Sixteen to Nineteen-Year-Olds

Teaching Independence

             After all the hard work that you put into raising godly children, now is the time to reap some benefits of that work. Your older teenagers are still living at home, but we now must prepare them for eventually living on their own. Soon the time will come when they must leave Mom and Dad and cleave to their spouse (Genesis 2:24). After having them under your feet for nearly 20 years, it is hard to think about them being gone. It is also difficult for them. All they have known is life with their family. Therefore, in the later teenage years, we must get our children ready to live independently.

             The parent's role shifts from director of a child's life to an advisor. They still live at home and the parent is always available for guidance, but the child must now make his own decisions. And one of the hardest lessons to learn is when to ask for help. It is so tempting to jump right in and show the child what he must do. Nevertheless, he needs to learn how to handle mistakes when Mom and Dad are there to given him support and encouragement. If you don't give him the opportunity to fail, he will have a rough time adapting to independent living.

             Older teenagers should be encouraged to earn their own spending money. If you have been giving the child an allowance, forewarn them that when they reach the age of 16, you will no longer be supplying them spending cash. Gradually get them responsible for their expenses. For example, driving is a privilege, not a right. Tell the child he will be allowed to drive if he pays for the insurance increase, license fees, and the gas he uses in the family car. The insurance payment not only gives a child fiscal responsibility, but it also provides motivation to a child to keep his driving record clean. If he is a careless driver, he may soon find out that he can't afford to drive. Don't supply a teenager with his own car. If he wants his own set of wheels, he must pay for it himself. Only co-sign a teenager's car loan if he understands that if he misses a payment, you get to keep the car that month. If possible, encourage your child to pay for their first car in full without a loan. Saving in advance for large purchases is a good habit that few people are taught these days.

             Break your teenager into financial responsibility in their mid-teenage years by giving them a clothing allowance equivalent to what you have been spending on their clothing. From this allowance, they will be expected to buy their own clothing and toiletries. Set the allowance just high enough that they can afford decent clothes, but not so high that they can purchase expensive clothing items. If the child just has to have this one particular dress or these really important shoes, tell them to either save the money or earn the money on their own. A teenager should be responsible for all of his clothing purchases, even his socks and underwear. By the time a child has his own job, you should wean him from the clothing allowance. He should be totally responsible for all of his purchases. Suddenly, getting a new shirt for his birthday will be a valued gift.

             Attendance at college should also be treated as a privilege and not a right. Every parent should encourage their children to attend college, but a college degree is not essential to earn a living in this world. It makes things easier and gives you a higher starting position and salary, but a person can reach the same point with a lot of hard work instead of an education. The goal is to get the child to see the value of an education so they will appreciate it and put effort into obtaining their degree. Your family may decide to help pay for some costs of an education as an additional encouragement. For example, you may offer to pay the college fees, books, or room and board. However, I strongly suggest that you do not supply any spending money. The child earns money to pay for his expenses. There are multiple ways for a person to put themselves through college without incurring a large debt. School schedules allow a dedicated person to work part-time or even full-time while attending classes. Many schools have cooperative programs where a student alternates working at a company in his chosen field with semesters at college. A student can often earn enough money cooping to support themselves during the work semester and pay their college expenses during the following school semester. The armed services offer ROTC programs where they will pay a child's college expenses in exchange for a few years in the service. Check into grants and scholarships to decrease the costs of college. As a last resort, a child can also get a student loan to meet their college expenses. I generally discourage this last option, because it is easy to rack up a huge debt in a short while. It is hard enough starting out on your own. Most young people don't need to be worrying about making payments on a college loan.

             A college education is more valued when a person can translate the cost of an education into actual hours that must be worked. Too many people treat advanced education lightly. They end up not appreciating what they have and do not put enough effort into it. In addition, working for your own education reduces the amount of idle time a young person has and will tend to keep him out of trouble.

             Similarly, once a child is out of school, they should begin to pay rent while they are living at home. It seems awkward to charge your own child for the privilege of living with you. However, a child needs to be encouraged to become independent and some children will stay around longer than they should if they are given a free ride.

             The chores that an older teenager is given should also prepare him for independent living. An older child should have complete responsibility for his own laundry, especially before going off to college. Make him responsible for some meals. For example, make him prepare all his own breakfast and lunches, or require that he make dinner periodically. Send your older child to the store periodically to buy food for the family. Make sure he knows how to find bargains and how to use coupons. One way to encourage frugal shopping habits is to estimate how much it will cost you to buy your usual purchases and give this amount to your child. Tell him he can keep the change for any additional savings he comes up with.

             If an older teenager is going to live on his own, he will have to learn how to handle additional freedom, for freedom is accompanied by responsibility. Allow your child to set his own schedule and his own bedtimes. At first he may abuse the privilege, but a few blurry eyed days at school will soon cause him to value his sleep. When your child is out on a date, insist on knowing who they are going out with and where they plan to be in case an emergency comes up. Also insist on knowing when they plan to be home. Tell them that if they don't make it by their chosen time, you will assume they had a problem and you will come looking for them. Moms, if you are bold and really want to cure them of tardiness, show up on the doorstep of their friend's house in curlers and a housecoat over your street clothes. You may look like a sight, but your teenager will "die" having his mother seen in public in such a state. While he is turning beet-red, simply remind him that he didn't make his own appointment and you wanted to make sure he was all right. Saying this in front of his friends will drive the point home.

             Make sure that the opportunities for temptation are limited. Be blunt with your child if you think that a chosen destination is dangerous spiritually. Just because your teenager has the body of an adult doesn't mean he has the experiences of an adult in recognizing bad situations.

             Similarly, maintain a strict code of behavior on your children while they live with you. Insist that there will be no drinking, no drugs, no smoking, no foul language, no sexual play while they live under your roof. Severe violations of your house rules should result in a loss of home privilege. If they cannot restrain themselves while living in your home, then they can find their own place. Make sure they understand they are welcome to return when they repent of their wicked ways and they are willing to abide by your rules.

Build Me a Son, O Lord

         Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid. One who will be proud and unbending in defeat, but humble and gentle in victory.

              A son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

              Rear him, I pray, not in the paths of ease and comfort but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenges. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

              Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high. A son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men. One who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep. One who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

              And after all these are his, add I pray, enough of a sense of humor so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously; a touch of humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness; the open mind of true wisdom; the meekness of true strength.

              Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, I have not lived in vain.

General Douglas MacArthur


Age Appropriate Tasks

Below are some suggested tasks that would be appropriate to begin introducing you child to doing. Every child will not be able all these tasks at this age. Some judgment is required on your part as to when your child is mature enough to handle these particular chores.

  • Able to remove more difficult spots from clothing
  • Hem clothing
  • Iron clothing
  • Take and pickup dry cleaning
  • Change a belt on the vacuum cleaner
  • Put together funiture, bicycles
  • Arrange for a car to be repaired
  • Wash windows
  • Unstop a drain
  • Install a lock
  • Repair an electrical cord
  • Replace washers in faucets
  • Use caulking
  • Cook an entire meal
  • Defrost and clean a freezer
  • Plan and shop for groceries
  • Use a checkbook
  • Check fluids in car
  • Change a flat tire, fill tires low on air
  • Pump gas into a car
  • Change furnace filters
  • Repair major wall damage
  • Paint a room
  • Shop for insurance
  • Apply for college and scholarships

Your Questions:


How do you prevent teenagers from having pre-marital sex?

ANSWER

"We have a little sister, and she has no breasts; what shall we do for our sister on the day when she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver; but if she is a door, we will barricade her with planks of cedar."

"I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers; then I became in his eyes as one who finds peace. Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he entrusted the vineyard to caretakers. Each one was to bring a thousand shekels of silver for its fruit. My very own vineyard is at my disposal; the thousand shekels are for you, Solomon, and two hundred are for those who take care of its fruit."

Song of Solomon 8:8-12

The book titled "The Song of Solomon" deals with romantic love between Solomon and a woman he marries. It is an interesting book because it is told from the woman's point of view. The last chapter deals with the happy love of an older couple now long married. People approach the couple to ask questions about how they managed to gain such a love. In the verses quoted above, they want to know how they will be able ensure that their younger sister gains a happy marriage. They are thinking ahead, knowing that such plans cannot be carried out at the last minute and succeed. So even though she has not yet reached puberty, they have laid out two courses of action. If she is resistent to the advances of men and doesn't allow men to get too close, then they will aid her in making her attractive. But if she is attracted to men and easily lets them into her life, then they will protect her by making it harder for her to have access to men.

Solomon's wife comments that personally she was a girl of strong will-power. She guarded herself well until she found her husband, whom she met in a vineyard. She knew that her body (her vineyard) was at her own disposal. Her appreciation was most for her husband, but she also appreciated those who watched over her as she grew up.

In Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2002, 34(4), a study by Renata Forste and David Haas divided survey information from teenage males into two categories: those not expecting to have sex in the next year and those expecting to have sex in the next year. Not surprisingly, those anticipating to have sex soon managed to do so. The 35% who didn't in this group cited a lack of opportunity as their primary hinderance.

While there are many contributing causes, one of the reasons teenagers are experimenting with sex at alarming rates is that parents give them plenty of opportunity. Ellen Goodman for the Boston Globe wrote an article back in 1997 noting a study that asked, "What time of day do teenage girls get pregnant?" The number one answer was mid-afternoon (between 3 and 6 p.m.). This is the primary time that most teenagers are unsupervised. In our culture, both parents are likely to be working and once their children reach their teenage years we feel sure that they are old enough to fend for themselves for a few hours until the parents get home. Sexual urges are strong and teenagers, while strongly aware of the desire for sex, have no experience in controlling the desire. Put a teenage boy and girl alone in a house with little to do and what else would you expect to happen? In an article published in Pediatrics 110(6):66, titled "When and Where Do Youths Have Sex? The Potential Role of Adult Supervision," 91% of those who were having sex said their last intercourse took place in a home setting (37% in their own home, 43% in their partner's home, and 12% in a friend's home).

Another major problem is what parents allow their children to watch. Numerous studies show that casual sex is depicted, talked about, or hinted at during prime-time viewing hours on more and more stations. With the advent of cable and satellite television, teenagers are feed a steady diet of shows that contain sexual intercourse between unmarried characters. Often the sexual interplay has nothing to do with the show, but it seems the movie makers feel obligate to have some sex somewhere in their films. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 67% of all prime-time shows contained sexual content, but only one in ten of those shows mentioned any possibility of risks in a sexual relation. In Pediatrics, 2004 114(3), another study concluded that "Watching sex on TV predicts and may hasten adolescent sexual initiation." Interestingly, this same study found that it wasn't the quantity of TV viewing, but simply the exposure to sexual content on TV that strongly predicted the likelihood of teenagers becoming sexually active.

In a survey done by EDK Associates of teenage girls who have had sex, 73% said they did so because their boyfriends pressured them into having intercourse. Again this is not surprising. Both boys and girls strongly experience a desire for sex, but boys face fewer risks of consequences than girls. Boys don't have to worry about getting pregnant. Interestingly, yet another study -- this one done by the Kaiser Family Foundation -- found that boys face a lot of pressure from other males to have sex. One in three boys said they felt pressured into having sex by their friends.

All of this supports the obvious facts: pre-marital sex is a sin of both expectation and opportunity. Prevention of pre-martial sex requires the same two avenues mentioned in Song of Solomon: personal commitment and monitoring.

Personal commitment requires both a love for God and knowledge of what needs to be avoided. When Joseph was a young man, he was sorely tempted by his master's wife to engage in sex. "Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And it came to pass after these things that his master's wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, "Lie with me." But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. "There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her. But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me." But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside" (Genesis 39:6-12). Despite being sold by his own brothers into slavery, living in a foreign country, and apparently abandoned by his family Joseph had the strength of character to resist the temptation to engage in sexual intercourse. Even though Joseph was in his late teens at this time, a time when male hormones are raging; being solicited repeatedly by a willing woman; and being caught in a house alone with that woman Joseph remain true to his nature. Notice too that he left his garment behind, which implies that not only did she have a grip on his clothing, but that she was in the process of removing them. I know far too many who would have surcombed to the tempation for far less reasons, yet Joseph managed not to give in to his body's desires. How? He saw it as a sin against his master and God. Joseph knew that God is always present. The world may never find out, but God would know. His commitment to God got him past the temptation.

Joseph also knew that what Potiphar's wife was asking of him was a sin. Too many parents shy away from embarrassing topics, such as sex, and as a result many teenagers only have vague ideas of what sex is, let alone why it is wrong to engage in sexual activity. There is material available on this website to help explain sex -- the good and the bad. See the list below to find the appropriate set for you.

Finally, as parents you must realize that your job is not finished until your children have moved out on their own. You need to monitor and or screen what your children watch. In my own case, we found TV so bad that we stopped watching it for the most part. The kids still watch cartoons at times and we might take in special events, but when we want to watch a movie, we rent one. We also have a large stock of videos that we built up over the years of movies we trust that the kids can watch at any time. Our entertainment system also contains a TV Guardian box that turns off the sound when bad words are being used, so we don't have to listen to even occassional bad language. Our family computer is in a public area and the screen is situated where anyone walking by can see what you are looking at over your shoulder. There is software available that will limit the number of bad sites a child can visit and it behooves a parent to once in a while look through the history of where a child has been on the Internet.

Teenagers should not have members of the opposite sex over without adult supervision;. that includes not going off to their rooms and closing the door. They should not be allowed to visit friends when their friends parents are not home. Make sure you have alternatives available so that they can always be where someone is watching them.

While this completely eliminate pre-marital sex? No. If a teenager is determined to have sex, he or she will find a way despite your best efforts. That is why monitoring needs to be combined with a commitment to wait until marriage for sex. Even then, we know that the temptation is powerful and not all young people will resist the Devil. But by doing what we can, the incidences of pre-marital sex will drop dramatically.

Resourses

Studies:

Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Boys
Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Girls
Preparation for a Lifetime (Pre-marriage material, useful for late teens and young adults)
The Greatest Love Song Written: A Study of the Song of Solomon
Raising Godly Children in a Wicked World

Articles:

A Look at Pornography
A Thing Which Ought Not to be Done
Modest Apparel
No Longer "Living In Sin"
Waiting for the Proper Time
What Keeps a Man Sexually Pure?
Why Sex Outside of Marriage is Wrong

Related Questions:

Boy - girl relationships don't affect studies do they?
Is anal or oral sex between a married couple a sin?
Is it okay for boys and girls to swim together?
Is masturbation unacceptable?
What is wrong with pre-marital sex?
What sexual acts should not be committed before marriage?
Will I be sinning if I have sex with my girlfriend?
Why are boy-girl relationships not advisable at a young age?
Why is sex a sin?


I've read your 'Answers' section and have a question of my own regarding spanking. My father is a devout Christian and shares your views on not sparing the rod.

I am nineteen now and am still given very sound spankings by my father. He uses a leather strap or small switch and often lays on a couple of dozen strokes for trivial offences, like swearing. The spankings are very painful. It is very uncomfortable to sit down for a long time after a hiding.

Is it right for someone of my age to be still spanked by Dad? As I write this, my bottom is still very sore from the thrashing he gave me this morning for misbehaving in church.
Is he being too stern with me?

ANSWER

As I read your letter, my thoughts went to my own children who are now older teens. It has been years since I have needed to spank any one of them. Not because I am reluctant to spank a teenager, but because they have learned the lessons of their childhood well. It has been a long while since any of them have done something deserving of a spanking. Look back over your letter and tell me, why is a young man at nineteen misbehaving in church? You write especially well for a nineteen-year-old, so I know you are well educated, but you state that at times you are behaving like a small boy half your age. Think about it what that implies. At nineteen you probably have been driving for three years. You could have joined the armed services and have been defending your nation for a year or more. I don't know what the laws are where you live, but in most states you could have been married for several years. Even though these things may not apply to you, what I'm trying to point out is that you're old enough to take on some very significant and serious challenges, yet you are getting in trouble for not controlling yourself. I wish we could have this talk face-to-face because I'm sure you would have tried interrupting a half-dozen times with "But what about Dad?" The simple answer is that I don't know if he is too severe or not. I am only getting one side of the story and I know there is a general tendency to dress up your story to present your side in the best light. If he would like to talk things over with me, I would be happy to address his concerns.

An example from your own letter will illustrate this. You stated that you were recently spanked for a "trivial offense" -- swearing. I'm left to wonder, trivial to whom? Whom did you curse? Why did you choose to use foul language? Did you know that under the Old Law, taking God's name in vain (using it as a curse word) could earn the offender a death penalty? Even cursing your parents was punishable by death: "For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him" (Leviticus 20:9). Compared to the harshness of the Old Law, your father's spankings are relatively mild.

But think about this for a moment: why was cursing considered a major offense back then, carrying a penalty equal to murder or adultery? The answer is not found in the words, but in the attitude represented by the words. A person with no respect for authority is a danger to society. "There is a generation that curses its father, and does not bless its mother. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness. There is a generation - oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, and whose fangs are like knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men" (Proverbs 30:11-14).

If your father is a decent man, he is trying to stop you from developing bad behaviors that will keep you out of heaven, that will cause harm in society, and that will harm you. No one likes to be punished. I can't say that I ever enjoyed the paddlings that my dad gave me in my youth. "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). I suspect that if you had your way, you would never have been spanked. But if you had your way, you would have grown up to be one of those devouring the weak in society.

However, let us just suppose that your dad has gone beyond the beyond the bounds of reasonableness; what can you do about the problem at nineteen? While you live under your parent's roof, eating their food, and using their money to go to school the most logical thing is to not do the things you know your parents disapprove. I know, easy to say but hard to do. But again, think about it. If you hadn't swore or misbehaved last Sunday in church, your dad wouldn't have had a reason to spank you. You can't control your dad, but you can control yourself -- so take away the reason for wanting to slap your bottom end.

If for some reason you don't want to do this, or if you think your dad would punish you even if you behaved well, then move out on your own. You're nineteen, more than old enough to sign a lease on an apartment and hold down a job to pay for it and your food and clothing. It will be rough because living always ends up costing you far more than you would expect, but then you would be truly independent. Then when you inappropriately swear, you can deal with a boss who fires you instead of a dad who spanks you. Then when you misbehave in church, the congregation will ask you to leave instead of your dad tanning your rear end. You see, things won't change all that much, but if you are ready for the responsibility, then it is time to enter the world of adulthood.


I have a sixteen-year-old boy who would just about spend all day in bed if I let him. He claims he needs twelve to fifteen hours of sleep each day, but I think something else is going on. Any advice?

ANSWER:

During a child's growth spurt, their bodies do need more sleep, but typically we are talking about a hour more per day than an adult, or a little over nine hours according to a study done by E.P. Bradley Hospital Sleep Research Laboratory. Teenagers sometimes appear to sleep half the day away because their internal clock shifts, making it hard for them to fall asleep in the evening, and then they sleep in later in the morning if given a chance to wake up on their own. Determine if your boy is actually sleeping twelve to fifteen hours or only appears to be sleeping that long because he is staying up into the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes this is the first warning sign that a parent gets that a son is getting involved in pornography or other deviant behaviors.

Twelve to fifteen hours on most days is excessive and indicates a problem. It could be simple laziness or it could be something more complex such as depression. Depression can be triggered by mental conditions, such gloom over recent events. Elijah is an example of this in I Kings 19. Depression can also be cause by medical problems, such as a gland not function properly. It can also be chemically induced, such as a by-product of a drug being abused.

If you have the least doubts, have your boy check over by a physician, letting the doctor know in advance what the problem is. Ask that a drug screening be included in the exam.

If there isn't a physical basis to the excessive sleep, then it is either mental depression or laziness. "Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger" (Proverbs 19:15). Fortunately, the solution to both the problems is the same: insisting that the person get up and get working. In Elijah's case, he was told that he had several duties to perform -- duties that took him from one end of Israel to another. They weren't simple "make-work" duties either, they had importance. It might take a bit of searching and creative thinking, but find something that your son would be willing to do, that is going to consume his time. If he doesn't have a job, insist that he start volunteer work somewhere -- if nothing else, the volunteer work will give him some work experience. In other words, give him a reason to get up in the morning, whether it is earning money or helping Mabel down the street paint her fence. Males especially have a strong built-in desire to be needed, so use it to your advantage.

The Scriptures warn about the lazy wanting excessive sleep:

"How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep - so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man" (Proverbs 6:9-11).

"Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread" (Proverbs 20:13).

It is a part of a parent's duty to teach their child not to be lazy. One day they are going to be on their own and they will need to motivate themselves to work even though they don't feel like it that day. You, as a parent, can help them establish this good habit while they are still young.


When should a teenager start buying his own toiletries?

ANSWER:

When a teenager has cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, shaving cream, etc. that he wants of a specific brand and desires to use exclusively, then it is time to start purchasing them on his own. For example, if he uses the same shampoo that most of the rest of the family uses, then there is no need for purchasing his own. However, if he has his own variety that he doesn't want his younger brother touching, then he needs to purchase his own.

If he is younger than sixteen give him an allowance from which he can purchase personal items, such as clothes and toiletries. Do not make the allowance so large that he can buy anything he wants, but try to keep it at the level that you would have normally spent on him anyway. If it is insufficient to buy his particular brand, oh well. Encourage him to find some odd jobs or perhaps select a brand that is not so expensive.

Once he reaches the age where he can work on his own, his personal expenses should be shifted from your pocket book to his. You may wish to supplement or make gift purchases, but he needs to learn to shoulder the day-to-day burdens.


My 20-year-old daughter is a liar. Her pattern of lying has been consistently punished. She knows that she will get caught and punished. From a young age she has been told that this is unacceptable behavior and the sin nature. She feels it is best to run the risk of getting caught. Her punishments have fit the crime. She seems to have no remorse for her action and the problems that it causes for the entire family. What should I do?

ANSWER:

I'm in a difficult spot with your question. It is rare for a person to be able to look at their own situation and accurately pin point where the trouble lies. After all, if such happens, the problem would be corrected. Hence, I'm left to reading between the lines -- trying to guess what was overlooked. You claim you have done everything right, but have gotten the wrong results. Since I trust that God's methods do work, I must assume the situation is not precisely as you describe it.

No liar "knows she will get caught and punished." The whole motivation behind lying is that the lie will either avoid or delay an unwanted consequence. Liars gamble on the fact that sometimes they can get away with a lie. You might have managed to punish the lies you caught, but the fact that the lies continue indicates that there have been lies which she has gotten away with using. These "successes" are just frequent enough to keep her hopes up that she will get away with the next lie.

Since you state that this has been going on from a young age until her current age of twenty, the habit of lying has become well ingrained into her character. The Bible doesn't actually speak of "a sin nature." That particular phrasing is used in the New International Version. The literally wording is "flesh," such as in Romans 7:25, meaning following after the ways of the world. The interpreters of the NIV see this as meaning that people can't help sinning because they inherit sin from Adam. However, Ezekiel 18 clearly states that people sin because they choose to do so, not because it was forced upon them. Yet, when sin is repeatedly done, it can become ingrained. As you indicate, she has become calloused to the sin of lying, which is a deep misfortune. As Paul warned, there are people "speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron" (I Timothy 4:2). Tell lies long enough and it no longer bothers the liar.

Most compulsive liars are involved in addictive sins, most often drugs and alcohol. The only way to maintain their habit is to lie -- not just to others, but also to themselves. Like the evil men Paul warned about, they "grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:13). Drug user tell themselves lies such as, "I can quit anytime I want," or "I don't have to use it, I just want to use it," or "I'm just going to use it one more time, then I'll stop." They tell lies to others to cover up their tracks and to avoid facing reality. Who wants to admit that a chemical complete controls their life? Even after a drug user stops, I have notice that many have a hard time stopping the lies. I have dealt with several ex-drug users who have to consciously work at telling the truth. Lying is their first impulse even when a lie is unnecessary.

The past cannot be undone. We can only deal with the present. Since she persists in lying and that lying is causing the family problems, the best solution for the moment is to give her a huge dose of reality. She is twenty -- more than old enough to live on her own. Find her an affordable apartment. Pay the first month or two's rent and move her out. Tell her bluntly, "Honey, we love you, but your lies and bad habits are disrupting the family. You're an adult, so it's time you live as one. Dad and I have paid the first month's rent. After that you are on your own. Utilities, insurance, college, food, and the like are now your responsibility as an adult. We hope you will straighten out your life one day, but until then call once in a while to let us know you're still alive."

What I'm advising is that you cut the apron strings and stop supporting her bad habits. It will be rough for her and seemingly near impossible for you. But she has made her choice. You are no longer in a position to rescue her. She will have to decide if being a Christian is worth changing her life to obtain it, and then she will have to implement those changes on her own. Give her sound advise when she asks, have her over for the holidays and family gatherings as the polite thing to do, but keep your pocket book closed. You gave her a start. What she does with the rest of her life must be her choice and the result of her own actions.


First, let me say that I'm glad I found your site and I appreciate your parenting advice.

I am a widower with two teenage sons - 17 going on 18 and 14 going on 15. I've to come to the point where I need to make some decisions about discipline in our household and would kindly appreciate your advice. I've been looking at various parenting sites, particularly those related to single father families, and also reading some parenting books. I came across your site while doing some reading about parenting and discipline. I like your advice to other parents and thought I'd seek some of my own.

I am a believer in spanking (as was my wife, although we both felt it was a father's duty - especially with sons). When my older son got to be 15 I made the decision to stop spanking and use grounding as the primary source of discipline. I did this for a number of reasons. First, because spanking seems to have become anathema in our society. I also felt that now that they were older that grounding may serve better. Growing up my father spanked me well into my late teens and I just thought I would try it differently.

Grounding seems to work for the most part, at least for my younger son. It did work for awhile for the older one too, but it seems to be waning in its usefulness. I also find that grounding can often end up punishing the whole family. Maybe I need my older son to drive his brother somewhere and can't because of the grounding. Or, it often seems like I constantly have to keep my eye on them to make sure they don't "cheat."

In the past I used spanking as the primary discipline. For disrespect, willful disobedience and when they got into those "attitude" places that some teens can. They were always carried out by me in a calm but stern manner. I tried not to do it when I was angry, but would calm down first then talk to the son in question about why he was being punished. It was almost a ritual in terms of how I felt it should be carried out. Depending on what they were being punished for it would last 5 to 10 minutes. Afterward, I always made sure they knew I loved them and that the punishment was over and "the slate was clean."

I just don't feel that grounding is producing the kind of results that it should. I am seriously considering going back to spanking and look for your guidance. Having stopped for so long is it appropriate to start again at their age? I know that you do advocate the spanking of teens, but it's been almost three years since I have done so. Would I go back to methods I've employed in the past,or would being across my lap be inappropriate for a 17 year old? Would a fairly firm stinging hand spanking be appropriate or would it be best to use a switch or strap?

I really feel that I made a mistake leaving spanking behind as the primary tool of discipline. And I believe that I will begin using it again; however, I would appreciate your advice on the subject.

ANSWER:

A common problem that many parents find themselves dealing with is deciding on an appropriate punishment for a misbehavior. Often we save ourselves mental effort by latching on to the first thing that appears to work and we stick with it, even in situations where it is not appropriate or where is has lost its effectiveness.

For example, taking away the car keys for a month because your son was out too late with the car would make perfect sense, but is it reasonable to use the same punishment because he refused to rake the leaves in the back yard? In the later, he continues to get his way. He may be stuck in his room, but at least he isn't pushing around dumb old leaves.

Then it is important to keep in mind the ultimate goal in parenting: you should be aiming to raise solid Christian men who will be able handle life on their own. Sometimes we focus on the struggle of getting our children to do what we think is right and forget to instruct them in making good decisions on their own. I suspect there is a problem in this area because punishment continues to be an issue in your household in the late teenage years. By this point in life they ought to be doing most things correctly and you giving them course corrections on rare occasions. As I am unable to talk to you and your boys directly, I can't say specifically what is missing, but I want you to be aware that a problem exists.

For older children who need punishment, I recommend the method God used on David, "So Gad came to David and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Choose for yourself, either three years of famine, or three months to be defeated by your foes with the sword of your enemies overtaking you, or else for three days the sword of the LORD - the plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.' Now consider what answer I should take back to Him who sent me." And David said to Gad, "I am in great distress. Please let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are very great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man." So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell." (I Chronicles 21:11-14). David's sin was numbering his people. He showed a lack of faith in God's care and protection by trying to determine in advance what were his military capabilities. Notice that all three punishments revolve around the count. All three would lower the population by an undetermined amount. Not only would David have less than he thought, he also will not know for sure what he had left. Second notice that there is a balance. A famine is a long drawn out process, but the deaths being handled would also be spread out over time. The war would be much shorter, but more severe. The three days of plague would be the shortest, but the most devastating on David and his people. None of the choices were appealing, but David had to choose. In making the choice, David had to exercise wisdom.

I suggest that when you must punish your sons, that you take the time to come up with two or three punishments that they can select. Make one long and mildly annoying and on the other end one that is short but severe. All should deal with the misbehavior at hand. For example, suppose your boy was very rude to an elderly gentleman in the neighborhood. You could offer him the choice of doing volunteer work in a nursing home for three months, doing lawn care for the gentleman for a month, giving a sincere apology to the gentleman while you and two of his best friends witnessed it. The first forces him to think about other people, the second forces him to help his "enemy," and the third has him do the proper thing, but with an element of embarrassment that teenagers find devastating. For a list of types of punishments available to a parent, see: Disciplining Children

Notice that I didn't include spanking in this case. That would be reserved for situations of defiance or violence. If your son refused to do his punishment (an act of defiance), then it is brought to the fore.

In regards to how to spank effectively, if it becomes necessary, the Bible speaks of the use of a rod (see Spanking for a list of verses) . A rod is a small branch from a tree or bush, or what we currently call a switch. It severely stings without causing lasting harm when applied to the buttocks. Generally less swats with a switch are needed than with a hand to get the same effect.


I have been struggling with the issue of discipline with our older two children. Traditionally, in our family, when a child reaches age twelve it is generally assumed that they are too old to be spanked and other punishments, such as grounding, are used. Our son is sixteen and beginning to show tremendous disrespect. He more or less laughs at me when I tell him he's grounded. I can occasionally withhold some privileges, which occasionally works for a short time, but all in all I feel his behavior has gotten way out of hand. I am a single mother of four children. My eldest son is taller than I am, so the option of turning him over my knee is no longer available, although I am convinced it would do him some good. Even the threat of a potential spanking would probably keep him in line. His behavior is rubbing off on my younger children, especially my fourteen year old daughter. I would like to curb his behavior as soon as possible. I think I would even like my daughter to know that spanking is still a threat in serious situations, such as the continued disrespect they have recently shown me. I have been searching Christian sites all over the Internet for advice on this matter. You are the first I have attempted to contact. Your site seems to provide a lot of healthy insight. Anyway, I was hoping you could advise me on my situation. Should I pursue having my older children spanked when necessary, particularly my son? There are a couple of family members and one of my son's church leaders that would probably be willing to do the job if I asked them. One of our church leaders has continuously asked us if we need anything and offered to help our family. Do you think it would be appropriate for me to run this issue by him? What do you recommend I do? Should I go as far as to having him spanked? Obviously I have a lot of questions and I feel I need some direction on this matter. Thank you in advance for your time and God bless.

ANSWER:

While being a single mother of older teenage boys is difficult, it is not impossible. It just requires more effort on your part to make up for the missing father in the family. Before going into details, let me say that gaining your son's respect is important to his future. His attitude toward women in general and toward his wife in particular is being shaped by his interactions with you. One of the reasons a father is important to a teenage boy is that the boy models how to treat women upon his father's example. Since he doesn't have a father in his life, recruit an uncle or a trusted man at church to help you with this task. It needs to be someone who is nearby, able and willing to spend time with the boy on at least a weekly basis. If you can find a man with sons about your own son's age, the gentleman can probably just add your son to the various activities that he does with his own boys.

As you realize, you need help in the enforcement of discipline. You don't want your son growing up thinking that because he is bigger than someone else, he can do as he pleases. It is a bad attitude that can quickly get him into trouble. In finding help, it would be best that the same man involved in role modeling for your son is also the one who helps with the discipline. If you get separate individuals, then there will be no balance in his relationship. One man would always be the bad guy and the other the good guy. It is better for your son to see that good behavior brings rewards and bad behavior brings punishment from the same person. You also need a person who holds the same philosophy in disciplining children as you do. The last thing you need is an argument with the boy's mentor about what is an appropriate punishment in this situation. In discussing your situation with this gentleman, you need to find out if he can be available quickly in an emergency situation. Though I pray that it never happens to you, I do know of cases when a boy becomes so wild that he lashes out physically. Yes, you can call the police in such a situation, but a man used to handling teenage boys can often diffuse the situation quickly if he is present. I have found that government officials tend to overreact in difficult situations because their primary goal is safety of society, not necessarily what is best for an individual boy.

There will be times when nothing seems to go right and you need time to regroup your emotions. However, having a powder keg in the form of a teenage boy makes that near impossible. What I find works well is to make arrangements in advance that when the situation occurs, the boy goes to live for a few days or even weeks with his mentor's family. This gives you the breathing space you need and the boy gets a stable role model who can give him more one-on-one attention for a short period of time.

Grounding is almost unenforceable for a single parent. Your child is home more than you are because you must work. No punishment is effective if it can't be monitored and enforced. In addition, you backed yourself into a corner because you have no alternative to use if he chooses not to abide by the grounding. First, read through the Scriptures that show the variety of punishments available to you as a parent (see the sermon Disciplining Children). Next, put on your thinking cap and be a bit more innovative. Select a punishment or two that is directed at the cause of his misbehavior. If you need ideas in this area, write to me about specific situations and I'll try to give you some ideas. Finally, since your son is at the age when he wants more independence, calmly tell him what he did wrong, why it was wrong, and give him a choice of punishments. If he selects a spanking because he wants to get it over with quickly, call up his mentor and make arrangements. Don't let him select "none of the above."

For certain situations, spanking will be the only practical punishment. I would suggest using it in cases of physical violence and willful defiance. By defiance, I mean situations where he is acting as if he just dares you to try and control his behavior. Spanking should also be used as the backup when he breaks the conditions of a punishment. In a very real sense, the refusal to be punish is an act of defiance. Again, make arrangements with his mentor. It is best to have the punishment given as close to the time of misbehavior as possible, though it is not critical with a teenager.

One trap to avoid is being inconsistent. I tried making an arrangement like the above with one single mother. However, she didn't always let me know when the boy need disciplining. About the only time she called was when she was totally fed up with him, so he learned to push her just far enough, but not too far. She was miserable, but she couldn't see that her inconsistency was behind her misery. Even if it is late at night, or it has been three days in a row, call for help when it is needed. The consistency will eventually wear your son's misbehavior down. There will be periods where it will flare back up, but chipping at the stone in a steady fashion will eventually bring him back into line. The difficult part is that since you let it get out of hand, it will require more effort and more time to bring him back to a properly disciplined life.

The hardest thing for you to do as a mother, is to handle your boy's misbehaviors in as calm of a fashion as possible. It is really tough for a woman because most women think in emotional terms. It is very easy, too easy, to get caught up in his emotional storms. Boys respond better to objective reasoning, even when they are at the moment in emotional chaos. To know there is an anchor to latch on to is a great relief to a teenage boy. Thus, when your emotions go wild, you will need to find yourself another outlet away from the kids. Even though he will not like being punished and will complain about it and try to rebel against it, deep down he knows he deserves it. He will appreciate that you were reasonable when he wasn't. Even if he doesn't express it, always keep in mind that you are molding a future citizen and Christian. That he doesn't like being shaped is of little consequence in the long run.

Response:

Thank you so much for your prompt and detailed response.  You can't imagine what a sense of relief it is to finally have someone to discuss this issue with who can understand my dilemma.  I am quite confident that I would like to find a capable authority figure for my son and I feel a strong sense of urgency.  He seems to be pushing his limits.  For instance, yesterday he was grounded and expected to come home immediately after school.  Not only did I not see him until dinner time, but he left the house in the evening thinking I wouldn't even notice. And that was after I extended his grounding for the rest of the week.  What I would have given to have had someone's assistance last night!  I can tell you he would have received the spanking of his life. I agree with your statement.  I think the ideal would be to have him spanked whenever he violates a grounding or disrespects me the way he did last night.  I would like him to know beforehand what the consequences will be, but I feel at a loss considering I haven't gotten anyone lined up yet.  The last thing I want is to threaten him with a spanking and not be able to follow through with it.

Earlier today I made a couple of calls: one to my sister and one to the mother of one of his friends, who happens to be where he was yesterday.  I discussed the issue with my sister.  She agreed with me for the most part and felt confident that she could have her husband help me.  The problem I have is he won't be around consistently considering they live hours away.  Under the current circumstances I will probably use his help if it's available and work toward a better arrangement.  I would appreciate your thoughts.  I didn't feel as comfortable going into much detail in my other discussion but I did mention my intentions and hopefully that discussion will turn something up.  She shared with me some helpful advice and also seemed supportive.  They have a very traditional family and well behaved kids. At least she knows to send my son home if he shows up again this week and I did give them permission to administer a spanking if ever necessary (for what it was worth).

I feel like I'm making great headway, but I hope I'm not being too anxious.  I also wonder your opinion on my approach.  In your work have there been many seeking your help in matters such as this?  I can't help but wish that you, or a leader like you, lived close to us.  I appreciate your help and hope this isn't a menace to your busy schedule.

ANSWER:

Your concern about getting your responses in place first and then discussing them with your son is legitimate. You don't want him to further develop the habit of ignoring your instructions. Enough has occurred already since he has been ignoring your attempts to ground him.

You could use your sister's home as the place to send your son when he gets to be too much of a handful, if your brother-in-law believes he can handle him. The prime difficulty is that the distance would interfere with schooling, unless you can also make additional arrangements. However, it is worth considering. You are correct that it won't do for day-to-day problems.

You did make an important step. You incorporated the help of those you know. You may not be able to count on them, but often times people who would otherwise be helpful are unable to do so because they don't know what is happening. Even the small act of sending your boy home during the week of grounding is going to interfere with his plans and demonstrate that adults will work in concert. I wouldn't suggest calling each time he is grounded, but each time you find out where he has gone, calling that place and politely asking that they either send him back home or notify you so you can pick him up would be a step in the right direction.

Now, since at the moment (soon to remedied, we hope) grounding is not working and spanking is not available, let's consider something that can be done. For example, how is he traveling to his friends' homes during his grounding? If he has a driver's license, you can confiscate it during the time of the grounding. If he has a bicycle, find someone willing to store it for you during his grounding. Make leaving home as inconvenient as possible without physically trying to keep him there. If he is getting an allowance, drop that during the grounding. There is no reason to fund his adventures. If he still doesn't get the message, start removing privileges from his room and your home. Put the video game system, the television, the phone extension in his room, and the like into storage where he has no access -- preferably at someone else's place. Do this while he is away, so that there is no direct confrontation. He will be upset when he gets back, but simply sigh and say you're sorry that he chose to make his grounding more difficult. Let him know that they will return after the end of the grounding, which was extended a small amount because he left.

Don't leave groundings or confiscations open ended. For many reasons teenage boys have a hard time dealing with vagueness. Always give him a set period of time. Expect to be greeted with an emotional storm when he finds his things missing, but resolve to be calm, pleasant, but no nonsense in response. "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21). Don't take his remarks personally. He broke rules that have set consequences. The problem is his, not yours.

I doubt you will reach this point, but in case he is particularly stubborn, start eliminating the frills in his room. While he might think that they belong to him, the reality is that you are responsible for food, shelter, and clothing. The rest are privileges that can be revoked. If needed, you can remove knickknacks, posters, toys, and whatever else you deem necessary. In an extreme case he could end up with a mattress to sleep on, a box to store his folded clothes, and a few items hanging in the closet. It shouldn't get close to this point, but I want you to realize the possibilities open to you. It won't take long before he is going wonder "Should I go to Fred's house and risk losing something else or stay home?"

Now, let's plan for extreme contingencies. If during this time your son ever physically strikes or threatens you, immediately call the police. As I mentioned before, I don't like involving them if it can be avoided. Their goals are different than your own. However, your safety must come first. You have other children to consider. If they request permission to remove your son from your home on a temporary basis, you can give your son the choice of going to your sister's home for a period of time or going with the police. Most offices will take him for a few days for psychological evaluations. Once this can of worms is opened, you will need to follow it through to the end. Do not rescue him. Just remember that it was his choices that led to this moment, not yours.

Thank you for the kind words. You're not the first that has told me that they wished I was nearby. However, we each do what we can and accept the fact that we are limited beings.

Response:

I again want to express how much your words of advice are appreciated and how much help they have been to me.  The timing for them couldn't be better.  I sense a sincere concern for our family's well being and I believe our world could use more people like you.  Thank you.

Anyway, I had another talk with my sister yesterday.  She discussed this issue with her husband the evening prior and found that he is more than willing to help, and I would add, capable of doing the job.  I haven't decided exactly how to follow through with taking him up on his generous offer, but I'll have to say, I felt a huge sense of relief and comfort when I got the news.  My overall concern is the well-being of my children and particularly my son's. 

What I have in mind is to schedule a meeting involving my son, my sister, her husband, and me. I'm considering having my older daughter present as well. I want her to know that she is subject to the same treatment if her behavior doesn't improve.  The topic will obviously be my son's recent behavior.  I would like my son to be involved in the discussion. I would like him to explain why he has been behaving the way he has and why he just left on Monday despite his being grounded.  I want to explain that from now on this behavior will not be tolerated and that since grounding isn't doing the trick, then we're going to try a spanking.  My thinking is that he will resist even being in the meeting. I know he won't be comfortable with discussing his punishment in front of everyone like this, but I want him to know how serious I am.  If he tries to leave or act out during the meeting I will have him spanked then and there and the meeting will continue afterward. I do want the meeting to result in him being spanked.  I have thought it through and I consider that to be the best option.  I wanted to take care of this issue today considering that my sister's family will be with us for a few more days.  This will help me monitor his behavior and determine if any more spankings are necessary while I know I have the help.

I guess I am telling you all this in hope that I have your support and that I am making the right decision and that I'm covering any necessary concerns.  As far as follow up after my sister leaves,  I will continue to look for another mentor for my son.  Hopefully spankings won't be needed too often and that the threat of knowing one is available will be enough most of the time.  If things get way out of hand I can have one of our close neighbors pay us a visit and and at least mediate the situation. Hopefully I'll hear back from you, especially if you feel I'm making any mistakes or rash judgments.

ANSWER:

I do have a few concerns, but by the time you receive this, the meeting will already have been conducted. I hope there were improvements made, but my experience is that it will be too soon to tell.

First, you're approaching laying down the law with your son in the wrong manner. Boys rarely do well explaining the reasons for their actions. They are not "wired" for verbal discussion like girls and in their late-teenage years few boys think through their actions. Things are done impulsively with little thought given as to why. Your brother-in-law can confirm this as he thinks back to his own teenage years. Thus, I would give high odds that the group counseling session fell flat because he was "uncooperative."

A better approach with a boy is to tell him what recent actions he did that were wrong and why they are wrong. It might lead to a discussion about the ethics of certain choices, but more likely it will earn a heavy glare. You then layout your future expectations and what the consequences will be. Again you may get a protest that may open the way for discussion, but more likely he won't believe you until it actually happens.

Unfortunately, since your brother-in-law will be delivering the consequences on the short-term, any improvement in behavior is likely also to be short-term. After all, children aren't dumb. He will know that his uncle isn't going to be in the area next week, so he will decide to lay low for a while and then continue as he had before.

I know you strongly want a solution to your problem, but there won't be any quick fixes. It is going to take time and effort. Because the stronger measures are not practically available to you, you need to focus on what you can do instead of hanging your hopes on things that you won't be able to do. There are several disciplinary measures available to you. They might not work as quickly as spanking, but they can improve the situation over time.

Response:

I received your message after the fact.  In fact with things so busy I didn't read it until yesterday.  You are right about him not being cooperative with the idea of having a meeting.  I simply mentioned the meeting as we were preparing dinner and he immediately balked about it and refused to meet with us.  With all the stress of getting things ready I bit my tongue and ignored his reaction while letting it really bother me.  There were a couple of times I almost just had him taken out and punished, but I really wanted his spanking, at least to some degree, to be a result of his breaking the rules of his grounding.  Later that evening I took my brother-in-law aside and we discussed what would be our best option.  I gave him permission to spank anytime he felt it necessary. (I really hope I didn't make any mistakes.)  We decided that we would tell him when it was time to meet and if he resisted, then a spanking would result and the meeting would immediately follow (which is more or less what happened).  The meeting ended up being with just my brother-in-law, my son, and me.  I figured things were too out of hand to involve anyone else.  When it was time, I asked him to join us, he refused at first until his uncle asked him if he needed to be carried in.  Finally we got together in my room and as soon as we addressed his behavior he attempted to storm out, which immediately resulted in a thorough spanking, after which the meeting was finished.  I laid down some rules and let him know that consequences now would involve spankings when necessary.  He did not like the idea and stated that he's way too old.  My response was as long as he acts too old then spankings won't be necessary, but until then these are the rules.  My brother-in-law told him that he would drive out anytime necessary, even in the middle of the night.  Judging by my son's reaction, he took him seriously.

These last few days have been humbling for my son and even for me.  I feel bad that it came to spanking, but I really feel it was the right choice.  For what it's worth, his behavior is better, he's finishing off his extended grounding, and hasn't left once.  I am praying that things will continue to improve.  I am so thankful for you and your site.  I know I would still be butting heads with my son if it weren't for the reassurance.  I'm sure you have helped many people in such dire situations and may you be blessed for it.  Anything you might suggest at this point would be appreciated. I know the battle is not over, but I feel some real headway has been made.  I love my children dearly and I only want what is best for them and I hope we see long term improvement, all though, as you said, it probably is too soon to tell.

ANSWER:

I hope things are continuing to go well between you and your son. You asked for additional suggestions, but it would be too difficult for me to give specific help without direct knowledge of your situation. Write any time you need to do so. Life is filled with ups and downs, so you can expect improvements and setbacks. The main key is focusing on the long term goal. Be consistent and dispassionate as you can. Remember that his behavior is the result of his choices, thus the consequences are his choice as well.


I am writing for advice on my son who is 18.  He went away to college which my wife and I help pay for, in addition to a scholarship he obtained at the Christian college.  He finished up this semester but failed two classes.  He has a chance to earn the credits back if he goes to the winter classes in which we can help pay for him to earn his scholarship back.   He has to have a certain amount of credits earned in order to keep the scholarship. Having the scholarship helps because it is less expensive on my family.

The problem is that he lied to us around Thanksgiving and said everything was fine.  Then he denied everything after coming home for the Christmas break this week.  My wife and I received the notice from the school and the option of earning credits back if he were to return in the winter semester.  I confronted my son and he told us that he just was goofing off and didn't apply himself -- including missing classes.  He lied to us and failed college so in my mind this requires a severe spanking.  My wife and I want to make sure the seriousness sinks in as we have two other children at home who will eventually be going off to college.

My other question is do you think we should help him with the winter semester?

We have taken the car away from him and I told we would address this once we decided how to handle it.

ANSWER:

I don't believe spanking is the best answer to your situation, except possibly in addressing his lies concerning his status at school. Your son has told you what the problem is: he goofed off. Thus, he doesn't see the need for a college education and is expecting a free ride. It is time your son quickly face the reality of life and grow up.

Let him know that you want him to get a college education, but such an education is a privilege and not a right. Let him know that if he loses the scholarship, he also loses your financial support. The cost of the winter semester is on his shoulders. You already paid for his classes this fall and he wasn't a good steward with the funds. Thus he must bear the financial responsibility of his mistakes.

If he decides to drop out of college, tell him that you are sorry about his choice, but now that his education is done it is time for him to assume full responsibility for his own life. Help him locate a reasonable and affordable apartment. You might want to consider paying the first one or two month's rent. Move his things out, shake his hand, and say "God be with you." He will very quickly learn that living on his own is expensive and requires a lot of hard work. Don't let him whine to you about the difficulties in his life. Tell him this was the life he chose; he needs to learn to be content with it. Don't bail him out. The lessons he is learning are critical for the remainder of his life.

If he wants to move back home or remain at home, tell him that he is welcomed to live at home so long as he is in college. However, since he lost the scholarship, you will only help pay the portion you were paying before; the rest will have to come out of his own pocket.

You mentioned taking a car away from him. I also look at driving as a privilege. We told our children that we want them to drive, but they will assume the cost of driving. Each has paid for their licenses and they pay for the increase in our automobile insurance. They are allowed to borrow the family's car, but if they want their own, they have to purchase it. In this way they have financial incentive to keep a good driving record and to maintain their automobiles.

Look at it this way: Your children must learn to live on their own. You can't be rescuing them from their failures while they are in their thirties. Give them the opportunities to stand on their own two feet. Only when they have earned their place in life can they feel good about their accomplishments. For further information, read through the lessons "An Industrious Worker" and "It Takes Effort."


My being too controlling on the kids is generally directed towards my eldest. He is a great child: very respectful, wins awards for citizenship, and all the teachers adore him and praise him. My problem is I snap at him for any thing. Instead of being able to let it roll off, I have to put him down. I do it jokingly, but we all know there is some truth in every joke and he is no exception. I, for an unexplainable reason, didn`t attend his football games this year, always making up some lame excuse. I just think I have to be domineering to my family because of my my own personal insecurities.

ANSWER:

It sounds to me more like you are jealous of your eldest son's success, especially since you focus on putting him down, but not your other children. Jealousy is a bad thing when you are trying to hold on to something that doesn't belong to you. Envy and jealousy is often the root cause of contentions between people. "For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults" (II Corinthians 12:20). Or as James puts it, "For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James 3:16-17).

Your boy is going to grow up. You put him on the right track. He is making great strides and he might exceed your own accomplishments in life. That means you did a good job in raising him. You are not in competition with your son. You're the guide to help him find his way in life so that he can succeed in being a godly man.

Now, as a parent, we know that teenagers will frequently get an inaccurate view of themselves. As they mature into adulthood they suddenly think that they can do anything and everything better than any other adult. At times we have to give them a reality check. It is during the teenage years that kids gain the ability to understand subtle humor. Often they toss out sly remarks and biting sarcasm to prove their cleverness. I love turning the tables on them, and my favorite lines are the ones where the teen doesn't realize he was insulted until two or three statements later. Yet for all of that, each knows that I love them dearly. I rarely engage them unless they start it (mostly because one of these days I know I'm going to lose these little matches).

What you need to do is re-focus on your purpose as a parent. Your success as a parent is measured in the success of your children to become godly men and women. It is your job to give them the moral foundation from which to build a life upon. In talking to women, Paul said, "Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control" (I Timothy 2:15). I believe the same basic principle applies to men as well. Our job is to teach others the gospel and when we do so, we save ourselves (Ezekiel 3:17-21). Especially notice the last verse: "Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul" (Ezekiel 3:21). It doesn't solely apply to people outside the church, it applies to a man's own family as well. That is why in listing the qualification of elders (those who lead a congregation), one qualification is "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)" (I Timothy 3:4-5). And to Titus Paul said that these men must have "faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (Titus 1:6).

Focus on the goal, not on the moment.


I have heard varying studies on the amount of sleep that kids, and even adults, need to function in the day.  My two remaining children are NOT morning people, unless there is something they really want to do!  I really think they may need more sleep. In contemplating how to make this year go more smoothly, I have come to the conclusion that our mornings need to be less stressful.  I would love to hear any input on how much sleep kids need.  I have a 10 year old daughter and a 17-1/2 year old son who are still at home.  When we are on a break my daughter will sleep till 11:00 a.m. or so in the morning, if I don't wake her up.  This would be about 11 hours or more of sleep since we do not go to bed early during breaks usually.  She has slept late from day one.  She would scare me half to death when she was an infant because she slept so late.  Do you all think she is just a person who needs a lot of sleep?  It seems like she is still "grumpy" even if she does sleep in.  Just not a morning person or does she need an attitude adjustment?  My son is hard to get up also.  He will get up but move to the couch and fall asleep again.  Seems like the majority of my morning is spent saying "Get up!"

From a sister in Christ:

Thoughts of a mean mom:

  1. Individuals have different needs for amounts of sleep, night owl/lark tendencies, and periods of peak/low energy.  That’s ok.
  2. That said, individuals must operate in the 9-5-ish world.
  3. Therefore, individuals must adapt.
  4. Parents should determine the time in the morning when family members need to be ready to begin whatever the day brings – attending church services, piano lessons, support group activities, starting schoolwork/housework, attendance at family devotions, etc.
  5. Parents of younger children should “count back” to figure out an appropriate rising time for each child based on the above.
  6. Children who are able to tell time and set an alarm clock are responsible for getting themselves up at their rising time.  Parents can help strategize with their children to plan ways to help them accomplish this responsibility – going to sleep early enough at night, placing the alarm clock across the room, developing a getting-up routine, etc.
  7. Children who act irresponsibly about getting up suffer consequences.

At our house, during the school year, we say everyone must be “up and cheerful” at 7 a.m.  Everyone is to be downstairs for breakfast by 7:30 a.m. with clothes on his body and room tidied.  Those who aren’t in the kitchen by 7:30 a.m. miss breakfast. Most days, we have devotions while we eat breakfast and everyone is expected to be present for that (not Dad – he’s at work).  We determined this getting-up time years ago because most of the time if we have to go somewhere we leave around 9 a.m.  This gives us 2 hours to get up, clean up, eat, and do a few daily things like chores and piano practice.  One time a week we have piano lessons at 8 a.m., so this getting-up time still works for that, though we are a little rushed.  In the summer, most days the kids can sleep til 8 a.m. and we just shift breakfast to 8:30 a.m. and so on.

Of our three children, one is a night owl, one is a lark who now in his teen years (at the peak of his sleeping ability, Garrison Keillor says) doesn’t get up at 6 a.m. as much as he used to naturally do, and one was a child who used to ask for his nap and never fusses about his 9 p.m. bedtime.  At varying times, and for reasons beyond getting-up issues, I’m sure, they probably wish they lived in a different family, so there’s my caveat to all the above. 

ANSWER:

Each individual's need for sleep varies greatly, but on average, a child needs about 9 hours of sleep and an adult needs 8 hours and 20 minutes. During the teenage years, particularly when growth is occurring, the average child needs about 60 minutes more sleep than an adult. However, it is also during the teenage years that commitments and obligations rise making available sleep time less. Typically this leads to the infamous "crash" time on the weekends or some other day when there is no commitments. The body attempts to catch up on some of its deprived sleep.

In recent years, several studies learned that teenager's internal clocks also shift -- as if they are experiencing jet lag while staying in the same time zone. They can go to bed at the usual time, but they just can't fall asleep. Thus they tend to drift toward staying up later, but of course they still need the extra sleep which means they wake later as well. I remember it happening to me when I was in high school and college and I see the same thing happening with my own boys. When they were young they were up at the crack of dawn (literally). At around 17 they have a hard time winding down at 11 p.m. which translates to getting up about 9 a.m.

Personally, I rather have my boys well rested, so we nudge the schedule a bit, trying to keep the late hours down, but we don't actively fight it since I know it will wear off in a few years. However, you can use the same tactics used for overcoming jet lag to get an internal clock readjusted. The only thing to keep in mind is that for several years it will continue to drift and you will have to continue to make adjustments.

How much sleep does your child need? Well, take about two weeks when there is nothing particular to do and let the child sleep "until." The first several days will be time to catch up on lost hours, but after several days, start noting when he goes to sleep (not when he heads to his room) and when he gets up. Shortly you should see a pattern of approximately the same number of hours.

If the problem is time shift, have the child go to bed at a time that gives them the number of hours they typically need and still get up at a reasonable time. At first he won't be able to get to sleep. At the time to get up, open the shades, turn on the lights, tell him to get up, but let him get out on their own. It will take a few weeks, but you will notice a gradual shift.

Finally, if your child normally sleeps, say 9 hours, but suddenly wants to stay in bed 11, 12 or more hours for a large number of days, this is usually a sign of depression. Start looking for a cause. Don't ignore the signs.


I have a serious problem with my oldest son who is 17. My wife and I have have raised him in church and he attends a Christian school. This past semester, he lead us to believe he was doing all right in school. I received his report card and he has two failing grades. My wife and I thought we could trust him and he told us he was doing his homework and staying up with his studies. When I confronted him about he said he told me and his mom lies so he could hang out with friends during the semester. Also he told me he lied about where he was since we let him use the car. I told him this was not acceptable and that I had no choice but to take the car away and to give him a spanking for the lying. I haven't had a need to spank him in a year and he told me the spanking he last received never really bothered him. I used a belt the last time.

My question is how should I go about adminstering it to an older boy. I need for this chastening to drive home that his mom and I can't tolerate this behavior. My youngest son looks up to his brother and I want to make a point that this sin will not be put up with. Thanks,

ANSWER:

It certainly is disappointing to realize that some children rather have momentary pleasure instead of facing reality. I'm glad you and your wife decided to take a firm hand in correcting this behavior.

No matter how long the explanation, notes are always too short. There are often points which raise concerns with me that I would like to know more about because, as presented, there are some minor inconsistencies. For example, I can understand your son admitting that he hid his poor class work because he knew he would lose privileges once you found out. What doesn't fit is his admitting to other lies. Generally a liar looks to give a person what they want to hear. If he wasn't caught, there would be no motivation on his part to admit to additional lies, after all it would only lead to further punishment and he already had demonstrated the nature of a person who avoids hardship.

In regards to his punishment, my suggestion is:

  1. Your son loses his privilege to use a car for personal pleasure. He can still drive to run errands for you or his mom. He can still drive to scheduled events that is inconvenient for you or his mom to take him and that are too far to walk. This should remain in effect at least one semester. Personal use will be restored after he proves he can maintain his grades.
  2. He must get a job and it will be his responsibility to pay for the increased insurance because he is now driving. If he cannot pay, he cannot drive. The job will eliminate some of his excess spare time for getting into trouble, as well as teaching him some responsibility.
  3. Since the problem was hidden, he is now responsible for letting you know his current grades each month in all classes. Let him know that since he chose to lie, you would like to accept his word, but you won't be able to, so you will be double checking his reports with his teachers. Make sure you do so.
  4. Since he has admitted to lying about where he has been, he is now responsible for recording his daily schedule on a calendar. Last minute plans always happen, but he must call either you or his mom in advance of a change to let you know where he will be. Let him know that you want to trust him, but he has demonstrated himself to be untrustworthy. Therefore, you are giving him an opportunity to rebuild that trust. You will randomly check to make sure he is where he said he would be - calling the parents of his friends, just "dropping by," or whatever other means you need to verify his word.

The reason for the emphasis on verifying is that a habit of lying is often found at the surface of deeper problems. If this is merely a temporary lapse in character, your son will find these measures annoying, but he will soon demonstrate his reliability and will restore your faith in him. If there are deeper problems, he won't be able to maintain this through the school year. In this latter case, take it very seriously and try to discover if there are deeper problems, such as alcohol, drugs, or sexual relations that are being hidden under multiple layers of lies.

Since you have decided to also administer a spanking on top of the other punishments, see "A series of questions about spanking" for answers to most of your questions. The answer to the question "When is a child too old to spank?" gives a bit more details about administering a spanking to an older teen.

Older teens need to learn about the justice of administering punishments in a fair and reasonable way. After all, they are going to become parents in the near future. My usual recommendation is to offer the teen two choices: one that is long and drawn out, such as loss of the driving privilege for a period of time, and the other is short, but painful, such as a spanking. This also solves the problem of having the teen submit to a spanking because the choice is his. If you want to pursue this course, then offer the choice of losing personal driving privileges for a full year or losing it for a half of a year plus a spanking. In either case the privilege will only be restored if he proves he can maintain good grades.

If he choses the spanking to shorten the period, then take him to his room or another private area to administer it. If he balks at the last minute, simply plan in advance to wait him out. Don't get into a wrestling match or the like. If he isn't already stronger than you, he will soon be. Wait until he willingly bends over for the spanking. Since he didn't find the last spanking that difficult to take, he is likely to accept the spanking up until the swats start coming. Before starting, place your hand or forearm across the small of his back. This will make it more difficult for him to get up. If he does, again just wait him out to finish off the spanking. If he decides against the spanking or doesn't finish it, then the longer punishment is used.

REPLY:

Thank you for replying back. It so upsetting to his mom and me that Benjamin would do this. We have since enrolled him in summer school for one of the classes. We told him we expected him to get a part time job as you suggested to help pay for his classes. My wife liked your suggestions for the driving restrictions. We decided to follow them. I did set him down and asked him if there were more problems under the surface he needed help with. He told me he hung out with the wrong neighborhood friends who were a bad influence on him. We have since cut off all communication between them and him.

I also offered him the option of a spanking and 6 months of no driving privileges or no driving privileges until 9 months, in which he chose to be spanked.

ANSWER:

You're welcome. I hope things improve throug the rest of the year.