Teens behaving responsibly

A dad walked in on his 14-year-old son kissing his then-girlfriend on the sofa. The behavior violated a family rule that said he was not to be home alone with a girl.

Afterward, the parents sat the boy down and talked over the situation.

In addition to reinforcing house rules, they reminded him that he should think about the girl's feelings, just as she should be mindful of his. What might be just a kiss for one could hold more significance for the other. They urged him to talk with the girls he went out with, to understand their expectations.

Awhile later, the mom, who is a friend of mine, learned that a recent love interest had dumped her son. She asked him about it, and realized that he had followed her advice, raising very serious, mature questions before the girl was ready to deal with their relationship on that level.

The mom, chagrined that her advice had yielded such results, told him, "You don't have to talk about these things right away. It's better to gauge her involvement first."

Parents work mightily to instill values. They try to be accessible, even when teens walk away from discussions about sexuality, or reject advice because "parents don't know anything."

But the opposite can happen. Teens sometimes take things literally and act on advice a little too hastily. This is because they often lack the judgment and tact that comes with life experience.

It's a balancing act: allowing teens enough freedom to learn lessons, but maintaining boundaries so they feel safe.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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