“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words… When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly ‘wise’ [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint” – Hesiod, 8th century B.C.
“Our youth now love luxury, they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders, and love to chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, cross their legs and tyrannize their teachers.” – Socrates, 4th century B.C.
“Young people are always over-confident about what they know and what they can do, until experience humbles them.” – Plato (?)
The teenage period is the most critical stage in person’s life as it marks the transition between childhood and adulthood. Because of the confusions and conflicts that are inevitably experienced at this stage, many parents need to equip themselves with the proper knowledge and approach that will help them properly guide and care for their teenagers so this stage will be less traumatic for both.
• THREE FACTS THAT CAN COMFORT PARENTS OF REBELLING TEENS:
1. It’s a temporary stage. This is a normal stage that every teenager goes through that is only temporary and that “this too will pass.” What can prolong it is the wrong approach that parents usually employ in dealing with their teens. (Which means: parents need to be more patient)
2. Rebellion not intentional but part of a normal growth process. Your teenager does not necessarily want or intend to rebel (unless he /she has been abused or neglected by the parents in the previous years), but is simply struggling with his/her emerging need to have more freedom to be his/her own person and with the confusions and emotional instabilities that usually accompany the hormonal and psychological adjustments of this difficult stage of a person’s development (Which means: parents should not be harsh or confrontational)
3. You are not alone. You are not alone in helping and guiding your teenager – God is also at work. (Which means: parents should engage more in prayer for their teenagers at this difficult stage of their development and learn to trust God that, however this journey ends, God will bring out the best for them.)
• UNDERSTANDING YOUR TEENAGER’S NEEDS AND STRUGGLES
1. It’s partly about hormones. Teenagers experience hormonal changes that affect their appearance, desires, emotions, attitudes and, consequently, their self-esteem (often tends to be low) and vital relationships (deep conflicts and hurts). Mood swings, heightened sensitivity, sudden flare-ups, depression, behavioral inconsistency, and hostility often accompany these changes.
2. The struggle to find themselves. Teenagers are struggling to find their own identity and individuality apart from their parents and their own place in this world. Their being different from their parents doesn’t necessarily mean they are intentionally rebelling.
3. Freedom to build independence. Teenagers are developing adult needs, such as the need for independence and autonomy – the freedom to make their own decisions and to explore the world around them their way, as well as the need to feel respected as emerging adults. Conflict with their parents is one way that they explore their developing individuality and independence.
4. The power and responsibility of decision-making. Teenagers need to learn how to make decisions and take responsibility on their own without depending on their parents, as part of their psychological “weaning” process. Because of this need, they tend to not always agree with their parents’ point of view and sometimes feel the need to challenge their parent’s decisions and their parent’s attempts to control their decisions. For parents, success means doing the right thing; for teenagers, success means achieving responsible independence, even when they do wrong in the process, so they can learn from it.
5. The need for their peers and friendships. Teenagers need a social life with their peers that will help them explore, learn, adjust, grow and gain acceptance and belongingness in relationships with their peers and the world around them. This is also the stage when they become much interested in romantic relationships and sexual matters.
6. Respect my privacy, please! Teenagers have a heightened need for privacy which gives them a new sense of control and autonomy, to test things out for themselves without parent input. They need to feel that their privacy is respected.
7. The need for guidance and support. Teenagers consciously or unconsciously need parental guidance and support in this difficult and confusing stage, but not in a dictating, condemning, or critical way that can put down their self-esteem and their growing sense of independence. They need their parents to become their friends rather than being the high authority controlling their lifestyles. Teenagers may feel all-powerful and all-knowing but at the same time they experience fears of inadequacy and failure. They need to feel help and support throughout this stage in their lives.
8. Please be patient with me. Teenagers need their parents to understand and be patient with their confusions and bad decisions, their emotional turmoil, defiant attitudes and rebellious reactions, as they are going through emotional, psychological and relational adjustments and conflicts in their struggle to “come of age.”
9. Trust and Tolerance. Teenagers need to know that we have confidence in them and their potential to make good decisions and be responsible for themselves, even when they fail and make mistakes. Help them become independent without becoming delinquent.
10. Bless me, please! Teenagers need the regular verbal blessings of their parents during this difficult time, to empower them and protect them as they journey through their unfamiliar experiences and struggles.
• DEALING WITH TEENAGE REBELLION
1. Strengthen the bonds. The key to successful parental care during this difficult adolescent stage is to form a strong bond with a teenager so that he/she feels close enough to reveal all the problems and confusions to his/her parents. The following steps will help realize this.
2. Focus on dialogue, not judgment or “lectures.” Parents need to engage their teenager in regular non-judgmental, friendly dialogue, instead of confrontation, allowing the teenager to express what’s in his/her heart and mind and guiding him/her with the right questions towards better perspectives for wiser decision-making. Listen, listen, listen and understand before you talk. You cannot intelligently guide your teenager from where he/she is if you don’t know exactly where he/she is. Less talk, more ears is more helpful to them (James 1:19-20).
3. Be calm and reasonable, and keep praying. It is normal for teens to assert their independence and test their limits and yours. Responding by being consistent, calm, encouraging, and reasonable will help maintain trust and respect. Pray for them regularly and trust God as your partner in helping guide them through this difficult stage. This too, will pass.
4. Allow them enough freedom to make their own decisions. Try to grant as many of their requests in non-threatening matters and give them room to make their own decisions. Get enough information about what they decide to do, so you can decide if it will seriously affect their safety or well-being, or not. Express concern and caring with respect to their safety rather than appear controlling. If teenagers feel constant control by you over their lives, that will trigger the mighty force of rebellion embedded in them. Refuse to make decisions for them so they can learn how to make them. Parents may be more careful in decision-making than teenagers because they want to avoid failure or mistakes, but teenagers often need enough experience of failure or mistakes to convince them and shape their ability to make better decisions.
5. Don’t magnify the minor issues. Allow your teenager to be different from you or make decisions that you may not make. Allow them to choose their own tastes in clothes, hairstyle, hobbies and activities because these give them a sense of identity and create a stronger bond between parents and teenagers. Allow them also to make mistakes in their decision-making and when they do, help focus them on the lessons they can learn. In deciding how much difference should I allow, the question always to ask is: will it bring harm or not (whether to self or others)? Will it seriously offend others or God? If not, let them be. Don’t create an issue when it’s not absolutely necessary.When to Intervene? a. When they get into self-destructive modes – drugs, alcohol, violence b. When they bring harm or damage to others – harm to persons or property c. When they engage in potentially damaging relationships – premarital sex, gangs, lesbian or homosexual relationships
6. Teach them to be accountable for their actions. The goal is to be understanding of adolescent development and at the same time help your teenager understand that there is clear connection between their actions and consequences. Guide them with the right questions and input to help them see possible consequences to their actions or decisions, including consequences God reveals in the Bible, His Word, if relevant to their situation. Ask them how they will take responsibility for the consequences. If they insist (and the consequences are not seriously harming), and they usually will, then challenge them to prove you wrong. In the end, they may indeed prove you wrong, or prove you right.
7. Discipline when necessary – be firm but fair. Establish appropriate and fair consequences to morally unacceptable behaviour and violation of agreed rules. Explain these consequences to them and be firm and consistent in applying them. Abuse of privilege must be met with temporary deprivation or suspension of those privileges. They must understand the law of action and consequences and learn to take responsibility for the consequences that follow their actions. This is essential to their training for responsible independence and adulthood. Sometimes a parent can ask his teenagers to decide on what consequences he/she should give them when they foul up. This helps them establish a strong sense of responsibility for their actions.
8. Don’t let fear take control – allow some risks. Teenagers on a regular basis are constantly re-evaluating the boundaries you set for them, whether they are too strict, too lenient, or overprotective. Avoid becoming overprotective of them because you have to let them fall down and fail so they’ll learn. You must never let your fears get in the way of protecting them. It is your fears which create the overprotective boundaries you put in place for them and in order to combat this you need to be prepared to watch them fail at least once in their lives.
9. Relinquish your own dreams for them and be open. Parents need to recognize that their teenagers may develop or move in a direction contrary to what parents expect them to be or dream them to be. The key is to recognize their uniqueness and be open to their different possibilities of becoming. Forcing them to take a life-path that we want even for their best interests (in non-moral areas) may exasperate them and trigger rebellion. It takes much wisdom to discern whether we are absolutely right in what we want our teenagers to become or we are dead wrong in that we may actually be hindering them from becoming what God meant them to be, based on their unique potentials, personality and passions.
10. Give them lots of love, forgiveness, encouragement and patience. Teenagers need to be assured that when they make mistakes, they are going to realize it and prevent it from happening again in the future. It is your duty as their parents and friends to always love them no matter what, and to reassure them that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as they learn from those mistakes. In dealing with teenagers during this critical period you need to let them know they will always be loved and you will always be there to support and help their wounds to heal.
11. Respect, affirm and give them trust. Treat them and speak to them respectfully and don’t embarrass them in front of others, as you are their role model. Affirm their unique strengths and potentials, and never compare them with others. Tell them you love them and that you are proud of them when they make wise and mature decisions. This makes them feel satisfaction and guides them toward the right path and encourages communication with their parents. Affirm your confidence in them even when they’re not perfect and made many mistakes. That confidence they feel from you can challenge them to grow and become the better person they want to be.
12. A teenager’s greatest need. It is at this most crucial stage of our children’s development, they need God most of all (Ecclesiastes 12:1). You can lead them to faith in God by modelling that faith (by not allowing fear to dominate your treatment of your teenager and by not giving up on them) and showing God’s patient love to them inspite of everything. They will listen more to you when you talk about God and the Bible when they see these qualities in you. But do you have that right relationship with God to empower you to be the kind of parent that can guide your teenager successfully in this most troubling stage of their lives?