We have an amazing teen daughter. All her life she has loved living the gospel. In the last month a romantic relationship has made definite moves toward the inappropriate. She felt the Spirit tell her to end the relationship. Within a day she was feeling that she had overreacted. She feels sure that in the relationship again, she will be able to make the right decisions. She has a slight psychiatric condition that might be affecting her ability to hang on to her values when tempted. How do we balance respecting her free agency with keeping her safe? She is also saying that if the gospel is going to keep her from what she wants, she might not be sure she wants it anymore. We would appreciate any extra advice you might have. Thanks so much,
Sounds like a pretty typical teenager to me. There is a strong tendency for them to what they want now, more than they value what the want most. It also sounds like pretty typical parents–”How do we balance respecting her free agency with keeping her safe?” You are both faced with some pretty tough decisions.
Here is part of the problem: When children are little, the parents are their primary teachers, but when they start leaving home to go to school, the teaching function transitions from the home to the children’s peers and school teachers. The parents’ role changes from that of a teacher to that of a coach–cheering from the sidelines and motivating. Since those changes are gradual, it is very difficult not to intervene, even with force, when the welfare of our children is in jeopardy. However, the time comes, especially in the late teens, when the children know that they know best, and that their parents are attempting to impose outmoded values of generations gone by. So the best we can do with teenage children is to motivate, encourage, praise and express confidence that they will make the right decision. They already know that they are free to make their own decisions. What they must learn is that they are never free from the consequences of the decisions that they make. I imagine that expressing and demonstrating confidence that the children will make the right decisions is probably the best thing that we can do. But to try to rescue them from the consequences of wrong decisions may be about the worst thing we can do.