ASK MOM - Let son, 18, be guided by his conscience

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Dear Mom:

This might seem old-fashioned, but I don't approve of my 18 year-old-son, a senior, and his 16-year-old girlfriend having sex. Because of my position on sex before marriage, or at least a before kids are capable of mature relationships, I have raised my son differently than many parents.

I have rules about how much time he can spend alone with his girlfriend, and limit situations that provide opportunity to slide into inappropriate behavior. My son pretty much hates me for not letting him do what he wants, and always manages to get involved with girls who don't have much parental supervision. Inevitably, he will turn the parents of his girlfriends against me. I feel so alone. Nobody warned me that loving my kid would hurt so much. It makes me feel crazy when I see other parents letting their kids do whatever they want, all in the name of being open-minded and tolerant. To me, failing to protect one's child is a form of negligence ... and yet the parents who don't take a stand always seem to come out smelling like a rose. Is it wrong for me to want my son to have values? To not only care for himself, but for others too? Am I old-fashioned because I think sex is serious business and question whether a kid who can't yet remember to take out the trash or change his socks without being asked is in a position to understand this? I feel like somewhere along the line, I wandered off the acceptable parenting map.

-- Lost Parent

Dear Lost:

Values are more important in our children's lives than ever before. You are right to want your son to develop a meaningful relationship with his actions. When we set limits for our kids, we provide them room to learn about themselves. So, to answer your question, no you are not wrong to want your son to have values. However, at this stage in the parenting game, your ability to control how he acts out the values he has by now learned (or at least been exposed to) is greatly reduced. At this point, you need to realize your son needs to form his own relationship to the values you have, with love, tried to instill in him. He may reject those values, or he may cling to them. He may take them and reshape them in a way that has new meaning . The point is, merely controlling your son so he will act out the value you wish him to hold, does not give him a chance to truly absorb the value. Now is the time for you to have faith -- in yourself, and in your son. We can't corner our children into being good people. If we try to do that, we run the risk of separating them from their own consciences. At some point we've got to step back, and quiet our own concerns; trust that our children have the most natural of desires to begin to listen to that still small voice inside of them.

Ask Mom is a weekly feature in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. If you have a question you would like to submit to the Ask Mom panel, send it to catherinehicks@wwub.com. This week's column was written by Patrice Janda, MSW therapist with Cocoon Project SAFE, which serves Walla Walla area parents of teens. For free consultation and support, call, 1-877-339-4179

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