Today I saw an awesome t-shirt. At first, I felt it was “awesome, period”. Then I had to settle for feeling that it is only awesome with some huge reservations. The basic message of the t-shirt was that the wearer thinks his daughter’s sex-life is her own business. Cool message, if the daughter is either adult or approaching adulthood. Not so cool off the daughter is closer to still being a little child. The problem here is when the concept of “child” or “teenager” is treated with dichotomism. That is, the bad habit of seeing categories as if they are absolutes, rather than as the sliding scales they usually actually are.
Children and teenagers mature gradually. As they mature, their parents need to gradually step back. Let the kids run more and more of their own lives, one step at a time.
The concept of “child” usually includes every person in the age between birth and the 18:th birthday, while the concept of “teenagers” includes every person in the age between the 13:th and the 20:th birthday.
One really creepy & destructive form of dichotomism here is to decide something along the line of “A child is a child: I will treat my 17-years-old as if she was 5”. Another dichotomism that is *also* creepy & destructive is to decide that “a teenager is a teenager: I will treat my 13-years-old as if she was 19”.
The concepts of freedom and responsibility need to be intertwined. The older children grow, the more they get ready to take their own chances, fend for themselves, and if necessary make their own mistakes.
Also… Parents setting rules for their children and for the child’s interaction with others should NEVER come from the parents having a sense of “owning” their children. It should always be only about protecting the child’s integrity. Age of Consent laws exist for good reason. And I don’t mean only sexual consent here, but also age restrictions for the labor market and the financial market and so on. We adults are free to freely take sexual lovers, finance partners such as employers or employees, and so on. This is not only about us owning our own bodies and so on, but it is also about each of us having the responsibility to care for our own lives, without any parent-figures to decide on a case-by-case basis what we can and cannot handle. Children have the same right to their own bodies and minds as adults do, but NOT the same responsibility to “make the right decisions, or take the consequences”.