Many parents think that just because their teen is not “troubled” that their teen is “good” enough not to require as much supervision as his “troubled” peers. In today’s culture, this is simply naive. In fact, I would say that most teens today are troubled–it’s just a matter of degree. The same could probably be said for many adults. An individual can’t live in a society surrounded and choked by so much sin and vice and not be effected negatively to some degree. Just watch the news. Just click the wrong button on your TV, computer, radio, or smartphone.
The very fact that some of you who are reading this are entertaining the idea that I might be a “nut-job” for voicing this observation gives evidence to my point. We have all gotten comfortable with things that we should have never gotten comfortable with. We have all tolerated things that we should have never tolerated. And we have all allowed our kids much of the same. When you look at the statistics, the news, and all around you, it’s hard to disagree with me–especially when you really pause to see from how far we’ve fallen.
It’s easy to focus on the positive changes in society over the past generation or two (and there certainly are some) and lose sight of the greater picture of disaster. It is precisely this naive outlook that has guys like me looking like “Chicken Little” and the naive masses looking like lemmings smiling all the way to their impending doom.
Unfortunately, we have passed this naivety on to our teens, a generation that has now accidentally ended up on third base living under the delusion they’ve just hit a triple. Life to them too often appears to be all about entertainment, pleasure, amusement, and doing virtually whatever they want to and when they want to–”as long as it doesn’t hurt someone”–and with no immediate consequences.
Identify if You Have Low Expectations
So, when teens falter by over-indulging in media, dropping behind in school, dabbling in or perhaps drowning in sex, drugs, rock and rock, and rebellion, these same naive, “everyone’s a winner, always think the best, of course I trust you” parents are left confused and asking dooms-day naysayers like me for advice.
Too many parents require little, if anything, from Junior as it pertains to contributing to the home. If he can clean his room and maybe take out the garbage, a lot of parents think that’s accomplishment enough. After all, he’s still in school and needs to enjoy his childhood. Nonsense! That’s a great way for Junior to mourn his childhood! Kids want to be part of something. They need activities that give them a sense of belonging and accomplishment. They won’t always immediately like the tasks you require, but as time passes they will respect both you and themselves as a result.
Much of the problem stems from the fact that we have lowered the bar of expectations for our kids so low in virtually every area of life. We’ve done this for fear of being labeled politically incorrect, intolerant, critical, judgmental, hypocritical, pharisaical, or just not hip. Parents need to expect more from their kids–especially from their teens.
How about we start by identifying just three appropriate expectations for your teens?
Identify Your Teen’s Access to Today’s Culture
First of all, we have to define what a troubled teenager actually is. Just because a teen isn’t in a program like Shepherds Hill Academy, doesn’t mean he or she isn’t troubled. Outside of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, I don’t know how you can be a teenager in today’s society and not be troubled to some degree. I don’t think most people really realize the degree of depravity in the culture today.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if you have low expectations concerning your teen’s interaction with the culture:
- What kind of music do I allow my teen to listen to?
- Does it bring a check to my spirit? Would it bring a check to the spirit of my pastor?
- Would Jesus be entertained by it?
- How often do I allow my teen to engage in media?
- What are some positive activities that could occupy my teen’s time which is currently being wasted in the over-indulgence of media?
- Do I have a plan to make it happen?
- What types of movies do I allow my teen to watch?
- Is he/she being constantly entertained by things that grieve the heart of God?
- Where does my teen have access to the Internet within my home?
Identify the Efficiency of Your Teen’s Performance in His Responsibilities
Too many parents do not require their teen to take on reasonable responsibility within the home. If he can clean his room and maybe take out the garbage, a lot of parents think that’s an accomplishment.
Determine what your teen’s true capabilities are. Then, identify how your teen performs his responsibilities. His capabilities will increase as parents take the time to impart skills and afford opportunities to hone those skills.
Start by answering these questions:
- What are my expectations for my teen’s study habits? His GPA?
- Do I allow my teen to get away with a sub-par work ethic in his household chores? Should I expect more from my teen in the area of chores?
- What type of household projects and chores is my teen expected to complete? What would it require to challenge my teen with more challenging tasks?
- How does he perform at his job? Have I called his boss to inquire?
Identify Your Teen’s Opportunity for Moral Mistakes
The problem of low expectations is especially tragic when it bleeds over into the moral realm. Incredibly, I’ve heard parents say the following: “He might drink once in while, but at least he doesn’t do drugs” or “He smokes a little pot once in a while.” Also, I’ve seen parents happy that their kid practices safe sex, or glad that they’ve never gotten pregnant or acquired a disease. Too many parents look at all these things as if they are accomplishments! And some would argue that, in light of today’s culture, they are!
As a parent, you must have high expectations for the moral integrity of you teen!
Here are a few things to think about:
- Do I allow my teen to go on unchaperoned dates?
- Do I tolerate sassing or swearing from my teen without receiving a consequence?
- Do I allow my teen to listen to music or watch TV that checks my spirit?
- What type of peers does my teen hang out with?
- What type of clothes does my teen wear? Are they provocative? Do they attract an unsavory crowd? Do they identify with gang activity or rebellion? Do they attract unnecessary attention to my teen?
Of, course there are many, many more things that could be listed, but this is just a start. I strongly suggest the book, “Do Hard Things” by Alex and Brett Harris. It is an inspirational read written by twin teens who realize the problem in their generation of low expectations. The next level of a video game shouldn’t be your teen’s greatest accomplishment during adolescence. Authors, business people, naval commanders, and foreign diplomats are just some of the positions held by teens in the past. Today’s teens can accomplish so much more. The question is, will parents require it?
Picture provided by: Nathaniel D. Ether