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Navigating Teenage Rebellion

Kurt Bruner, The Center for Strong Families

There is little in life that creates more anxiety than having a teenager who seems out of control. Experiencing emotional outbursts, being lied to, or staying up at night worrying about their safety can greatly damage your relationship with your teen. You may have tried different approaches to help them—being tough one day and then trying to show mercy the next—but nothing really seems to make a difference. What steps can you take now to best help your child?

STEP ONE: Assess Your Relationship
As teen expert Josh McDowell has said, “Rules without relationships leads to rebellion.” Considering that your teen’s emotions and behavior are being affected by a surge of changing hormones, it’s vital for you to maintain as strong a relationship as possible in the midst of whatever they may be going through. Like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32), you can hope that your unconditional love and forgiveness will ultimately draw your teen back. So ask yourself several questions to evaluate the status of your relationship, such as…

  • Is our relationship generally healthy with a few bumps, or generally unhealthy with rare moments of connection?
  • Am I spending time with my teen doing things we enjoy together to create a solid foundation for when tensions occur?
  • Does my child feel deeply loved or heavily criticized? (1 Peter 4:8)
  • Has the relationship deteriorated to the point where we need pastoral or professional guidance?

STEP TWO: Be the Parent
Some parents interpret the need for relationship as a call to be good friends to their teens, but you need to be the parent—the one who brings stability and structure to the child’s life by setting boundaries and expectations. Showing that kind of authority can be difficult for some, but it is an essential role of parenting. It can also be challenging to direct your teen in a way that doesn’t exasperate him or her (Ephesians 6:4) when you feel disrespected. As the adult, you need to sacrifice your hurt feelings and anger to do what’s best for your teen. You are called as the parent to lovingly direct your teen through the challenges leading to adulthood. Ephesians 4:15 directs us to “speak the truth in love.” Ask God to show you when it’s important to be tough and when you need to lead with gentleness and compassionate love.

STEP THREE: If Serious, Seek Professional Help
In this church body, you are surrounded by parents who have raised teenagers; many of whom faced challenges similar to yours. There’s no reason to be embarrassed by the challenges you have or to strive to keep the veneer of a perfect family. You need the support and wisdom of those who have been where you are. Do you find yourself asking any of these questions?

  • How can I find out if my child is using drugs or alcohol?
  • Is my daughter having sex, and if so, what should I do?
  • Why does my child seem do depressed?
  • I think my son is looking at pornography. What do I do?

Problems such as alcohol or drug use, pornography addiction, sexual experimentation, severe depression and other challenges may fall beyond your understanding and require the help of counselors and experts who can bring biblical wisdom along with professional understanding of teens and risky behavior.


Recommended Books:

  • Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by Dr. John Townsend
  • Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy by Michael Bradley

Prestonwood Support

Prestonwood has a variety of Bible Fellowships for the spiritual development of every person. No matter your age and stage of life, there’s a Bible Fellowship for you. Visit for more information. The Prestonwood Library, located on the second floor of the Plano Campus, provides additional resources and services to help Christians grow in faith and ministry.

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