Navigating Prom: Looking Through the Lens of God’s Word to Filter Our Parenting Decisions

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We’ve got three teenagers – a girl and two boys. Our oldest is in college, so we’ve gone all the way down the road to graduation and beyond. We’ve agonized over weekend plans, curfew, dates, prom, friendships, sports, clothing, spend-the-nights, driving, social media, cell phones, and so much more. Many times (okay, a lot of the time) we have felt like Lone Ranger parents. It’s not fun, especially when other Christian parents make different decisions, leaving our teens wishing for once they weren’t the only ones whose parents were so unbending.

Until that one time we were. The time my husband said, “Do as you wish.”

Seriously, that’s what he said to our daughter – that she could stay out as late as she wanted and go to whatever after-prom parties she desired. I nearly died. I think my eyes were as big as hers and my mouth dropped open just as wide.

Now, let me back up. The three of us had been discussing prom plans for days. On the table was a post-prom party at a storage unit where alcohol would be present and the co-ed slumber party happening afterwards. For obvious reasons we had major concerns.

But something interesting happened: as soon as my husband gave her the freedom she craved, she no longer wanted it. The burden of making the decision herself felt scary. She didn’t want to go against what she knew we thought she should do, even though she still wanted to go. To make the decision herself meant she would bear the responsibility if something dare go wrong.

When push comes to shove kids want boundaries. But even if they don’t admit it, they need them. How we draw those boundaries and filter our parenting decisions in today’s culture is no easy task. But I don’t want to lay down law according to what my husband and I think is right and wrong. Instead I want to direct us to look through the lens of God’s Word to filter our parenting decisions.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” This is our human condition – all of ours. And under this assumption is where our parenting must start, no matter how “good” our kids are. To think otherwise is to be naive because the natural propensity of the human heart is toward sin. So while those who are in Christ have the contrary influence of the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us in Romans that we (believers) still do the things we don’t want to do. We still give into temptation and evil. We still sin.

If this is true, even if we trust our children, why would we want to allow them to enter an environment where temptation can thrive instead guiding them to choose situations that restrain temptation?

Just as we seek to protect our children from physical harm, so should we fight to protect them from the evil one, to keep them from sin, to guard their hearts, purity and innocence. It’s a high and difficult calling with lots of curve balls, making it easy to grow weary and short-sighted in our parenting.

Quite frankly, allowing our kids to do what they want would make for a more peaceful household. The arguing would cease and we could just enjoy being their friend. Maybe we would even be seen as the cool parents.

But we must remember it is our teens’ sinful desire to be their own god that brings out their hostility when we impose boundaries. Believing they don’t need a higher authority than themselves is a ploy Satan has been using on all of mankind since the garden. And with this mindset they fall prey to the lies and buck against our parental wisdom and authority.

They think they are invincible and that they will be able to withstand any temptation. But they are bowing down to their false gods, living as if “life” will be lost if they aren’t at a certain party, or out until all wee hours of the night. They fear missing out above almost everything. Because if they aren’t there they won’t be in the photos that everyone will see, they will miss out on the inside jokes, and they risk not being included with the group the next time.

This is why what our teens need from us is an eternal perspective to reorient them back to the truths of God’s word. They need to understand instant gratification and hedonism is not where “life” is found. Or, as Ecclesiastes tells us, seeking after the pleasures of this world is vanity, “like striving after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

Indulging or even coddling temporary sinful pleasures comes with a cost. It is not just an issue of our kids having fun while they’re young, or as many parents say, “Teens will be teens.” No, living for themselves and going against God’s law will carry consequences that affect their relationships (including their future spouses), as well as their emotional and spiritual well-being.

Parents, please don’t give up or give in. They need us to set boundaries. They need us to care more about their souls than their present happiness. They need us to keep a long-range perspective, to swim upstream from the culture and even stand alone if necessary.

Let’s have the conversations with them that explain why we are making the decisions we are. Let’s show them the lens we are looking through. By God’s grace their eyes will be open to see his ways are best. And because his love for us is so great, may the imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance He is storing up for us in heaven be what they long for, above all earthly treasures that will be destroyed, and can destroy them. (1 Peter 1:4)

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