Did you know that teenage rebellion is preventable? Sure, teens are sinners and are going to sin, just like everyone else. However, ongoing, persistent, deep-seated rebellion is preventable.
Let’s divide teenage rebellion into two kinds—natural and provoked. Natural rebellion is present in everyone and is the ingrained rebellion of a born sinner. It is what makes a toddler say "NO!" forty-seven times a day, or a child deliberately disobey his parents just because he feels like it. It is a powerful force that compels each of us to want our OWN way and run our OWN lives. The basic solution for natural rebellion in a young person is three-fold. First is salvation by Jesus Christ, Who gives His power to subdue this inborn rebellion. Second is parental training in godly obedience and self-discipline to teach the teen how to restrain his rebellious instincts. And third is removing the teen from influences that encourage rebellion (peers, books, movies, etc.) so that one’s rebellious side is not additionally stimulated.
Provoked rebellion, on the other hand, is stirred up by other people and circumstances. It is the resentment and bitterness that springs from hurtful or thoughtless words and actions. This is what I’d like to primarily focus on in this article, because so much of this kind of rebellion springs from parental behavior. Parents have a weighty responsibility to make sure that they are not the source of rebellion in their children.
In the book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey gives us a useful analogy for relationships. Relationships, he explains, are like a "love bank." We make "deposits" (kind things) and we make "withdrawals" (unkind things). The balance in the "account"—that is, the closeness of the relationship—depends on the amount of deposits and withdrawals that are made.
So, what are some ways that parents make "withdrawals" from the "bank account"?
1. Playing favorites. Jacob tried this with Joseph back in Bible times and it made Joseph’s brothers so angry and bitter that they were ready to kill Joseph. Favoritism is unfair and unkind and your teen will be quick to pick up on the injustice.
2. Making fun of your teen. I don’t mean good-natured teasing that is received by the teen in the same way. I’m talking about sarcasm and ridicule. It is particularly unkind to do this to a young person because he is defenseless—if he answers back out of the provocation in his spirit, he is subject to a reprimand for "being disrespectful."
3. Assigning motives and exaggerating. "You broke that on purpose! You were deliberately goading me! You always shirk your chores! I’ve heard nothing but complaining out of you for a week!" These kinds of comments are inflammatory and spark instant resentment because they are often partly false. Unjust accusations make a swift "withdrawal" from the "bank account." Simply stick to the precise, unexaggerated problem of what your teen did right now—not why he did it.
4. Disciplining without the facts. Never lecture or discipline without hearing both sides of the argument. Even if you are convinced your teen is wrong, he needs a chance to explain. He might have information you don’t know and your refusal to listen to it will make a big "withdrawal." Either way, he will accept a reprimand less resentfully if he feels like you at least heard him out.
5. Embarrassing him publicly. Don’t criticize or lecture your teen in front of others. Be discreet and thoughtful. I am shocked at the number of parents who will freely discuss all their teen’s shortcomings right in front of him. Flaws in your teen’s character do not have to be announced to the world, nor the methods you choose for reproving him. Public humiliation sows deep seeds of bitterness and makes "withdrawals."
On the other side, what are some ways that you as a parent can make "deposits" in your "bank account" with your teen?
1. Tell your teen that you love him and show it by your actions. Don’t settle for half the equation—just telling or just showing. Do both—often. Show physical affection. Help him with projects. Spend time with him. Do something special for him "just because." Make it plain that he is the delight of your life.
2. Praise your teen for a job well done. Some parents are constant criticizers and never balance critiquing with praising. Compliment your teen’s good points—his good attitude, his perseverance, etc. Show appreciation and thank your teen for his efforts on behalf of the family. Even if it is something as simple as washing a mountain of dishes, a smile and a sincere "Thank you!" makes a nice "deposit" into the "bank account."
3. Treat your teen considerately. Show your teen the same courtesy and thoughtfulness that you want him to show to you. Be considerate of his schedule, his belongings, his needs, and his desires. Don’t blow him off or run roughshod over him.
4. Apologize. This is incredibly important. A hurt that is never apologized for multiplies resentment and creates a festering bitterness. Enormous "withdrawals" from the "bank account" are made by failure to apologize for a harsh word or a thoughtless action. Even if you did the right thing, such as giving a needed reproof, if you handled it improperly (maybe you lost your temper), you need to go back and apologize for the way in which you handled it. Even if you don’t think you did anything wrong, if your teen is very hurt by what you did, an apology that says, "I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings—I love you so much," goes a long way to restoring the relationship and actually makes a "deposit"!
5. Listen to your teen. Always be ready to listen to anything—whether it’s his side of an argument or his thoughts and dreams or even his silly jokes. Being brushed aside by a parent who is perpetually too busy or uninterested makes a sizeable "withdrawal" from the "bank account." Encourage your teen to talk and really listen to him. Refrain from turning every "listening" time into a "lecture" time.
Jesus commands us in Matthew 7:12, So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. The parent who takes this to heart will have a high "balance" in the "bank account" with his teen and will greatly reduce provoked rebellion.
(c) 2007 by Raquelle Sheen. All rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without written permission from the author. For reprint permission, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.