Pushing the Limits


People everywhere are stretching the boundaries; pushing those they are supposed to be accountable to, to the edge. Parenting teenagers on a good day is a challenge, on a bad day it is a disaster. ...

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People everywhere are stretching the boundaries; pushing those they are supposed to be accountable to, to the edge. Parenting teenagers on a good day is a challenge, on a bad day it is a disaster.

We live in a culture where instant gratification is the norm. It is the "me" generation. Old and young alike have no patience. No one seems to want to work at anything.

Record numbers of young people are getting married on an impulse. They balk at any kind of marriage preparation. The focus is more on the party, the video and the pictures than the content and quality of the ceremony, or even more importantly the couple's understanding of marriage and long term commitment.

If marriage is not a profound bond and shared commitment between two people, then why marry? Live together. It is cheaper and less aggravating if the relationship ends. However, if it is more than a formal economic arrangement with sexual fringe benefits, then two people need to really work at it so that the relationship has the chance of making it long term.

Unfortunately, our society does not encourage long-term substantive relationships, rather it subtly supports the automatic out clause called divorce. People don't seem to want to work at anything but bodybuilding and fun.

Family life is in utter chaos. There is little or no foundation. Parents seem so intimidated when it comes to setting social parameters for their children. It sounds
so simple, but it is rather complex. You cannot set social boundaries that you will not enforce. You cannot expect your children to live by rules you don't obey or value. I don't think you need a lot of social rules, but whatever they are, your children need to be held accountable.

For better or for worse, we adults are modeling what the next generation will become. If we are racist in our speech, then racism will continue to live on. If we are prejudice against Jews, even if it is subtle, anti-semitism will continue to infect the next generation.

If our love relationships are self-centered, exploitive and not grounded in equality and respect, then the disastrous way many men and women treat each other will continue. Marriages will continue to fail in record numbers.

Parenting is a very demanding responsibility because we are helping to shape the next generation. What you do or fail to do, with and for your children, will potentially determine the future of the next generation.

XA is a senior in high school. He recently graduated by the skin of his teeth. All year he was pushing the envelope. He decided to start cutting. He started giving teachers he liked an attitude. At home, wherever he could, he was pushing his parent's buttons. If his curfew was 12:30, he would come home at 12:45 with some lame excuse. Even with pressure from his parents to straighten out, he still continued to live on the edge.

Halfway through the final quarter, XA was acting very strangely. He became very moody and was eating morning, noon and night. His already short fuse became even shorter.

On the q.t., one of his friends said he was cutting out of school and getting high on weed. Needless to say, his parents were upset. They confronted XA and he vehemently denied it. Since he had smoked pot in the past, they had a hard time believing him.

They were frightened that he was putting his high school graduation on the line, since his social behavior was so out of control. As they reviewed the year, they realized as parents they had been inconsistent in their expectations and in calling XA to accountability.

Thus, they decided with great reluctance (because they did not want their son to be mad at them) to create a contract. In the contract they made weekday and weekend curfews very clear. They made their school expectations clear. They also made it clear that drugs and alcohol were not acceptable under any circumstances. They went on to say that XA would be randomly drug and alcohol tested. If he failed either, he would not be permitted to attend his prom or any social gatherings for graduation.

XA's parents thought this contract was fair and reasonable. XA signed it without a fight. However, he never in a million years thought they would enforce it! He really believed his parents lived in "La La" land.

So, when they asked for a urine sample two weeks before the prom, he was somewhat taken back. He had no choice but to comply since he did sign the contract.

Within a few hours his parents got the result: positive for pot! They confronted him. He gave an all-star performance, denying he smoked. He said that he was only at a party where others around him were smoking, that he inhaled other people's stuff. Needless to say, that was ridiculous. He finally broke down and cried. He admitted to smoking with friends a few days before the test. He never thought he would be caught.

XA's parents now had to face one of their most painful tasks. Should they enforce the already agreed upon consequence for drug use or cut him some slack? As parents, they were divided. They decided to confer with a therapist. He urged them to stick with their agreed upon plan. XA did this to himself.

So, two weeks before the senior prom, XA was reminded that he would have to suffer the consequences of his poor choices. To their surprise, he took this consequence very well. His date was only a junior. They were going as friends. She was not devastated, just disappointed.

However, the parent of one of XA's friends was furious with XA's parents for not allowing him to go to the prom. His anger was so intense, he came to their house screaming, demanding to know why XA was not permitted to participate. The parents kept their cool and said the whole issue was between them and their son. If XA wanted his friend's parents to know all the facts and figures, he would have said something to them much earlier.

Sometimes we adults mean well, but act impulsively without knowing all the details. We need to trust and respect another parent's parenting unless it borders on abusive.

XA was not happy to miss the prom, but he did realize rather clearly that he did it to himself. He learned an important lesson: Life is a series of choices. With every choice comes a consequence. Are we willing to embrace them and learn from them?