Today’s question comes from Cheri. She writes? “Suggestions for directing/redirecting teens and young adults who need to follow household rule and my family values at least while they are in my home? Swearing for example is not allowed in my home but is in the homes of many of the teens I work with. Note I am NOT talking about religious beliefs, personal lifestyle choices, political views etc. I’m referring to what, at least used to be, common courtesy in someone’s home or presence. Hope I’m making sense, if not you know where to find me!”
While I am not a parent, what I can do is share a few principles I’ve picked up along the way as a pastor. With that, let me share a few thoughts.
One of the core values I try to cultivate in my relationships is a sense of mutual respect. Whenever possible, I try to find ways to help those I work with realize all the things I do that show respect for their needs. In the case of teens and young adults, for instance, you might talk about how you try to listen to them; create safe space for them to hang out; provide things for them to nourish them (ranging from food to good conversation); etc.
Then I actually try to list things I have done that show respect. I start with talk of the other person’s needs since many folks in this country are motivated first and foremost by their self-interest.
Once I’ve talked about things that have been done that have benefited them, then I switch gears slowly by saying something like, “As you can see, I’ve worked hard to be aware of your needs – and taken action to accommodate your needs – I would like to take a minute and share with you a few of my core needs in order for me to feel respected.”
Once I’ve listed a few of my needs, then I try to get them involved by asking them, “What are a couple things you could do to meet my needs?”
After the individual has shared a few ideas, I will add those things they might have left out (i.e. no swearing).
Next I try to anticipate any objections they have by saying, “I know it might seem like the things I’m asking you to do are bigger – or perhaps harder – than the things you asked of me. I’m not sure if that feels true for you, but when I was your age and an adult asked things of me that seemed really hard, I thought that was totally unfair.”
“What I learned over the years,” I would add, “is that the parent/adult/pastor carry a bigger share of the responsibility for how things turn out. That’s why I need you to respect and go along with the things I’ve asked for.”
Then I note, “Each of the things I’ve asked for has been for good reason. If it doesn’t seem that way, and you want to talk about why I’m asking for something, I’m willing to do that. You may understand some of the reasons I give you. You may not understand other reasons. That’s okay. Whether or not you understand everything I ask for, however, in order for things to run smoothly in the family/church I need you to take my needs seriously and follow them – just like I will take your needs seriously.”
“If you are willing to do that,” I would add, “then we can live/work together. If not, we may have to seek out another situation.”
The things I try to consistently appeal to are: (1) our relationship must be based on a sense of mutual respect; (2) we must have an openness to talk and clarify our needs; and (3) we must acknowledge who has the greater degree of leadership and responsibility in the relationship.
These are just a couple thoughts I had as a jumping off point. What about you? What does Cheri’s question raise for you?