Helping Parents Survive Adolescent Rebellion

Written by Dr. Dave Currie

teenagersAn alarming story recently made headlines across Canada. Desirae Shannon, an intelligent, well-liked teenage girl – raised in a strong Christian family, on the verge of graduating high school with straight A’s – ran away with her boyfriend. Not just any guy, mind you, but a young man wanted on charges relating to prostitution and physical assault on a child. The girl went by her own choice, and the couple spent nearly two weeks fleeing her parents, her church and the police before finally turning themselves in.

It’s the kind of story that sends chills up the spine of every parent. What makes an innocent girl, seemingly so well-grounded, make such a dangerous decision? And, more importantly, could it happen with my kid?

Having worked with teenagers and their parents for over 25 years, there is very little I haven’t seen in the way of teenage rebellion. Sex. Drugs. School expulsions. Runaways. Disrespect. Car accidents. Peer pressure. The list goes on.

On the topic of raising teenagers, Mark Twain advised, “When a boy turns 13, put him in a barrel and feed him through a knot hole. When he turns 16, plug up the hole.” Faced with the challenges that adolescence brings, this plan begins to look attractive! But is this really the only way to survive the teenage years?

Rebellion: Some facts about maturity into adulthood

Every parent wants to avoid teenage rebellion if at all possible, and for good reason. Who really wants to see their kids make bad choices and get themselves into trouble? And so I have parents asking me all the time, “How do I make sure my kid stays on the straight and narrow?”

You may be surprised by my answer. Here are a few things that will help us keep rebellion in its proper perspective:

1. Adolescent rebellion begins as a result of the desire for independence. It is a developmental norm. In fact, if you have the sneaking suspicion that teenage rebellion may be inevitable, you’re right! Pretty much every teenager will test the limits – and even cross the line – at one time or another. Of course, there are varying degrees of rebellion – one parent’s “rebellious child” may be another parent’s dream child! Nevertheless, even the best-behaved child will go the wrong way at some point.

The good news is that this does not have to be a crisis! In fact, believe it or not, rebellion can be a very healthy and integral part of your adolescent’s transition from childhood to adulthood.

2. Normal rebellion, though difficult to live with, is more praiseworthy than the desire for dependence. The opposite of rebellion would be the desire to stay at home, refusal to take responsibility for life, and fear of making decisions. Although this might make the teen years easier to handle for you as a parent, it is ultimately not what you want for your child.

3. Normal rebellion needs to be understood as the natural desire to grow, although being sought after in an awkward manner. Becoming an adult includes beginning to make decisions for oneself. Teens need to question the world around them and begin to own their personal beliefs and actions. Because the teen is inexperienced, this will inevitably lead to mistakes, but that’s okay. Failure plays a critical role in the learning process.

4. Because it does contribute to growing maturity, normal rebellion (increasing independence) should not only be expected by parents – it is actually desirable. Yes, you heard that right: a certain measure of rebellion is a good thing. Don’t force it by putting unrealistic expectations on your kids, but gradually and carefully transfer responsibility for life choices to the adolescent.

5. Much rebellion is fashioned after peer models. What other models do teenagers have of attaining independence? The need for having, doing or being like a peer is great. This can work negatively, but it can also work positively if you can help your kids choose friends wisely.

6. There are unhealthy causes to teenage rebellion, including:

  • parental discord
  • parental discipline methods
  • family confusion: alcoholic parent, abusive situations, financial pressures
  • peer influence
  • fear of failure
  • low self worth

If you suspect that any of these factors lie behind your teen’s rebellion, you need to deal with the root cause before the behaviour can be changed.

Healthy vs. unhealthy rebellion

One of the keys to helping your teen grow through their rebellion is being able to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy rebellion. How can you tell the difference? Here are some guidelines.

Characteristics of healthy rebellion:

  • Healthy rebellion helps teens shed their cocoons and use their own wings. It is born out of increased independence, responsibility and autonomy. As the youth is allowed to make age-appropriate decisions, there may be some missteps, but it is a natural part of their progression to adulthood.
  • Healthy rebellion involves open communication between the parents and the teen. The parent is really willing to listen, taking an active interest in the adolescent and trying to understand their world. They ask lots of questions, and provide reasonable guidelines and restrictions where necessary. Both sides have freedom to share their feelings.
  • Healthy rebellion is gradual, occasional and varied in expression. Rebellion is not a way of life for the teen, and they are not consistently disregarding clear family standards. There is an ever-increasing dynamic of growing maturity.
  • Healthy rebellion is creative in that it makes a man or woman out of the teen. They learn to stand up for their deeply held beliefs in positive, constructive ways, and even to stand against the tide at times.
  • Healthy rebellion forces adults to let go and develop themselves. It can be difficult for us as parents to accept that our children are growing up, but it is critical that we adjust and drop the “My little boy syndrome.” Failure to give our kids the room they need to grow can actually cause them to act out in more destructive ways.
  • Healthy rebellion gives teens confidence and assurance with adults. It teaches them how to relate to adults as peers, and not just as subordinates.

Characteristics of unhealthy rebellion:

  • Unhealthy rebellion takes place in the context of closed communication channels. There is a lack of constructive discussion, and the relationship becomes increasingly strained over time.
  • Unhealthy rebellion features sudden, extreme expressions of independence. Defiant outbursts are common, and explosive anger surfaces.
  • Unhealthy rebellion leads to a lack of mutual trust. The teen may be flagrantly dishonest and deceptive. They are caught in lies as they attempt to cover up or explain away their actions.
  • Unhealthy rebellion results in increasing resentment of restrictions, explanations and discipline. Instead of discovering the necessity and wisdom of the family standards that have been set up, the youth becomes more persistent in pushing against the limits.
  • Unhealthy rebellion is marked by bitterness. Barriers of anger and withdrawal continue to build up between the teen and the parents, and the rebellion snowballs.
  • Unhealthy rebellion manifests itself in a negative attitude toward all authority figures. The adolescent closes themselves off from encouragement or guidelines from any adult in their life.
  • Unhealthy rebellion may be rooted in adults who won’t let go and insist on high levels of control. These parents fail to understand that their job, ultimately, is to release the child to live independently as an adult.
  • Unhealthy rebellion is damaging to all parties involved. Instead of leading to positive growth, it actually delays maturity.

Coping with rebellion: Every teen’s quest for freedom and responsibility

Once we have understood the nature of our teen’s rebellion and accepted that it may be an important part of their growth process, we are ready to begin dealing with it. Approaches will vary based on the seriousness and type of behaviour that is occurring, but here are some basic principles to keep in mind:

1. Practice loving and consistent discipline early. Inconsistent discipline encourages kids to test the limits, to see what they can get away with; discipline apart from love breeds resentment and bitterness. Instead, discipline in a way that your kids know exactly what the rules are and what to expect when they break them – and above all, assure them of your unending love and support even when you are disappointed by their behaviour.

2. Continue to set limits, but gradually work toward reasonable responsibility and decision-making opportunities. Decide in advance which hills you are ready to die on, and which areas have more room for flexibility. Remember that your ultimate goal is to release your child to live their own life.

3. Work on being approachable, flexible and understanding. Allow exceptions when you can, be willing to change, and apologize for your mistakes. Create a safe environment for your teen to take risks to grow, and be a safe landing place when they fail.

4. Seek to provide adequate substitutes for banned activities or practices; don’t continuously prohibit without providing an alternative.

5. Take time for and spend time with your teen! Do fun things together, attend their activities and show your interest. They don’t need less of you during the teen years, but more.

6. Never, under any circumstance, withhold acceptance, forgiveness or encouragement. Try to think of one justifiable reason before God why you could withhold these! We are to model the character of God to our children, and above all He is a God of grace.

Helping your kids through the teen years should not be feared. It has been a good time with all four of our kids, and now that the last one is graduating, I would take those teen years again in a heartbeat. It is a great time of life!

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136 Responses to “Helping Parents Survive Adolescent Rebellion”

  • DL says:

    Please pray for our daughter, Mallorie. We raised her in a strong Christian home. She is 16 and is dating an 18 year old who has been arrested for public intoxication and pot. He is a proven compulsive liar. She believes his lies that he wants to marry her and will become the man she deserves. We have gone through many stages on this journey. She is going to a counselor, but we have been told that the road we are on will be a long one. She is starting to open up to us, but we are in shock (and are others, including her own friends) that she won’t break up with him. We have done everything we possibly can to intervene and her bff’s parents even did an intervention on her, showing her proof of his lies. This journey is so so SO hard, and it has taken a toll on our health. Please call out her name in prayer!! We are praying that her boyfriend will continue to show his true identity, allowing her to see the truth. We are also praying that she will develop empathy for her 19 year old sibling, who has a life-threatening health condition that affects daily living.

  • Katie says:

    I have long thought about why my brother had so many problems as a teen and I didn’t. We’re 35 and 40 now, so it’s all in the past and he’s a responsible adult with a wife and dog (no kids wanted). It took him a lot longer to get there than it did me, despite him joining the National Guard to pay for college. I moved across the country at 18 not for college or because I didn’t get along with my parents, but because I needed the challenge. On top of that, my family was military, and my parents were moving to Florida for my dad’s last command, and after 8 years in Connecticut, I didn’t want to follow them there. My brother stayed to finish college. It took him 5.5 years, and after it took him a while to get to that “responsible adult” state as the rest of my family saw it, while I was there from 18 on.

    I’m interested because I very much want kids, and I have no idea what I’d do with a kid like him. I’m also interested because his struggles did have a pretty significant effect on me, some positive and some negative, and I’ve long tried to understand why all of this happened as a way of understanding myself.

    His teen years were impossible. At pretty much exactly 13, he started drinking, smoking pot, and skipping school. The drinking got to the point of alcohol poisoning multiple times. Our parents did everything they knew how. They tried directing his attention toward other things (Scouts and especially soccer and wrestling, which he loved). Major boundaries, grounding, denying things. Talking to him about these things. Discussing the need for rebellion and exploration but doing so in a safe, smart way.

    Once I was a teen, I really didn’t get it. That last part? It worked perfectly with me. I wouldn’t have been a “dream child” for other parents (or at schools other than my private progressive one), but talks about sex, drugs, safety, and responsibility worked well with me. Yeah, I explored those things, but I felt completely safe talking to my mom about it, and I didn’t really feel the need to engage much in any of it. I took on a lot of leadership roles in Scouts, at school, and my Unitarian Universalist church that I’d chosen for myself (we were raised agnostic and encouraged to explore religion on our own with their guidance, which I really went after). My few incidents of trouble at school involved protesting injustices (as I saw them), and my mom was proud of me for it. (My dad had taken some tours of duty that had him gone more often. He felt comfortable doing so because I was in a good place. He never would have done that if my brother were still at home, even though they were his dream tours. He was around and super involved whenever he was home, but Mom wanted my experiences with our limited time together to be really positive, so she took on the primary discipline role.) The only time I got in big trouble was when I got a C in English. As my mom said, “You could get a minimum of a B in English in your sleep, so you’re clearly messing around.” When I struggled in math, I got tutoring. When my grades dropped in English, I was grounded until my next report card until they went back up, even missing junior prom. They knew us as individuals and tailored our relationship with them and our discipline based on that. When my brother talks about his teen years, it’s like he had completely different parents. He seemed to perceive them as being more traditional than they were, and he talks about how they went “easy” on me. No amount of me saying, “They went ‘easy’ because I didn’t do anything wrong. And when I did, I was grounded for two months.” He insists this was the case to this day.

    I’ve long held a couple theories on this. Until he was about ten, my brother NEVER DID ANYTHING WRONG. He just seemed to be naturally well-behaved, naturally neat. When he was angry as a little kid, he ASKED PERMISSION to slam the door. He told my mom, politely, that she was putting toys back in the wrong place. He excelled at school without them saying much about it. One of my dad’s tours put him in a hippie school for two and a half years where they let the kids self-pace and they could walk out of class to relax on a couch in a lounge or play if they “felt they needed down time.” My mom was really worried at first, but he ended up being one of the only kids who applied himself because he enjoyed school. When he got to age ten, he decided his five-year-old sister was pretty annoying and started acting out in pretty tame ways toward me. This led to appropriate discipline, but it still wasn’t much. The point: he was VERY RARELY disciplined because he didn’t need to be. My theory is that once those hormones kicked in, he’d never had any external boundaries set for himself, and it was disastrous. By contrast, I was a mischief-maker. It wasn’t malicious. I was just curious about the world and wanted to see what would happen if…and use your imagination from there. This led to some unsafe situations. On top of that, I had a physical problem that made learning to write and PE painful and frustrating. That spilled over into other academics some, even though I was very bright. It was pretty hard to take a math test when writing out problems was very difficult. And there were neither services for kids like me nor the same acceptance of technology (I learned to type before I learned to write) in the eighties. The point: while it wasn’t anything too severe, I had a lot of external boundaries and a lot of regular interaction to give me confidence to succeed. While my parents were very involved with my brother, he didn’t NEED that encouragement. I also think my struggles gave me some humility. Both athletics and academics came easily to him, so I think once he started acting out, he kinda thought he didn’t need anybody.

    On top of all that, my mom’s father was an alcoholic and killed himself when she was six. She had a serious aversion to just the smell of alcohol, and while they understood that we were probably going to experiment, but they asked that we be respectful of Mom’s needs. Clearly my brother violated that a great deal. She coped as best she could, but there were a few times when Dad was away supervising other stations that she freaked.

    My theory is that without the external boundaries most kids have, my brother went wild in adolescence. He calmed down some in his last two years of high school because his new school had top sports teams. (But things like skipping classes also had a way of disappearing from the record of the star athletes like him. But he used drugs and drank less because he had goals, I think.) But there were still problems. And those three years of trouble before we moved to Connecticut were disastrous and dangerous. I really think we were just lucky that he survived.

    So my question: what do you do with a kid who seems to be naturally well-behaved? It seems wrong to place arbitrary boundaries on them to avoid spinning out of control later on, but I really think he needed SOMETHING to prevent those near misses when he was a teen. I really found your analysis of teen rebellion spot-on, so I’m curious if you have any ideas for kids like my brother.

    I would like to make the caveat that our beliefs are our own. I’m the only member of our family who is religious, though Mom considers herself spiritual, and God, for me, comes from the connections of love and empathy between people. It does not arise from any particular religious tradition. While I draw some from Judeo-Christian scripture and read widely in comparative theology including Christian thought, that is not the only source for understanding the truth of God for me. On top of finding God in other religious traditions (Hindu, Buddhism, Islam, etc.), I look to philosophy, ethics, poetry, literature, and more for my faith. I found this post to be general rather than aimed at a specific religious audience, which is why I connected with it. But I’d rather not be told that my brother needed church or prayer. I apologize if I’m making unfair assumptions about this audience, but there do seem to be many comments focused on Christian ideas.

    Thank you!

  • Lizzie says:

    Hello all. I’m shocked reading all this stories. I’m another mother of a 19yrs old daughter. Although I was raised as christian, I never took my daughter to church (which I now regret badly) neither was raised as a christian to fear and obey God. However, I did speak to her about the Lord, God as our saviour.

    My daughter from becoming an NHSA student, and the Valedictorian of her class, she has dropped her grades at college and become a rebel daughter with out rules and control. She started working on a part time job and refuses to obey and follow our rules.

    She goes out with her fiends and shows up at home the day after. I have left her under Gods hands as I do not know what else to do with her. As recent as last night I took away from her the cell phone, tablet and laptop. Told her if she is not willing to follow our House Rules she needs to move out. She allegues she’s on vacation and is taking advantage of the free days prior starting back to college.

    Please pray for me, my daughter and my home. Await for your feedback, comments and suggestions. Thank you so much. God bless.

  • AMS says:

    My son will be 21 next month. He is in college in US and l live in Africa. He has cut off all communication with the whole family. We have not heard from him in four months. We hear from someone else that he is well and does not seem to have any problems. His academic performance is not as expected and is on academic watch. We have tried to reach out to him with positive motivation but there is no response from him. We visited early this year and encouraged him. He made promises he did not keep. He exhibits unhealthy rebellion and we simply do not know what to do. Please advise.

  • Aldo says:

    Ify, what you are doing is, of course, the best answer, but there are other solutions to the problem as well. like getting professional help. Talk to your pastor about possibly getting him in the Teen Challenge program.

    By all means, share your concern with others who will support you with prayer and other means so that you don’t have to go through this alone. God bless.

    If you would like to speak one on one with someone, click on the Talk to a mentor at the bottom left of this page. He or she will be happy to chat with you concerning your son.

  • Ify says:

    My son has been rebellious since 17, he is now 21.I have constantly quarreled, withheld, advised, prayed. His wrong choices are destroying him. ICurrently he is having serious academic problems in school. Drugs and wrong friends. I pray for God’s intervention and guidiance

  • Elkay says:

    Anonymous, this is a very difficult and heart-breaking situation and it is easy to see why you have the feelings you have. I am not sure there is much you can do to “resolve this situation” since humans do not really have control over the attitudes and behaviors of others and God also allows us free-will even when we abuse it.

    My suggestions are three-fold and there is no guarantee these will work but they need to be bathed in prayer before attempting them:

    The first involves your son and uses the advice in this article . . . Healthy rebellion involves open communication between the parents and the teen. The parent is really willing to listen, taking an active interest in the adolescent and trying to understand their world. They ask lots of questions, and provide reasonable guidelines and restrictions where necessary. Both sides have freedom to share their feelings. In other words, use this approach to try to maintain a healthy relationship with your son and let him openly express frustration with his father but do not criticize your husband in these discussions.

    Secondly, more advice from Dr. Currie . . . . Continue to set limits, but gradually work toward reasonable responsibility and decision-making opportunities. Decide in advance which hills you are ready to die on, and which areas have more room for flexibility. Remember that your ultimate goal is to release your child to live their own life. This will be hard without support from your husband and so this is where he comes in.

    You are going to have to have some serious and difficult conversations with your husband, explaining to him that you need his love and that the two of you have to work together to make your marriage a success. Tell him your marriage is Job #2 (after loving God, Job #1) and that as part of Job #2, your need his support and cooperation in dealing with you son. Frankly explain to him that his interest and support in his son’s life is critical and that there will be many tears later in life if he does not join with you in raising your son.

    Beyond that, all I know to do is to pray and ask you to consider hitting the “Talk to a Mentor” button on this page and one of our trusted Mentors will respond to your in confident by email and be alongside you for support as you go through this challenge. I also hope that you are attending a church with support groups for families in crisis or can find one nearby for help.

    Praying . . . “Heavenly Father, we know that nothing is impossible for You and that You have invited us to come before Your throne of grace to find help in our times of need. Anonymous is in a very difficult situation with complex relations with and between her husband and son. She needs Your wisdom to know how to go forward and Your Holy Spirit alongside her to guide and comfort her. Lord, without this, a family may suffer greatly. This then is our prayer, that Anonymous supernaturally be able to move ahead with both her husband and son and bring her family into a secure, respectful and loving unit. Please do this in a way that makes it obvious that You are the Agent behind their recovery and in so doing glorify You Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

  • Rose says:

    I had a family “friend” who is 48yrs old win the heart of my 17yr old daughter. She insisted on moving in with him & that they loved each other. The mother of the 48yr old condoned the relationship. My daughter was home schooled & raised in a Christian home. She did come back home but will be 18yrs old next week. I am afraid she will leave for good. What can I do besides pray?

  • Anonymous says:

    My son is seventeen. My husband works away from home and has never really tried to make a good relationship with my two children. He blames me for not bringing up the children in the right manner. They do not feel a loving connection with their father and thus maintain their distance from him and sometimes rebel. My son has reached a point where he will act in an opposite manner whatever my husband tells him to do. I am scared that things may never be ok in my house. I fear for losing either of them, but am helpless in convincing both to see sense. I am depressed and sad. Please advise me what I should do to resolve this issue.

  • Hernan says:

    All of us experience this kind of situations/circumstances in our life, me as 21 yr old boy I grow up with complete and happy family but I did not feel that I my family is complete because my dad is alcoholic person he always hurt my mom and my brother and sister. And he have a favorite son my younger brother that’s why I feel jealous. I grow up with this routine life and the worst thing is he hurt me so much, until my 13 age he hurt me and my become calloused I never love him ever until one day he died due to gun shut, that day and year 2007 and I’ m a first year student I go home because my school is very from my hometown in that day he buried I am there my mom is crying always with my brother and sister but me I never cry because I never forgive him because the pain that he did to me I become bitter person, after that happen I continue my study and the I graduate and I’ m tired because my mom cannot afford my study in college and I work at many kinds of work. Until I resigned and go to another place day past.. My sister took me church and she leave there to work and I’m not feel comfortable because I don’t like to stay at church but I don’t have choice I need to follow her instructions I have to work and then continue my study until one time my spiritual brother share me about the word of God and he tell me about Jesus, at that time my heart feel very hard and a I feel burden in my heart and he lead me to pray and the I follow him at that I cry and feel happy moment in my whole life and he said to me that I need to forgive my dad and I did and I feel peace in my heart a feeling that I’ve never felt before and i serve God,, all I can say about our problem is trust to God pray to Him humble before Him and tell Him your problem and He will answer you because He create us He knows us all, all we need to do is to go to Him because He wait to us and He will rescue you us. Mr. Paul your problem is slight to God all you need to do is come to Him because He wait to You.. God bless to us..

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Dear Yan, Thanks for joining this blog.It is so important that we do all we can to help our children through their teenage years as the world is a very difficult and dare I say dangerous, place these days. I think Yan that English is not your first language and so I appreciate even more the fact that you have taken time to write to us. I believe you are trying to say that your son says he feels he is gay. Is this correct? If so, I can understand your concerns but, he is still your son, he is still a good student and what’s more, he must really trust you because he has told you this himself. There is a lot of help and advice for people who feel led towards a gay life style but what does it actually mean? As a Christian, I am not ashamed or frightened of saying I do not agree with sexual promiscuity of any sort. However, I do know of some, even practicing Christians who say they have same sex attraction but are celibate. I hope you get what I mean. Your son may just feel more attracted to men than to woman and many people pass through that phase especially teenagers because they are discovering who they are and today’s culture is not helpful in filling their heads with a lot of stuff which is degrading. Try and be patient with your son and do not let him see your worry or disappointment. Be ready to discuss things with him, do not be angry or criticize him.In fact you should thank and praise him for having the courage to tell you. Try and discuss moral issues with him and maybe point out how in congruent it is to believe that God meant us to have physical, sexual relationships with the same sex. Biologically it is not possible so it is a perversion of nature and of Biblical teaching. It is quite likely that if you talk to him openly about his feelings that he will gradually change his mind and meanwhile, thank God for your intelligent, hardworking and loving son.

  • yan says:

    Melanie,my son just became 17,so clever,so smart,do all his study A*,is a good boy for 17 years,we all proud of him.recently talking about 50 percent chance become a guy in the adulthood,and he did lots of research for it.i am so worry about him.so far his friends all good boys,no girls get into their group(group of 6 boys,non of them misbehaved),any good advices to help him?very much appreciate.

  • Chris says:

    amy…sorry to hear of your sons behavior….as christians we can look to isaiah 58, mark 9, daniel 9 to 10, mark 11.22 to 24, ephesians 6, 1 peter 5.8 to 10, revelation 12.9 to 11 to be encouraged to know that if we seriously and diligently fast and pray for our loved ones, then satan will have to let them go. it may take some time but you can bank on Gods promises being fulfilled in your life and in your sons life. acts 16.31, 1 corinthians 7.14. praying now that through the promises of God, the authority of christ and the diligence of your intercession, that this son will become a true son of God. jesus i praise you amen!

  • Amy says:

    I have a 17 year old who over the past several years has emmersed himself in music with destructive, dark lyrics. He has been raised in a Christian home and in the past, we have done everything we can to discourage and/or keep him from listening to it, but as you know, they will always find a way around these safeguards. In March of 2015 he became obsessed with a girl who was severally depressed, cutting etc.. and he followed in similar behavior. When we did not permit him to see her, he starting running away and sneaking into her house without her parents knowing. When we caught on to this and took steps to stop this behavior, he became suicidal, cutting became more severe. Currently, he is no longer cutting, but he has become very disrespectful and still listens to bad music. Having homeschooled him since 3rd grade, we enrolled him in a program at the local college hoping to get him an AA degree before he left home. He has since engaged in vaping and smoking weed. He also began a new relationship with a girl in Canada (we are in the US) I have just discovered that he is engaging in sexting with this girl and sending pornographic pictures (I downloaded a program that allowed me to see the activity on his phone, so he doesn’t know yet) He is completely obsessed. He has made it clear that he doesn’t want to be a Christian anymore, it’s boring. I’m afraid that he will begin self-destructive behavior again if we take away his phone but I cannot continue to enable him. I want to trust that God is going to protect him, but I also know that God sometimes gives us over to our own depravity. I have a friend who’s son suffered from ongoing depression and substance abuse and eventually committed suicide. We tried counseling which didn’t do any good and my husband is hesitant to seek psychiatric help. I desparately need help! I don’t know what to do!

  • Elkay says:

    Paul, you did not mention God the Father, Christ the Son nor the Holy Spirit in your write-up. May I ask about your relations with Them?

  • Paul says:

    Please, listen to my story. At 27 years old I married the woman of my dreams. At that age working we saved to buy a house. Her parents offered to give us a gift down payment on house, as we saved up , and my parents offered also. About a month before closing on house, my wife’s parents called and said they could not help. So, my parents gave their money, and we saved up our money, purchased house, and I paid my parents back.

    We both worked, my wife, for her family’s business. One day I received a call from her dad ( he is her stepdad). He said my wife, his step daughter was at the office making long distance calls all day long across the country to her friends from high school, and college. It was very costly, and he is going to have her stay home and still pay her , but not to come into work…. I was shocked, caught off guard , and just said I understand.

    Soon after, my wife wanted to have children. About two months away from delivering our first child, my wife asks for a live in nanny to help her. I said yes. Our second child came 3 years later, and our third child a year after that.

    A husband , with wife and three children I worked 6 – 7 days a week, running a business trying to support my family. One day after years of pressure, no days off, responsibility for two businesses, all the bills, a house, all its bills, and my children’s expenses; food, clothes, insurance, nanny costs, etc. I sought from my wife help. Could she work, come to our business and spend a few hours to allow me to go home earlier than 8:30 pm to see the children before they went to sleep……No, she would not. Work ? no, she would not.

    So, I became unhappy. I felt like a mule let out of a barn to work the fields from 9 am to 7:30 pm ,6 to 7 days a week with 2 hour driving commute. My wife ? paid for car , nanny, gym every day, on USTA tennis team, hair salon, nails, etc.

    I tried seeking her help , but it just got worse. Her mother was her role model, a woman who poisoned her and role modeled her against her natural father. Letters from her natural father filled my wife’s draws unopened, unread, and responded.

    For her car, she wanted with 3 children, and a nanny,a 7 passenger car by Toyota costing 35k in 1993. I was a bum for buying a brand new Ford Wind Star 7 passenger car for 21k. All expenses for our family were to be held accountable and addressed by only me: mortgage,rents on two business, payroll, taxes, insurance, food, nanny, cars, phones, heating, oil, electricity bill…..everything….I was to support a family of five plus a nanny.I worked six days, and sent Sundays writing checks for hours ……half day. I had no life, and no excess to any help.

    My wife wanted to send the kids to private preschool, and elementary school also….. And I was to send wife, nanny and children on vacation once a year to Florida to spend time with her mother ( role model) who snow birded there half the year while her husband lived alone working seven days a week……the parental role model…..

    I was so frustrated, under so much pressure, and as my dad would tell me, ” son you will not have a pot to piss in”.

    I tried to do it, but after 4 to 6 years or so, I was angry , upset, and just plain not happy…… This was the icing on the cake……My wife, her mother, three children, and nanny go to my parent’s house. I leave work to go also.

    My wife makes a statement, ” I am a 1990’s woman”. My father asks whats that ? Wife says a 1990’s woman does not cook, clean, do laundry, etc or raise her kids, she plays tennis, goes to gym , hair dresser, etc and has a 7 day live in nanny do all the housework…My father says, ” if I had a wife like that I would kick her ass out on the street”….

    Next week wife takes me into marriage counseling…. I wanted a wife that could raise our kids alone, or with our nanny, a wife, that would help work in our two businesses……My wife ? she wanted the 1990’s life style…….So, counseling did not work, our marriage was over. We both wanted out, and we were heading that way.

    One day at work, I receive a call from wife’s father in law. he tells me, ” the family says if I go home and tell my wife she never has to work, never has to write a check, and never has to worry about money, there will be no divorce. I tell him I wanted a partner in life, and that is no partnership.

    Long story short: divorce takes 2 years, costs 150k, my lawyer takes on three of her lawyers,( she kept switching lawyers) and she as a woman gets mostly everything and I pay her 35k a year, health and dental, nanny costs, summer camp…..I get financially killed…..I get the business though, and her family opens same business 3 blocks away and soon puts me out of business……

    I go to court before closing the business and file for income modification downward – child support payment, because I go from making 80k to 40k a year……I owe 16k child support, and I am paying less because ex wife family sells me supplies for my business, and opened an exact business 3 blocks away…my sales fall from 500k to 250k a year….. The court rules against me, and my ex-wife is jumping up and down saying, ” put him in jail”. So, they do….I have to sit in a jail cell for 16 days as punishment…….

    The kids were little, they never knew this happened . Everything I am writing……I have not told them this whole story…….Most likely never will.

    I struggle a few years working a low paying job, get a masters degree in education at night school. Go, to Scottsdale, AZ and to Oahu, HI and settle down and teach education….

    Paid my child support 315k, gave ex the house, all furniture, a car, check for 90K, alimony for three years with health and dental insurance , kids til 21 years of age….paid child support until youngest child turn 22 yrs old attend college. paid 21 K for first son’s education ( he received a college scholarship , wife did not tell me, and he did not use it). Second child is on 5.5 years of college, gave 10.5k towards it, and third child is in last year ( received scholarship, ex-wife did not tell me, nor did he use it…… paid 4.5k towards his college expenses….

    Summer of 2015 school vacation I fly from Oahu, HI back to New York to spend time with my mom, and dad and see my two college age kids….

    I find my dad is very sick, in hospital several times , and my two sons use drugs…..Grow, transport, have, and sell drugs…….. I discover while on my vacation….

    They are living in my parents rental house, apartment, and I spend June to December fixing it up, and see them every day….They are high, and I am telling both families about it,but no one responds to me, ex wife does not communicate to me, my dad is sick, in hospital and dying, my mom is old and ill, and my two boys are using a lot of drugs:pot, pills,etc.

    I spend 6 months with workers renovating 4 apartments, the house etc. My son blows the electrical lines growing pot indoors, $1,800 bill, his girlfriend uses my parents third car and get $900 dollars in tickets, does not pay. and my two sons, their friends, and girlfriend walk by me and ignore me as they are high and stoned…..

    I call my ex father in law and tell him, my parents and ex wife what I see as I am at the house were my two sons live, age 22 and 21…… I ask for family intervention, my asshole ex father in law says no……They, the kids will be alright he says.

    Before Thanksgiving,2015, my son takes hallucinogenic drugs drives his car, parks two miles away from my ex father in law’s house, and walks there and at 2 am rings the doorbell. goes inside and they see him talking crazy, making no sense, tells them he thinks he is being followed by the police and wants to stop using and selling drugs…

    I had ask for the family to help me get the sons out of my parent;s building. My parents could get fined, and even have the police go after their property because of my children’s drug operation……Finally in December, 2015 children move out in mid December and my dad dies on Christmas day…..

    My youngest son, writes a suicide letter , leaves it for his mother, my ex wife and goes down to the banks of the Hudson River into water and police find him…… he is taken to a hospital and misses my father’s funeral service.

    My middle son attends and gives a long [expletive removed] speech about his love for my father as his girlfriend attends, who calls me [expletive removed] because I called her mother as well as my children’s mother to inform them on the drug activity I discovered . Neither girlfriends mother or my ex wife responded back to my call ?……My father and I had to call the police , because she (girlfriend) would not give my father’s car back to him……after $900 dollars of unpaid tickets on the car.

    I had to go on a leave of absence from my job, teaching in Hawaii, and finally resign to come back to new York to care for my parents, their rental building property and watch closely over my two youngest sons……..

    The middle son and his girlfriend have been moved by his mother into an apartment, in New Jersey and I have not been given the address by his mother. Son does not call me, or see me….He does come to the house with his girlfriend and visit my mother, his grandmother…..His girlfriend calls my mom……grand mom. My ex wife never told me she discovered his drug use 5 years ago in his first year of college. ( Breach of divorce contract:PARENTS ARE TO INFORM EACH OTHER ON THE CHILDREN.

    My youngest son is gay ( excepted by me) from 5 years ago. His mother never informed me along with his college scholarship that went unused to attend a university that he did not choose to attend. ( Breach of divorce contract:PARENTS ARE TO INFORM EACH OTHER ON THE CHILDREN),

    My oldest son, is engaged to be married in Oct, 2016 living with his girlfriend….They are fine.

    Any responses ?

  • Mom D says:

    15 year old daughter has went against the instructions, guidance and rules of putting personal information out on the Internet, we tried to help her and her sisters grow and develop their independence in the transition from teens to adults. With only 5 years between the first and the youngest 2 1/2 between each of them this hasn’t been easy. Each one of them hit the rebellion for similar reasons only approached it at a little different angle. The consternation I write to you about is now it isn’t just our 15 year old bursting into 90% or more of the unhealthy rebellion but her siblings are aiding and assisting her which are 20 and 18 right now. She was playing games on the Internet and through the later stages of my middle child turning 18 and her rebellion which we are still having struggles with her, the 15 year old began talking with an 18 year old boy in another state, I was watching subtle changes with her and even my oldest daughter began noticing it and starting playing the same game to see what she could see in concerns for her sister…. This is where things went for the worse…. I wasn’t informed on anything that may oldest daughter obtained throughout this situation though I heard on talk of them playing the game together…. And I pray over my children and family unceasingly, so one morning a little over a month ago I awoke early 5 am from my sleep and felt led to go get my daughters iPad and became very shocked that she had a Skype up and it was on with this 18 year old boy on the other connection… Because she went completely against several rules and the fact of the unhealthy decisions she was heading into the IPad hasn’t been returned.. She continued pleading with me when no one was around to at least let them talk under my supervision…. When I read through their Skype text messages there wasn’t anything I could find healthy or ok in not only the situation but the the conversations and their communication was unhealthy in itself that I find was part of the lowered self esteem in her than she already was battling and I was trying to work with her… She was slipping in her school, her sleep habits had changed drastically, many unhealthy risks, this along with the complications we have had in the last year in half with her sitter that is 18 has spiraled into some very complicated conflict and division in our family, though it has brought all the adults on board finally to work together which I know should have been all along which has been one of my deepest prayers for a long time l. Though in it coming to pass the three girls are coming together and now the oldest two are assisting the youngest to still have a connection by adding him to their social media and instead of blocking him they have blocked, in one of the first anger outburst our 15 year old had she was refusing to sit in her room to process all this and her disrespect myself and the adults in the home she became forceful and harmful to herself to where I restrained her from harming her hand and ramming into me like a bull… Her 20 year old sitter came over in the middle of all this after being asked not to because her anger didn’t need to be babied to escalate worse… She refused to listen came over any ways and the youngest claimed I hit her…. Which wasn’t true… It got out of hand and it couldn’t even be stopped with their dad asking the oldest to go and the youngest to go to her bedroom. So with us living with my husbands dad to stop the whole thing 911 was contacted by me…. The oldest ran out of the house before the cops arrived but later I would find out she went and got our middle daughter and the journeyed up to Social Services to file a complaint. Since then the 18 year old has been kick out of where she was staying after reveling against her us and was kicked out for similar things she was doing here and she walked out when we said no to a sleep over that wasn’t even going to be a sleep over at her friends house.. But our no wasn’t because we knew that it was because she wasn’t applying herself for her completion of her high school education to head on out to her free college education through my VA. And with her back the rebellion is charged and feeding off of one another to were us adults are at a loss in loving them with them running this home and ruining what we’ve struggled to get to for them. I apologize tis is as brief as I can get that truly just barely touches the surface, I cry my heart out to God unceasingly and I just want God’s best for my family, I don’t want to make wrong choices to get in God’s way of bring greater change in our family. But as a mom of a 15 year old seeking unsafe unhealthy relationship with someone she doesn’t really know ready to shut off everything in her life to this point and her sister assisting this when they aren’t even making wise choices in there life is quite challenging to discern and hear God and know what’s best to do…

  • Lina gardner says:

    My teenager daughter
    Having sex
    Failing and skipping school
    Disobedience
    Smoking cigarettes n pot
    Lying n manipulating

  • Aldo says:

    Lizzy, I know what you are going through with a rebellious child. They’ve made up their minds to do something, and that’s the way it’s going to be. The only thing left for a parent to do is to love them without condoning what they are doing, and pray and trust God to do the rest.

    Father God, I lift Lizzy up to You and ask that You would minister peace to her heart about her daughter. Touch her daughter with Your Holy Spirit, and cause her to realize that You, and her mother has her best interests at heart, in Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

  • Lizzy says:

    I struggle too, my daughter is 19 now, since the age of 16 she started with her rebellion. Also raised as a christian, she run away with a married 26 year old man with 2 children at the age of 16. Left me to deal with the unhappy wife who just gave birth to a baby and demand answers from me!. Terrible time, heaps of crying and praying. Then after a few months he left her and went back to his wife…what a relieve. Then age 18 she met a 43 year old and moved in with him. He is an alcoholic with children same age as mine! She is still with him. SHe is angry with us and disrespecful towards us because we don’t except her choices. I am praying and praying and crying and crying…

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Anonymous, it is a difficult thing to try and determine what responses you have that enable her bad choices and which express your love for her. 19 years old is a time for significant changes in independence, and your role has shifted from disciplinarian to advisor. That is so hard to do when that transition takes place by making really poor choices. One way to help make that shift is switch from messages like “You can’t, You shouldn’t, You must” to questions like “What do you think will happen if…? How are you going to handle when…?” Questions are a great way of building openness in a relationship. You aren’t telling her what is right and wrong, but you are helping her think through different ideas and consequences. It takes a lot more work on your part to create questions that aren’t just a thinly masked “You can’t, you must”. You want to make sure she feels safe coming to you for counsel, and not judged or manipulated. Let her know that she is loved no matter what her decisions but that you want to help her find the best path.

    Does your family participate in any faith community? Is that something that has shaped your values?

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I believe that her behavior has changed due to the friends she keeps. She does have some OK friends but the others that are not OK she doesn’t bring those around. Once she left the house she would tell me one thing and sneak around to do another. It is very difficult as a mother to have to tell her she could not come home until her behavior changed, it didn’t even phase her, she left 5 days ago and hasn’t called me to at least tell me she’s OK.
    She plays this game of worrying her parents so that we are the ones going after her and we have done that before but no more. We can’t allow her to manipulate us any longer.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Anonymous, What do you think changed? Have there been some events in your daughter’s life that has caused her to abandon the path that she was on?

    That must have been a terribly painful conversation to have, saying that she can no longer live at home. How did she respond? Where is she at now?

  • Anonymous says:

    I have a 19 year old daughter who has rebelled so badly in the last 6 months. She went from being an honor student to getting kicked out of college and having no job. She has legal issues with the court and she is actually facing jail time. I am so hurt as a mother because she has a family who loves her we tell her all the time that she is a beautiful young lady and it’s ok to make bad choices if we learn from them however, she is not learning from them and she doesn’t seem to care about her life or that it’s spiraling out of control. It doesn’t matter what I say she does the opposite. She leaves the house and sometimes doesn’t come home for days. I know she isn’t on drugs because she has to get drug tested through the courts. I finally had to tell her that she cannot come back home until she can get herself together. She cannot stay in my house and ruin her life. I cannot help contribute to her down fall. She doesn’t follow the rules, she doesn’t contribute in the household and she stays in her room all day. I want to give up and allow her to figure life out but the mother in me can’t seem to let go!! I feel like I have failed her as a mother.

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Hi Mary (and everyone else) We live in very difficult days and I feel for teenagers whether or not they have been brought up in Christian homes. There is an old and maybe trite saying that time changes things and I think it is often true. Like many parents in full time ministry, we too had rebellious children and found it most hurtful and bewildering but one daughter in particular has 2 teenage children now and they are both at uni. One is plodding along doing fine except she complains he never looks smart like he used to and the other is a scatter brain who causes her mum quite a bit of heartache. I cheered her up the other day by saying that she (my daughter) was much more of a challenge to us at the same age than her daughter is to her! I do hope that makes sense. I firmly believe that we can trust our children to the Lord. He loves them, even the wayward ones, maybe them more so. It isn’t easy and it does not mean that there will always be a “happy ending”. However, our worrying and fretting achieves nothing good and may even be a sign of lack of faith in the mighty way God acts to save those whom He is calling. There are plenty of characters in the Bible, men and woman who we may not have approved of if we had lived in those times but their stories are there for us to learn from. So, let us encourage one another when we face difficult and hurtful situations, That way we will be built up in Him and more able to hear His voice and follow His wisdom and discernment. Thank you Lord that although many things seem insurmountable You have all the power and might to resolve every issue to Your glory and the extension of Your kingdom. We may not see this come to pass here and now but we have the joy of discovering how great You are when we get to spend eternity with You. Meanwhile Lord, give us loving empathy and holy wisdom in all we say and do. Amen

  • Mary says:

    I can relate to the posts here as our granddaughter has chosen to leave our home and live in an alternative lifestyle, We have done everything we can to change this situation and help her, all to no avail. I have been praying constantly. One problem is that she has left home,quit school, the other problem of the alternate lifestyle is another serious matter. The parent of the other 17 year old allows this to go on in her home. We have pleadded with her to tell our granddaughter she cannot stay there, but she does not listen. Also the person whom she has chosen to live with has been abusive and the relationship is very unhealthy. Sometimes I feel so sad and discouraged, but I have faith things will change and get better. It may take a crisis, I don’t know.I will pray for Melannie and you all and I hope you remember us in your prayers , our granddaughter will be 18 the end of this month. Thank you

  • Alfred says:

    Dear Melanie and KD, I am distressed at hearing (with my heart) of your daughters! A thought I have, is to stop opposing the girls, get onto their side of the issue, and together attack the problem rather than each other. Now, that’s a very big mouth-full, but I think you know what I mean. The question is, how? Some people drop out-of-school because they are genius, others for different reasons. KD is your daughter’s friend holding down a job, or is he actively looking for work?
    You have no doubt discussed the fact that just because the body is ready to make babies, the mind may not be. I know a psychologist who said “you, girl, don’t even know how much you don’t know!” Being together sexually produces an attraction for each other that is difficult to resist. So, I agree: Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    Often there is no easy solution. Yet, once a person has fallen, he/she will more clearly realize that God alone is able to help! As humans we all have the freedom of choice (and need to live with the consequences). Sometimes all we can do is hold them up to the Lord of mercy and grace. I, personally had let go of God, but He held onto His end of the live-line. After years of backsliding I was brought to my knees and again found Jesus as a Savior and Friend! That “homecoming” was a thrill for me, and I will never let go again!
    Praying for you (both) and your daughters, Alfred.

  • KD says:

    Melanie, my daughter, like yours is making bad choices. She has been raised in a Christian, loving home. Our daughter began rebelling at 16 when we didn’t approve of her boyfriend (who had dropped out of school). As we stood firm on our rules, she began to rebel even more. She began sneaking out to see him. Now she is a week from her 18th birthday and she is still seeing that same boy, threatening to move in with him. She has now began staying over night with the boyfriend and we are at a loss because we do not know where he lives. We have taken her car away (5 weeks now) and we have had calm, heart to heart discussions with her. I have prayed myself to death over the last two years, but the one blessing that has come out of it is I have learned to truly TRUST HIM and my faith has increased. So sorry you are dealing with this, Melanie. I think we have to hand them over to the Lord and know that this too shall pass, but it sure is heartbreaking as a mother who loves her daughter more than herself. I still wish for any advice on how to handle this & please add us to your prayer list. Thank you & God bless.

  • Chris says:

    Melanie…lifting up your daughter to jesus now so that he truly draws her to him and becomes her true lord and savior. lord touch this daughters heart and let her know of your love for her that your love is the only true love and without it she is nothing. show her her real need for you and bring her to her knees for her own good and well being. in your name i pray amen

  • Melanie says:

    Having a difficult time with our 16yrs old daughter who has made similar bad choice of running away and outbursts of anger toward family. We are a Pastoral family and I’m sure it hasnt been easy on her and her siblings. She seems t hold in more of her feelings and then acts out in bad choices and rebilon. It seems that she maybe harboring anger towad us because we hadn’t apporved of her boyfriend. Need help prayer.

  • Elkay says:

    Let us simply pray that Jackie is able to receive those words. The comment about joyously planning her daughter’s wedding came from personally seeing my wife do just that and it has remained a favorite memory many, many years later.

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