Dear Lauren,

I'm in grade 11 in high school and can't stand how my parents don't trust me and just give me the space I need. They always insist I let them know where I'm going and when I'll be home, and they give me a curfew. Can't they see I'm a responsible person who can make my own decisions? When will they stop treating me like a little kid? It's getting to the point that I don't even want to talk to them.

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

I will never forget Leah. Leah came to my house to babysit when my children were small. She was in 12th grade. I returned home from my outing, and Leah and I talked for about an hour. She was bright, inquisitive, and engaging, so the time flew and I didn’t realize how late it had gotten. I looked at my watch and exclaimed, “Oh no! Your parents will be worried sick! It’s 1 a.m.!”

Steel yourself for her response: bright, inquisitive, engaging Leah transformed into quiet, sad, withdrawn Leah, and she said, “No. They won’t be worried. They don’t care. They don’t even wait up to make sure I get home alright. They don’t care about me one bit.”

Your parents care about you. That’s why they give you a curfew and want to know whom you’ll be out with and where you’ll be.

Your parents care about you. They want you to be safe and sound. That’s why they give you a curfew, and that’s why they want to know whom you’ll be out with and where you guys will be.

I had a friend in high school whose parents were very liberal and let her do whatever she wanted and go wherever she wanted. Once, she went to a party given by a certain group of kids. My parents expressly forbade me to go to parties given by that group. They told me, “They do drugs there. It’s not safe.” My friend went – and was raped there. Her parents wanted to be so free and liberal and cool and permissive…and their daughter, my friend, got hurt.

When I was in high school, my parents gave me a curfew: 12:00 midnight. After midnight, they wanted me to be safe and sound at home. BUT – they let me bring home as many friends as I wanted to our house after midnight. We could continue our socializing – but in a safe, supervised place.

Why do teenagers need supervision? Honestly, teenaged brains are not quite yet fully developed. The centers for safety awareness and limits awareness are not yet completely developed. Would you allow 12-year-olds to be at a party where there was cocaine? Heroin? A gun-shooting range without adult supervision? Would you allow 12-year-olds to go by themselves to Alaska to hunt bears? No. Why? Because they are not yet mature enough to ferret out danger and to stay away from it. They don’t have adult brains yet.

True, of course, that there are plenty of adults who act immaturely and make bad decisions, even with their “completely developed” brains. However, the fact that some adults make bad decisions shouldn’t detract from the fact that at your young(er) age, it’s really nice to have someone looking out for you.

Instead of seeing your parents as obnoxious, realize that they’re trying to help you. Realize that they’re showing their love.

On the other hand, some parents actually are too controlling, and don’t allow their children to blossom and to develop themselves fully. It’s always really helpful to have a conversation with your parents about what your opinion is, and what their opinion is – and why. If you understand each other, you’ll deepen your relationship. If you want, you can have a third party, like a therapist, help you have that discussion.

Do you remember Lord of the Flies? Be grateful for adults in your life keeping order and civility. We, as people, don’t function well without a complex framework of rules and laws and consequences. We devolve into our worst selves, especially if we’re immature.

That’s the beauty of Torah; it gives us rules and laws to keep us safe because God is a loving parent. For example, there’s a law against having an intimate relationship with whomever we want, whenever we want. That way, we don’t hurt each other as much. God, our loving parent, said, “You have to make a commitment to only one person first, before an intimate relationship can begin.” Do you think God is unreasonable? I think he’s loving, and trying to protect us, to keep us safe and sound.

There’s a law against stealing. If God hadn’t made that law, people would rip off other people all the time. God, our loving parent, said, “You have to rein in your greed.” To keep us safe.

I was in a hotel last Shabbat, and I was sitting in the lobby when two non-Jewish couples came over to me really excitedly, holding out their cell phones, and said, “Can you take our picture?!” I said, “I’m so sorry, but it’s my Sabbath, and I can’t use anything electronic.” They looked at me blankly. Then one of the men set up his phone to camera mode as he extended it to me, and said, “Haha! She’s joking!!” I said, “No, no, I’m not joking. I’m really serious – for 25 hours every week I can’t use any phones or computers or anything like that. It’s actually really nice.” The women nodded their heads in agreement.

If I didn’t have a law about not using electronics on Shabbat, do you think I really wouldn’t check my emails? Do you think I really wouldn’t check my texts? No way. I’d be plugged in and online seven days a week, non-stop, for sure. But I have a loving Father who gave me loving limits because he cares about me.

Torah laws are our heavenly curfew, so none of us can say, “My Father doesn’t care about me.”

And you, my friend, have a real-world curfew, so you can say, “My parents care about me.”