Aug 072014 17 Responses

Five Rules For Every Teenager

Before I had my first girlfriend, I was asked to speak at a Valentine’s Banquet for married couples. Had my guest asked the question out loud, “Should we invite someone who has never kissed a girl to speak to us about marriage?” I would’ve never been invited. Thankfully they never asked it out loud, so they invited me.

After years of marriage and dealing with married couples, what I would say today would be different. Yet some of what I would say today would not be better. It would be different, in part, because I would be trying to justify some of the things I do or don’t do. In looking over my notes from all those years ago, much of what I said is not only true, but convicting. (See: The Five Most Read Marriage Posts of 2013)

While I was at a large disadvantage since I didn’t have any experience in marriage, I was also at a large advantage because I didn’t have any temptation to justify myself. I spoke truth.

I am not a parent of a teenager. We are still several years from that journey and I have no desire to speed up the process. But I do pastor many teenagers and I talk to their parents about the struggles taking place.

From my perspective, there are Five Rules for Every Teenager:

1. If I pay for your phone, I get to know everything on your phone (and decide what apps are allowed). “But you are invading my privacy,” they will say. “Yep,” would be my response. It’s a dangerous world and smart phones bring that world into the lives of our children. Until I can fully trust them to make wise decisions or until they are able to pay for their own things, I am responsible to assist them in learning to navigate this world. One aspect of training is regarding how to use technology, especially a phone. Nothing should be deleted by a child until the parent reviews it (and yes, I don’t mind comparing phone records against the actual text messages stored on your phone.) As a parent, I will allow you to have one of my phones in your possession, but never forget the phone belongs to me and not you. (See: Parenting–Too Involved, Not Involved Enough)

2. If I pay for your phone, it will be in my possession by 10pm every night. One of the most overlooked aspects of parenting is ensuring our children have proper rest. We often overlook it because we do a poor job in that area with ourselves. However, everyone needs rest and it is hard to rest when your phone is going off all night (just ask a pastor or his wife). Since a child needs rest and because children are more likely to make bad decisions at night, phones will be turned in at 10pm on weekdays (and 12am on weekends) in order for the child to sleep.

3. If you need to take a prescription pill, you will get it from me (and I will get it out of the safe). If you have teenagers in your house and your prescription pills are not in a safe, you are playing with fire. How would you feel if there was cocaine in your house? Probably not good. Yet there is a far greater problem with the abuse of prescription pills among teenagers than the use of cocaine among teenagers. Every prescription should be in a safe with only the parents knowing the combination. No exceptions.

4. Other than phones, there will be no screens (TV, computer, tablets) behind closed doors. I won’t being looking over your shoulder at every minute, but there is no reason you should be doing or watching anything which I can’t see. We are a family. Each person gets privacy, but there is also an openness as we live life. You should be ensured total privacy as you use the bathroom, shower, and change clothes. Other than those moments, you should live in such a way that people can pop into and out of your space. Doors should be open when screens are on. (See: When You Feel What No One Else Has Ever Felt)

5. For all technology, you will use a password I give you (and you should know I will use it too). At night, when you hand me your phone, I might (not always, but on occasion) look though it. For that, we need to have a common password. Most apps have private messaging capabilities. In order to assist the child in learning what is proper and improper communication with friends and strangers, I will need to know their password. (See: When to Teach Your Kid a Lesson)

As parents, we have a job. The job does not have a primary function of earning the good feelings of our children in an individual situation. The primary function is to love our children to the best of our ability. Love means I will do what is in their best interest whether they like it or not. I doubt any child will like any of these rules. But I also do not doubt that each of these rules are in the best interest of every child.

I do not have teenagers, but if I did, these would be the rules I would have. If you are concerned those rules are too strict, consider this: they are based on the common rules I live by as a pastor. Other than turning my phone in at night, every other rule applies to my life. I do not have a screen behind a close door (unless the door has a window). My wife knows the passwords to my phone and email. My wife and administrators can search my phone and phone records at any time. I do not delete texts or messages for at least a month so that they can be reviewed. And I do not take serious prescription pills (hydrocodone, etc) without my wife’s knowledge. (See: How to Respond to Others When They Make Bad Decisions)

It’s a scary world and we all need protection from some of the temptations and possible addictions which exist. If it’s true for a grown man, it’s definitely true for a teenager.

17 Responses to Five Rules For Every Teenager
  1. […] are the two posts I reference about cell phones and televisions: Five Rules for Every Teenager and W...

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