– Ring . . . ring . . .
– School principal: “Mrs. Johnson, your son’s disruptive behavior during school is absolutely unacceptable.”
– Mother: “You’re right—I know he needs to change.”
– School principal: “I have a creative approach I’d like to try—with your permission.”
– Mother: “That’s certainly an unorthodox idea . . . but . . . it just might work.”
The teenage years are a time of tremendous change—physically, emotionally, and socially. And as any parent of teens can attest, change often arrives at your doorstep with its two closest friends: confusion and consternation.
Ironically, when teenagers are pushing against the limits, that’s when they’re subconsciously pleading for limits.
What are boundaries exactly, and how do they work? Boundaries are established limits . . . lines not to be crossed. These external limits are designed to develop internal character—the self-control and quiet spirit necessary to live successfully throughout life.
Make no mistake: Teenagers understand boundaries, whether you enforce them or not. They already live with daily physical boundaries—from sideline stripes on playing fields to concrete curbs on city streets. When you establish behavioral boundaries, your children have a choice: Stay within the boundary and earn a reward . . . or cross the line and receive a repercussion. Once boundaries are in place, it’s the teenager—not the parent—who chooses to receive either the reward or the repercussion.
I’ll never forget leading a “Parents of Teens Workshop” in which a mom, whom I’ll call “Annette,” described one of the most unusual approaches to enforcing a boundary that I’ve ever heard. As a busy attorney, she shared how she handled her high school junior after the principal of his school called her at work.
“Jeff is persistently talking, passing notes, poking fun, and is determined to cause laughter during class. He’s not only failing to learn, but is also making it hard for others to learn . . . and his teacher feels increasingly frustrated!”
“Well, Jeff, apparently it wasn’t okay to everyone. I received a call from the school about your disruptive behavior, and they said it must change.”
After asking him several questions (with unsatisfactory results), Annette said, “Son, I really want to help you. I’ve seen you exercise self-control in my presence. So I’ve decided you must need me to go to school with you.”
“No, Mom. I don’t need that!”
“Oh, yes,” she responded pleasantly. “Actually, I’m going to school with you tomorrow.”
“Mom, you can’t do that! Nobody’s parents go to school with them!”
“Well, I’ve already cleared it with the school. In fact, I’m going to sit beside you in every class.”
“Mom . . . please . . . no!!”
“Son, I love you too much to do nothing. So, I’ve already cancelled all my clients for tomorrow. Jeff, nothing you say will deter me—end of discussion.”
Now think about it: At school, the last thing a 6-foot-tall 17-year-old wants is “Mama” shadowing his every step . . . sitting beside him in every class. But the next day, that’s exactly what happened and, might I add, with no disrupting behavior on Jeff’s part.
When they returned home after school, Annette complimented Jeff on his behavior and then asked, “Today you displayed self-discipline and respectful behavior . . . so do you think you need me at school tomorrow?”
Of course, she already knew the answer. . . . “No, I can handle it!”
“Wonderful! If you need me to help you be more disciplined in the future,” she said half-seriously, “I’ll let the firm know I’ll be with you at school instead of at work.”
As their eyes met, Annette gave Jeff her penetrating “look,” and he knew she meant it!
Just listening to this wise mother’s enforcement of a repercussion impressed us all. Still, I needed to ask one last question—a question that was on everyone’s mind—“Did you ever hear from the school again?”
Annette paused . . . then smiled, “Not a peep!”
Three years after my book Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries was first released, a single mom told me that she’d read the book when her son was a senior in high school. Though afraid she had waited too long to address his rebellious behavior, she decided to implement the book’s principles as a last-ditch effort.
“Your book completely changed our relationship,” she shared. “My son and I were having huge power struggles. By showing him how it was his choice—not mine—to receive repercussions or rewards based on his behavior, he did a complete about-face. Over time, our house turned from a war zone into a peaceful home.”
I believe that every parent, as well as every son and daughter, can benefit just as much from this uniquely practical book. In fact, this month I’ll be teaching on Teenagers at our free Biblical Counseling Institute on June 28 and 29 . . . and I would love for you to join me. (See below for more information.)
And, I want to thank you for your financial partnership that enables us to produce life-changing books like Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries. If the Lord lays our ministry on your heart, we would deeply appreciate your much-needed support. Thank you for your faithful friendship—it’s a priceless treasure to me.
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
P.S. I hope you will take time to watch the video and get the free downloads above to learn how you can help your kids develop self-discipline and make better decisions by implementing boundaries. I hope you find them immensely helpful and encouraging as you set boundaries for the teens in your life.
PPS: To find information or register for our Biblical Counseling Institute on Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries on June 28 and 29 in Plano, Texas, go to: www.HopeForTheHeart.org/bci. Counselors, educators, and social workers: You’ll also find details about earning very affordable CEUs through our BCI!
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at www.Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!