Freedom and responsibility
We may have a teen girl come live with us for a while. She got into some trouble, and her mother has asked if she might stay with us. So I sat down to list the conditions under which we would consider the idea. It ended up looking like this:
– She must enrol in school and attend all classes;
– She must attend counselling;
– She must be in the house by 10 p.m. and be in her room by 11 p.m.;
– She may not have boys stay over night or have them alone with her in her room;
– She may not arrive home intoxicated or high;
– She may not use or possess drugs of any kind;
– She may not have a cell phone until she has a job and is able to pay for her phone plan and contribute $100 a month towards her food and board;
– She may not have a television or computer in her room;
– She must permit my wife to check her room regularly;
– She must be responsible to cook one meal a week for the family;
– She must be responsible to do her own laundry
– She must be responsible to keep her own room clean;
– She must be responsible for one other household chore of her choosing (sweeping, mopping, dusting, or whatever);
– She must choose and attend one extra-curricular activity of her choice (a sport, a club, a lesson, or whatever);
– She must eat meals with the family whenever possible;
– She must attend and participate in family meeting / games night on Tuesday nights;
– She must attend church with the family on Sunday mornings.
I know that this list will seem harsh to a 17- year old, that it ends up treating her much the same as my own much younger children, but I don't think we help kids when we allow them freedoms before they are ready. Kids need to know that increased freedoms are not rights that come automatically with getting older but privileges that come with maturity. Our job as parents is to prepare kids for the freedoms of adulthood, and sometimes that means limiting their freedom until they are ready to take responsibility for it.
Luke is a stay-at-home father of three boys, aged nine, seven, and three. He has fathered, fostered, adopted, or provided a temporary home for kids anywhere between birth and university. He has taught college courses, adoption seminars, camp groups, Sunday School classes, rugby teams, not to mention his own homeschooled kids.