How, in today’s culture, do you place boundaries in your child’s life, enforce those boundaries, earn respect, maintain control, provide security, earn trust, and maintain a relationship with your son or daughter at the same time?
Believe it or not, it is possible. In my 18 years of ministry, the following seven areas are considered the foundational pillars in developing an authentic relationship with teens.
Boundaries: The process starts with setting clear boundaries. Draw a bold line in the sand with your child. What time do you want your child home in the evening; what media do you want them engaging in; what kind of friends do you want them hanging out with? Decide the answers to these questions ahead of time and implement them as “house rules.” Your child will most likely feel differently about these things; that’s OK, this is why you are the parent and they are the child. After all, you are the one who must answer to God for the things you have allowed your child to partake in while living under your roof.
Discipline: Once you have laid out a clear set of boundaries; ENFORCE THEM. Boundaries are useless unless you uphold them. If you can imagine boundaries being the laws of your home, then discipline would be the police work needed to execute those laws. If your child misses curfew, take their keys. If they are caught with inappropriate music, take the iPod. The punishment must always fit the crime.
Respect: Once your child sees there are consequences to their actions they are more likely to respect the boundaries put in place to protect them. Respect is a huge factor in this as well. Being consistent with your boundaries, by enforcing them through discipline, shows your child you mean what you say. Though they may begrudgingly adhere to the rules, still they will do so; because, through this consistency, you earn their respect, which fosters security in any child.
Control: When kids know that you mean what you say, it instills in them a healthy fear, which, as politically incorrect as it may sound, is a fundamental component to respect. This, in turn, earns you authority and control, as the parent. Control is another important aspect to all of this. If a parent does not have control in the home it is very likely that the child will try to take it. This is the result of the child’s insecurity fostered by the lack of control observed in his parent. In the process of trying to take control for himself, the child often comes to grips with the fact that he really doesn’t have a handle on it either. When kids feel out of control they often do very unhealthy things to compensate. That’s when they often seek solace in areas such as unhealthy entertainment, drugs, sex, gangs, etc. These things, although they don’t really solve their control and security problems, fill the gaps that the lack of control and security brings to their lives.
Security: When a child can respect their authority it is much easier for them to relinquish the control, because there is security there. Security is fostered when a child feels safe; because, they have been given a clear set of boundaries–and these boundaries have been enforced through discipline. Believe it or not, kids do not want to be left alone to their own demise. They want someone to stand up and tell them they can’t go to that party–especially when they aren’t strong enough to say no themselves. They long for someone to stand up and fight for them–even when they can be the very ones fighting against you themselves.
Trust: Providing them with security builds trust. They will not always see eye to eye with Mom and Dad; but, they will learn to accept their decisions and honor them, knowing their parents have their best interest at heart and knowing that they will keep them safe. If boundaries represent the law of your home and discipline represents the police work executing those laws, then trust would be the policeman’s badge. The badge says you have the authority and the credibility to do your job as a parent. The most respected and effective badges are ones that are earned–not just given. God gives parents a badge by virtue of their position. However, it is up to parents to maintain the respect of their kids to sustain the authority represented by it.
Relationship: All of these things lay the final ground work for the relationship. Once your child knows you can be trusted, they know they can bring anything to you and you will never cease to love them. Your boundaries and discipline have caused them to respect you. Because they respect you, you have relieved them from feeling they must gain control. They’ve relinquished control and found security in the home. Through their security, they have built trust. In this trust, you’ve begun to build your relationship. So, you see, you really can’t have one without the other.
None of this comes without hard work; and, the work of a parent is never done.
This heavy responsibility rarely comes without some knock down, drag out battles. But, stick with it! You may have to sacrifice closeness with your child for a season; but, a season pales in comparison to a lifetime of closeness. Hebrews 10:35 says, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”
At the beginning I asked you – “How, in today’s culture, do you place boundaries in your child’s life, enforce those boundaries, earn respect, maintain control, provide security, earn trust, and maintain a relationship with your son or daughter at the same time?” I did not ask you how to build a friendship. I asked you how to build a relationship. Kids need Moms and Dads, they have plenty of friends. Get this right now, and you will have their friendship for life!
What steps do you intentionally take in developing an authentic relationship with your child?