I recently received an email that was sent out to a large number of parents from a teacher at my daughter’s high school. Her main goal was to let folks know she wouldn’t be available for conferences; however, she offered some parenting advice as well. One line jumped out to me: “The teenage brain is one that rebels against parents and places their friends as the most important factor in their life.”
Knowing the teacher, I am sure it was meant as an encouragement somehow, but I’m guessing it caused a wide range of emotional reactions from the readers. Encouragement would probably be low on the list!
In essence, the teacher’s comment suggests that we ought to expect our teenagers to rebel, and that their rebellion is inevitable. However, in my practice, I have found the opposite to be true: that teenaged rebellion is not inevitable, and that one of the biggest predictors of teen rebellion is the expectation that it will happen.
I’m not suggesting that the teen years won’t include some drama and turbulence. But we have coached many families that now report their kids’ teen years were far more peaceful and rewarding than their tumultuous childhood years – my family among them.
In countless families, we have seen that when parents are passionate about connecting with their children — including when they misbehave — they grow up feeling more connected to their parents and to God. And kids who feel connected, who feel like they belong, and who feel respected, are much less likely to feel a need to rebel against or withdraw from their parents as they get older.
Here are a few things you can do to help prepare for the teen years:
- Normalize the possible struggles. I told my compliant, oldest daughter when she was in late elementary school that there would be a time when we may not agree on things and we may struggle in our relationship from time to time. I told her that it was okay, because we loved each other and it was part of her growing up to be an adult. She was wide-eyed and somewhat in disbelief!
- Set up family decision-making processes. We began family meetings when our kids were young with the knowledge that our family would need to be able to communicate effectively when “teen issues” came into play. (We’ve got some helpful tips on Family Meetings.)
- Stay connected. When behaviors become difficult, look for ways to remain connected. Move toward your child in ways he/she can receive. Don’t pull away because of misbehavior. Many parents sacrifice their relationship for right behavior. As Josh McDowell has said, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”
- Pray for and with your child. It is easy to get into hand-wringing mode worrying about our kids and their futures. Model prayer in your home in ways that honor your kids.
So feel free to “defy the odds” or decide they are not really “odds” at all! Stay committed to enjoying your child through the ups and down of life, and “odds are” they will enjoy you as they age. And long after the teenage years are done, when you’re rocking away at Sunset Acres, they just might come to visit you. 😉
Apply It Now:
- Identify possible ways you have “bought into” the belief that the teen years will be filled with rebellion.
- Identify fear-based, negative feelings you have about your child’s teen years.
- In what ways will you move toward your child during times of misbehavior?
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