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Boundaries for Teens
Mom with a View

Boundaries for Teens

Disagree with principal? Don't undermine your child's respect for authority.


A school superintendent in Argyle, Texas wants to ban provocative dancing from school-sponsored events. And while many parents are supportive, a large contingent of them is up in arms. Be forewarned. This is not your mother's provocative dancing. Descriptions of this type of movement are unsuitable for a family-friendly publication.

So why would parents complain about the ban? Shouldn't they be happy that the school has some standards, and that the school is fighting their battles for them? (I usually think it's a win-win situation when the school says no so I don't have to be the bad guy!)

While I certainly believe that we should think carefully about where and when to take a stand with our teenagers, we do need to take one. These parents, who no doubt mean well and are proud to be sticking up for their children's rights, are actually harming them. Here are two (of the many) reasons why.

1. Destroying the authority of the school administration -- teachers, principals, superintendents -- has the unfortunate side effect of destroying all respect for authority. We should think carefully about where to enroll our children in school because, like it or not, these will be our children's authority figures. If our young ones and our teens learn (through our example) that they are not obligated to obey and respect their teachers, the lesson will not be limited to that particular, possibly inept or ill-advised, individual. It will be extrapolated and generalized. It will affect their ability to respect us, to respect future professors and employers, and ultimately to respect the Almighty.

We are not our children's friends. We are their role models.

Our children need tools for coping with and continuing to show respect to difficult teachers, frustrating employers and ‘arbitrary' rules. This is a much better and more crucial life lesson than encouraging protesting every unlooked for restriction. It may be briefly exciting but it's ultimately unproductive. We impede our children's character development and since the ultimate authority figure is God, we damage that relationship as well.

2. Children of all ages need boundaries. While obviously these boundaries need to be age-appropriate and change with the maturity level of the children, there is still a need for structure. There is always a need for standards and principles.

In the sixties, there were many parents who thought it was "cool" to smoke pot with their kids. Talk to their kids today and you will hear not only how humiliated they were (maybe we can discount that since all adolescents are embarrassed by their parents, whatever they do!), but how confusing it was. Talk to rowdy, partying teenagers and they'll tell you how upsetting it is for them to see their parents or teachers drunk (Purim revelers take note!). They want their parents to provide stability. They want their parents to set standards. They want their parents to provide a secure place to return to when they come home.

We are not our children's friends. We are their role models. Not all protests are equally noble (or ennobling) and righteous. Sometimes a parent's job is to say no. Frequently if we don't set the boundaries, no one will.

I think the parents in Argyle should be grateful they have a school superintendent who cares, who dares to risk offense in order to set some ground rules, in order to actually help these teenagers. He's trying to teach these kids to behave with a little more dignity, a little more respect -- for themselves and for each other. Just a little more like a soul than a body. I would think he deserves the parents' applause and gratitude. I'm confident that if he is successful, when those teens grow up and become parents themselves, they will thank him.

December 1, 2007

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 9

(9) mrb, December 6, 2007 3:30 PM

Respecting Kids/social progress

Education is a two way street. We can learn much from our children. Each generation brings new light and perspective into the world. Our attention and guidance is what's needed,not our overbearing authority. Much of the music and many of the dances we adults indroduced as teens were considered "provocative" and banned in places like Argyle,too. Social progress is gained through questioning and challenging authority. Our kids are testing everything. They want to feel part of the process. They want to be in the discussion. They want to expose our authority to their litmus test of fainess. Accept their input and compromise where we can. We will all grow from it.

(8) Anonymous, December 6, 2007 1:03 AM

Little bit of the truth

I absolutely agree with the author on the subject of giving kids boundries. Parents are just that: parents. Not friends. No child wants a father that colors on the walls with him, so why would these teens enjoy parents backing up their immodest and immorale behavior? Setting boundries, and keeping the authority in the hands of parents and teachers are important steps to a healthy childhood and life as a whole.

(7) Gabriel, December 5, 2007 1:51 PM

This is not the first time this has happened.

We live in an upscale community in South Orange County. The lovely City of Aliso Viejo. Just this past year, the principal of our high school banned all school dances for several months because the students were dressing and dancing provocatively. He made a very good public argument and in the end, parents supported him and agreed on a dress and behaviour code for the kids. If you want more info on this, email me.

(6) Anonymous, December 4, 2007 2:25 PM

Respect must be earned

I agree with the voicer who said that there are many people who abuse power. Just because someone is in a high position doesn't mean that we should automatically kowtow to whatever they say. Respect has to be earned, and there are too many people in positions of authority who are there by default, and not because of their competence. It is up to us as parents to gain the wisdom to know the difference. The last thing I would want my child to do is blindly follow a command just because someone above them said so. When I tell my child she cannot do something, I give her a reason. I never say "Because I said so."

(5) Elissa Grunwald, December 4, 2007 2:20 PM

I agree parent need to set the standards!

To Om. I agree that those in authority are not always right and we must teach our children to advocate for themselves. In this case there needs to be limits and PHYSICAL boundaries at School dances! Teachers are only human and many of them do not even understand or care to listen to their students. Zero's and detention without eye contact for everything these days without any chance for these kids to speak up for themselves. As a parents we teach our kids to respect adults but to respect themselves too. The author is referring to keeping the children from abusing themselves! We should always support our children and if we are luck have teachers that support the parents and forsee what can result from the lack of limitations in their futures. Some parent's ignore their children and do not have boundaries....The schools need to stick to their rules and suggest the parents throw their own party. EG

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