Each family needs to have a set of rules that help the family work together as a unit and which give structure for building healthy relationships with one another. Whether you have well-defined rules or not, each child knows what is allowed in his home. They will push the boundaries of what has been allowed in the past to see where authority pushes back and sets the limits. With all children it is helpful to have rules that are clear, and especially for teenagers it is necessary that these rules be consistently enforced.
The following is not so much a list of rules as it is a framework for setting rules in your own home. The purpose is to raise godly children who become good productive citizens. Your goal is not to become some authoritarian dictatorship that does not allow for personal expression and loss of self-will. In fact, one way to help with this is to allow your teens to participate in setting the rules and the consequences.
Respect One Another
All rules in the house should focus on mutual respect. Teenagers are looking for a way to fit in. One of the best ways to help them with that is to let them know they are loved and respected at home. Do not allow your children to be disrespectful to one another nor to you as a parent.
Playing around and teasing are perfectly fine as long as it remains enjoyable by all parties involved. It is usually obvious to others (even if not to the one doing the teasing) when the line is crossed between a good hearty laugh and disrespect for a sibling, parent or child. Help your children know when they are getting too close to that line where a spirit of disrespect begins to creep in.
Respect is not limited to only the children towards one another and their parents. Dads and moms need to show appropriate respect to their children too.
As children grow into their teenage years their activities revolve less and less around the family unit. When schedules are changing on a regular basis it can be frustrating and disruptive for everyone. Try to implement ways that you can help one another know about any changes in normal schedules.
This is not just for scheduling purposes. Children should be expected to inform their parents of any special needs they have for school before the need becomes urgent. They will learn to be more conscientious of their upcoming events when they know it is their responsibility to make sure everything is ready.
Let your children know they can speak to you. This won’t happen by just telling them that you are available. You need to spend time with them and initiate conversations that my be uncomfortable for one or the both of you. But when you start these hard talks it breaks the ice for them to come to you in the future.
These “difficult” conversations don’t have to only be about boy and girl relationships, they can be any kind of talk that involves opening your heart and mind to your child. If you will talk with them about how the Lord is working in your own life, it will make it easier for them to talk with you about those things too. If you never talk with them about certain subjects then they will feel like those things are forbidden territory.
If your child is having trouble standing up for what it right because of peer pressure, you can help them when they know they can come to you for a listening ear.
Trust is Earned
As your children grow up you learn to see what they do well and what they struggle with. You, as a parent, know what things you can trust your child with. As they grow into their teenage years you should spend time with them helping them to know the areas in which they can be trusted. Teach them that they can earn your trust in new areas by acting responsibly.
Beyond the areas of responsibility your child has experienced there is completely new territory that comes into play when they start driving and participating in activities without adult supervision. If they have earned your trust in other areas then continue from a positive position. Tell them that you know you can trust them and that you will do so until they break that implied agreement of trust. They have earned the trust, now it is up to them to keep the trust in place.
Honor God in All Actions
When setting rules, or life principles that your teens should follow, help them to see that honoring God is the ultimate goal. They are old enough to make many decisions on their own. The guiding principle for their decisions should be, “does this activity honor God?”
Sometimes a family rule is simply a rule that needs to be obeyed; there is no moral or biblical rightness or wrongness to the rule. However, as children move into their teenage years they may need fewer lists of rules (assuming they actually learned what is expected of them by the family) and need larger overarching principles such as this one. Of course, obeying and honoring a parent’s rule or desire is honoring to God as well.
Honoring God in all actions is a great life rule for children of any age.
Discussion is Appropriate, Arguing is Not
Young children should obey out of principle; no discussion, no argument. As children grow older and begin to think for themselves, which you want to encourage, there may be times when they do not agree with the decisions their parents make. Don’t let that threaten you as a parent. Let your children know that it is appropriate to discuss disagreements. However, you will not tolerate yelling and arguing. The bottom line is that they still must obey the parent’s decisions, but they are welcome to challenge and give input to those decisions in a calm and rational way.
Regardless of what their friends are doing or where they are going, Dad and Mom are the final authority. Even if the teen thinks his parents are wrong on a matter, he must obey. Again, it is appropriate to discuss a disagreement, but obedience is required. Ephesians 6:1 commands that children obey their parents. It doesn’t say that they should only obey if the parents are right and that the children agree. The verse continues by saying that the obedience should be with an attitude of honor.
Don’t make the goal a list of rules. The goal should be to have a good relationship between the family members. If everyone is having to focus on the rules, then that proves there is not the strong loving relationship between family members that a Christian home should have. When the focus is on relationships then the rules help to enhance that relationship.
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