by Rev. George A. Kelly, Catholic Youth’s Guide to Life and Love
Your everyday problems
Not long ago, an executive of a record company was watching a television program. There appeared on the screen an actor playing the part of a parking lot attendant—a finger-snapping jive-talker with all the mannerisms of a rock’n’roll fan.
The executive disliked the character instantly. And he realized that typical American parents who saw the program also would loathe the lad.
Then he had a momentous thought. If parents despised the boy, wouldn’t teenagers find him inspirational? He decided to take the actor who played that part and turn him into a singer. A song was especially written in which the actor mumbled a few lines over and over. The song was introduced—and took exactly two weeks to reach first place in the “Hit Parade.”
The recording executive shrewdly realized how to appeal to teenagers. Just give them a character he knew their parents would loathe.
His bull’s-eye is an amusing commentary on one of the biggest problems you probably face. It’s how to get along with your parents. Most teenagers have such conflicts. It’s natural because you’re in a “between” stage of development.
When you were seven, you didn’t have these problems; you did what you were told without question. When you’re twenty-two, you won’t have these problems either; you’ll come and go pretty much as you please.
It’s quite a change to go from a state in which you utterly depend upon your parents to one in which you’re almost completely independent.
How much freedom should you have?
Right now, you should have considerably more freedom than you had at seven, and considerably less than you’ll have at twenty-two. Nobody disputes that fact. But exactly how much should you have now? That’s the question that causes all the trouble.
“My mother says I’m old enough to mow the lawn and wash the car, but I’m too young to go to a movie tonight with my friends,” complains fourteen-year-old Tommy.
“Tommy complained when I gave him his lunch money every morning,” says his mother. “He said he could handle his allowance in a lump once a week. So I gave it to him. He spent it all on hamburgers and milk shakes for his crowd, and I had to give him extra money the next day. How can I trust him when he acts as childish as that?”
These complaints are typical. Multiply them a few dozen times and you get a clear idea why teenagers often say that they don’t get along with their parents, and vice versa. What can you do about it?
Let’s face some facts. Your parents must set the standard. They’ve been through your experiences themselves. They know—maybe better than you realize—what your temptations, liabilities and capabilities are. They have the experience to make sound judgments.
Even if your mother and father wanted to let you do whatever you pleased, they would not have the moral and legal freedom to do it.
When God made them your parents, He gave them a solemn obligation to look out for your welfare until you’re old enough to do so yourself. In society’s eyes, you’re not old enough to care for yourself until you’re at least eighteen. (In most States a boy can’t marry without his parents’ consent until he’s twenty-one.)
Your parents are legally responsible for what you do. Let’s say that you drive a car down the street and cause an accident. The law would make them foot the bill. So, whether they like it or not, they must concern themselves with your welfare.
Your parents probably know more about what’s going on than you imagine. They can’t help reading about “juvenile delinquents,” about teenage pregnancies and marriages, about young drivers involved in car crashes, about sex influences that modern youngsters are exposed to almost everywhere they turn—movies, television programs, books, magazines, and so on.
Don’t think your parents lack confidence in you, either. They know from experience that wholesome boys and girls with the best intentions can often find themselves in situations which could cause great harm.
Two fathers of sixteen-year-old boys were talking. “When my son’s out at night, I worry about him,” the first said. “These modern kids don’t do what we did when we were their age.”
“I worry about my boy, too,” said the second father. “I worry that mine is doing what I did.”
In a humorous way, that story sizes up the fact that parents have plenty to worry about.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say that their worries aren’t justified. Nevertheless, they don’t worry for the fun of it. It’s not a hobby with them. They’re seriously interested in your welfare.
And although you may think that they often overdo it, deep in your heart you want them to set standards for you. You’d feel pretty low if you came home at 4:00 A.M., after being out on a date all night, and found that they didn’t care where you were or what you did.
You’d have an empty feeling if you brought home a report card filled with failing marks, and your parents didn’t lay down the law to you.
When high school boys and girls get together, they frankly admit they don’t have the will power, experience or judgment to make major decisions for themselves.
Dramatic proof of this occurred not long ago when a news commentator appeared before a meeting of students. He started by denouncing adults who “censor” youngsters’ reading matter. Thinking he was striking a popular note, he went on to say that high school students should be free to read anything and were wise enough to judge for themselves whether the material was harmful.
He couldn’t have struck a falser note. As soon as he sat down, the students stood up to tell him that they wanted adults to select their reading matter, because they realized what harm might result if they made the selections themselves.
Your parents must impose many standards upon you if they’re to do the job God gave them. They must set up regulations to make sure that you do your homework assignments and don’t “goof off” at school.
They’re morally obliged to protect you from influences they believe might harm your soul—to forbid you to go to places which may be occasions of sin and to associate with boys or girls who may be an evil influence.
They also must make certain that you obey God’s laws—attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, receive the sacraments regularly, fast and abstain on the days appointed, and obey all the other commandments.
They must also keep you from doing things which may injure your health. If you don’t get enough sleep or eat proper foods, they’re duty-bound to correct you. A vast field still remains in which parents can set the standards or not, as they see fit.
They can insist that you have proper table manners, come to meals properly dressed, sit up straight when you eat, and observe all the niceties of etiquette. Or they can let you slouch and eat with your fingers.
When you go out in the evening, they can insist that you wear neat, clean clothes, that your face is washed and hair combed. Or they can let you walk out in the slacks you’ve worn for the past two weeks, or with hands and face that haven’t been washed in days.
It’s in this vast area that conflicts often arise. There may be a wide gap between what your parents try to make you do and what you want to do. The problem is simple. You want to be treated like an adult who can make his own decisions. The solution also is simple. Just act like the grownup you want to be!
If your parents deny you all the freedom you think you deserve, maybe it’s because they’re used to telling you what to do. After all, they’ve done it ever since you were born.
It takes time for them to realize that you’re no longer a child and now can do many things for yourself. You might have to educate them by proving that you deserve more responsibilities. The best way is by handling those you already have with complete satisfaction. Then they’ll be glad to give you more.
They want you to be an independent, mature individual who can stand on his own feet. Parents are usually eager to have their children grow up. So if you want to be treated like a grownup, act like one.
If you regularly spend some time with God each day, you will find it easy to call upon Him when you need Him. Prayer lifts you above the sordid things of this world. It purifies your mind and strengthens your will. It keeps your soul seeking after God alone—the real purpose of life! ~Fr. Lovasik, Painting by Herbert Gustave Schmalz, 1856-1935
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Very very good reading…. Our oldest is about twelve, and I do hear even family say, just wait till you have a teenager who thinks they know everything and you are old……
But I wonder if that idea that concept actually come from the world, as in, it’s suggested to the youth so that they think that’s just how they should think?
But in families were they grow up taking with old and young alike, I don’t think that concept is as strong. And although the desire to fly the new wings is there, it is not a harsh cutting of the generations.