Is teen rebellion a necessary part of raising a family in today’s modern world?
That is a question every set of young parents asks as their children begin to grow up. I have five children, and I was often warned,
Just wait until your kids hit the teen years! It’s brutal!
I was informed on many occasions by well-meaning friends and acquaintances that teen rebellion is one of the realities of parenting in the late 20th and 21st centuries. It’s just one of those “stages” that teens have to go through – so I shouldn’t be surprised when it hits.
While each teen certainly has a free will and is ultimately responsible for his/her choices, is it true that teen rebellion is a natural part of parenting that must be expected and anticipated? Actually, no! I didn’t rebel against my parents when I grew up. Nor did my brother. Nor did my wife. And, interestingly, neither did any of my children. And, it wasn’t just because we were “lucky!”
A Key Biblical Principle
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus expressed very clearly a Biblical principle that relates directly to the cause of teen rebellion. He said,
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
When children hit their teen years, there are two groups of people who play very significant roles in their lives – their parents, and their peers. Each has a set of values that is often very different from the other. What happens when those values conflict? You can’t serve two masters! You must choose one or the other.
Should I get a tattoo? Should I color my hair pink? Should I drink or take drugs? Should I become sexually active? Should I experiment with the gay lifestyle? Should I wear a mini-skirt? Should I wear a thong under my mini-skirt? Should I get a “tramp stamp?” How about body piercing? Or gauges? Or bars?
Teen rebellion results when kids choose the values of their peers over the values of their parents.
That happens very often in our modern culture because kids generally spend significantly more time with their friends than they do with their families. And, families often give in to the cultural pressure that says school and friends are more important for developing kids into mature adults than is their family.
During the week, school takes up 6 to 7 hours a day for classes – plus extra-curricular activities. On the weekends, kids “hang out” with their friends. In church, teens are normally set apart in separate classes and often in separate services from their parents and other adults.
Wisdom From Solomon
Solomon said that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. In Scripture, foolishness is not silliness. It is disrespect for God and disrespect for others. If the level of “foolishness” in the form of anti-social behavior, disrespect for others, and promiscuity that exists in the typical peer dependent teen culture of today were prevalent in the adult world, people would be fined, fired, or sued for sexual harassment.
Solomon also pointed out that those who walk with the wise will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. When teens draw their identity primarily from their peers, the values of the peers take precedence over the values of the parents. And, the values of the peers are generally not wise!
Resisting Peer Pressure
I grew up in New York State at a time when the official drinking age was 18. What that meant in practical terms was that 16 year olds would be served at certain bars. After football games or other school related events, it was customary for my high school classmates to go out to one of those bars and drink. I would go with them at times . . . but I never drank. I knew what was in my heart. And, I knew that if I got drunk, I would bring shame on my family . . . and I didn’t want to do that!
Why? Because my parents were important to me. They had instilled certain values in me that were part of our family identity. I was, above all, a Sarris. And, I didn’t want to bring disrepute on that name.
We owned a diner (all Greeks own restaurants, right?!) My mom and dad, and my brother and I all worked together. We spent time together. We talked and argued with each other. We did things differently than many of my friends. I wasn’t afraid of what my father or mother would do if I chose a different path. I didn’t want to choose a different path. I loved my parents. I knew they loved me.
When it came to choosing between the values of my family or my peers, I generally chose the values of my family. I was a Sarris.
Establish A Family Identity
When our children grew up, my wife and I sought diligently to establish a family identity that our kids would relate to. It wasn’t that our family was better than others. We were different. We were the Sarris family.
Our family had daily wisdom searches. Our family pursued life-partner relationships. Our family took care of grandparents when they couldn’t care for themselves. Our family watched classic films – musicals, Film Noir, Citizen Kane, On the Waterfront. Our family watched through all of the credits at the end of motion pictures. Our family opened one or two presents a day for several days at Christmas instead of opening them all at once. Our family listened to a variety of musical styles from classical to big band to popular. Our family took time at museum displays, and asked questions. Our family . . .
Each family has its own identity. Your family will be different from mine. And, that’s how it should be.
Establishing a family identity that your children will relate to is not really that difficult. Just do the things you do, and involve your children. Don’t be intimidated by the culture into thinking that your family is not “good enough” or that you can’t do it! God gave your children to you. He did not give them to the school. He did not give them to the church. He did not give them to their friends. We should certainly look to others to help us . . . and encourage us . . . and give us ideas of how we can do a better job. But, in the last analysis, parents and family are God’s design for raising and guiding children.
When your children identify with the values of your family instead of the values of their peers, you won’t have to be afraid of teen rebellion.