There are a lot of principles of Scripture showing us and telling us how loving parents respond when their children rebel. You can read many of them here. When parents are confronted with teen rebellion, though, there are typical knee-jerk responses that can do far more harm than good.
Before you do anything, make sure you’re not doing these. If you are, stop. Repent and ask God to help you change. The same God that can rescue your teen from rebellion and draw her heart to Him can help you deal with this trial in your own life, too.
Don’t Bow to “Fight or Flight” Tendencies
You probably know your own go-to: Is it to run away from or fight your way through problems? If it’s the former, you’re ready to kick your own flesh and blood to the curb — or at least emotionally disconnect from her. If it’s the former, you may be tempted to be in her face, arguing your case and insisting on compliance. Neither is likely to be productive.
If you think of your teen in a relational way instead of as a problem, you’ll be less likely to act in haste and cause irreparable damage to your relationship. More importantly, the greatest example of a Father never leaves His children, as we see in Hebrews 13:5. And He tells us not to make enemies of ours (Ephesians 6:4).
Don’t Throw in the Towel
When you feel like you’re failing, it’s easy to just give up. After all, if you’re not trying anymore, you can’t fail, can you? I love the phrase “relentless parenting” in the Focus on the Family article series linked here.
Often, parents will remove rules in order to “keep the peace.” While perhaps some restraints are inappropriate for a maturing teen and need to be re-evaluated, removing all restrictions is not a sign of love. It’s easier to let them “do their own thing” than to show them the kind of love God shows us (Hebrews 12:7; Proverbs 13:24; Revelations 3:19).
Don’t Blame Yourself
Are you imperfect? Sure. Are you inconsistent, at times? Of course. Are you to blame? No. Your teenager is a free moral agent, meaning that she is responsible for her own choices (Proverbs 20:11).
As much as all parents wish there was something we could do to ensure our children’s positive outcome, there is not. When we fail, we need to repent and then trust God to forgive us. The Enemy of our faith (and our families!) would love for us to wallow in defeat and let our past mistakes keep us from going forward.
As we avoid these negative patterns of thought and behavior, we’ll be better able to guide our troubled teens in avoiding them as well. If it’s a struggle, we can even express that struggle to them, prayerfully hoping God will use our own struggles to help our teens have victory over theirs.
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