By Tom Roberts
It is not unusual these days to hear a teenager say to his parents, “I’m so tired of all these rules and regulations that you lay down for me that I’ll be glad when I’m on my own and can do as I please!” Quite often the “rules and regulations” to which they refer are those which are for their own good, however vex-some. While it is possible that parents can sometimes be unfair and arbitrary in fixing rules, most often parents have the good of their children in mind when they supply the regulations for a family.
Children are often too impatient to attempt to see the wisdom behind rules. They are not looking at events from the mature standpoint that only years of experience can bring; they are viewing events through the impatience and immaturity of youth. Such immaturity seldom seeks to find the wisdom behind a rule, particularly if it interferes with the immediate gratification of a desire. The guiding light of youth is expressed in the sentiment “I want. . .” and “I want it now. . .” Consequently, when any restricting rule is enforced which inhibits or restricts, a young person who has no respect for experience or for the biblical injunction of obedience will rebel. Whether the rule is a curfew on dating nights, attendance at worship services, homework, housework or personal grooming guidelines, compliance is grudging, if at all.
Adding to this problem is the fact that young people are encouraged in rebellion by their peers at school, by a lawless generation and by lyrics of music which teach and propagate a rebellious spirit. Parents are portrayed as old-fashioned, over-the-hill, “out of it” and unfair. With a wave of the hand, all experience of a preceding generation of parents is dismissed if it interferes with “doing your thing.” And not too subtly, the mistakes of the older generation are used to show the irony of anyone “telling me what to do.” However, if, with all our experience and regulations we have made such a botch of things, what will a generation do that refuses to respect experience or be restricted? Already we are reaping the terrible results of this philosophy in broken homes, abortion, drug addiction, increased crime rates and a multitude of problems. Unlicenced restraint surely is not the answer!
But if our young people get their way, if they overthrow all restrictions, and if they get out on their own, they need to realize something. They really are on their own!
If I know the intentions of most parents, it has been their purpose to provide a kind of life that will prepare their children to be on their own and to prosper. Parents lay down rules and regulations so that when their children leave home, they will be prepared morally, spiritually and educationally to meet the challenges of life and be productive. These are the basic reasons for rules in the home. It is inevitable, given the normal course of events, that children leave home. The question is, “Will they be prepared when they leave home?” As parents, we fully agree with our children that, when they leave home, “you are on your own.” In fact, we realize it more fully than our children!
You are on your own spiritually. No longer will the parents be held accountable for the actions of the children. For a time when children are young, the Lord holds parents responsible for the teaching and training of their offspring. But a time comes when a child ceases to be the ward of another and becomes an adult in his own right. At that time, responsibility for actions ceases to be that of the parent and passes, irrevocably, to the child. Beyond this point you answer to God at the judgment for what you do. Truly you are on your own.
You are on your own morally. While you were at home, there were restraining teachings about fornication, drinking, companions, movies, books, magazines, etc. Now that you are “on your own,” there are no restraints. You will be able to do as you please, when you please and where you please. But you will also be accountable for these actions. As Solomon said, “But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment ” (Eccl. 11: 10)
Yes, my friend, you will be on your own, to stand or fall, for good or bad. There will be no one to blame but yourself. Your mistakes will be yours and no guilt can be handed back to your parents any longer. And there is an additional thought worthy of consideration: when you have children, you will be faced with the same responsibilities your parents had. If you love your children, if you want their life to prosper, if you want them to grow up respecting others and being prepared to face life, you will have to set some rules. And the cycle will have come full circle! You will be the parent and your children will be saying, “Boy, when I leave home and get on my own, I’ll do what I want to do.” And when you hear these words (probably not before then), you will appreciate what your parents went through to raise you. The next time you want “out on your own,” think about it.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 17, pp. 515, 533
September 6, 1984