“My curfew used to drive me crazy! I hated it when others were allowed to stay out later than I was.”
“It’s horrible having your cell-phone calls monitored. I feel as if I were being treated like a child!”
DO YOU feel overburdened with restrictions at home? Have you ever been tempted to sneak out of the house or to lie to your parents about your actions? If so, your feelings might be similar to those of one teenager who describes her parents as overprotective and says: ‘They need to let me breathe a little!’
House rules, as they are sometimes called, are the dos and don’ts that your parents or guardians have set for you. These rules may include requirements about homework, chores, and curfews, as well as restrictions on your use of the phone, the TV, or the computer. They may extend beyond the walls of your home to include your behavior at school and your choice of friends.
Many young people often find themselves on the wrong side of their parents’ rules. Nearly two thirds of the adolescents interviewed in one study said that they had been disciplined for breaking house rules, making this by far the most common reason for punishment.
Most youths acknowledge, though, that some regulations are needed to prevent total chaos. But if house rules are really necessary, why are some of them so annoying? And if you feel suffocated by your parents’ rules, how can you get some relief?
“I’m Not a Baby Anymore”!
“How do I let my parents know I’m not a baby anymore and that they need to let me grow up?” asks a teen named Emily. Have you ever felt that way? Like Emily, you may chafe at rules because you feel that you’re being treated like a helpless infant. Of course, your parents probably see things differently. Likely, they feel that their rules are vital to protect you and prepare you for the responsibilities of adulthood.
Even if you have a measure of freedom, you might feel that the rules in your home have not grown up as much as you have. This can be especially painful if your siblings seem to have been given more lenient treatment. A youth named Marcy says: “I’m 17, with an early curfew. I get grounded for anything I do wrong, yet when my brother was my age, curfew was not an issue and being grounded didn’t happen.” Recalling his teen years, Matthew said of his younger sister and cousins, “The girls got away with ‘murder’!”
Understandably, you may long for a life out from under your parents’ authority. But would you really be better off without their restrictions? You probably know youths your age who can stay out as late as they want, can wear anything they like, and can go with their friends whenever and wherever it suits them. Perhaps the parents are simply too busy to notice what their children are doing. In any case, this approach to child-rearing has not proved successful. (Proverbs 29:15) The lack of love you see in the world is largely due to its being filled with self-centered people, many of whom were raised in homes without restraint.
One day you may think differently about a home without rules. Consider a study involving young women who grew up with few house rules and little or no parental supervision. Looking back, none of them viewed the absence of discipline positively. Instead, they saw it as evidence of their parents’ lack of concern or capability.
Rather than envying youths who are allowed to do as they please, try to see your parents’ rules as evidence of their love and concern for you. By enforcing reasonable limits, they are imitating Jehovah God, who says to his people: “I shall make you have insight and instruct you in the way you should go. I will give advice with my eye upon you.”
For now, though, the rules may seem to be more than you can bear. If so, consider some practical steps you can take to make your home life more enjoyable.
Communication That Works
Whether you want more freedom or just less frustration with the level of freedom you now have, the key is good communication. ‘But I’ve tried talking to my parents, and it just doesn’t work!’ some might say. If that’s how you feel, ask yourself, ‘Could I improve my communication skills?’ Communication is a vital tool that can help you either to (1) get what you want or (2) understand better why what you want is being refused. Really, if you want to receive grown-up privileges, it is only reasonable that you develop mature communication skills.
Learn to control your emotions. The Bible states: “All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.” (Proverbs 29:11) Good communication does not consist merely of complaining. This may only get you another lecture! So avoid whining, sulking, and childish tantrums. No matter how much you feel like slamming the door or stomping around the house when your parents restrict you, such behavior will probably lead to more rules
Try to see your parents’ point of view. Tracy, a Christian youth in a single-parent family, has found this to be helpful. She says: “I ask myself, ‘What is my mother trying to accomplish with her rules?’ She’s trying to help me become a better person.” (Proverbs 3:1, 2) Such empathy may help you to share your perspective with your parents. For example, suppose they are reluctant to let you attend a certain gathering. Instead of arguing, you could ask, “What if a mature, trustworthy friend came along with me?” Your parents may not always grant your requests; but if you understand their concerns, you have a better chance of suggesting an acceptable option.
Build your parents’ confidence in you. Earning your parents’ trust is like accumulating money in a bank account. You can withdraw only what you have previously deposited. Overdrafts result in a fine, and multiple overdrafts can shut down your account altogether. Getting an additional privilege is like making a withdrawal; it will be approved only if you have built up a record of responsible behavior.
Be realistic in your expectations. Parents are responsible to exercise reasonable control over your actions. Thus, the Bible speaks of “the commandment of your father” and “the law of your mother.” (Proverbs 6:20) Nevertheless, you need not feel that house rules will ruin your life. On the contrary, if you submit to your parents’ authority, Jehovah promises that, in the long run, it will “go well with you”!
TO THINK ABOUT
- Which rules do you find most challenging to obey?
- What points in this article will help you to cope with parental rules?
- How can you gain more of your parents’ trust?