Recently a mom asked me about how to teach her teenage daughter what was and wasn’t appropriate behavior. This was a difficult question for me. Honestly, my first answer would be if they don’t understand right and wrong and moral absolutes by the time they are a teen it is much harder to teach them now than it is if they are raised learning these things. She and her daughter had been discussing the fact that kids were sending illicit photos via text messages and her daughter didn’t think that was at all wrong because, “Everyone did it.”
There is hope but it will take work, planning and follow-through. Kid’s behavior changes for the positive when they understand the “why” behind the rule. Take the time to sit down parents and teens together and talk about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior and why it is or isn’t. Discuss things like-Anything that is said or done to purposely hurt another person physically or emotionally is not acceptable. I always take these discussions and point back to God’s Word. Scripture tells us what is and isn’t appropriate behavior-it also tells us the consequences for our behavior. I’ve listed a few ideas here:
1. Work hard and do your best, don’t procrastinate. Proverbs 14:23 NIV “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
2. Take care of your body. Do not use cigarettes, drugs or alcohol. 1 Corinthians 6:19a NIV “Do you not know that your body is temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you.”
3. Respect the authorities in your life. Parents, pastors, teachers etc. Obey them and do what you are asked. Romans 13:1-3 NIV ” 1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.”
Use these as a staring place to discuss actions and consequences. I suggest working as a family to create a teen behavior contract. On this contract list offenses and consequences. Kids crave boundaries and often once they know what is expected of them they thrive. Create it together with your teen, allow them to have a voice. When it is complete-type it up have the teen(s) and the parents sign the document and then make photocopies so everyone involved has their own copy as a reminder of the agreement.
Don’t let this discussion end with the contract though. Use this time and the contract as a springboard for conversations about behavior, consequences and rising above the tide of disrespect for others that is so prevalent in our society. What do you think about this topic? What would you tell this mother? Please leave a comment and let me know.