What should you do if your teenager is totally rebellious? That was the question one AGW follower recently asked us on Twitter.
While I don’t have teenagers (my kids are still younger), I do remember being rebellious teenager myself. So in this video and article I will try to share what I remember feeling when I was in that season. I will also try to give some biblical perspective and apply some Christian truths that will help you parent your teenager.
But before I give three Christian tips on how to parent your rebellious teenager, let’s first take a step back and remember what all parents are called to do regardless of how their kids are behaving.
Christian Parenting: What Should You Do With Your Rebellious Teenager?
Before we can get to the practical steps, we have to remember the overarching truth all parents are called to. Parents are certainly called to help shape behavior, keep their teenagers safe, and make sure they are staying in line. But none of these things are a Christian parent’s primary goal.
The primary goal of parents is to love their child. The best way to raise a child up in the Lord is to love them. If you teach them the Bible, if you get them to behave, and you make them really successive people in the world’s eyes, but you have not really loved them, then you have not done your main job. Your kids must know you love them. If you try to shape their behavior but they don’t know you are doing it in love, you are setting the groundwork for rebellion during the teenage years.
Of course you show your love by disciplining, by expecting good behavior, by doing hard things for them, but if you do those things without love you’re missing the point. Good behavior is not the ultimate goal. Good behavior flowing out of a teenager’s heart that knows he or she is loved by God is what you really want. To help do this you must love them yourself.
When you don’t know what to do in parenting, just ask yourself, “How does God treat me?” In John 13:34-35 and John 15:12-13 Jesus tells us to love others as he has loved us. This applies to Christians parenting rebellious teenagers too. We’ve all been in seasons of rebellion. How did God treat you? He disciplined you. He showed you grace. And he did it all with love.
As a Christian parenting a rebellious teenager, this must be our starting point too. Okay, now here are 3 more practical tips for Christians parenting a rebellious teenager.
- Give choices with consequences rather than rules with punishment.
The older your kid gets, the more you need to transition away from rules with corrective actions and towards choices with consequences. When a child is young you can just send them to their room or take away a toy. This works less and less the older kids get. By the time they are a teenager this is basically ineffective and usually makes the whole situation worse.
It makes it worse because your teenager is probably rebelling because he or she wants the freedom to make his or her own choices. They do the opposite of what you say because they want to be the ones with the final say in their own lives. This is challenging as a parent because they really haven’t earned the right to have this kind of freedom and they will probably mess it up because of their immaturity.
So you will have to pray about how you can give them more choices with consequences rather than rules with punishment. But it needs to be done. They need to learn to feel the weight of choosing not to work and then not having gas money. They need to learn that if you flunk a class you need to go to summer school. The trick is to allow them to really feel the consequences. If you give them choices but save them from the consequences all the time you are creating an even worse monster.
- Don’t force your Christianity onto your teenager.
Your teenager is a human, and no human wants to be told what to believe or how to live their life. Of course you are there to help guide their morality while they are immature. I’m definitely not saying anywhere in this whole teaching that you should just let your teenager do whatever he or she wants.
But you have to find ways to allow them to make their own choices, and this is never as important than when it comes to their own walk with God. When you try to force someone to have faith or live a certain lifestyle in dedication to Christ, usually you do more damage than good. They will rebel not because they disbelieve but because they do not want to be forced to believe.
Again, you will have to figure out what to allow or not allow. But be really careful you are not forcing your Christianity on your teenager. Invite, inspire, encourage, give opportunities, but never force it.
- Treat them like a teenager, but respect them like an adult.
You must treat a teenager like a teenager. But you must learn to respect them like an adult. Imagine your teenager at the age of 25, 30, 35, or 40. Now imagine their adult selves being in the room as you are talking to their teenage self. Would they support what you are saying? Will they understand now that they are an adult? Or would they think you are yelling? Would they think you are actually the one out of control? Will they have pity on their teenage self but less for you because you are the adult in the room?
Many times things get explosive because a parent is explosive and the teenager is learning how to yell and shout from that parent. You can’t ultimately control the behavior of your teenager. But you can choose to discipline and speak with respect even when they don’t deserve it.
If you do this you will have so much more power over them. After they cool off they will see your point a lot faster if you didn’t yell back at them. If you do explode, all they will remember is that you exploded. Even if they were wrong about the particulars and you really were right, it matters how you are delivering your message.
If you speak with respect, your teenager might still find you annoying and not like what you are saying. But when they are an adult, they will look back with gratitude. If you explode, they will look back with sadness and your relationship will probably never be what it could have been. Those years come and go. And if they go without the two of you bonding like a normal parent and child should, there’s nothing you can do to replace that. The cement dries once they grow up. Sure the two of you can forgive and reconcile, but that will not inject what the two of you missed during those years of strife. Remember, you child will grow up one day. Treat them like a teenager, but respect them like an adult.
Christian Parenting: Rebellious Teenager
Parenting a rebellious teenager will probably be one of the hardest things you ever do. You love them so you desperately want them to act a certain way. Ironically, if you allow your love to smother and smash their freedom to be human and make their own choices, they will probably just rebel more.
So you must continue to discipline and try to shape their behavior. But you have to do this in love, you have to give them choices with consequences, you must never force them to be a Christian (you can’t, it doesn’t work anyways!), and you must remember “how” you say and do things is sometimes even more important that what you do or say.
May God help you parent your rebellious teenager the best way possible. It will certainly be messy, but love always is. Praying for you.