Relinquishing Control, Part ii. Bringing up Kids God's Way, Part 9 What About Control? Part B


"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (Prov 22:6 NIV)

Over the course of the last few weeks, we have seen that it is important, when children are young, to establish boundaries, to be in control of their lives and decisions; and we have seen that as children approach adolescence, it is important that we begin relinquishing that control. We must let teens begin to make their own decisions so that they can grow up to be mature adults. Our role becomes one of a counselor, someone to praise them when they make good decisions, and to be there for them and give them guidance when their choices don't work out the way they hope they will. But is there a place, even in adolescence, for boundaries?

Yes!

In "Relinquishing Control, Part A iii" I introduced a "formula" for parenting that was given to me once by one of my patients: The formula is this: "if it isn't illegal, immoral, or likely to hurt something, then maybe it's okay." When you are trying to determine when decisions can be relinquished to your teen and when they need to stay in your hands, this formula is invaluable. If you can honestly answer all three of these questions with a "no", then likely it's okay to let your teen make their own decisions. But if the answer is "yes", then it is still our place to intervene.

Take, for example, the party your teen wishes to attend with his or her non-saved friend. Closer questioning reveals that the "cool" kids from school have been invited, and everyone hopes they will come. You know that the last time these "cool" kids showed up at a party, they came with cases of beer. Rumor has it that two girls were raped at that same party, and you read in the newspaper that a girl was taken to the hospital because someone had slipped some "X" into her drink. Now, you know your child doesn't drink or do drugs, and you also know that he or she doesn't hang out with these "cool" kids. Is it time to relinquish control and let him decide for himself, or is this a decision that needs to remain in your hands?

First ask yourself: Is it illegal?

If there are drugs and alcohol at the party, then yes, it is illegal.

What about immoral?

Potentially, yes! Whenever there is alcohol at a party, things can tend to get out of hand.

And what about potentially harming anything?

Well, what if someone slips "X" into your child's drink?

I think you get my point. But what do you do?

You say "No".

Even though this risks bringing down the wrath of your teen, it could also mean saving his life. How you say "no", however, will go a long ways towards whether or not you bring down his wrath! I would like to propose a five-part formula for keeping an element of control over the lives of teens, without provoking them to wrath.

First of all, only say "no" when it is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, present the facts and be prepared to let them make their own decisions.

Secondly, sympathize with them about your decision.

Thirdly, explain your point of view.

Fourthly, listen to their arguments and gave credence to their opinions.

And fifthly, offer them an alternative.

What if the above party scenario were to be handled in the following way:

"Son, I'm sorry, I know how much you want to go to that party (here's the sympathy part). And believe it or not, I know it will be a fun party, and I wish I didn't have to say this, but the answer is 'no'. No argument."

The face of your teen may fall at this point, or you may begin to see anger forming around his or her eyes. It's time for the explanation: "Let me tell you why I have to say 'no'. If there is alcohol and drugs at that part, things could get out of hand and someone, even you, could get hurt. And even if you aren't the one to get hurt, is this the kind of environment that would grow and nurture you for life? You have told me you are trying to befriend the one who invited you. Do you think that putting yourself in that environment will be a good witness? As hard as it is for me to do this, I can't let you go. And now that you know all of that, is it still something that you think you should be doing?"

An honest teen will mumble something like this: "I guess not." Others will deny that this could be a problem: "Oh mom, you are always imagining the worst! What if it doesn't happen?"

Your response could go something like this: "That's always a possibility. But what if it does? Is that a chance you want to take?" And here comes the alternative: "Why don't you invite a couple of your good friends over for bowling instead?"

The scenario might not always turn out peacefully, but at least your teen knows you aren't just trying to keep them from having a good time, and in the end, your parental duty was fulfilled and your child knows that you care enough to sometimes say "no"!

One piece of advice, though: If you have never set boundaries for your child in the past, trying to do so in adolescence will be much more difficult. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of establishing those boundaries right from day one!

Enough to ponder, but do ponder this: When your child reaches his or her teenage years, we have to begin to relinquish some of the control that we worked so hard to establish throughout childhood. But we have to do so in an honest fashion. We need to let them begin making their own decisions, but we also need to maintain an element of control. If we don't, the consequences could be deadly. How we go about maintaining that control, however, will go a long ways towards not provoking our children to wrath, towards the continuation of a loving, trust relationship with our kids.

Lyn Chaffart

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