Obsessing Over Turning 18

This is going to be a quick post because I just have a bit of a bone to pick with the idea of turning 18 and being emancipated. The phrase, “well when you’re 18 you can do what you want,” is incredibly destructive to families. 
1) It implies that the rules you have been setting and values you’ve been trying to instill in your children all these years are in fact arbitrary and pointless. I really believe one of the biggest reasons children grow up and abandon the values they were brought up with are because the question “why” was never properly answered. For us religious folk, the question “why” should be easily summed up by deferring to a higher authority. Family values should be based on following the laws of God. Following God should not be rejected because it is part of family values. Do you get where I’m going here? 
When you tell your child that eventually there will be a magical day when they will move out and can suddenly do all the things their childish mind thinks are unfair or pointless, it reaffirms their belief that family values, and consequently God’s values, can be dismissed when they are old enough to leave the house. While that technically is true, and every one should have the freedom to make their own choices, it should not be the focus. Instead of saying “when you’re 18 you can do what you want,” the message should be, “Our house serves the Lord, and while you may want to do things differently when you’re older, God’s truths are always true and he holds every one accountable, no matter if they’re living with their parents or not.” And after all, this is the truth. To be a Christian means that you have an un-voidable relationship with Christ. You can’t be a Jonah and try to escape him.
2) “When you’re 18…” also places undue importance on the angst of teenage years. I always say that if I think there is one thing parents of teenagers do wrong, it is taking things personally (and I say this as a former teenager. Obviously I haven’t had the joy of parenting one yet). It is totally and completely normal for teenagers to question, push, and even hate the kind of life their parents have created. But this is not in any way shape or form about parents. It is about teenagers and them trying to find their own way. 
However, when we imply that the emotions they are feeling right now are reflective of them as a developed person, ie. that their normal age appropriate rebellion is not rebellion but an accurate picture of who they are as a person, we skew the way they view themselves within their family for the rest of their lives. The unfortunate other truth of being a teenager is that it really does shape your life. It is a terribly fraught time where parents need to, even more than before, stand firm in their values and household beliefs. As I said, teenagers are not actually rebelling against parents, they are simply trying to figure themselves out, and when parents compromise or imply that the kind of life they’ve been living is just something you do for your kids while they’re young, teenagers go “ah ha! I knew the adults were all in cahoots together to make us do these silly and arbitrary family traditions! Now that I’m an adult too, I’m smart enough to have figured it out!”
Because while it may seem questionable to a teenager, it will not seem questionable to a adult with a good deal more maturity and life experience. The point is, you don’t want to burn the bridge to reconciliation before your teen even gets a chance to reach it. Instead of setting them off on a road to self-discovery, give them the firm foundation they need to be the prodigal son. 
So stop emphasizing turning 18 as some day in which they become free from all family and moral expectation. After all, 18 is just a number and…lets be honest…a pretty small number. 

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