By Sarah Hamaker, Crosswalk.com
Is there anything that breaks a parent’s heart more than a teen who is rebelling? It’s so hard to see a child choosing to do the wrong thing, especially for Christian parents who desire their child to love God and follow his commandments.
If you’re parenting a rebellious teen, consider this a hug from a fellow mom who feels your pain and sorrow. But before we get to some practical advice on parenting a rebellious teen, let’s talk about some ground rules that will put us on the right footing.
It’s not about you. This is the hardest thing for any parent to grasp—that we are not responsible for our children’s actions. The child is responsible for their actions. The parent does not produce the child—the child produces the child. So when your teen rebels, it’s more a statement about them than you.
It’s not a reflection of your parenting. This goes hand-in-hand with the first point. You can do everything right, and your teenager can still choose to do the wrong thing. This is because your teenager has the same sinful nature as every other person in the world, which means they can pick sinful things.
But take heart! Some general guidelines should help you as you raise a rebellious teenager. While this article won’t solve the problem entirely, I hope you’ll find these 11 tips helpful and encouraging as you continue this difficult parenting journey.
This can seem simplistic, but it’s so important for us to storm the gates of heaven on behalf of our children, especially when they are straying into dangerous sin territory. Let your teen know you are praying for them. But be careful you’re praying in a way that reflects our desire for God’s will in their lives and not our own understanding. If ever we need to “lean not on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5), it’s when praying for our rebellious teenager. We need to seek God on their behalf and our own, so that we would continue to hold fast to the truth and keep pointing the way to Christ.
2. Keep Doing the Right Thing
It can be challenging to keep doing the right thing in the face of a teen’s rebellion, but God calls us to do that. We might not get the result we want when we correct a wayward teen, but we still have to be the parent and levy the consequences in the hopes it will reach their heart. It can be tempting to give up when our corrective measures appear to have no impact, but we must stay the course and keep doing the right thing.
3. Cling to God’s Promises
The Lord tells us that those whom he has called, he will keep until the day of judgment (see Romans 8:30 and 2 Timothy 1:12). As Proverbs 22:6 promises moms and dads: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” It’s challenging to trust in God when we see our child taking the path that leads to destruction, but bathe yourself in the many promises he made in his most holy Word about your teenager.
4. Love Your Child
Be careful that not every interaction you have with your rebellious teen is negative or corrective. You need to show them you love them because they are your child. You may be disappointed in their current course, but you will always love them. See “8 Ways to Love Your Unrepentant Child” for more ideas.
5. Have an Open-Door Policy
If your teen hangs around a rougher crowd than you’d like, invite them to your house for dinner. Allow them to hang out in your rec room, watch your TV, eat your snacks, etc. You can certainly lay down house rules, such as no smoking or drinking on the premises, but you can also do your best to get to know these kids your teen wants to be around.
When they come, don’t be critical. Instead, ask them genuine questions about what they like, what they don’t like, who they live with, and what they enjoy doing in their free time. You might be surprised by some of the answers. Find a way to connect with them—your teen will appreciate it (but probably not say so) if you don’t turn it into an opportunity to preach or lecture them.
6. Stop Lecturing
I get it—it’s hard not to tell a teen how wrong they are, but remember back to your own teen years and how receptive you were when an adult or parent constantly harped on everything you did that wasn’t right. Believe me, they know they are doing things that displease you, but you’ll only alienate them if you keep beating the same drumbeat. If you must say something, say it once as concisely as possible, then leave it alone. You will find your teen will listen better if he knows you won’t be revisiting the topic during every encounter with them.
7. Evaluate Your Stance
Consider whether or not what you think is rebellion is truly rebellious. Shine the light of the gospel onto your own heart and make sure you are adhering to God’s Word and not your own thoughts. We want to be certain we are pointing the way to Christ, not to man’s standards, with our kids.
8. Let Go of the Small Stuff
I understand it can go against your values to have your teen get a tattoo, extra piercings, wear a particular clothing style, listen to whatever musical genre you deem inappropriate, read banned books, or watch rated R movies. But is damaging your relationship with them worth trying to make them toe the line you’ve drawn in the sand on these relatively minor things? Sometimes, the best recourse is to give a teen space to make their own judgment calls on their attire, musical and movie tastes, etc., and pray the Holy Spirit will convict when necessary.
9. Stay Calm
I know this can be tricky because our teens often know how to push our buttons, but keep your cool. The calmer you can stay, the less likely you will be to spout off words that are hurtful and can cause long-term damage. If you have trouble not getting angry, figure out your anger cues and watch out for them when talking to your teen.
10. Watch Your Words
This goes with staying calm, but we need to remember the power of words. Words hurt, especially those coming from a parent to a child. While there may be times we need to speak the hard truth in love, we also want to have care we’re not causing further friction by what we say and the tone in which we say it. If you’re unsure how you come across, ask your spouse or record yourself the next time you talk with the teen. Listen with an open heart to see if you’re using sarcasm or other inflections to hurt the teen.
11. Be Willing to Say You Were Wrong
We all make mistakes as parents; sometimes, those mistakes are more significant than others. We need to be willing to tell our teens we were wrong—and to be humble about it in the process. We need to show them how a follower of Christ apologizes when they’ve done something counter to God’s Word. Sure, it won’t be easy, and it could be embarrassing to backtrack on something we felt certain about. It could also be difficult if our teen throws it back in our face when we try to make things right. But this is our child we’re talking about, and we should be willing to put ourselves out there and say when we were wrong—and make amends.
Above all, remember our goal as parents isn’t to save our teenagers—that’s for God—but it is to stay true to the gospel as we love and care for our children. Take care you are loving them even amid their rebellion, and let God take care of the heart change.
Related Resource: Listen to Our FREE Parenting Podcast!
Sarah Hamaker is a national speaker and award-winning author who loves writing romantic suspense books “where the hero and heroine fall in love while running for their lives.” She’s also a wife, mother of four teenagers, a therapeutic foster mom, UMFS Foster Parent Ambassador, and podcaster (The Romantic Side of Suspense podcast). She’s a biblical parent coach and certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ with a heart for helping parents develop stronger relationships with their children. For more on her encouraging and commonsense approach to raising kids, visit her online at sarahhamaker.com.
Sarah Hamaker is a national speaker and award-winning author who loves writing romantic suspense books “where the hero and heroine fall in love while running for their lives.” She’s also a wife, mother of four teenagers, a therapeutic foster mom, a UMFS Foster Parent Ambassador, and podcaster (The Romantic Side of Suspense podcast). She coaches writers, speakers, and parents with an encouraging and commonsense approach. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.
Parents: Need Help Navigating Our Crazy Culture with Your Kids? Listen to Our FREE Parenting Podcast!
Christian Parent/Crazy World with Catherine Segars is available wherever you listen to podcasts. Listen to our episode on battling for your kids in prayer by clicking the play button below:
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
Are you in the trenches with your toddlers or teens? Read Rhonda's full article here!