Question:

My husband and I are working on our marriage after his unfaithfulness. He wants to work it out and make things right, but I am afraid it may be too late as far as the kids are concerned. For almost ten years I had to do it all, raise the kids, pay the bills, housework, cooking, church, everything. Now my children, with exception to the eldest who has married and moved out, are grown and will not give their dad any respect. The boys are now in their late teens and have pierced an ear, wear terrible black and skull covered clothing and listen to hard metal music. I have talked to them and insisted they will not wear these clothes to church or when we go out as a family. They are also not allowed to listen to their music in the house or car as I have young children as well. I don't want them wearing them at all. What do I do?

I might add that I was unaware of the infidelities of my husband until after our youngest was born. I know I had the right to leave and divorce. I know God is against divorce and am thankful he wants to "fix" things.

We all need the Lord. I am hanging by a thread. I pray non-stop and do everything I can to keep them all going and on the right track.


Answer:

I'm sorry to hear about your hardships, though I do congratulate you that both you and your husband are more interested in solving the problem than dividing. Such willingness is rare these days. I sincerely hope it works out for both of you.

Some things are hard to reverse. Your husband lost a lot of ground with his sons and they are expressing it through open rebellion. Respect isn't given, it is earned. That is something teens have a hard time learning, but it is something that remains true even into adulthood. Your boys will start respecting their father when they realize he is a respectable man.

However, you've already demonstrated something: they push the limits, but only as far as you let them. You told them not in church and though I'm sure they gave you grief over it, they don't do it in church. You told them you don't want to hear their music in the car and while they give you grief over it, they don't listen to it in your car. The point is that you and your husband are the parents and you set the rules for what behavior is or is not allowed in your home. You get what you allow.

If they want to listen to their favorite music and you can't stand it, then tell them you don't want to hear it. If they want to get headphones and listen to it in private, then at least they aren't inflicting their choices on you. It's your house. If they stop listening to you, then it is no longer their house. That is probably the hardest thing for a parent to do, but you have to be firm that if they think they are old enough to make their own choices, then they are old enough to shoulder all adult responsibilities. You don't have to argue, scream, yell, or cry about it. You just state that these are the rules for your house and the choice of living by the rules in your house is their own, but they will accept the responsibility for their choices.

Boys actually do better when the rules are laid out crisply and in advance. They might not like them, but they are usually willing to accept responsibility for their choices. So put reasonable boundaries on their actions. Notice that I didn't suggest they can't listen to heavy metal music. Such a rule is unenforceable anyway, but you can define the boundaries. The same goes for the clothing. So think carefully about what you will or will not accept and where those rules apply. If they don't want to listen, then tell them they have 30 days to find an apartment. You'll pay the deposit and first month's rent and then they are on their own. Their welcome to come over for Sunday dinner after church, but that's about it. If they rather stay at home, then they have to live by the house rules.

I suspect they will rather stay home and while they will grumble about the rules, they will choose to cave than move out. And if they do choose to leave, then you will know that things had gone too far for you to reverse anyway.