While downtown at a local family event a lady commented on how cooperative our kids were. Then she said, “Enjoy them now because when they become teenagers it will all change.” She may be a prophet and her assessment is spot on. I don’t know. Stay tuned. They are not teenagers yet.
Her perspective could be based on (1) her observations of other families, (2) personal experience with her children, or (3) unwitting buy-in to a standard cultural belief all kids must “sow their wild oats” during their teen years.
Regardless how she came to her conclusion, she was clear: teen rebellion is an unavoidable part of every family’s life. Statistically speaking her assumption is not true. Should my children fulfill her prophecy, it is still not true–all teens do not rebel and all parents do not have to be saddled with unavoidable teen rebellion.
I was counseling the parents of a rebellious teen when the dad said, “He’s no different from any other teenager. When I was a teen I did some of the things he is doing. He’ll be okay after he gets this out of his system.” The difference between the lady and this gentlemen is the dad professed to know Christ.
No Christian should think it’s a foregone conclusion teens will rebel. It is a faithless, hopeless, and Christ-less position. It is also not supported by God’s Word.
A false continuum
What I am describing to you is a false continuum. A continuum is a predetermined sequence of events where the elements along the path logically build one upon another until they reach a conclusion. It’s like the picture above. If you could not see the end, but only the path and the walls, you would probably not think you were heading into a brick wall.
The path should continue, but it does not. It abruptly ends. The path from birth to twelve years does not necessarily lead to rebellion. To believe it does is a false continuum. According to the two people above, they believe all kids become teenagers and all teenagers live in rebellion. Not so.
For them, the sequence of events–child to teen–logically build one upon the other and the conclusion is unavoidable rebellion when the child hits the teen zone.
A Christ-centered worldview would say this is not true. Sinful, rebellious kids do not have to grow into sinful, rebellious teens or sinful, rebellious adults. If a teenager is sinful, it is not because he is a teen. It is because he is a sinner.
The ages between thirteen and nineteen are no different from the ages between zero and twelve or twenty and above: people sin because they are sinners.
If we change what we are observing from being a sinner to being a teenager, then we have no hope for change. We have to do what the dad suggested–wait until he gets it out of his system. Think about what he said. What does he need to get out of his system?
The thing in his system is sin, rebellion, lusts, worldliness, evil, and pride (James 1:14-15; 1 John 2:15-16) The dad would say he needs to get being a teen out of his system. Do you see how ludicrous this is?
He has watered down the doctrine of sin and lost sight of the Gospel–the only answer and hope he can offer his son. Imagine the Father saying, “Let’s just wait until they get it out of their system” as though the problem had something to do with a certain age.
The Gospel is the continuum breaker
If unavoidable rebellion is the outcome for all teenagers, whether saved or lost, then there is no hope for any pre-teen and rebellion would be the logical course they all must follow.
To say we will live in unrestrained and unstoppable patterns of sin and this is the way things will be and it cannot be any other way is the hopeless sound of the Christ-less and defeated.
We have a better answer. Christ came to offer us the great sin-reversal. His death on the cross conquered sin once and for all and it is our abandonment to Him and His finished work which breaks sinful patterns.
By our initial repentance at salvation and ongoing repentance in our sanctification, the continuum of sinful patterns can be broken. We can be free from those patterns which enslave us and keep us in rebellion against God.
It is a contradiction for any of us to say, “I am a Christian” while expecting a life of unavoidable rebellion regardless of age. It is through the power of the Gospel we receive an alien righteousness and along with the enablement of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the community of faith, we can break the continuum of sin in our lives. The Gospel is the continuum breaker.
Ongoing, unrepentant rebellion in a teenager is a sign the child was never regenerated or he is God’s child and is in rebellion against his King. In such cases the parent needs to think more profoundly about what he is observing.
Parents must seek to lead the child to the Savior, who will not only change the behavioral rebellion, but will begin rooting out the evil motives which feed the behaviors. The good news is Christ can do this at any age. The Gospel is not chronologically limited.
Rebellious teens don’t get a pass
To passively “wait it out” until his oats are sown may reap a whirlwind of sinful patterns he may take into his marriage, while passing them along to his future children. In worse case scenarios his sinful “oat sowing” could enslave him to life-dominating sins, which he may never recover.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:1-2 (ESV)
No one should get a pass when they are sinning. To ignore sin is one of the most unloving things you can do to a person. The dad in my illustration implies you confront a pre-teen and a post-teen, but if he’s a teenager, you must wait until his wild oats are sown. For him, it’s a true continuum: all teens rebel.
For further reading
I have over 1000 articles on our Membership Site. Below are a few of them which are related to parenting. For $4.95 per month you have full access to our site. Click I want to learn more to learn what’s involved.
- How to become a believing believer
- From dysfunction to salvation
- How can I know my kid is saved?
- I prayed, therefore I am … a Christian?
- When underaged kids are introduced to bad things
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