Is teenage rebellion inevitable?
If you follow me on social media, perhaps you’ve seen my posts on raising kids who will not reject God. A lot of my readers are newlyweds (no kids) or unmarried.
But many of you have children!
So when my friend, Rebecca released her new book Why I didn’t Rebel, I wanted to share it with you, because I’ve been reading it and it is so good!
If you don’t have kids now or your children are little, it’s still a fantastic resource because it helps you see what you can do now to set up for better teen years!
If you have preteens or teens, it’s one of the best resources for raising kids to have a real authentic relationship with God.
Here’s Rebecca to tell us more..
Hi, I’m Rebecca Lindenbach, I’m 22 years old, and I didn’t rebel.
And I’m not alone. For the last two years I’ve been working on my book, Why I Didn’t Rebel, interviewing 25 young adults and delving into social science research to figure out what it is that makes some kids rebel and others stay on the straight-and-narrow.
So what is it exactly that parents can do to help their kids grow up to follow God? Today I want to share three of the things that I found from my interviews that parents can do to help their kids not rebel.
1. Focus on reasons, not on rules.
Shiloh’s parents were adamant that their children would follow God. Their kids had to be downstairs by a certain time and read a certain number of Bible chapters a day or they’d lose their cell phone for a week.
There were even rules for who had to pray at which meal. And the rest of her life was dictated by rules, as well, to make sure she didn’t make any mistakes. Strict curfews, strict modesty rules, and absolutely no dating.
But those rules had the opposite effect than what her parents wanted. Shiloh felt suffocated, trapped. As she explains, “God became part of the rules that I hated.”
In fact, it wasn’t until she made a friend with authentic, personal faith that she understood that Jesus could be more than deadlines and obligation.
My parents, though, weren’t like that at all. My parents ditched the rules, and instead focused on giving us reasons. They wanted us to read our Bibles because it was God’s word and held so much wisdom. They didn’t give us a quota for Bible reading.
We didn’t have rules about when we needed to come home at night, what kinds of movies we were allowed to watch, or what kinds of clothes we were allowed to wear—instead, our parents would ask us, “What do you think is appropriate” in each situation.
See, for those of us who didn’t rebel, it wasn’t that we didn’t have any boundaries. Of course we did! But instead of using rules to dictate our behavior, our parents acted more as our guides and mentors in decision making.
The end goal was not that we behaved properly, but that we were able to make wise decisions on our own. My mom always told us, “You have the Holy Spirit as much as I do! Why shouldn’t I expect you to make good decisions?”
The problem with rules is that they assume that the kid is going to break them. Why else would you have them in the first place?
Discussing reasons, consequences, and motivations behind behaviors gives kids the same boundaries but with the freedom they need to learn to walk on their own two feet.
2. Fight for authenticity, not control.
Because we didn’t have a lot of strict “rules,” our family really didn’t have much of a power struggle. In the families I interviewed who had kids who did rebel, that was not the case.
Nathan and his mom constantly fought for control. His mom had a whole pile of rules, many of which made no sense to Nathan, but she wouldn’t ever explain the rules or listen to his point of view. As well, if she ever made a mistake or said something in anger to Nathan, she wouldn’t apologize.
Now, Nathan’s mom loved him more than life itself, and Nathan knew that. But it still didn’t seem fair—he was almost an adult (17 years old), and still had no freedom, and didn’t feel respected by his mother.
Teens are like everyone else—they need to be heard and they need to feel respected. But often parents get into this power struggle with their children where they clamp down even harder on rules and discipline which leads to their kids feeling more and more distant and misunderstood. It creates a negative spiral.
There wasn’t a fight for control in families with kids who didn’t rebel. In our families, our parents were vulnerable and authentic with us. My dad had a really stressful job, and sometimes he’d come home after losing a patient and snap at the smallest infraction.
But without fail he’d come up to our rooms after we’d both had time to cool off, explain the kind of day he was having, and ask for our forgiveness for how he had handled the situation.
That is so different from Nathan’s story. My parents, and the parents of the other kids who didn’t rebel, chose to open up to us to create a real relationship, not just a hierarchy.
To them, whether or not we obeyed our parents wasn’t nearly as important as whether or not we were obeying God. Honoring our parents was a part of that, but obedience to them was never the ultimate goal.
3. Show Christ through your actions, not just your words.
Patrick grew up in a “perfect” Christian family. His parents were involved in every area of church ministry, his family was held up as one of the pillars of his church, and they worked hard to maintain that position.
The problem? Patrick never experienced the love and joy of Christ at home. So when he hit high school and was fighting temptation, he was doing it all on his own power (which, of course, does not work). Disillusioned, he decided “I’ll follow God when I’m stronger later—right now it’s just too hard.”
By the time he moved to university, he was heavy into the party scene. But then he found great Christian roommates and his whole life changed. Finally, someone showed him that Spirit-filled living that he’d been longing for and he hasn’t turned back.
My family, and the other families of kids who didn’t rebel, showed their children what it meant to follow God on a daily basis. God was just a part of life—and his love, grace, and joy were all present.
My parents didn’t presume to have all the answers. In fact, my dad would be proud of me when I could argue him into a corner! They also didn’t strive for the “perfect Christian family” image that Nathan and Shiloh’s parents worked so hard for.
Rather, they quite frequently talked about how we didn’t have it all together! But what they did do was show us what it meant to be completely humbled before God. They showed us sacrificial love, and they showed us grace.
No amount of rules or discipline is going to make your kid have an authentic relationship with Christ. It’s simply going to make God into a checklist they dread doing every day.
The best thing that parents can do to help their kids truly follow God in a real, personal manner is to model that kind of lifestyle themselves. And that means being vulnerable, being honest, and living out the kind of lifestyle that Jesus calls us to.
Order your copy of Why I Didn’t Rebel here! Check out whyididntrebel.com