“You don’t care about me and what I want. You are ruining my life. You just don’t understand. You never listen to me! I won’t ever need this stuff you are forcing me to do”
If you have a teen rebel, you have heard something like those statements—maybe a thousand times over. What about these, “I hate you. I wish I wasn’t born into this family. If I could, I would leave this home” For those of you who don’t have a teen rebel, yes, it is extremely painful living with one when they are downloading these untruths.
And that is exactly what they are: untrue. As parents, we need to keep the “belt of truth” on so that we can defeat those lies. But our warfare is not against our rebel, but against our common enemy. We need to realize that our children are not just speaking hateful, hurtful things, but that they have a heart that needs to be regenerated by a living, loving God. Your teen rebel is not your enemy, but they have an enemy who is whispering untruth to them constantly. Your job is to speak the truth, because that is what will set them free.
So, before we go further, where do these rebellious teens come from? What do we do with them? How do we cope? Let’s find some answers together.
Some kids are rebellious outwardly, and some are made to be strong in spirit—it is who they are! We must not crush who they are, but affirm who they were made to be: rebels for Christ!
Where Do Rebel Teens Come From?
Teens that are a bit rebellious are pretty common, but teens that really rebel are not as easy to find, especially in homeschool circles. But I bet there is a family or two you know who has a true rebel. Some kids are rebellious outwardly, and some are made to be strong in spirit—it is who they are! We must not crush who they are, but affirm who they were made to be: rebels for Christ!
There are as many reasons for teens to rebel as there are rebellious teens, but most of them probably point back to an unregenerate heart of sin that is unwilling to yield itself to authority. We can work with our rebel from a young age to obey mom and dad, but if they are unwilling to obey God by doing so, then they have a bigger underlying problem. We don’t need to nag our rebels with lots of useless words, we only need one source: God’s Word. That is the authority to which you both need to be accountable.
Rebels are not just found in families that are secular or dysfunctional. Rebels are not just found in single parent families. Rebels are not only found in extremely legalistic families. But we like to put labels on these things to try to make sense of them; however, those labels are not always true. Some of the best, most Godly parents in the world have raised children who at some point rebelled against them and their God. And sometimes, it takes years for the rebel to come to their senses.
Think about Adam and Eve: the first parents who walked physically close with an Almighty God. Yet, what happened to their sons? Think about the many saints in history who started out as rebels but ended up as mighty warriors for the Kingdom of God. If you have a teen rebel, don’t lose heart. Even the worst of sinners have the opportunity to receive the grace of God. Hang in there and above all, pray!
If you know a family who has a rebellious teen, this is not the time to put on your gown and sit in the judgment seat. Parents of rebel teens already beat themselves up wondering what they did wrong and where they went wrong. This is the time to support them in prayer and understanding. They just might need you to be someone who comes alongside them or their teen as a voice of reason and wisdom.
Your voice just might be the voice their teen will listen to since they are not listening to their parents. Show compassion and not judgment and you just might be the vessel that leads that child to repentance. But if you are the parent of a rebel, how do you deal with these turbulent years? What if you treated them the same way you would treat the rebel of a friend: with grace and mercy and a listening ear. God’s way is merciful and gracious; longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth (Exodus 34:6).
What Do We Do With Them?
First, I want you to realize that you only have a short amount of time left with teens. So, every choice you make concerning your teen, and every word you say has to be timely and bear eternal weight. This is not the time to push against them or away from them, rather draw them in close. Spend lots of time with them for the purpose of just listening. The younger ones can wait a bit for your attention while they learn from watching you love the rebel teen.
Teens are an interesting breed of people. They are no longer babies, and not yet adults. Their bodies are changing; their views are changing; their attitudes are changing; their habits are changing; they think they know a lot and don’t think they need help with anything. They stay up late and they sleep in late. They have some head knowledge, but they don’t yet have the wisdom of experience. So, our job is to learn patience, come alongside as a counselor (not a nag) and teach them by example how to live and respond to what life throws their way.
They can smell a hypocrite parent a mile away—or, maybe just a room away—or even a few angry words away. Teen rebels need to see their parents living Biblically, not just using Biblical words. They need to see the parents making Biblical choices and responding Biblically to whatever the teen challenges them with. They want to see the parents stand up strong to something they believe in, so they will have an example of what a Godly rebel looks like. They want to know in their deepest souls that you live what you believe, because if they are going to take on your belief system, they need to see it in action when they press against it and try it in every way.
Our actions must line up with our words and we must live what we preach. If we are always frustrated and angry with our rebel, they will not hear anything we have to say. Our hearts must be right before the Lord and the rebel. If we are humble and forgiving, they just might have an ear to hear.
How Do We Cope?
God says we can come boldly to His throne in our time of need. We can lay low and we can do battle there. We can hear God intercede for our own rebel there. We can hear God’s heart there. We don’t have to just survive the teen years.
Yes, these years can be filled with pain and anguish when the child you’ve poured your love and care into turns against you; when their life choices and their words cut you like a knife. But, we can live victoriously with our rebel by becoming a rebel ourselves. We need to rebel against the idea that we have been given the wrong child. We need to rebel against the idea that this child needs to conform to be more like our own personality. We need to rebel against the enemy of their soul in mighty-through-God prayer warfare. And, we can thank God in advance for making our child a rebel who will be used for His glory and purposes, and is able to stand against sin.
Love Your Rebel
Dads and moms: love your rebel by loving your God and His Word.
Love your rebel by spending quality time with them just listening without judgment. They already know what you like and don’t like. Let the Spirit of God convict their hearts about the outward behavior. Let’s give our rebels back to God to Whom they belong. He will be faithful to them.
What would you want to have accomplished when both of you are gone? I am guessing you would want your rebel with you in God’s Kingdom whether or not they became a doctor, lawyer, or politician. Let’s lay aside the heavy robes of judgment with these rebels, and put on the hat of guidance counselor as we chart their course for gaining entrance into the Kingdom of God. That is the eternal Home Where They Belong.
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Deborah Wuehler is the Senior Editor for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, participating author in The Homeschool Minute, wife to Richard, and mom to eight gifts from heaven. She loves digging for buried treasure in the Word, reading, writing, homeschooling, and dark chocolate! You may contact her at senioreditor@TheOldSchoolhouse.com.