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Not their decision to make

By Nathan Rice

My alarm sounded, but I wasn’t ready for the day to begin, so I hit the snooze button for another 10 minutes of sleep. That snooze didn’t seem to last too long, as my alarm sounded again. I did not feel like going to work, and I began to think of all the excuses I could use to skip the daily routine. Everything that I’d rather do than go to work entered my mind, but I knew I could not entertain those ideas. I had to get out of bed, get ready for the day, and drive to work for the daily grind.

That morning, and the thoughts of all that I would rather be doing instead of working, helped me better understand some teenagers with whom I had a discussion just a few days prior. One of the teens stated that he had skipped school for nearly two weeks. Another yawned before saying that she was tired because she stayed up all night playing video games and watching online videos. All of them were facing some sort of problem in their lives due to their poor decisions.

I spoke with them that evening about the importance of doing what is needed to better themselves and prepare for the future. This involves making the right, and sometimes difficult, decisions to do things that we know we need to do, even if they aren’t necessarily what we want to be doing.

It’s important for them to know that they need to make the right decision about things such as going to school, but the fact of the matter is that none of these decisions should have been theirs to make.

Parents should be the ones who set the rules regarding school attendance, bedtimes and other important matters.

It’s not just irresponsible for parents to leave teens to their own devices in these matters; it is wrong. It’s wrong to force teens to make decisions that they are not yet prepared to make. Teenagers have difficulty seeing the long-term consequences of their actions, making it difficult for them to make wise decisions. In many cases, their maturity level hasn’t yet reached the point where they should be allowed to make certain decisions.

I am not implying that we should rule over our teenagers like a dictator, make every decision for them, and control every minute of their day. They should be learning how to make important decisions. However, we should be helping them learn how to make these decisions and carefully deciding what choices we allow them to make.

This is also not a matter of trust. Teens who have proven themselves trustworthy may be allowed additional leeway in decision making, but it does not mean that we no longer need to be parents. Even responsible teens need our assistance, as well as rules and guidelines they must follow. Removing a teen’s ability to make certain decisions, such as whether to go to school, is a matter of protection. It’s about teaching them, raising them, and giving them the best chance to become independent adults.

Teenagers will never admit that they need adult supervision, but they do. It’s irresponsible and wrong to force them to make decisions that they should not have to make.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.