Rick Horne’s book, Get Outta My Face: How to Reach Angry, Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel, is an extremely practical and helpful book written for any adult seeking to help teens see the bigger picture of their actions, in an effort to direct their attention toward the cross of Christ. Horne’s book is far from being theoretical and seeks to give concrete tools so that the reader may be equipped to have productive conversations with teenagers.
The book is segmented into three sections. This makes the curriculum easy to navigate. There are several key principles that stand out in this book that are both thoughtful and productive. The first is Horne’s encouragement to build trust with angry unmotivated teens. Often times many assumptions can be made about what a teen is thinking or feeling, and a teen can (and does) make many assumptions about a parent’s instruction and discipline.
If the ultimate goal is for a teenager’s heart to be captivated by the gospel, parents and adults must take more time to communicate with their angry and frustrated teen. Horne urges parents that “your first words to an angry teen will strongly push that interaction toward one of two outcomes: your words being received, and thus beginning a conversation; or a ‘Get outta my face’ response, thus shutting it all down” (19). The angry, unmotivated teen does not think about the bigger picture of their decisions and the potential outcomes. It is the role of the parent to help nurture this type of thinking.
In order to motivate parents and youth counselors to move toward having productive conversations with their teens they must have a proper perspective of self and of the teen. Horne reminds the reader that both are sinners (29). This is extremely important because it can humble the parent or youth counselor and it should be a reminder that the work of parenting or counseling is gospel work.
Another important principle in this book is to identify the “wise want” (33) of the teenager that lurks beneath the unwise actions they may commit. Seeking to understand the teenager in this way can help the parent or youth counselor to get to the heart of the matter, which is the ultimate goal. Often times, “help that brings about change in angry teens…begins at a surface level but must aim deeper” (34). Many of Horne’s practical steps toward building trust and communication with an angry teen assist in getting to the heart.
His “LCLP” approach is one of the most helpful tools Horne gives in his book to help establish trust and change in the life of a teenager. That is to say listen big to your teen (L), clarify narrow (C), look wide (L), and plan small (P). “Listening big” requires the adult to pay attention to the teen’s verbal and non-verbal cues, and to be aware of their own non-verbal cues. It requires listening for what the teen does not want (83), and to affirm or empathize without necessarily agreeing with the teen (87). The “clarify narrow” part is to demonstrate to the teen that they are heard, to affirm any wise wants (98), and help them understand that they have the power to choose (104). The power to choose is tremendous in helping the teen to see those choices in light of consequences. “Look wide” is a tool to help the teen think back to times they have made wise decisions in an effort to remind them of positive outcomes. This can be encouraging to a teen that is overly pessimistic about their current situation and future. This can provide hope and assist your teen in making wise, practical choices.
Finally, the “planning small” portion is a key principle in this book. This is the art of helping the teen to set positive, realistic goals. In addition to this, it is important that the parent or youth counselor celebrate those small victories in an effort to encourage and motivate the teenager. The LCLP approach can be a positive tool for parents and youth counselors to engage teenagers in a positive way so that they may become productive and positive adults.
This book is extremely helpful and much needed in the conversation of biblical counseling. Without being overly critical, I found that throughout the book I had to do the work of being reminded that the goal is a heart change toward the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not merely behavior change. Horne certainly brings the reader’s attention to the gospel and is aware of the danger of being content with behavior modification, but I found that the outward behavior focus significantly outweighed the practical steps given to motivate a teen toward thinking through the gospel and their need for it. His final chapter certainly spends more time on the need for the gospel, but I think the final chapter could have better served the reader as the first chapter.
A question that came to my mind as I read the book had to do particularly with the “Listen to Affirm, Not Necessarily to Agree” section. My question would be, “Is Horne confident in an angry, unmotivated teen’s ability to distinguish between the two?” My hesitancy with this approach is to send mixed signals to a teenager. Horne gives this scenario: “Sue: ‘She is so unreasonable about the way she grades.’ Counselor: ‘To be doing the right thing and not get a fair grade is aggravating.’” (87). I certainly understand that the counselor is affirming, but not agreeing, however, I am not confident that Sue has the maturity to recognize this. In our communication with angry, unmotivated teens, we must be clear. I only question how clear this approach is to the teen.