October 2011, A Letter from June
Imagine your first job out of college. The good news is that you’re hired! The difficult news is that you’ll be directing the junior high division of 600 in a mega-church, dealing with the quandaries and questions from teens . . . and their parents. (Oh, and you don’t have any formal training.) The predicament is easy for me to imagine because, at age 22, that job was . . . mine!
Frankly, I loved my work as a youth director—challenges and all—though I quickly learned that most teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 come in like lambs . . . and go out like lions. For many teens, their moms “know nothing” and their dads are dinosaurs! Parents scramble to survive the storm, often looking to their kids’ teachers and church youth directors for real answers to their real questions.
Ever since those days, I’ve counseled countless well-intentioned parents who are filled with perplexity and pain. Let’s face it—no parent wants to be perceived as the villain wearing “the black hat” in the family. Every parent wants to be listened to, liked, and loved.
Therefore, some parents assume that the best way to cope with rebellious teens is permissiveness—permit the kids to do whatever they want (often against a parent’s better judgment) so that the family can live in peace. That means, for kids who “cross the line,” there is no reprimand, no reproach, no repercussion.
But this passive, “peace-at-any-price” approach won’t reap the positive results all parents desire: self-disciplined teens who respect their parents’ role and their right to set the rules.
How to turn the black hat . . . white
Just before turning in my manuscript for the book Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries, I happened to be sitting beside a college freshman on a flight from L.A. to Dallas. After talking for a few moments, I asked, “Did your parents ever give you boundaries?”
“Yes they did,” he quickly answered.
“Did they enforce them?”
“Oh yeah! Last year, my parents set a midnight curfew, but one night I came in around 2 a.m.—and that was it! They refused to let me drive my car for two weeks.”
“How did that impact you?”
“It was awful,” he moaned. “Every day I had to ask someone to drive me to school and then ask someone else to take me
home. I also needed transportation to and from all my extra-curricular activities. I couldn’t do anything for myself.”
“Did that repercussion make a difference in your life?”
“You bet it did! Whenever I was out late, I watched my watch like a hawk!”
“Did you feel your parents were unloving?”
“No, my parents did what they did because they love me.”
“Did you feel that the repercussion was excessive?”
“Oh, at the time I thought it was excessive. But all kids think that way when their parents enforce a consequence they don’t like. Yet today, I see how being without my car helped me become much more time-conscious. Now that I’m on my own at Texas A&M, I’m thankful for what my parents did. In fact, I think they’re great!”
The moral of this story could be summarized this way: Parents who enforce boundaries may appear to wear the black hat, but one day they’ll see the black hat turn white!
The Two Rs—Repercussions & Rewards
Though I’ve never met this boy’s parents, I learned much about them from their son. He was blessed with parents who knew the value of boundaries with both repercussions and rewards.
What do you need to know about boundaries? Boundaries are established limits—lines not to be crossed. If a boundary is exceeded, the result is a repercussion. If a boundary is maintained, the result is a reward.
All kids understand boundaries. They live with them, from stripes on playing fields to curbs on city streets. When parents establish boundaries, their teens have a choice: go beyond them or stay within them. At that point, it’s the teenager—not the parent—who chooses to receive the repercussion or reward. And this means that, by using boundaries, parents no longer wear the black hat!
Wise parents recognize that the goal of external boundaries is to build inner character. In turn, inner character produces trust. And trust is the major building block for bonding within all relationships.
Consistently implementing fair repercussions and rewards won’t always be easy. But realize, if you are a parent, you long for (you pray for) a relationship of respect with your child—a loving relationship that will last a lifetime. The very best way to achieve this kind of bonding is . . . through boundaries.
Pass it on . . .
Are you parenting a son or a daughter? Or do you know someone who works with youth—a youth director, parent, or teacher . . . a choir director, counselor, or coach? If so, you know someone who probably needs our newly revised book, Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries.
Three years after Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries was first released, a single mom told me she’d read the book when Chip, her son, was a senior in high school. Though afraid she’d 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 told me one day as I was visiting in her mother’s home. “Chip 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.”
What I would have given for a copy of Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries when I was a youth leader. Frankly, I wrote the book I needed! And today it’s being used by both individuals and parents’ groups. I pray that there are people in your life who would benefit from this uniquely practical book.
Simply put, our ministry exists to help you and to help you help others. That is why we write resources, record broadcasts, provide counseling, and teach conferences on parenting, teenagers, and 98 other topics.
In fact, this month I’ll be teaching on the topic of Teenagers at our free Biblical Counseling Institute, and I would love for you to join me. If you order your book and any extra copies to give as gifts, I would be honored to personalize each book for each recipient.
Please remember, your financial partnership enables us to produce life-changing books and CDs like Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries. And 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,