Last time, we talked about how, as our kids get close to the teen years, we need to be teaching them “biblical principles to live by,” in addition to the “rules” they are to obey. This week, we will explore how we can help our pre-teens and teens get one of the things that they most desperately want. What is it they want so badly? Ah, yes … FREEDOM. Think about it for a minute. If you have a teen at home or if you can remember back to your teen years, you know that freedom is an extremely important commodity during this time of life. It is also a commodity that is often mishandled by parents. It is either given too much, or withheld altogether, or it is never clear to the parent or child the proper role that it plays in life.
Our goal is to give our kids ever increased freedom as they become more prepared to leave the nest. Many parents give too much freedom in the elementary years, and when try to tighten things up in the teen years, they find that this leads to a lot of conflict in the home. So they withhold even more freedom during those teen years, and then, when the kids go off to college, they suddenly have all kinds of freedom, but no wisdom in how to use it. And many parents have seen the disastrous results of this!
So how do we teach our kids to handle freedom properly? By teaching them that freedom only comes through trust, and that trust only comes through responsible actions and attitudes, and living by the four principles that we discussed in the last post. Jesus taught a parable about several servants who were given money to utilize while their master was on a journey (read Matthew 25:14-30). He comments to the wise servants, “you have been faithful with a few things, I will give you many things.” And to the one who acts foolishly with what he had been given, the master takes it away. The same principle of “faithful in the small things” should be applied to giving our kids freedom … and THEY SHOULD KNOW IT! It should be no secret to your 12 year old that everything they do (and the attitude with which they do it) in the coming years will either lead to increased or decreased freedoms.
At present, my kids are earning back the freedom to make Kool-Aid. A month ago, they got really into making Kool-Aid on their own. We found powder on the counters and colored drips and splashes on the floor, fridge door, fridge interior, kitchen cupboards, etc. So, they lost that freedom. I was very clear with them that as they learn to clean up after themselves, they will earn back the privilege of making Kool-Aid. I WANT them to have this privilege and freedom. I am on their side and on their team and I want them to succeed at this goal of getting this back! It is important that they know this. (By the way, we don’t make Kool-Aid for them, the colorful packages of powder lay dormant in the drawer, waiting for the day they will be used.)
Some things are rights, some things are privileges. Rights are given no matter what (for example, food, clothing, shelter and the right to your own opinion), but privileges can be gained or lost. Privileges are gained in accordance with the amount of trust that is earned through cooperation, respect and acting with integrity and responsibility. Privileges are lost when trust is lost through disrespect, lack of responsibility, dishonesty or manipulation.
Living by the principles that we talked about it the last post: Respect, Truth, Responsibility and Purity, leads to trust which leads to increased privileges and freedom. Teaching this concept also prepares the for the real world where (usually) when we are faithful in the small things, we are entrusted with greater things.