Beth calls you about her son Josh. He’s 16 and in rebellion. The patterns of rebellion were a whisper in years past, but have now grown into a full-fledged storm that is consuming the entire family.
Beth is hurting, confused and desperate. She is also impatient. She wants help and she wants it now. Her husband is not involved in the initial phone call or the ensuing counseling that proceeds from the initial call.
The story above, though fictional, is all-too-often the general process in which a family begins counseling for their teenage son. Over the next few blog posts I want to deal with some of the myths and truths about troubled teens.
Upcoming discussion points
Passive dads - Nearly all troubled teen counseling is initiated by the mom rather than the dad. While most dads work during the day and it is easier for the mom to make the phone call, it typically becomes apparent during the counseling the dad is passive and the mom is not. This usually applies to their marriage and their parenting models. Passive or angry dads are two of the biggest factors in teen rebellion.
Collaboration - Biblically speaking, it is a false-continuum to believe the teenage years mean years of rebellion. This is a myth. The seeds of rebellion are in the heart of a kid years before and the collaborating factors of indwelling sin in the teen, plus selfishness on the part of the parents, contribute to what is understood as teen rebellion.
Humility - Almost always the trouble with the troubled teen does not begin with the teen. It is rare for kids to become so messed up in 16 short years without help from the parents. At some level nearly all parents have areas which need to change, or areas where they have failed as parents. Their humility is key to the change process regarding their teen.
Starting point - It is difficult to tell a mom, who you do not know, how part of the problem lies with her and her relationship with her husband. I do not recall an exception to this–the parents will need to make some changes too. If the parents will own their sinful shaping influences on their child, much good could come from the counseling.
Dear dad - Associated with the above, it is rare to get the dad engaged in the counseling process. Typically, it is a poor relationship with the dad that is a core problem with the teen. Dads of rebellious teens rarely understand how their roles as fathers can have a lifetime impact on their sons or daughters.
No enemies here - When the teen comes to counseling, he is typically thinking two things: (1) it is three against one: mom, dad, and this stranger who is going to fix me (2) and because it is Christian counseling, the counselor is about to “ram” the Bible down his throat. A wise counselor will be prepared to deconstruct these dangerous presuppositions.
Future grace - Unfortunately, by the time the parent calls, the heart attitude has been going on for years. The accumulative disappointment in the child makes immediate change nearly impossible. Though many of these teens do change, by coming to God and living normal Christian lives, it is not unusual for it to be years later.
Impatience - It’s also common for the parents to become impatient with the counselor because he cannot “fix” the problem (the rebellious teen) which was years in the making. I have reminded many parents through the years how I was in jail at 15. That’s important information for them to know. What took years to mess up will not be fixed overnight. God regenerated me 10 years later.
Community - The local church is rarely involved at a level that matters, with the parents or with the teen. At some point there is usually a communal disconnect, assuming the parents and child were ever connected to their local church. If sanctification contexts and processes are not engage and sustained over a long period of time, none of us will live victorious. Dynamic Christian living happens in community.
Hope - This is a lot of bad news! The question is, “Is there hope for my kid?” And, “What recommended resources do you have?” God does have an answer for the parent and the teen. It does not have to be the way it has been. God can reorient their thinking and behavior, but it will not be as simple as speaking to the teen about what he is doing wrong.
Over the next few days I will be addressing these issues and more, hoping to give you some help with your children. If your kids are still young, you’re in the best place possible to help them become God-glorifying teenagers. All the articles below can be found on our Member Site.
For further reading
- Purchase my eBook, Gospel Centered Parenting
- 12 Life lessons for teenagers
- How do I help my teen? He does not want me speaking into his life.
- Before you can help your child, you must do this
- The danger of applauding excellence: the story of a rebellious teen
- Conditions in which your child cannot be helped
- Making children work for your affection
- From innocence to rebel: the day I realized my parents were not perfect
- Fussy parents make insecure kids
In this series
- Troubled Teens – Myth or Truth 1.0
- Troubled Teens and dads who lead poorly 2.0
- Troubled Teens and the false continuum 3.0
- Troubled Teens – the tale of the sinner and the Christian 4.0
- Troubled Teens – telling mom the truth – 5.0
- Troubled Teens rebel because they are rebels – 6.0
- Troubled Teens – caution for the counselor – 7.0
- Troubled Teens and the liability of counseling – 8.0
- Troubled Teens – Is there hope for my kid? – 9.0
- Troubled Teens – Where to go from here? – 10.0