Tom was all excited over the proposed trip to Chicago. He and three of his boyfriends had made plans to leave Friday afternoon after school. Jim could take his dad’s car. They would stay in one of the famous hotels Friday night, and Saturday they would get their look at the big city. They had so many places they wanted to visit that it was nigh impossible to visit them all that day. They had planned to return home by Saturday evening.
The plans were decided upon; the only that remained was to get their parents consent. Tom’s parents said, “No”. What a blow that was for poor Tom. The other fellows could go, he couldn’t. Why did his parents seem so unreasonable? Why did they have to be so unfair? True, he was only 15, but the other fellows were older. His buddies were good kids from school. With all his grumbling and wailing, Tom failed to convince his parents. They insisted that he stay home.
Sound familiar? Picture yourself in Tom’s place. Do your parents seem unreasonable at times, perhaps even a little narrow-minded or old-fashioned?
The question amounts to this, what really is the place of the teenager in the home? Must he simply say “yes” when his parents say “yes” and “no” when they say “no”? Is there such a things as trying to convince one’s parents that his way is all right? How far does parental authority extend into the personal life of the teenager? Must dad and mom tell the teenager whom they may date and forbid others? To treat these questions in every detail in this article would be quite impossible. Perhaps you could discuss them more in society.
Let us first establish what really is a Christian home. Briefly, a Christian home is one in which all the members of the family, father, mother, and children accept their responsibilities and relationships as God-given, God-directed, and God-centered. That means that the principle on which they build the home, the direction and motivation for all their acts, the ideals which they seek, all are founded on the Word of God. Hence the members work together, strive together for one purpose and aim, that God may be glorified in their midst as a family.
So, conceived, the home becomes a distinct unit in the midst of society. A Christian family becomes visible. It is unique, different from the families of the world. Its main objective is not simply the transmission of culture, but rather the home is the fundamental means in nurturing the covenant seed. Godly parents, since they are concerned for the spiritual welfare of their children, impress on their minds from infancy, faith in God, in Jesus, and in His Word.
Secularism can so easily destroy the home. Oh, it is necessary that parents be concerned for the material needs of the family. It is necessary that you young people take interest in buying your own clothes and working toward your own support. That is proper. What we mean by secularism is that the members of the family put the material wants and likes before the spiritual health of the family, so that in their effort to keep up with “the Jones” they sacrifice the “Christian” in the home. No longer are they a Christian home but simply home. That is sad and real temptation also to you young people. It’s so nice to have that new car or coat, but if it means skipping society or catechism, or having a lack of time to prepare properly because you have to work to pay for it, the “niceness” has departed.
You teenagers have a place in the home. As members of the family you must first of all accept the responsibilities of membership. Your place is to contribute to that one goal which the whole family seeks: God’s glory. Your father is the head of the home. This is his God-given place. Mother cares for the needs within the family. Your place is not only to recognize that father and mother are in authority over you, but also to do your share in helping them with the needs of the family in which God has placed you. That may be such menial tasks as helping with the work around the house or caring for younger children. You do not have to be told what to do; you can very easily see what has to be done if you only look about seriously, with cheerful desire to fulfill your part in the life of the family.
It is exactly in this sphere that difficulty arises. Teenagers are no longer infants, neither are they adults. That really is the difficulty as far as the relationship between parents and teenage children is concerned. Adolescence is the time of transition. The teenager is changing in his role from that of dependence to independence. It is necessary that we recognize that. To little children, mother says “do-don’t”. That is expected. The adult thinks for himself. He doesn’t want to be told just what to do and what not to do. He is independent. That is also expected of him-he must make his own decisions. When does a child become an adult? When can parents stop saying do and don’t, but leave the decisions to the child? As far as the teenager is concerned, he frequently feels that he is an adult very early in life. He wants to be independent. He wants to grow up. He likes mothering better than buying his own things, doing what he pleases, and making his own decisions. This may be seen when the teenager secures his first driver’s license. How proud, how confident he feels when he can sit behind the wheel and drive. It makes him not only feel but also act like an adult. Parents often want them to stay young. At times they regret to see their children grow up.
Other things could be considered. We could consider the attitude of teenagers in general as, for example, the tendency to be self asserting, to live in an intense present, to be somewhat unstable in their judgment of matters, all due basically to this fundamental cause of transition. You as teenagers want to acquire recognition as an adult. Your are entitled to that desire. We must all grow from childhood into adulthood.
The question remains, when must parents recognize that their children old enough to do certain things for themselves and the teenager likewise be given the freedom so to act? In other words, when does the time come that the child asks “May I” and the answer is “Yes”.
It would be a grave mistake to state a certain chronological age. That would be the height of folly. Some teenagers at 19 act more mature than a married person at 25. It is likewise true that some teenagers at 19 act as immature as some 13 years old. Your age really has nothing to do with the problem. You really can’t go to your parents and say I’m old enough to do this or that. I have graduated from High School, not I can stay out till midnight on a date. It will help you nothing to argue that way to a concerned parent. It rather depends on how mature you act. In this period of transition actions are what count. Your parents can judge you only in what you do. Your deeds are the thermometer of maturity, the reading of which will indicate to your parents how far you have gone from infancy, how near you are to adulthood.
Let me give some hints. Start with little things. When your parents begin to ask you to do certain things, e.g., clean the family car, help wash the clothes, try to do it cheerfully. Your parents are understanding. If you have something important to do first, they will consent, but remember if at all possible do the things they want when they want them. You have to prove yourself. You have to show them that your system of values is commendable. By your deeds you indicate to them that the instruction that you have received from them has found root. The way your trust, are honest, faithful, resist temptation; indicate to them the degree of confidence they can place in you. If your folks say you may go out till ten o’clock at first, don’t say right away, “Do I have to be in so early” and make a fuss about it. Show them you can be in faithfully by ten o’clock and then later, after you proved yourself, you can ask for an extension. If you fail to prove yourself and come at 10:30, you have fallen a long way in winning the confidence of your parents. Prove to them that their words have meaning to you.
Always remember your parents are seeking your welfare. Oh, it’s possible that they are overly protective parents. They never let you grow up. They never give you opportunity to prove yourself. They, however, are very rare and an exception. Most of our parents are understanding. They have passed through the same period of transition. Though it was years ago, it basically was the same problem. Today it is more complex, however, because the many means by which young people can leave the home, can find recreation outside the home have increased. Yet your parents have many more years of experience in this struggle of life. They know all about the snares that so easily beset the children of God. They also know you very well. They have watched you grow, observed your attitudes and actions from infancy. They often know your weaknesses better than you do. Respect that knowledge. As your God-given parents seek to lead you through this difficult period of your life, they sincerely want to help you become established in adulthood that will reflect “Christian” in the home that you may establish, D.V.