Freedom and Responsibility

They go hand in hand

In raising a child, what comes first freedom or responsibility? I get the opportunity on a regular basis to witness distraught parents who bring to me their teenager, usually 16 or 17 years old. Their lovely child, who used to be so cooperative, is now demanding, defiant, and expecting all the freedoms of an adult. They want to drive a car, stay out late or not come home at all, or they want to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana on a regular basis. They want to do what they want with the opposite sex. They want their cell phone and to be able to use it 24/7 and want to contact their friends through texting or sexting when they want to. They will steal what they want, if they can find it. They have an entitlement attitude and in the past they have been able finesse what they want from their parent, through manipulation or lying. Usually the teen is refusing to go to school or is failing subjects that used to be “A’s” or “B’s”. They don’t want to do any chores around the house or they will leave to visit friends and disappear for a night or many days. Some are getting into trouble with the law and may have served time in Juvenile Hall. The parents are only expecting some kind of respect and cooperation from their child, but all they get is cursing and threats and hateful challenges to their authority. Their child is out of control and the more the parents try to clamp down on their behavior the worse the conflicts get. What is a parent to do?

This is a very scary scenario for too many families! Most of the parents found in this situation are very loving and caring souls. They want the best for their child, and they have been trying to give their child everything they will need for a good life when they leave home. The problem began when they allowed freedom before responsibility. They wanted their child to fit in and have what the other kids had: cell phones with sliding keyboards, MP3 players, their own TV, cool clothes and accessories, computer, X-box 360, video games, Wii, etc. etc. etc. The parents have been very generous and expect some gratitude for all they have done for their child…and all they get is this!

Freedoms must be doled out with responsibilities. Kids need to earn the right to have the freedoms they want. Are they going to be happy about this? Of course not! I tell these parents that I would have loved to have them for parents. I get all these things without having to pay the price for them. If it’s not too late, your kids will choose to cooperate when you strip them of all but the essentials, food, clothing and a place to sleep. They must realize that in the real world, responsibility comes before freedom. I can drive my car anywhere I want IF I follow the rules of the road, pay for my car and my insurance, get a driver’s license, don’t drive while intoxicated etc. Some people try to drive without doing the responsible things, but when they get caught they must pay a much more severe price. I can get a teaching job if I’m lucky and I go to college for 5 years, pass all my subjects, have a good attitude, follow all the school rules for teachers, basically pay the price of being responsible to get the freedom to take care of my family, have a car, and clothes and an MP3 player. Parents need to show their kids how to be responsible by giving them responsibilities, and then reward them for being responsible and respectful. If they won’t follow through, do what any boss would do to a poor employee, fire them! Now all they get is food and shelter. How mean! Yes, it is a hard, cruel world for those who want to take the easy way out. Most parents are working hard to provide for their families. Make sure your kids know what it takes to get and keep your job. Responsibility before freedom!!!