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Parenting Is All About Expectations
Thank you for the comments on my last post about how education does not equal wisdom when it comes to parenting!

I want to pick up on something that Nurse Bee said in the last comment. She wrote, "And it’s worth remembering that there is no magic formula for parenting. Even the best parents may have a child who rebels (which I believe to some extent is normal) or turns away from the Lord."

I pretty much agree with this statement. I think if a child rebels it is not necessarily a reflection on the parents. However, I think where we as a society start to go wrong is in how we see the nature of this rebellion. If we assume that rebellion is normal, then it's also easy to assume that therefore nothing should be done about it (I don't think Nurse Bee thinks this; I just want to use this as a jumping point. So I'm not criticizing you, Nurse Bee!). It's just a phase (which is what the Niederbrock parents did). You know the spiel: all kids rebel, it's natural. It's even good for kids to rebel, because it's part of them finding their own identity. We should expect the teen years to be hard, and expect them to do stupid things. But they'll get out of it eventually. The main thing is just to show them, through it all, that you still love them.

I would say that is more or less what our culture says. So our culture tells kids, "we expect you to rebel." Kids do hear that expectation, and perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising that they then do rebel.


I remember when my children were 8 and 6 and I was having lunch with an editor whose children were ten years older than mine. I made some comment about how much I was enjoying parenting at the moment, but I was dreading the teen years. He rebuked me. He said, "the teen years are the best ones we've had yet. The kids are able to talk about intelligent things, and they're a lot of fun. People should assume the teen years are going to be good ones. Why should we assume that kids are going to rebel?" He said our culture, and even our Christian culture, gives those teen years a bum rap, rather than expecting that they will be good ones.

So I stopped talking about how difficult I was expecting the teen years to be, and started talking about how much I was looking forward to them. And so far they have been wonderful, and I fully expect them to continue in that vein.

If they don't, we will deal with it, like every parent should. But I am expecting my children to do what is right because I know they love God, and they have been raised to make the right decisions. Why should I expect something different just because they have hit the teen years?

So expectations need to be in line with what you know about your own children, with what you know about their relationship with God, and with your faith in Christ. Nothing is a guarantee; but why are we expecting the worst? I think it sets our kids up for failure when success is very much an option. Convey faith in your kids, not fear. When they're younger, talk about what a great role model they will be when they're teens to all of their friends. Talk about how strong their faith will become as they go through the teenage years and figure out who they are. Talk about the opportunities for missions trips and service they will have as they get older. Why not? It's better than talking about expectations of failure, which is what our culture does.

Our culture also sets up teens in opposition to their parents. The favourite theme of so much teenage literature is "parents don't understand". And schools emphasize this through so much confidential counseling, and all the moral education they give. Some kids, obviously, come from rough homes and need a safe outlet. But parents should still be the primary place of refuge, and they are not portrayed that way.


If we expect that our kids will do well, and then they make a bad choice, what should our response be? So much varies on the child, but let me give a few thoughts.

First, the goal for me for my children is moral development. If they have done something wrong and their conscience is thoroughly pricked by it, then I don't know that they need further punishment. I think what they need is for you to pray with them, help them go through the process of confession, and then restoration. I know a girl (not my daughter) who was caught drinking recently. It was a mistake. She knew it was a mistake. She had given in to peer pressure, and she was so sorry. She was just sobbing. I forget what her parents did as punishment, but I wouldn't have come down that hard on her. I would have grounded her for a weekend not necessarily as a punishment but as a time that we could come together as a family. Pray with her. Then laugh with her. Play family games. Talk to her. Sip hot chocolate together. Show her you love her and coccoon in your family again.

If, on the other hand, the teen does not feel any remorse, then in my opinion the hammer should come down hard at the first instance of disrespect or rebellion. Kids should not be allowed to disrespect their parents. Perhaps you may disagree with me, and so much depends on the circumstance, but I think if we clearly lay out what we expect at the beginning, and show that violations will be dealt with, then we stop them before they go down that road.

Think about it this way. If your small child is playing near the fire, you remove them from the situation. Even a little burn is not acceptable. But when they're teens, we think it's okay for them rebel, it's okay for them to do things which can harm them, because it's part of finding their identity. Why? You're still the parent, and a 15-year-old does not have a mature brain. They still need help.

So intervene early. And do it not just when they're teens, but when they're young, too. Sure two-year-olds have temper tantrums; that doesn't mean you have to put up with it. Sure four-year-olds talk back to you; that doesn't mean you let them get away with it. Sure five-year-olds whine; that doesn't mean you have to respond to requests when they're whining. Just because it's common or natural does not mean that you let it go. Not when they're 4, and not when they're 14. And perhaps, the more we intervene, the easier it will be to raise them when they're older.

So here's my question for you: have you had a rebellious teen? Were you a rebellious teen? What do you think is the best way to handle things? I'd love to hear it!

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At 10:23 AM , Blogger Ellen said…

I have not been blessed with children yet. But I can say that when I was a teen (not all that long ago) I had my share of rebellious moments. But my mom and I have always been so close, best friends really, so I always felt that I could talk to her about anything. My family didn't revolve around religion so much but there was so much love in my home growing up. I never felt like my parents "didn't get me". When I did mess up I knew it and my parents and I could talk about how to reconcile my offenses.


At 10:25 AM , Blogger Growing in the Son said…

I completely agree. We recently had an incident with our 15yo and to let's just say for her privacy she lacked good judgment in handling a stressful situation. We didn't learn of this from her but rather a roundabout way. We also learned she had confided in her school counselor but not us. We were so hurt by her not coming to us. We were angry with the counselor for not calling us. The counselor, by law though, couldn't as we later learned. We don't agree with that but that's a whole other subject.

When confronted with it she lied and said she didn't know what we were talking about. When we told her we knew everything she finally fessed up. Now we punished her for the lying. We don't tolerate lying. But for the lack of judgment incident we prayed with her, hugged her and comforted her. We called on our Pastor to come over and counsel with us as a family. More importantly our Pastor prayed with us as a family. We wanted her to know we all make lapses in judgment when under stress. The way to handle it though is to go to the Lord. Seek out counsel that can pray for you at the moment and over time.

So we could have chalked it up to teen rebellion but we don't fall for that line in our home either. No one, of any age, can be given a free pass to rebellion. Rebellion only leads to sin.

I honestly feel this whole situation brought us all closer as a family. We learned a bit of our DD's character that we didn't see before when she is under stress. We will see the signs next time. God used it for His good in so many ways.


At 11:11 AM , Blogger Mrs W said…

I am attempting to write a teen fiction novel, and one of the things I am hoping to portray in the novel is that rebellion shouldn't be normal for teens, and that they need to establish good relationships with their parents.


At 11:52 AM , Blogger LauraLee Shaw said…

Love it, Sheila! I needed a bit of a correction in this area, cuz my friends and I have started to joke about the little mistakes our teenagers are making in the name of the "teen phase." Reminds me that "Whatever is true, right, honorable, praiseworthy..." isn't just a lesson for them. I need to think the same way in my perspective of parenting them.

Thanks for this relevant post!


At 2:57 PM , Blogger LAURA said…

I love what you wrote about the person correcting you about your fear of the teen years and that he said they were the most enjoyable for him yet. Ever since having kids all I ever hear is "negative encouragement." When my kids were babies everyone said "wait till they are crawling or walking!" Then when they were crawling or walking every one said "wait till they hit the terrible twos!!" When my daughter turned two everyone was saying "Three is the new two." Ugh. No one ever says that it doesn't have to be horrible. Everyone just talks in a way that gets you dreading the next stage thinking it is just going to get worse and worse.

But you know what! I decided a long time ago that I wouldn't have that attitude. That I would PARENT each stage. That I would train my children and teach them. And when they learned to walk and crawl we had fun. The twos haven't been terrible at all. I am looking forward to the threes and fours.

And thanks for the great advice about the teen years. Hopefully when mine get to that age I will remember this stuff.


At 3:37 PM , Blogger R.L.Scovens said…

I LOVE this post!! I have a 12 year old boy and sometimes when I think of his upcoming years, I get afraid. But you're right. I shouldn't expect the worst!! I will believe for the best and do my part and know that He is in God's hands and that I've taught him well!


At 5:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Cool, I inspired a whole post! :-)

I do think it is pretty normal for teenagers to pull away from their parents somewhat. Mom and Dad have been their idol and that begins to change. I was a pretty good teenager and I still had moments where I was screaming at my parents that I hated them.
But it really matters how parents respond to that. I am thankful my parents, did still require some family time, even though I was wanting to spend more and more time away from them.
Nurse Bee


At 6:56 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

What a great article----I totally agree and have ALWAYS thought that my children would behave exactly as I expected them to behave-----a very simple theory but it worked for my 3 kids.Colleen

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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