Teen Rebellion – normal? Do you expect your child to pilot the space shuttle without training? How about something more realistic. When your child reaches 16 yrs of age, you don’t just hand over the keys to your brand new Lexus, do you? If so, chances are, you’ll have a wrecked Lexus! Nor should you expect them as teenagers to act like anything but children, that is, if you haven’t spent time training and teaching. You reap today from that which you sowed yesterday. Or, like with a retirement fund, you do not reach 65 and it miraculously appears, you have to make investments. What other analogy can I call upon to make this point?
So, with your children you absolutely have to invest in them starting from the earliest years building a relationship of openness, trust, increasing responsibility, accountability and independence. It takes lots of time and real commitment.
With teen rebellion, as with the terrible two’s, you get what you expect. But now, it is not just a 25 lb child that you can discipline, it is a 100+ lb person who might equal or exceed your weight, size and vocabulary. The myth of teen rebellion is propagated by parents who didn’t/don’t take time to train and discipline for various reasons (ie the up-bringing they experienced, ignorance or selfishness). Maybe we could treat the first two a little less severely, but selfishness is really the main culprit and there is no excuse for it. Church activities, work, shopping and time with friends are necessary, but often used to excess, as a cover for just not wanting to be with your family. Other obvious examples of selfishness to the exclusion of family time are hunting, fishing, the gym, mom’s morning out and girls night out. Just about any valid activity can be used as an escape from the responsibilities that we undertook in our marriage vows and parenthood. Here some may claim that they didn’t “want” to be parents, it was “_____’s fault”. This is just another example of selfishness, wanting the the pleasures of life without the concurrent responsibilities.
Children are mirrors of us as parents. I am not just speaking of teen rebellion here, but when our children are having attitude problems, I look at my own attitudes. More times than not, their bad attitudes are a reflection of my own! When my attitudes are straightened out, theirs seem to follow. Our children see how we talk on the phone, the things we look at, the efforts we go to attain a “look” and what we value. Our priorities are demonstrated every day by how we keep our word and what displaces the so-called “important” things of family life.
Teen rebellion is just one example of the fact that children of all ages are crying out for attention, acceptance and praise. This cry unheeded often turns into a display of rebellion just to get some reaction out of their parents. They desire the parent’s time and praise but when they consistently don’t receive any, they will look elsewhere. Initially, this “elsewhere” is usually at an extreme (friends, activities, behavior), as an attempt to grab their parents attention. If ignored and unchecked, the extreme becomes their norm and they learn to substitute it for the lacking parental relationship.
This may seam scary to some of you, to others it is all too true. But it doesn’t have to be. We all can choose to do the right thing even though it cost us (time, money, effort and continued acceptance by our so-called friends). My husband and I are not perfect nor are we blessed with perfect children. We often have called our first son our “test child” because we didn’t have an exact path to follow. There is no exact path, but there is a common goal: to raise up responsible adults. Many have defaulted for a substitute goal (ie to get the child out of the house, to get them an education, to get them married). But the default answer (goal) is usually wrong or, at the least, not the best – because it is easy. Anything of value requires effort and sacrifice to achieve.
So (for those of you still reading) … How do you avoid teen rebellion?
- Have a unified front – parentS. If you are divided – be reconciled (from what is allowable for your child to the entire aspect of your marriage). Your children will see the lack of consistency as lack of authority.
- Start today (with your 2-19 year old) and be consistent.
- Find something to praise. They do have some good qualities. Look for them!
- Don’t ignore their undesirable behavior. Nor let your correction of it be the definition of your interaction.
- Actively pursue communication. Trivial stuff at least. But, this will allow a you an in for the more important matters as they arise.
- Be honest with them. Let them know (confess) that you are not perfect. If they are teenagers, they already know. When you share your own mistakes and what you now know would have been the better choice, you make yourself real. And you give them the possibility of learning from your mistakes rather than having to attend the school of hard knocks.
- You are the #1 influence in your child’s life. Is it the best? It is said that the iniquities of father’s are past on to the 3rd and 4th generation. I believe that these are not sins, but rather the propensity to sin. They are learned by experience, watching and listening.
- Spend time with them – quantity, quality and make use of the teachable moment.
- Parenting is an unbelievable privilege – Be Responsible!
For further reading: Teen Rebellion Part 2 continues with laying the basis to avoid teen rebellion.