I want to start off by saying this article is for parents eyes only. What I am about to share with you is information about our teens and “they can’t know that we know”(that we know that they know… Get it? Any Friends fans?)
I have actually experiencing this first hand and I learned a few things I wanted to pass along.
Rewind 2 summers ago…I was driving my teenage son along with 3 of his friends to the mall. A conversation started about curfews. The car was split 50/50. Two of the boys (one who was my son)were joking around and being very vocal about having to be home by dark and didn’t understand why they had to check in throughout the day. The other two boys didn’t have much to say, and he just sat quietly. That sparked my attention and I started paying close attention to them. Finally, one of them spoke up and said “ just be glad you have parents who actually care about you“. And there it was. That’s exactly what I was waiting for…
I knew enough about their home life to know it was broken. One boy only had a mom, but she was never home. The other had a dad, but he spent most of his time away from home as well. They were raising themselves and free to do whatever they wanted. Even though they had all of that freedoms, they didn’t want it. These boys wanted what they didn’t have and that was structure.
What that young man wanted were parents who gave him rules. To him he associated the fact that he doesn’t have a set time to be home or no one care to know where he is for hours at a time to his parents simply not caring.
Responsibility Comes With Freedom
As much as our teens want freedom and the opportunity to come and go as they please, they want something even more. I’m not talking about money or things. I’m talking about boundaries… rules! They want to know that we are there and we care. They need to know that we are their parent and not their friend because they already have plenty of friend. They don’t need us to try to be the cool parent. However, I am a cool parent but it comes naturally (lol). By us setting boundaries and putting rules in place and following through with the punishment when they disobey is critical. Even to kids who complain about it and especially for the ones who don’t.
I mentioned something about a new addition to my home. It turns out that the boy I told the story moved in with us for a period of time. Sadly, his father ended up just leaving and left him behind. We took him in for what we thought was the rest of his childhood life but God had different plans.
In a nutshell, it turns out that the boys mom stayed away not because she wanted to, but she was afraid of the father. When she found out the father was gone, she wanted to reunite with her him. He spent the summer with us they worked on establishing a relationship with his mom and building trust. Guess what he was mostly afraid of… Yep! Her not giving him rules and letting him do whatever he wanted. For so long he didn’t have anyone to love him how he deserved to be loved, and in a way, he was okay with that because it’s all he knew. Then he met my son. He said our family showed him what a family should look like. We are not perfect by any means, but we love each other and we show it daily.
I remember one afternoon durning that summer while he was living with us, my husband and I were having a conversation with him about reconciliation and forgiveness even when someone doesn’t deserve it. He said he needs a parent and not a friend. He is tired of making adult decisions and the stress that comes with it. It makes him feel unstable and not cared for. I reminded him of the car conversation on the way to the mall. He said he had never forgotten about it.
Our teens need us now more than ever before. If you have a teen who you are afraid to correct and walk on eggshells around it’s because they have too much power and control. You need to understand something now before it’s too late. Teenagers need clear structures and boundaries (although they will never admit to it).
Teens have enough change to deal with in their lives, having parents clearly define the household rules provides security and stability.
By establishing these boundaries early on eliminates conflicts and questions. It will encourage your teen to develop independence and freedom in a positive way. As they mature and show they are able to handle what freedom and independence they have gained, it’s import to reward them by loosening our boundaries a little at a time. By doing this, you are also adding more responsibilities and getting them prepared for adulthood.
The Bike Parenting Method
My son loved to ride his bike with his friends. They have BMX bikes and spend hours out riding and finding new places to practice tricks. When he was 13, it was hard for me to let him go off on his own with a group of friends but I knew it was something he wanted to do. I started by allowing him the freedom to go from here to there and be home in one hour. As time passed, he was able to extend the circumference more and more because he was continually respecting the boundaries.
Last summer he was free to ride his bike as far as he wanted. Basically, if he could ride there, he could go. I think him and his friends challenged me on that because they rode their bikes everywhere. He still had rules and if he broke them, there were consequences. He had a cell phone and all I asked was that he check in throughout the day. What he didn’t know was that I had a gps tracker on his phone and I always knew where he was. (#momtricks)
Freedom At Last!
That summer was an amazing time for us both. He was so proud of his new freedom and the responsibility he gained by having the confidence to do the things he wanted because he earned it. I watched him enjoy life and mature that summer. We gained a young man who knew parents trusted and supported him. None of which would be possible if we hadn’t set boundaries in place.
In hindsight, even though it was hard for me letting go, it was the best thing I could have done. He is 16 now and has a car. He has earned our trust early on so I’m not a nervous reck now when he leaves the house.
This is the bike parenting method I told you about. It means taking time to gradually expand boundaries and expectations. That way they (and you) are prepared for the big moments. Start small and give a little more… a little more… and more as they earn it.
Try To Implement These 4 Things ASAP
There are a few things I have learned and I want to share. This is a good place to start when implementing bound for teenagers.
1. Be specific. Let’s be honest, even the smart ones act like they can’t understand what you are saying at times.
•What is NOT permitted
•State any exceptions
•Consequences if the boundary is crossed. This isn’t to say there won’t be teaching moments during the process but it at least covers most.
2. Each child is different. As you already know if you have more than one kid, every child is created totally opposite. It’s important to find what is practical for each child. Age and gender play a big part in deciding appropriate boundaries to set. Keep your teen in mind while deciding.
3. Balance. Try to find fairness and consistency. We don’t want our kids to be afraid of us but we do want them to respect us and the rules. Finding balance is a good way to show how you can love but have limits.
4. Reward with responsibility. This is important to help them develop independence and maturity. If they are respecting your boundaries, reward them! If they don’t, take some away.
It will be hard at first but only because you are watching your baby grow up. Don’t worry momma‘s, they still need you. Stay interested in the stories they tell about their journey that day. Be involve wherever you can. When you have to make tough decisions, stand firm. Pray for them every time they walk out of your front door. Stay within arms reach. Trust me, when they are in need or if there is something going on and they need help, they will reach out and grab it.
Now it is your turn! What are some ways you establish boundaries in your home? What advice would you give? Comment below.