Boundaries for Teens

Posted: January 15, 2012 in Parenting
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My wife & I have several boundaries for our teens. Our hope is that they help create moral filters for our children as they learn to follow Jesus Christ. Now that all our daughters are teenagers, we find ourselves constantly ‘negotiating’ what those boundaries are. Here are some of the boundaries for our teens:

What time they can call/txt on her phone.

What kind of shows/movies they watch.

What kind of music they listen/dowload.

Not going to friends’ house without parental supervision.

Setting appropriate age for dating so they can understand value of relationships.

What are the values of the young men they are dating

Now it’s typical for me to write a perspective (from parent to parent). But this time, I asked for an ‘unbiased, unsolicited opinion’ on the topic of boundaries from our oldest daughter Brianna.  At the time, she was 13 and she shared with me her journal entry on what she had to say about it.  I have not changed a word from her article, & I was surprised at the content, but here’s what she wrote:

Boundaries are an important thing to have while being a teenager. Obviously, us teens don’t want them, but with the truth being said, we desperately need them. With temptations in the world, it’s hard to do the right things sometimes. Temptations such as sex, drugs, stealing, etc. We know those can get us into trouble, but when everyone around you begins to do it, it’s hard to say no. Being a Christian teenager myself, I have significant boundaries I intend on following.

In the Bible song, “O be careful” it says,

“O be careful little ears what you hear.

O be careful little mouth what you say.

O be careful little eyes what you see.

O be careful little mind what you think.”

 

This song is familiar to many, and it’s important to remember. Especially the part that follows, where it says, “For the Father up above is looking down in love…” So if we hear, see say, think, or do anything we know is wrong, our loving heavenly Father looks down in disappointment. I mean, he will ALWAYS love you, but he will still be hurt by your actions. Just like our earthly parents. No matter how many times we screw up, they’ll still love us, but it will break their heart knowing that their son/daughter disobeyed and broke a boundary.

Sometimes it’s super hard to follow boundaries because you don’t understand them or you want to be in the “cool kids crowd” or want to be accepted. But what’s hard for us teens to realize is that if we’re accepted by God, we don’t need to be accepted by anyone else. Being human, that’s very hard to realize. 

In my 6th grade year, I had a friend who was struggling for help in her actions. Her parents divorced and she gave up in everything.  She started cussing more, she started smoking, hanging with the wrong crowd and she almost fell into a big hole she was digging herself in to.  But God pointed her out to me and my two friends and we were there to help her out and we told her about God and his amazing love for her.  We told her that if she messed up and sinned that God would always love her. And that if she didn’t make boundaries, they were easier for her to break. So, we took her to our girls’ Bible study club and we made her a stronger, better person with God’s help. One day the girl confronted me and my friends telling us that if she didn’t get help when she needed it, she wouldn’t be able to be standing tall or to get a second chance. To this very day, me and this girl still talk about that time in her life. She’s constantly asked to do drugs or have sex and every time she turns them down because she knows her boundaries and know that God loves her so much. She is now a guitar player for a church and she loves it.

Adam & Eve struggled with boundaries. They made a wrong decision by eating from a tree in the Garden of Eden that God told them to leave alone.  Why did they do it?

Genesis 3:5 = It looked like an exciting thing to do.

Genesis 3:4 = Someone told them it was OK to do the wrong thing.

Genesis 3:6 = A close friend did it first.

Just like Adam & Eve teens do what they do because of those same three reasons. However, the result is always the same. The Lord has REWARDS & CONSEQUENCES for us. Parents do too–Rewards for doing the right thing & punishments for the wrong things. Look elsewhere in the Bible and it’s always the same. Even the Israelites disobeyed God and it ended up keeping them out of the Promised Land until they put God first! 

One boundary I find had to control is my language. I think it’s extremely hard not to curse. Everyone at my school cusses all the time. I’m so used to hearing it that when I don’t want it to, it just slips out. If it slips out at the wrong time, then people will think of you differently. I’ll be honest, whenever you curse you feel “big & bad” and what kids consider “cool”. And when you’re “cool”, you’re accepted by everyone else in that group; you won’t have to worry about not getting attention.

Also, I’ve been asked to do drugs before too…but by having boundaries and knowing my consequences (and also knowing how dangerous  it is) I couldn’t say “no” any faster than I did! Teenagers should know their boundaries; their consequences; and their rewards, so they can start to make wise decisions.  This way, when we encounter temptations, we’ll have a process in place that helps us choose what pleases Christ and what honors our parents.

Needless to say, I was surprised at her perspective. It sounds like the idea we’ve tried to inspire them with is working. We have tried to create an atmosphere in our house where we inspire our kids with incentives for making the right choice & communicating clear consequences for breaking the boundaries. The perspective of pleasing God vs. pleasing the Crowd will always be a struggle, but we trust that this process will prepare them for the temptations they face now and the tougher ones they will face in the future.

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