Freedom: Every Teenager’s Addiction

Your teenager is addicted.  In their book For Parents Only, Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice say every teen has the same addiction; not to a substance or behavior, but to a concept: freedom.  And every parent of a teen needs to understand that though an adolescent’s obsession with freedom is natural, too many restrictions or too few boundaries can lead to trouble.

This issue, of course, is at the root of what keeps parents up at night, particularly in the technologized environment kids now grow up in.  Ironically, too much freedom is scary for kids, too.  As much as they might kick and scream at boundaries, deep down they want their parents to provide guidelines and communicate expectations (and consequences), particularly regarding weighty issues like sex, relationships, and technology.  As the teenager in this British newspaper article put it, “I wish my parents would say I’m not allowed to be home alone with a boy. I wish they’d say boys aren’t allowed in my bedroom. They make this big deal about ‘trusting us,’ but that’s not helping me. They have no idea what goes on, and I’m too embarrassed to tell them.”

On the subject of helping your kids navigate the increasing levels of freedom and independence they enjoy, Feldhahn and Rice offer the following recommendations to parents:

  1. Get to know your teen: every child is different, and every parent has a responsibility to understand them, their dreams, their fears, and how much strictness or leniency the child needs.
  2. Choose discipline with their key fear-triggers in mind: consider discipline options that do not unnecessarily impinge upon your teen’s sense of freedom, which can trigger fight-or-flight instincts.
  3. Set specific expectations: like all of us, kids need to know exactly what decisions and behaviors will lead to specific losses of freedom.  Particularly with things like the Internet or mobile phones, kids need to have clear guidelines and be told ahead of time what the consequences of misuse will be.
  4. Equip them to cope wisely with their growing freedoms: parents need to help their teens want to do the right things for the right reasons.

We at pureHOPE believe that last item is accomplished through a lifestyle of prayer for our children and their future; understanding of our kids and the culture and helping them understand the Word of God; resolve to do the hard work of modeling love, purity, and wisdom; and engagement with our children in compassion, authenticity, and courage.  When we do that, we can trust that the God of freedom will guide us as parents and hold our children in His loving hands.

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