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King Cake, please

Happy Mardi Gras! It is still funny to me that here in south Mississippi, students have a break from school and offices close all over town to celebrate this event! No complaints here, though. I must say I am not crazy about the colors purple, green, and gold, but king cake is fabulous! I prefer the cream cheese…

Over the years of counseling and getting to know mommas of teenagers in church, a huge concern is trust-building. Part of development for teenagers is desiring freedom through testing boundaries, which often results in broken trust. Hurt parents and resentful teenagers do not make for a happy home, right?

I use the word “she,” because I work with many girls, but this applies to our guys as well, lol. A few suggestions useful to parents I have worked with in counseling and church life include the following:

Set specific limits and boundaries. Teenagers are people and it is only fair to completely explain expectations and make sure they understand so if they break the rules, they know that any consequences are fair. Teenagers, and people in general, look for fairness. We all want justice.

Let her know how she broke the limits that were set. This goes over much better with love. As parents, it is important to model and expect teenagers to learn to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). When they know their parents care, they are much more willing to listen, even when they do not like the rules.

Explain trust is earned. Freedom comes with a price. When they prove themselves trustworthy, freedom can be attained. When they follow through, keep their word, and act responsibly, they can be trusted in greater ways.

Explain the consequence. When the time comes for a consequence, explaining the reason for it shows them respect and reminds them why it is occurring.

Let her explain herself and her feelings. Let her explain the “why.” When I work with families, it is often a helpful reminder that members, particularly children, should feel free to express their feelings as long as it is respectful. We often laugh and practice and role-play what is inappropriate and what is appropriate communication.

Express your love for her and desire for trusting relationship. It is super important to remind the teenager of the love they have from their parents. Even when they are rolling their eyes or giving a negative attitude, they need to know that they are greatly loved.

Redefine limits. Remind them again of what the limits are and remain consistent with the expectations. Some families post expectations on the refrigerator so everyone can literally see the expectations. Whatever works, do it!

Give opportunities for building trust. They cannot begin to build trust back without opportunities. This becomes difficult when they have broken trust. Begin by letting them know when they are being given a chance to earn trust back by allowing them small opportunities to act responsibly.

Give rewards when trust has been earned. Verbally praise them when they make even small strides toward responsibility. Let them know when they have been responsible and have earned more freedom and privileges because of wise choices.

Spend time with her, have fun with her, and keep the relationship close. Regardless of any amount of tough exterior, everyone, including teenagers, need to know they are so loved and so prayed for. Spend time and laugh even when she thinks her parents are silly, weird, or tough. Spending positive time lets her know when consequences do come, she can still trust and respect her parents.

This time of life is scary for teenagers and also for the parents, too. This balance of love and expectation is important. I hope this helps strengthen your family. Wherever you are, I hope you have a happy Mardi Gras week. If you live where you can, devour a king cake and enjoy the music! Talk to you soon.



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