Young People Ask
Why Won’t My Parents Let Me Have Fun?
For Allison,* a teenager in Australia, Monday morning at school is as stressful as it is predictable.
“Everyone talks about what they did on the weekend,” she says. “They tell stories that sound so exciting, like about how many parties they went to and how many boys they kissed—even about running away from the police . . . It sounds so scary, but fun! They come home at five o’clock in the morning, and their parents don’t care. I have to be in bed before they even start their night!
“Anyway, after telling me their weekend action stories, my classmates ask me what I did. And what did I do? I went to Christian meetings. I engaged in the ministry. I feel like I really missed out on a good time. So I usually just tell them that I did nothing. Then they ask why I didn’t come with them.
“Once Mondays are over, you’d think it would be easier. But it’s not. By Tuesday, everyone is talking about the upcoming weekend! I usually sit and just listen to them talk. I feel so left out!”
IS YOUR Monday morning at school similar? You might feel that there’s a world of fun outside your door but that your parents have locked it tight—or as if you’re at an amusement park but you’re not allowed to get on any of the rides. It’s not that you want to do everything your peers do. You’d just like to have fun once in a while! For example, which recreational activity would you most like to engage in this coming weekend?
◯ music concert
◯ other ․․․․․
You need recreation. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4) In fact, your Creator wants you to enjoy your youth. (Ecclesiastes 11:9) And although you may doubt it at times, your parents also want you to have fun. Likely, however, your parents will have two legitimate concerns: (1) what you will do and (2) who will accompany you.
What, though, if you’re invited to go out with friends but you aren’t sure how your parents will react? When you are faced with a decision, the Bible encourages you to consider the options you have, good and bad, and to weigh the consequences. (Deuteronomy 32:29; Proverbs 7:6-23) With regard to the invitation you’ve received from your friends, what options do you have?
OPTION A: DON’T ASK—JUST GO.
Why you might consider this option: You want to impress your friends with how independent you are. You feel that you know better than your parents, or you have little respect for their judgment.—Proverbs 15:5.
The consequences: Your friends will learn something about you—that you can be deceitful. If you’d deceive your parents, you might be willing to deceive your friends. If your parents find out, they’ll feel hurt and betrayed and you’ll likely be grounded! Disobeying your parents and going out anyhow is a foolish option.—Proverbs 12:15.
OPTION B: DON’T ASK—DON’T GO.
Why you might consider this option: You think about the offer and decide that the activity doesn’t measure up to your principles or that some of those invited would not be good company. (1 Corinthians 15:33; Philippians 4:8) On the other hand, you might want to go but don’t have the courage to ask your parents.
The consequences: If you don’t go because you know it’s a bad idea, you’ll be more confident when answering your friends. But if you don’t go simply because you lack the courage to ask your parents, you might end up sitting at home brooding, feeling that you’re the only one who’s not having fun.
OPTION C: ASK—AND SEE.
Why you might consider this option: You recognize your parents’ authority over you and respect their judgment. (Colossians 3:20) You love your parents and don’t want to hurt them by sneaking out behind their backs. (Proverbs 10:1) You also have a chance to present your case.
The consequences: Your parents feel that you love and respect them. And if they view your request as reasonable, they might say yes.
Why Parents Might Say No
What, though, if your parents say no? That can be frustrating. However, understanding their point of view can help you cope with the restrictions. For example, they might say no for one or more of the following reasons.
Greater knowledge and experience. If you had a choice, likely you would prefer to swim at a beach that is manned by lifeguards. Why? Because while you’re in the water having fun, your awareness of danger is very limited. But the lifeguards have a better vantage point from which to spot hazards.
Similarly, because of their greater knowledge and experience, your parents may be aware of dangers that you do not see. Like the lifeguards on the beach, your parents’ goal is, not to spoil your fun, but to help you avoid dangers that could rob you of enjoyment in life.
Love for you. Your parents have a strong desire to protect you. Love moves them to say yes when they can but no when they have to. When you ask their permission to do something, they ask themselves if they can grant the request and then live with the consequences. They will only say yes to themselves—and to you—if they are reasonably convinced that no harm will come to you.
A lack of information. Loving parents will err on the side of caution. If they don’t understand what you are asking for or if they feel that vital facts are missing from your request, chances are they will say no.
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Yes
Four factors come into play.
Honesty: First, you need to ask yourself honestly: ‘Why do I really want to go? Is it primarily the activity that I enjoy, or is it that I want to fit in with my peers? Is it because someone that I’m attracted to will be there?’ Then be honest with your parents. They were young once, and they know you well. So they will likely discern your real motives anyhow. They’ll appreciate your candor, and you’ll benefit from their wisdom. (Proverbs 7:1, 2) On the other hand, if you’re not honest, you undermine your credibility and lessen the chances that you’ll hear a yes.
Timing: Don’t pummel your parents with requests when they have just arrived home from work or when they are concentrating on other matters. Approach them when they are more relaxed. But don’t wait until the last minute and then try to pressure them for an answer. Your parents will not appreciate having to make a rushed decision. Ask early, and your parents will appreciate your consideration.
Content: Don’t be vague. Explain exactly what you want to do. Parents feel uncomfortable with the answer “I don’t know,” especially when they’ve asked: “Who will be there?” “Will a responsible adult be present?” or “When will the event end?”
Attitude: Don’t view your parents as enemies. View them as part of your team—because all things considered, they are. If you view your parents as allies, you will be less likely to sound combative and they will be more likely to be cooperative. If they say no, respectfully ask why. For example, if they say no to your going to a concert, try to determine the reason for their concern. Are they worried about the performer? the venue? the company you will keep? the price of admission? Avoid such statements as “You don’t trust me,” “Everybody else is going,” or “My friends’ parents are letting them go!” Show your parents that you’re mature enough to accept their decision and respect it. If you do, they will respect you. And next time, they may be more inclined to look for ways to say yes.
More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
Name has been changed.
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“My parents trust me, largely because I have a good track record. I’m open with them about my friends. I’m also not afraid to leave a gathering if I’m uncomfortable with what’s going on there.”
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WHY NOT ASK YOUR PARENTS?
Want to know where your parents stand on the issues raised in this article? The only way to find out is to ask them! When the time is right, strike up a conversation about their concerns regarding your having fun. Think of a question you would like to ask them, and write it below.
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Like lifeguards on the beach, your parents have a better vantage point from which to warn you of potential danger