Parents and youth need all the help they can get in relating to each other. Here are ten rules for covenant living.
They are not always easy to follow, but they will make the journey more bearable and understandable.
1. Rules shall be enforced flexibly. Young people need rules. They respect boundaries as part of good covenant living. Though they may raise howls of protest, they know that parental rules translate into parental concern. Parents, however, must realize that a covenant needs flexibility. It goes along with structure.
2. Family members shall love each other unconditionally. Love with strings attached is not covenant love. Covenant, or unconditional, love says, “I love you no matter what.” Young people endure a lot of secret pain. If they know they are loved, it helps tremendously. Youth also cope with anxiety and insecurity, and many of them have fragile egos. They must know beyond question that there are some people around who have made a covenant to love them. At the same time, young people must learn to forgive their parents’ mistakes, and seek to love them unconditionally, too.
3. Discipline shall be administered in an appropriate manner. Youth, believe it or not, need and want appropriate discipline. In covenant living, the key is to remember that the root of the word discipline is “teaching.” Discipline is essential for covenant living. It establishes boundaries and shows children that parents are serious about their covenant to love them, and to correct them whey they need it.
4. Explanations shall be given in full. Covenant living is open, trustworthy, and free. Explanations can be given without fear of withdrawal of affection or undue punishment. Youth often clam up when they’ve done something wrong, received a bad grade, or engaged in inappropriate behavior. Covenant living says that explanations can be given in an atmosphere of openness. Youth must trust their parents, and vice-versa.
5. Praise shall be given generously. We all need approval. Covenant living says that we give each other warm and heartfelt compliments. When a child does something worthy, parents should praise him for it. Sadly, parents often do the opposite. Most of us can criticize quicker than we can praise. Look for good things about your family members. Overlook the silly little faults of others.
6. Show affection warmly. Too many adults can remember their unaffectionate parents. They find themselves being unaffectionate. This often transfers from generation to generation. There’s no better investment than a hug because you will get one in return. Youth need to be loved and valued. So do parents. All of us need to feel good about ourselves. Covenant living is affectionate living. It shows the other person that he is an important member of the family. Show affection warmly.
7. Learn to listen closely. Listening takes time. Neither parents nor youth have all the answers. But they can learn from each other. A goal for independent living is for youth to discover their own answers. Good listening uncovers good answers, and that’s when covenant living comes alive. Young people aren’t unimaginative. They just need encouragement. A listening ear helps solve problems, ease anxieties, and calms fears. Youth also need to learn how to listen to their parents. Parents are not worry-free. They have special burdens of their own. The youth who learns to listen to his parent’s internal cares is a special youth indeed.
8. Admit when you are wrong. Covenant living means you are willing to say you are sorry. Let’s face it: it’s hard to admit you’re wrong and that you need someone to forgive you. But no one is perfect, and neither parents nor youth should feel they have to be right all the time. Covenant living accepts mistakes, forgive misdeeds, and moves on.
9. Choose your environment carefully. Peer pressure remains the greatest influencer among youth. Parents who want their children to associate with good people need to associate with good people themselves. If parents want their children to love and serve God, then they must seek for their children (and themselves) involvement in the church. Youth can often become positive influences on their parents. Remember that covenant living is a two-way street. Youth shouldn’t wait on parents to initiate all parts of the covenant arrangement.
10. Learn to model carefully. Parents and youth are in the business of creating memories for each other. Values are more caught than taught. Parents should “model” compassion, concern, and care. Youth should “model” cooperation, helpfulness, and maturity. The Bible says that what you sow is what you will reap. Model carefully.
Parents and youth journey through many life stages together. If there is mutual concern for each other’s highest happiness, then covenant living can become a glorious possibility. But it will take all our efforts and the help of God to make it become a reality.
Have a safe trip.
My Thoughts is written by Michael C. Blackwell, BCH President/CEO