On our radio program, Lisa and I are constantly reminding parents that the idea that teens must rebel is one of the most pernicious lies affecting the family today. The idea of adolescent rebellion, in fact adolescence itself, was unknown before the 20th century and even then, the idea of teenagers rebelling was uncommon until mid-century.
A friend of mine pointed me to this article by a self-described “perfect teen” that describes the things that her parents did to avoid the trap of adolescent rebellion. While I might add a few things, I think it’s spot on. Specifically, she identifies five things she believes prevented both her and her sibling, who has a very different personality from her, from rebelling (and, incidentally, these are many of the same things Lisa and I discuss in Parenting with Grace in our our chapter on parenting teens).
1. A sense of family honor (Something we talk about in Parenting with Grace in our section about creating a sense of family mission)
2. Her parents were encouraging but demanding. (In Parenting with Grace we show parents how to set very high standards but help their teens achieve those standards by gentle, supportive means.
3. Her family “talked about everything.” (To me this harkens back to Pope John Paul II’s call to families to be places that cultivate “open dialog, mutual respect, and solidarity (Evangelium Vitae)
4. Her family never expected her to rebel. (As we explain in Parenting with Grace and Dr. Gordon Neufeld discusses in Hold on to Your Kids, rebellion at any stage is a sign that something is wrong. I don’t ever expect that something should be wrong in my relationship with my kids. If there is, I fix it. Rebellion resolved.)
5. God is the center of her family and home. (I honestly don’t know how parents can be effective without cultivating a strong spirit of family prayer and facilitating their children’s personal relationships with God.)
Check it out, I think you’ll find it interesting. And if you would like to figure out how to raise teens who, like the adolescent author of this piece, think the idea of adolescent rebellion is absurd, check out a copy of Parenting with Grace. I think you’ll be pleased to see how affirming it is to have a resource that supports you in living as family life was meant to be lived instead of having to settle for what everyone else tells you have to be willing to accept.