“Long ago, a storm was heading for the city of Quin’lat. Everyone took protection within the walls except one man who remained outside. I went to him and asked what he was doing. “I am not afraid,” he said. “I will not hide my face behind stone and mortar. I will stand before the wind and make it respect me.” I honored his choice and went back inside. The next day, the storm came… and the man was killed… The wind does not respect a fool. Do not stand before the wind.” [i]


There are some things you cannot control. No amount of will, charm, perseverance, or strength will change these things. This is a difficult thing to accept. The wind is pretty clearly outside your or my control, but other things are no so clear-cut. Some things appear to be open to your influence, and yet the attempts to change them come with a price.

It is a basic principle of many religions and philosophies that most human suffering is the result of clinging to expectations instead of accepting reality. We have difficulty accepting what is happening or what has happened. We become preoccupied with how things did not go how we wanted them to go. We try to force other people to be what we expect them to be, through one form of manipulation or another. We want them to see things as we see them. We want them to understand what they are doing to us. Our perspective is so seductive that we see it as fact or as right. So it is confusing when they don’t understand or agree.

Your teens still answer to you, but in many ways they are already beyond your direct control. Therefore it is tempting to try to force them to adapt to your expectations. For example, imagine a parent and teen. The mother is religious and regularly practices her faith, while the teen is less devout and does not want to engage in more practices. She may argue her point as often as she likes. Yet in the end, he will not have more faith simply because she wants him to do so. She has no direct authority over his beliefs. She can threaten or perhaps make him attend church. She can plead with him to act in a way that respects her wishes and feelings, but in the end the choices are his. She cannot force him to adjust his values or beliefs. It has to do with his faith, and is not a statement about his value for his mother’s beliefs. And if she sets ultimatums in the hopes that will actualize him, then she has to be sure that she means them, because he might not be ready to change.

When your teen does not act as you would want regarding something important to you, there is no set rulebook to guide you in terms of how far is too far or what is important enough to you that he should accommodate or respect your wishes. You need to set some boundaries that are both respectful of your teen’s independence and rights, and yet protect the values that you hold dear as a parent. There are some behaviors, or even some beliefs that you cannot tolerate. There are others that you dislike, but you can live with them if the only alternative is alienating your teen.

If someone does not respect your preferences, then you are left with a choice. You can choose to accept him in your life, even though he acts in that way you do not like (accept the wind and adapt to it). You can choose to not have him in your life, sad as that may be (avoid the wind). However, this is clearly a choice of last resort with respect to your own child. Or you can choose what we all choose much of the time, to ignore the other two options and try to make him change through manipulations of one form or another, essentially disrespecting his independence (stand before the wind). Don’t feel too bad, we all do it. We forget that others have their own beliefs and values regarding how to behave. We want to have them in our life, but acting in ways we expect.

As separate people with separate perspectives, your teen will never act or perceive things exactly as you do. If you choose to have them in your life, your relationships will benefit from holding onto the knowledge that you are accepting them as they are, as you know them to be, not as you expect them to be.

Some things we cannot control. You can accept them. You can avoid them. Or you can stand against them in defiance and frustration. But remember, the wind does not respect a fool.


“Grant us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.” -Reinhold Niebuhr


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“We have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.”

– Charles Swindell

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[i] Quoted from Star Trek: The Next Generation (TV series 1987-1994).


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