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How Do I Show Authority In My Home Without Pushing My Teenager Away?

“But why!? Why can’t I?” “Well, because I don’t think you should?”
“But why?” “That’s just how I feel about it.”
“But how is that fair? Just because that’s how you feel doesn’t mean that it’s right for me!”
Does any of this sound familiar? 

As parents, sometimes we can think that we must always be right in order to maintain authority over our teenager, but God has given you the authority as a parent and your job is to exercise it with grace and truth. Now we know that Jesus is the perfect example of grace and truth, but as parents we can strive to model both in homes. Sometimes leading well in our homes gives the example of being without compromise. In areas where the Bible has clearly spoken we can also speak truth without apology. There are also going to be plenty of times where we lead by showing understanding and even the willingness to admit when are wrong. Which of these do you struggle with more as a parent? Do you tend to cave on something you should be rock solid on just because your teenager manipulates the situation? Do you tend to die on every hill and fail to admit when you need to think through something more carefully or have a change of heart?  Maybe the challenge is that you have a hard time telling the difference between the two.

Clearly there are times when we as parents need to draw a line in the sand and stand behind a firm “no”.  There are even times that we can and should do so without a full explanation of how we arrived at our response. Knowing when to have a firm and final “no” is an important part of parenting. However, there could be times we focus more on winning the argument than building a relationship with our teenager and teaching them to walk in wisdom through our example. When we bring in Scripture, we must also be careful to speak of God’s word as life giving and good rather than our teenager only hearing it used as a tool to win an argument.

Let me encourage you to always be willing to ask yourself two questions as you walk with your teen through these years. Am I willing to show and teach humility by changing my mind if my decision is wrong? Am I willing to stand strong on what I truly believe is right no matter how hard it is? Courage and vulnerability go hand in hand. Pray for wisdom that you would have both as you lead your teen with the God given authority assigned to you and the example you give to others in your house.

Sometimes we fear that engaging in further dialogue over our decision is a sign of weakness and undermines our authority. Besides, when your teenager is wrong don’t you expect them to admit it? Do you do the same? The best parents know that they can and will make mistakes, wrong choices, and even give bad advice on occasion. The difference in those moments is when we can admit we were wrong or did not have all the information we needed. As parents, we demonstrate godly authority alongside gracious humility. You are allowed to change your mind with your teenager. Remember, there is a big difference in changing your mind from thinking and talking through their request over time and changing your mind when they whine and nag.

Consider Proverbs 18:2 “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
It can be difficult to know where the boundary is when it comes to allowing our teenager to speak their mind. We want them to show respect for our authority as their parents, but remember this truth: rules without relationship lead to rebellion. When you have to answer the same questions and fight the same battle over and over it is just fine to give a “no” and let that be enough for them.  The next time they raise a new issue, question, or respectful challenge, give them a loving response that provides more than an answer. Give them one that points to a relationship.