The Trouble with Kids
“I’m exhausted and tired of my 13 year-old son. One minute he’s grumpy and moody, and the next he’s downright mean.” “And I hate the way he treats me. He gets in my face, yells and talks back. Then when I drop him off at school, it’s like I have the plague and he’s ashamed to be around me. I’m going crazy.” The catch in this young mother’s voice drove home how deeply she hurt.
Feeding the Monster
A lot of debate and research has gone into understanding why there is a perpetual lack of respect for authority amongst youth, and adults for that matter. A few include the following…
Free Will. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Because God loves us He gave us the free will to choose our actions. It’s human nature to want to rebel (Romans 7). Our natural tendency is to want to revolt and fight back. It started with Eve and has not ceased.
Family Systems. Families tend to reproduce painful pasts like anger and abuse patterns. If there is pain and hurt in mom or dad’s life, they tend to “pass it on” to their kids. A common phrase used in the counseling milieu, “those who were abused tend to abuse,” has held true in research. In fact, the biggest risk factor for passing on violent behavior from one generation to another is a child witnessing his father abusing his mother (1).
Temperament/ Personality Differences. When tension escalates in the family, the natural parenting tendency is to increase the rules and get control of the situation. This pattern usually creates homes where discipline usually detracts all the energy and the relationship between the parent and child suffers. As Josh McDowell has often said, “Rules without relationships leads to rebellion.”
Kids who Feel Disrespected. A lot of kids don’t feel loved. Often left alone by parents both physically and emotionally, these kids question whether they are even worthy of love. Abandoned kids have big holes in their hearts. Inconsistency sends mixed messages to children, and when they question their self-worth or feel disrespected, they will either withdraw or become angry, both precursors to, and signs of rebellion.
Getting to the Heart
Ephesians 6:1-4 speaks of “honor for” parents and “honor from” parents to kids. Why? Because it’s at the core of healthy relationships. Sure rules, boundaries and responsibility are all a part of life. Setting them in order are important and difficult, but necessary. The hard work however is in how we get the job done. How we give those important life lessons to our kids even when they are moody, boy/girl crazy and starved for approval from everyone else but us as parents.
What Should We Do?
Stay Involved. Your kids need you. Heavy doses of you. If you have not been to your child’s sporting, dancing, singing, concert, or chess event, make it a priority to be at the next one. And every one after that!
Hold the Line. Just remember there are few hills worth dying over. A teen who is 5 minutes past curfew may or may not have a good excuse. Be judicious in how you respond. Ask yourself, “Is getting to the bottom of it worth the week-long tension in the house?” Make consequences based on the maturity, age, and disobedient act. Choose your battles wisely.
Sameness. Your home should be a place where kids can regulate their world around them. Show your consistency and model before them that your love and commitment to Truth in your life will never change. Every parent’s challenge is to:
“Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. (Deut. 6:6-9, The Message).
Let Them Spread Their Wings and Fly. Give your children the space to become who God created them to be. Solomon advises to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6, italics mine). Focus on God’s love and direction with careful consideration for their gifts, talents, and abilities. Notice the text doesn’t say “in the way you want him to go.” The most important part of parenting is teaching them how to live with you and without you.
Prayer. Spend most of your time in prayer for and over them. Prayer is our way of giving them back to the One who gave them to us. And He loves them more than we do (John 17:24).
American Psychological Association. (1996). Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family. Dating Violence.
Article courtesy of Light University Online, the #1 Online School for Biblical Counseling, Life Coaching & Crisis Response Training