Fifteen-year-olds are not young adults. They are big kids. They are not ready to make major life-decisions on their own, and they will ultimately hold us adults accountable for not being there to put up a roadblock when they have their foot on the pedal and are [bent] on driving their lives off a cliff.
–Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
At a recent presentation, a parent approached me afterwards to thank me for what I am doing and to tell me that I was speaking to her and about her because she was a teen parent. She also said she wished there had been someone around like myself to speak with her when she was a teenager.
What she said next really struck me:
I have been having a lot of problems with my 16-year-old daughter lately. She has been dating an older guy and making some bad decisions sexually. She really needed to hear everything you said today. She is at home because she refused to come and now I am kicking myself for not making her come.
At this point in the conversation, I am a little confused. I don’t understand how a 16 year old can refuse to go to a presentation that may save her from a lot of pain, heartache and regret, especially when the mother already knows the daughter is making bad decisions in this area. This young lady is living in her mother’s house, sleeping in her mothers’ bed and eating the mother’s food. At what point does the mother step up as a parent and tell the daughter that she does not have a choice about whether she will attend or not?
No Boundaries = No Respect
I wish I could tell you that situations similar to the above situation are rare occurrences. Unfortunately, I am finding more and more parents who, for whatever reason, cave in when their children push back on their boundaries. What the parents don’t understand is in many instances the push back is just a test by the children to see how committed and strong the parent is. When the parents cave in, the children slowly lose respect for them.
I was speaking with a judge over the weekend and we shared our experiences working with teens over the years. Like me, he attributes much of the bad behavior that he sees from teens to a lack of boundaries being set and upheld by parents.
He said parents don’t understand that their children need boundaries and will search until they find someplace where they can get them. He used the teen that joins a gang as an example.
The teen that will push back on the boundaries set by his/her parent will join a gang and be perfectly fine with the boundaries set by the gang. There is a level of respect there because the gang is firm in its rules and boundaries. It is time for parents to demand this same level of respect.
Keep in mind that boundaries are most effective when there is a healthy relationship with the child because
Rules without a Relationship = Rebellion
If there is not a healthy relationship between the parent and child, the work should begin there.
Am I saying that parents can prevent every bad decision made by a teenager? Absolutely not! But I do believe that many of the bad decisions being made by teenagers today could be avoided if parents would set clear boundaries and stick with them!
I wish you needed a degree to raise kids. So much of what’s wrong today starts at home. If home meant what it should, you wouldn’t have to teach teens lessons better learned at home. I hope you can continue what you do. ~High School Student
Bottom line, it is the parents’ job to keep their children from driving their lives over a cliff.
Please share your stories of any times when you set boundaries and your child let you know he/she appreciated the boundaries.