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Thanks-giving for Your Turkeys

This little turkey will be joining us for Thanksgiving in a few weeks. Are you ready to welcome your college-aged "turkeys" home for the holiday?

Cute and cuddly did NOT apply to my two boys when they pulled in the driveway after a long drive home from school. In fact, "turkey" aptly described them. They dropped their laundry at my feet, raced past me to the kitchen, gobbled up some homemade cookies and flew the coop minutes later to go out with friends, leaving me disappointed and feeling taken for granted.

The next morning, we gave our boys a little talkin to. We had decided that we needed to re-communicate our expectations. The condensed version of our lunchtime conversation went something like this: “We love you and we are so proud of you. We are glad you are home and look forward to a great holiday together. While you are home, please remember the house rules. Clean out the van and fill up the tank. Do your laundry and make sure you have clothes to wear for Mass, including polished shoes. Prepare to see lots of family this holiday. Here’s our schedule. Tell us your social plans when you know them. And please observe the house curfew while you are home.”

Everyone sets their own family rules, and the details aren’t as important as making sure that boundaries are well communicated and enforced with constancy. As Catholic parents, we have a strong faith-based rationale for asking our college-aged young adults to comply. First, they owe us. That's right! The cardinal virtue of Justice disposes us to respect each other and promotes equity and harmony in human relationships (CCC 1807, rephrased). Respect, obedience, kindness are rights as parents because of our inherent dignity as children of God, but also because we provide for the lifelong spiritual and temporal welfare of our children. We are actually encouraging our kids to practice justice by setting and enforcing appropriate boundaries.

Secondly, we need look no further than the fourth commandment which tells us, “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). By the fourth commandment, God asks (commands) children to respect and obey parents in all that is not sinful, and to help them when they are in need. The fourth commandment also forbids disrespect, unkindness, and disobedience toward parents and lawful superiors. “Cursed be anyone who dishonors father or mother” (Deuteronomy 27:16).

As parents, we deserve kindness, respect and obedience from our children--no matter what age they are. Isn't it comforting to know that we stand on solid footing when we require our children to abide by established house rules? And we're right to follow up with appropriate consequences when they act like turkeys. If you want more help setting and/or enforcing boundaries, I recommend Boundaries by Doctors Henry Cloud and John Townsend (psychologists). They share Biblical principles for establishing emotional, physical, and spiritual boundaries in relationships.

This Thanksgiving, I pray there be only one turkey at your holiday table. Gobble, gobble, gobble.

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