Friday, October 15, 2010

day 272: too late to bring in the boundaries with teens?

"Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9yet I appeal to you on the basis of love.” Philemon 1: 8 & 9

Many of you reading this might feel that you have blown it too badly in the area of parental control. You feel that no matter what you do now, you cannot regain it. Re-read the blog posts in the “teen” section about appealing with love and humility. It is not too late.

If you find yourself in this situation, humble yourself before your children. Explain to them that you feel you have truly blown it, that you have parented in such a way that they will not grow up to be godly, selfless, others-oriented adults. The self-focus you have allowed in them has the potential to produce failure as adults for them--as parents, as workers, as spouses, as Christians. Admit your own sins of pride and selfishness--that you, too, have been self-oriented, wanting your own way and responding incorrectly when it did not happen. Point out that we can only raise them to love God and others more than themselves if we help them to learn to take the focus off of them now. Then be certain to follow through.

If your children are older teens or young adults, do not go back and try to "control them" like you would a younger child. Simply admit that you failed in areas of discipline, ask for their forgiveness, and commit to them that you will try to get into their hearts and show them God's love and ways in spite of behavior problems. Do not put it back on them--let them know that you take responsibility for the problems--and that you love them in spite of behavioral and lifestyle issues.

Maybe they will not respond the way you hope, but your humility in the situation will go a long way toward them eventually understanding what you are trying to do. Relate to them in love. Tell them that you are not trying to strong-arm them into being or doing something that you are not willing to do yourself, but that you truly want to be the kind of person God wants you to be, and you want to help them become that kind of person too. Then love them back into submission. We know it is not as simplistic as it sounds on paper. We know that it is hard to be loving towards someone who is self-absorbed, but brow-beating them into submission will not work.

Truly, by this time in their lives, we must begin to appeal to them not with force or micromanagement (though they will often still need consequences to continue to train them in character)—but with love, as Paul did with Onesimus in Philemon 1: 8 & 9: "Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love.”

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