When my oldest child approached the teen years, we and others recognized he had an aptitude for leadership. At first, we just thought that it was that he was strong willed or competitive, but later realized that it was an area of strength, or gifting, that needed to be developed. It was then that we began studying leadership to help him grow into an effective leader, not knowing where it would take him.
Most of the leadership training materials are produced by people in business, with businessmen as their target audience. That in no way affected our pursuit, because we were so focused on the principles of leadership, and knew that the application would come to use as we understood more and more. To our surprise, we learned many parenting principles, because parenting is leadership after all.
One of the more interesting concepts I picked up is what I have come to call “Relationship Math.”
R + R – R = R + R
It takes no real mathematician to see that this cannot be a true mathematic statement, but it is true in relationships if properly understood. On the right side of the equal sign, the letters stand for Resentment and Rebellion. The very thing that many parents find in their older children, whether they be tweens, teens, or twenty-somethings. Resentment and rebellion is rampant in our culture to the point that it is now considered normal and expected. I contend that it doesn’t have to be that way, and it shouldn’t be that way.
Though resentment and rebellion in the younger generation is not a new thing, I suspect that it is at an all-time high, at least in America. Many things have contributed to it, but rather than trying to put blame on one thing or another, it is more productive to look at solutions. I believe those solutions are, in part, explained by the equation.
When resentment and rebellion are present in a situation, whether it be an office or a home, the left side of the equation is true. So, what is R + R – R? Rules and regulations without relationship. Or better stated rules and regulations out of balance with relationship.
In any given situation, if rules and regulations are the main emphasis, the person in the equation feels smaller and smaller in value. The rules appear most important, or maybe the rule maker. Our tolerance of the rules is, at first, high; but begins to fade.
The tale has been told of Thomas Edison’s laboratory where he and his team conducted thousands of experiments and made many discoveries. A sign was prominently displayed, “We don’t have any rules here. We are trying to get something done!” That may have been the atmosphere in his laboratory, but the world does not operate that way, and neither should your home. On the other hand, neither should they reign supreme.
One of my sons was not a very good rules keeper, and he taught us the most about this principle. Likewise, he has some of the best stories. Though it was far from funny at the time, the recalling of the tales from the life of Rodney Smith often result in laughter at our family gatherings. One such event occurred at the local rodeo. It has nothing to do with the rodeo, and might as well have happened at a concert or ball game.
To this day, we do not know the truth, but here are the facts: my wife is filing out with the crowd when she sees her handcuffed 13 year old son being stuffed into the back of a police car. For this story, as in all stories, there are 3 sides, Rodney’s side, the officer’s side, and the truth. Regardless of the details, what happened was an imbalance of rules and regulations, and relationship.
Granted, I realize that something did happen that caused the officer to set his affections upon my son. That something had to do with rules and regulations, which the officer was acutely focused on to the exclusion of any knowledge of the person or situation. Neither did he seek to further understand the situation, but rather jumped to conclusions. Whereas Rodney promptly became resentful and rebellious in his attitude that confirmed the officer’s presumed opinion about him. It rapidly became a tangled mass of emotions that all started rather innocently over disposing of trash (or so it seems).
The long arm of the law in this case had a short fuse. The officer flexed his muscles to “get some respect,” because in some way Rodney disrespected him. But the very act resulted in disrespect because there was blatant rules and regulations without relationship. If the officer could have seen the situation more clearly that my son was clowning around, not seeking to be out of line, and not seeking to dishonor or disrespect, he may have interpreted the situation differently.
What we do not want is to break the spirit of our child with excessive rules and regulations, but rather for them to know beyond a shadow of doubt that it is because we love them greatly, that we set boundaries to guide them to a good and safe place. It is the confidence of one’s acceptance by the parents, that allows children to receive correction when out of bounds. It is feeling loved that makes the difference.