Posted by: ramonamom | June 10, 2009

Get Outta My Face, Book Review

BOOK REVIEW – GET OUTTA MY FACE!, BY RICK HORNE

 My original purpose for purchasing and reading Get Outta My Face!, by Rick Horne, was to help other parents who were struggling with their teens. In God’s infinite wisdom, though, He brought my husband and I to some very challenging times regarding a number of issues with our own teens while I was in the process of reading the book. God’s timing is indeed perfect and I don’t think I will ever cease to be amazed by that fact as I am reminded of it over and over again. The process of thinking through the principles presented in this book has served to mold and solidify my own belief system and parenting methods and, although we share belief in some biblical principles, I did discover significant disagreement with some of the author’s basic premises.

 

In the book, Get Outta My Face!, Rick Horne presents what he considers biblically sound solutions to dealing with angry and unmotivated teens. He first explains what a parent needs to understand in order to connect with their teen and then goes on to discuss what the parents must do and how to apply these principles and make them “stick”. Although much of what he said was review to this reader and parent of many teens, some unfamiliar territory was covered, also. The author gave numerous examples of counseling situations with angry teens, and often their parents, which was helpful in understanding application of the principles he presented. However, the challenge for this reader is how to apply these ideas and principles on a daily and more casual basis than a sit-down counseling session.

 

In Part I, Rick Horne (a high school counselor with 30 years experience and father of six kids, who were once teens) states the goal of his book as being, “…to help these young people {angry, unmotivated teens} recognize their self-destructive ways, learn new and effective methods of dealing with life, and ultimately come into a deep and life-changing relationship with Christ.” How well this goal is accomplished will be determined by parents’ and youth workers’ application of the principles, as they are the audience the book is written to, though. We are reminded that teens are made in the image of God and that His word shows us effectively how to talk to them, as well as adults. Parents are also reminded that, although they are not responsible for the reactions of their teens, the way they approach their teens will generally have a direct effect on how the teens choose to respond back to the parents. Indeed, the challenge for parents and counselors is often reaching these needy young people who are not looking for our help at all and whose response is solely based upon “what he wants”. One hesitation with the presented material is regarding the author’s stated purpose that the first two parts of the book are “concerned exclusively with surface motivations and external behavior”, as “when dealing with angry or unmotivated teens, this is where the process must begin.” As a parent of 11 children, I have spent the last number of years learning to dig deeper, working on heart issues and sinful responses in daily situations, so it seems backwards to begin working with surface motivations and external behavior at this point, although I do see where this approach could be helpful in youth counseling situations.

 

Chapter 2 is titled, “Understanding Your Teen Biblically”, and the author gives eight biblical “lenses” through which we should peer when looking at our teens. The eight lenses/principles through which the author states should consider our angry teens are:

 

1.  Teens, just like parents and counselors, are sinners.

2.  Teens can be respected as young adults.

3.  Common grace, God’s general goodness to all, allows any sinner to make some wise choices.

4.  God’s goodness accounts for “wise wants” that lie (often deeply) within our teens.

5.  Help that brings about change in angry teens often begins at a surface level but must aim deeper.

6.  Teens can and must think about their choices in light of goals and consequences.

7.  Scriptural principles cover both how to speak and what to say to angry, unmotivated teens.

8. God gives us others to support us and to help us counsel our teens.

 

Principles 1, 2, and 3 are fairly simple and straightforward, but #4 needs a bit of explanation in this review. The author states that, “The sense of the moral law of God – that which is right, admirable, and desirable – is imprinted on each of us as creatures of God. (Romans 2:14-15)… Learning how to tune into these wise wants will set the stage for you to communicate with your teen because you are appealing to what is motivating her – some constructive, God imprinted desires, whether she recognizes God as their author or not.” Some examples of these “wise wants” in an angry teen are given as:

 

  • wanting to be out with friends = wanting to have rich relationships with others

  • wanting to buy a pair of pants that a parent does not consider modest = desiring a good reputation among her peers (however she happens to define “good” in this case)

Going from this principle on to #5, it is mentioned that a parent can begin talking about surface things in a teen’s life – “the things she wants, such as the pleasure of relationships, and respect and reputations as a mature person,” as Jesus did this often. The author states that Jesus “began with essentially surface level “felt needs” and then directed the conversation toward more serious heart matters.” For example, Jesus healed, fed, and taught thousands who did not end up following Him and he went about doing good, notwithstanding peoples’ responses. As parents, “Our love is not to be conditioned upon the way they respond to us, appreciate us, respect us, or accept us.” Rather, we are to “imitate the Father in the way we meet the surface needs of others.” The reviewer agrees with this particular statement, but is not enthusiastically in agreement with some of the “wise want” examples, such as the second one listed above. Without getting snagged on one example, I will proceed to Chapter 3, where “wise wants” are discussed in more detail, though.

 

One of the premises of Chapter 3 is that “wise wants are underneath most teen felt wants,” and that, “in the season of his anger – whether for a day, a week, a month, or longer,” it is important whose “want” we talk about with our teen, as his words, speech, and decisions are being fueled by what he wants.” Examples of Jesus asking what people wanted are given, such as the blind men who were healed and James, John, and their mother (Mark 10:36). Although Jesus did not grant them their “want”, the author states that he “began with what they wanted… and used that as the jumping-off point for his counsel about servant hood to them and, later, to the other disciples.” I see the author’s point in this situation, but not necessarily that it is relative to situations with angry teens, as James and John were truly asking Jesus for something out of personal desires rather than speaking in anger. Further explanation of the wise wants in teens is detailed by stating that there are underlying wants within every young person “that is part of their human nature as a creature made in the image of God,” and that these are their wise wants. I am concerned that no space is given to the idea of the total depravity of man (Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:3, Prov. 17:20). The author does address the issue of underlying sin by asking the question, “Do we deal with the sin or do we not,” and “When and how is the sin to be dealt with in the way that it will be most effective?” He goes on to state, “…while the “fear of the Lord” is the heart orientation that ought to control all choices, the wise counselors in that book {Proverbs} know that we are all flawed creatures in a fallen world. They do not demand a teen’s commitment to the fear of the Lord before they give helpful counsel – counsel that often speaks far more directly to wise wants than it does to matters of spiritual conviction.”

 

The remainder of Part I of this books deals with what is called the “stance” in counseling angry, unmotivated teens, which is 1) being certain to glorify God and 2) the importance of removing the log from their own eye before considering the speck in the teen’s. Regarding glorifying God, the author asks the questions, “Why does your family exist?” and “What is your shared purpose?” He then notes, “Parents of particularly challenging teens may answer these questions by placing too much emphasis on the absence of conflict. But having a goal of “peace at any price” only compounds a family’s difficulties.” Although it is a daily challenge to keep the goal of glorifying God foremost in our own family, I heartily agree with the necessity of this, despite what challenges may arise over the years. The author goes on to list five “powerful benefits” to approaching your teen with a determination to glorify God, but I think it sufficient to state that we are commanded to have this life goal by God himself and obedience to Him in this matter is motivation enough. He similarly approaches the concept of getting the “log” out of your own eye, or the “willingness to look at your own sin first”. Again, I agree with the importance of this vital step in conflict resolution, although I do not agree with some of the approaches this author mentions specific to dealing with angry teens.

 

For instance, he states that a parent saying, “My behavior is not what we’re here to talk about,” is a tactic guaranteed to fail – a statement I heartily disagree with. Certainly there may be situations where this approach is not warranted, but there are times when it is of the utmost importance for a parent to refocus their angry teen on the issue at hand, which is usually a specific situation regarding the teen’s actions. Humility in parenting is an extremely important Christian character trait and parents should indeed go to their children on a daily basis to ask forgiveness when needed. If a parent’s main goal is to glorify God and their overall approach to conflict resolution is one of humility, then they may find themselves rightly saying those very words to their angry teen in a conversation.

 

Part II of this book covers four of the basis processes necessary to solid biblical counseling – listening, clarifying, looking (for a some kind of solution), and planning (to attain desired changes). The author uses the acronym LCLP for this pattern, which has the following meaning:

 

Listen big – to build a bridge to your teen

Clarify narrow – to expose the realities of your teen’s experience

Look wide – to discover our teen’s solution

Plan small – to support changes your teen wants

 

I read this section of the book with interest, as it addressed some specific areas I have fallen short in when dealing with our own teens, namely listening and clarifying. Although I have disagreements with the author on some basic foundational issues, I did find much of his suggested methods of application of these counseling processes helpful. For instance, it is stated that, “Listening is active, not passive, and it is definitely a skill. It bears no resemblance at all to the “listening” that merely involves waiting until it is your turn to talk.” I think a lot of us can relate to that latter statement, whether it is in our own set of habits or someone we know and talk to on a regular basis. It is particularly difficult to listen when you know the other person is “wrong”, which will often be the case with a parent or counselor of angry teens. In this book, such listening is said to be a way to “build bridges” between parent and teen, with the parent or counselor frequently repeating back (using their own words, of course) what the teens says to them. In this manner, it is possible to in fact “draw out that which is deep within” the teen so that the issues can be more accurately addressed eventually.

 

More helpful suggestions I gathered from this portion of the book were to listen for what your teen does not want, listen to your teen’s body language (and listen with your own), listen to affirm, not necessarily to agree, and listening until you begin to see the paradoxes.

 

Examples of what a teen might not want included; not wanting a teacher to take off points when an assignment is not done her way, not wanting parents to split up, not wanting to be treated like a kid, and not wanting to be yelled at. The challenge presented to parents and counselors at this stage of the counseling would be to continue listening until all is heard, keeping this information in mind until such a time as it should be addressed. Listening to these “not wants” without probing for causes or explanations yet and with a relaxed body language will often aid those dealing with angry teens as they begin to see the anger dissipate and the teen’s own body language change. Affirming what the teen has said to let them know you understand, without necessarily using the words, “I understand,” will also help build bridges for actual interaction.

 

The second step, clarifying, is actually a continuation of the listening process, as the counselor or parent repeats back to the teen what they have heard them say. The stated purpose of this clarification is to find out what the teen wants, fantasies and all. “The young person will usually be motivated to make changes, even radical ones, if she sees that it will get her what she wants.” Although I disagree with this premise, I do recognize the usefulness of clarifying what a parent has heard a teen say during a particular conflict.

 

Looking wide, the next step in the process, involves searching through your teen’s past for exceptions, with the goal being identifying “a time when the teen behaved in a way that would seem atypical now, but which resulted in a wise want being met.” The process of identifying past successes in a teen’s life has merit, and it is a practice that I need to institute much more in my own daily interactions with my teens. Through such reminders, parents can point out to angry teens that they are indeed capable of acting differently, if they so choose.

 

From this point, the next step listed in this book is to begin planning to implement the changes needed in the angry teen’s life. Although I continue to disagree with the focus being to, “help your teen create a plan he thinks will help him get what he wisely wants,” I am supportive of using the previously mentioned steps to help a teen plan a new course of action. It is also wisely stated, “You can help your teen recognize that change usually occurs in small steps by helping him think it through.” This is called the “one-fork-full-focus” and it would do all of us well to be reminded that necessary changes do not always occur immediately in God’s world. Time is a tool that God uses wisely and providentially in many situations.

 

In conclusion, I enjoyed reading Rick Horne’s book, Get Outta My Face, and although I did not agree with much of his basic premises (that teens always have a “wise want” behind their anger), I did glean some good suggestions regarding listening, clarifying, building bridges, looking for past successes, and planning for changes with an angry, unmotivated teen. I agree with the author when he states that there are no actual “unmotivated” teens, as they are in fact very motivated… to do what they want. As I read the book, I found myself wondering how these principles would play out on a day to day basis. Many good examples are given throughout the book, but they mostly consist of counseling situations and not daily parent/teen interactions. Counselors would have the advantage of not having the same “history” parents do with an angry and unmotivated teen, thus making such examples more workable. The true challenge remains how parents are to implement biblical principles on a daily basis as they deal with their teens. Much of what is presented in this book can be helpful in these situations, but this reviewer suggests caution be used regarding the premise of all teens having “wise wants” behind their angry, unmotivated behavior.

 

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