From the brave heart of every teen we hear the cry “FREEDOM!”
In the United States, we just celebrated July 4th. AKA Independence Day. This is the day in history when the defiant young colonies declared like Popeye, “I had all I can stands and I can’t stands no more!” The settlers cast off the bonds of the tyranny that was the King of England. “Taxation without representation!” they cried. Let me translate, “That’s not fair.”
Parents of teens, can you hear the eye roll? Can you see that frustration rising and the anger that “its just not fair.” I want to stay home all summer and not have to clean the house, mow the lawn, walk the dog, pick up my room. It’s SUMMER! Summer is about FREEDOM!
Two realities many people are slow to admit are these:
- Freedom is not free, there is a price to be paid for it.
- Independence is not anarchy, there are limits, boundaries and responsibilities that come with it.
noun ~ 1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint:
Philosophy: the power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint from within or without; autonomy; self-determination.
Freedom is not our natural state. As humans, we our bound to needs, wants and desires. We NEED food and water to survive. Food and water do not keep us in ropes and chains, but they do keep us in need. Slaves if you will, to finding, acquiring, and internalizing them. In fact, it has been said a human can go 40 days without food, and seven days without water.
What we WANT in a new thing, a certain relationship, a specific opportunity can drive us to near insane behavior. “I want that car.” “I wish he/ she was my significant other.” “I like that pen.” Soon that want becomes a driving force. We are all too willing to risk what freedom we do have to get what we want. I will trade 50 hours a week for five years, to buy a new Mustang. I will break up with my current fling if I can have a chance with… I like this pen. I want a pen like this. I think I will just drop it in my bag after I use it.
Our DESIRES often enslave us in a similar way. Have you ever said to yourself: “Just one more handful of chips.” “One more level on this video game and I am going to bed.” “One more episode of this recorded show?” We quickly find that our desires have more sway over our freedom than we would like to admit. We can ‘choose’, but that does not mean we have the power to DO what we choose.
Freedom is often a delusion. What we perceive as freedom is actually only one step in the process. If you truly want to be free, you must make great choices in the small things to have freedom of choice in the big things. If you want that new Mustang, playing video games till 3am and working half asleep will not get you there. If you want to be an Olympic swimmer, that decision for ‘one more handful of chips’ is a decision you have FREEDOM to make, but it might cost you more time swimming laps to prepare. Was it really free?
2. freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.
True independence is a frightening concept. It means I am all alone. No one else is there to “influence, support, aid, or the like.” Sure, I have no one to control me but can I really thrive if there is no one to influence me? What if I have a tough choice to make? Who can I ask for help? Who will stand by me if the choice I made had horrible consequences? Who will help me if I am scared, hurt or in over my head?
Independence is certainly a goal for most people. It is a financial goal. It is a relational goal. It is an educational goal. I want my children to believe that they can do anything they set their mind to without fear of failure. I want my teens to be confident in the ability to seek after their dreams. I long for the day when they move out, pay their own bills, raise their kids and bring them home to visit. I will celebrate in extravagance when my offspring have stood tall and proud of their accomplishments, BUT, I want them to know what my mentor says, “If you can do it alone, the goal isn’t big enough. Nothing significant was ever accomplished by one person alone.” Dr.John C. Maxwell
Please encourage and educate your teens in this matter. Being free to make “BHAG” goals (big hairy audacious goals), will require sacrifice of smaller choices. Independence cannot be experienced in an isolated vacuum. Take control of your own lives. Take responsibility for your own needs, wants and desires. Surround yourself with others who want freedom and independence as well and are willing to pay the price to earn them.
J Loren Norris is a contributing expert to Parenting Teenagers Online.
Loren is a Conference Speaker focused on Excellent Life Leadership. Learn more at JLorenNorris.com.
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