction book might really like this one as well)

The book is titled ENMITY. Here’s a piece of the back cover copy:

One word describes the visceral sensation he feels when he enters campus each day.

One word describes the angst he endures each class period when his books are knocked off his desk, when students chuckle and whisper about him, and the teachers either don’t have a clue, or feign not to notice.

Just one word describes the emotions swimming throughout his body on this particular Monday as he is knocked to the ground in gym class for the last time.

For Brett, the word is as obvious as the setting sun. The word is enmity. And when the sun rises Tuesday… no one will be laughing any more.

Email me at if you’d like to preview this book. You’d have a couple weeks to read it and give feedback, and then I’ll give you a free copy once it’s published.

Posted in Books, Bullying/Cyberbullying, Youth Culture | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Free 7-week Parenting Curriculum

Many of you have been asking me about the free 7-week parenting curriculum I announced on social media last month.

It’s here!

We just uploaded the first two videos to our “If I Had a Parenting Do Over” playlist on YouTube, and the remaining 5 are going up in the next 24 hours.

I actually got the idea during my recent interview on Focus on the Family radio broadcast about my new book, If I Had a Parenting Do Over. After the interview John Fuller was thumbing through the book looking at the discussion questions I provided at the end of each chapter. He commented, “I think we’re going to use this book as a curriculum with a group of parents we meet with at our church.”

The next week I was at a parent workshop and some parents said the exact same comment. Then they asked me. “Do you have any clips we can show to kick of the discussion for that chapter?”

Within a month I heard the question so many times I finally just called up my publisher and said, “Okay, you know I like to give things away for free… can we post some free videos on YouTube to help parents discuss these ‘7 Vital Changes’ for my book, If I Had a Parenting Do Over?

They agreed… and the rest is history.

7 videos, each one seeding conversation about the 7 vital changes I’d make.

So there you go. Get a copy of for each parent and enjoy the dialogue! (Grab the book on Amazon… they still have it insanely cheap!)

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Why 13 Reasons Why

Suicide, upskirt photos, social media, bullying… it’s almost as if someone posted a hidden camera in the hallways of the high school down your street. The realism is a little too close to home, and parents are beginning to worry.

Should our kids be watching this?

If you have teenagers, work with teenagers or even have crossed paths with a teenager in the last month, you probably have heard them talking about 13 Reasons Why. It’s the newest bingeable series from Netflix touching on everything teenager.

The story is about Hannah Baker, a high school girl who decides to end her own life, only after making old school cassette tape recordings of the “13 reasons why” she chose to do so, tapes she sent to the people she blames.

The show, rated TV-MA, shows very mature content including suicide, rape, sexual situations and foul language. Some experts are concerned the show glamorizes suicide. Others say it’s providing a great opportunity to talk with young people about suicide risk, self-esteem, social media and bullying.

Who’s right?

Here’s the thing. The question I keep hearing parents asking is, “Are you sure kids should be watching this.” I’m not disagreeing with the question. I just don’t think it’s the right question. Why?

Kids are already watching this.

It’s out there.

Sad fact, but most moms and dads aren’t aware what their kids are watching. So even if your kids aren’t watching it, their friends are, and now most kids want to see it. I’m not telling you to let your kids watch it. I’m just advising, whether your kids watch it or not, parents need to talk about this.

Here are 4 articles that will help you with these conversations:

  1. Realize we can’t block everything. This doesn’t mean allow everything in your house; it just means conversations are still necessary. Don’t just “hope for the best.”
  2. Look for every opportunity to connect with your kids, with and without devices. Here’s my top 5 ways.
  3. Be aware what your kids are accessing on their devices. Here are 5 steps parents can’t take to do this.
  4. This week my friend Rob Chagdes wrote a brand new article on unpacking 13 Reasons Why and highlighting two glaring truths the debatable series unveiled.

For more parenting help from parents who have been there, check out my brand new book, If I Had a Parenting Do Over: 7 Vital Changes I’d Make

Posted in Discussion Ideas, Entertainment Media, Internet, Movies, Parenting, Self Image, TV, Youth Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


Yesterday I sat in a restaurant on my drive back from a speaking engagement and voices grew loud behind me.

“You don’t understand!”

“I understand perfectly. You’re failing.”

The voices were growing loud enough that people at other tables were pausing and awkwardly looking over at the commotion.

I snuck a glance. A teenage boy, probably 16 or 17-years-old, was typing on his phone, trying his best to ignore his mom while she sat across the table from him with her arms crossed.

She continued. “Your not even going to graduate if you keep this up.”

The kid didn’t even look up from his phone. “So! I’ll just work at McDonalds and get my own place. I don’t need school!”

The bantering continued. Eventually the dad arrived at the table from the bathroom. Now it was two of them on one side of the table, looking across the four foot divide with disdain.

I’m not judging. There were huge problems on each side of that table. I would have loved to give “McDonalds” kid an honest glimpse into his future, maybe even show him a simple chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the difference in employment possibilities between a person with a bachelors degree and someone with just a high school diploma. And I would have loved to chat with those parents about “bonding vs boundaries.” I’ve been on that side of the table. It ain’t easy.

But I think the element that struck me the most was both sides obviously felt alone.

Today’s teenagers are lonely, and they’re looking for connection in the wrong places.

Today’s parents feel helpless, and many parents in this situation are too embarrassed to reach out for help from others. Especially if our kids are rebelling against the way they were raised.

So the gap only widens. Teens think, “My parents are stupid. They don’t understand.”

Parents think, “This narcissistic little brat. I’d like to take that phone away and throw it off a cliff!”

These parents aren’t alone. I’m noticing a growing divide between teen and adult culture. It would be silly to point fingers at one cause, because I’m sure it’s a mixed bag of nuts, including extended adolescence, enabling, helicopter parenting (yes, those two are almost opposite), the influence of entertainment media, etc.

The big question I have is, how are we as whole (pastors, youth workers, parents, grandparents) responding to this growing divide?

Two Opposite Approaches
I can’t help but think of two types of churches I’ve visited in the last few months. One of them I’ll call the Gap church. The church has a noticeable divide between adults and kids, and the programs only feed that divide. It is just like Thanksgiving in many homes across America with the kids’ table and the adult table. And just like Kara Powell notes in her Sticky Faith research, on Sunday morning young people go one way, and adults go another way.

This particular type of church runs a “youth service” every service at the same time as “big church.” So most families don’t see each other at all Sunday morning. Kids go one way, adults another. It’s we and they. Kids don’t even want to go to big church.

Let that sink in for a moment. Ask yourself: what is the possibility these kids are going to go to church when they are out of the house own their own?

But then I witnessed another type of church that had a more “it takes a village” approach. This church doesn’t run any youth programs Sunday morning other than for young children. This accomplished two things:

  1. Families went to church together, sat together and hung out together for Sunday mornings. Youth ministry happened midweek.
  2. The youth pastors weren’t burnt out running program (that other church can’t keep a youth pastor).

As a result, the “it takes a village” church connected countless adults with young people. Kids aren’t just hanging with kids (although they have plenty of time to do that mid week), they are interacting with adult friends, parents of friends, grandparents, pastors… the whole church community. Then midweek those kids are connecting with adult mentors in their small groups and Bible studies.

Sticky Faith found this “it takes a village approach” huge in applying faith to daily life:

“The more adult mentors who seek out students and help them apply faith to daily life, the better. Among 13 different ways adults support high school kids, two variables stood out as significantly related to sticky faith over time: feeling sought out by adults and feeling like those adults ‘helped me to realistically apply my faith to my daily life.'”

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there is only one correct model. I know some churches attempt life-stage groups (adult Sunday school, young people Sunday School) AND then go to big church together. That works for some. The point is simple. Are we encouraging venues where adults connect with kids… or are we feeding the divide?

I think back to that awkward moment last night with the bratty teen staring at his phone.

“I don’t need school. I’ll just work at McDonalds.”

What if he had a coach he could talk with about that? What if he had an uncle? A youth pastor? His best friend’s dad? His small group leader?

What if he had ALL of those mentors in his life?

I’ve worked with teenagers long enough to tell you with confidence… that kid had none of those people in his life.

Who do your kids have?

Posted in Church, Parenting, Youth Culture | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Lost a friend

Youth Ministry lost a good friend this past weekend. My friend Rob Maxey, Executive Director of Youth for Christ here in Sacramento passed away Friday after a long battle with cancer.

Even if you didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Rob, many of you actually knew him by reputation. Rob is the friend I featured in my book CONNECT who literally taught me how to talk with kids on campus (the guy who said, “Hi, I’m his parole officer”). Rob is the friend whose stories I’ve used at countless youth ministry trainings and parent workshops because of his amazing grasp on how to connect with today’s young people

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Men really hate solitude

This week as I read about Jesus’ final hours, I can’t help but notice how often He went alone for some time of solitude to pray.

Men hate getting alone to just be quiet!

I think you’ll be surprised to discover exactly how much they hate it.

I’m co-writing a book right now with my friend Curt Steinhorst about capturing attention in a world full of distractions, and we devote an entire chapter to finding solitude, turning off the noise and actually allowing ourselves to process.

Men don’t do this naturally.

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Posted in Faith, Prayer | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When Teens Doubt

It’s sad, but I hear it more and more each year.

Every weekend at my parent workshops I get at least one question about it… and I constantly receive emails asking the same thing:

What do I do when my teenager tells me they don’t believe in God?

Here’s an email I just received:


Thank you for all the wonderful ideas and advice! We are taking it all to heart in raising our teens. The question I have is, how do you apply these strategies in your book with a 16 year old who has decided she doesn’t believe in God the way you’ve taught her? She is not going to have the same moral compass you’re wanting her to make decisions from . . .

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Where kids actually adopt their values

“My 16-year-old wants Instagram and I won’t let her have it. Is that bad?”

It was an honest question from a mom after one of my recent parent workshops.

“Why don’t you let her have Instagram?”I asked.

“Well… it’s social media, and that’s bad… right?” She replied indecisively.

“When she’s 18 and she goes off to college, do you think she’ll get it?”

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Posted in Faith, Jonathan's Rant, Parenting, Smartphones/Cell Phones, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

face to face and hashtag evangelism

A live evangelism training that will create Gospel conversations both in person and on social media?

Yeah… God can absolutely pull that off, and no better person to work through than Greg Stier.

If you’ve been in youth ministry more than a minute, than you probably have seen Greg’s training videos, or heard him teach either at venues like the National Youth Workers Convention or at one of his Dare 2 Share events to a stadium full of teenagers passionate about sharing their faith. Greg is all about sharing the good new of Jesus and equipping other to do it.

And so am I. That’s why I’m super excited about the potential of

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