Monday, September 19, 2011

Rebellion and all it's Gloriousness: The Teenage Years

I've been thinking a lot lately about my teenage rebellion years.  Well really teenagers in general.  There are so many things to worry about especially when you are a parent to said teenager.  I know several people who are struggling to deal with their troubled teen and are experiencing the frustrations of watching them make wrong or stupid decisions.  They are worried about the path they might be on.  They are worried that their child will make some of the same mistakes that they did while growing up.

My heart goes out to those parents.  I want to speak calm and peace to their souls.  I want to help them see the good parents they are and give them some rest.  But I don't have children.  I don't have a troubled teen.  Right now I just have the prospects of this little guy or gal fluttering around inside of me.  But I have been paying attention.

I paid attention to what my mom said when she needed a sounding board that wasn't my father.  I listened as she discovered things that she would have done differently in raising her older children versus her younger ones.  I come from a family of 7 kids and I'm the second one in.  My youngest brother is 14 years younger than me.  My parents learned a lot in that time span about agency and picking your battles.  Things that they wish they had of known with me and my older brother.  So a couple of days ago I called my mother for a refresher course in teenagers.  I want to share them with you in hopes that something will help and in hopes that approximately 13-14 years from now I can remember them when I'm in the midst of my own teenager's angst.

First let's talk about Rebellion.  The big scary word that everyone is afraid that their teenager will experience.  We tremble with fear not knowing when it will hit.  Not knowing how we're going to deal with it.  So let's try to put it in perspective.  There was a fireside given in my home stake that my mother attended dealing specifically with teenagers.  The speaker (whom I think is Brother Barrett of the Logan LDS Institute and is a very dear person to me and has helped me through a lot) said that teenage rebellion is a glorious time!  An exciting time. What!! you say? A glorious time!  Isn't that the opposite of what we want?!

It is a glorious and exciting time because your children are starting to ask the questions that they know the answers to.  I couldn't help but think of primary.  The 11-year-olds specifically.  In Primary they are the top dogs.  They have heard every lesson and they have the "Sunday school" answers down pat.  They know it all and some have a tendency to roll their eyes when asked to participate in lessons.  (This is a huge generality but I have seen entire classes afflicted with the eye-rolling disease, so it is out there, but forgive me if your child doesn't fit the category.)  And they do know the answers... intellectually.  But a lot of the times they haven't experienced the question yet.  Not for real.  They know the answers but they don't know the power of those answers in their own lives yet.

That's what teenagehood is for.  This is the time when they start asking the questions that they know the answers to.  They start finding out for themselves whether prayer is important or not.  Scripture study, taking the sacrament, going to church.  They start figuring out where they want to stand. And best of all, they are doing it in the safety of your home!  That's right folks.  At the end of the day they are still under your roof.  They have that safety net of a loving and concerned family to come home to and the stability that it provides.  They still have to borrow your car, they still have to get permission from you.  And they still have to abide by the rules, you know, the "as long as your under our roof" rules.  In fact, this speaker stated that it's the seemingly "straight arrows" that sometimes scare him the most.  They do everything perfect but have never questioned why or developed the solid foundation of their own personal testimony.  When their rebellious stage, or time of questioning hits then they have a lot more to lose with more serious consequences, like failed marriages or jail time.  Again a huge generality but put in perspective I would rather have my teenager do a little rebellious time under my roof than out where I have no safety net for them anymore. 

So, what can parents do to provide the most teenage friendly atmosphere for them to rebel in?  Well here's the wisdom that my mother's hind sight provides us with. It's not perfect but it's more than I had to go on before.

First: Establish the rules.  This is best done in a family council where all participants have a say and therefore buy in. It is also important that the family council is a safe place, not the time to get uptight about everything, but where everyone can express their opinions without fear of retribution. It is especially important for your teenager to feel they are being heard, that they have a voice.  At the same time you can express your concerns and fears as well.  As an extra added bonus, this also takes the "bad guy" tag off of you!

Second: Set consequences for breaking the rules.  Make sure that these are things you can live with since you are the enforcer in this matter. And if you are establishing curfews I recommend a phone call option.  If the kid knows he's going to be late then call and give mom and dad a heads up rather than leaving you to stew at home wondering whether they are dead on the side of the road and when it's appropriate to call the police.  Also, don't come down hard on everything.  Let the punishment fit the crime. If it's a little thing then don't come down with everything you got in order the "squelch" the rebellion right out of him.  My parents did that on my little brother only to find out that he figured since he was gonna get in big trouble for everything he might as well do something really bad to make the experience worth the punishment.

Third: Find ways to make sure your kids know they are loved.  With my younger brothers especially my mom started insisting on a hug every night.  It was cool when they were little but the older they got the more eye-rolls and "you gotta be kidding me's" came into play.  They balked.  But do you know what?  They didn't really think it was that bad.  Would never admit it, but I could see it in their eyes right after they rolled them.  She would hug them and tell them she loved them and goodnight and despite everything there was a little more light in their eyes.  Usually accompanied by more muttering and a muffled goodnight back and some kind of manly grunt.  It is part of the safety net.  Teenagers especially need that reaffirmation that they are loved because so much around them tells them they are not.  And quite a bit of the time you'll really not feel like telling them, and they'll really do nothing to deserve it.  But that doesn't change the fact it is needed desperately.

Fourth: Don't be afraid of your teenager.  Don't be afraid they won't like you or don't want to be your friend.  It's okay.  You are the parent and bottom line is that you love them and deep down they love you.  Hold on to that.  You might not get affirmation of that love for a long long time, so hold on to those memories when they were little and did express it.  You will hear it again.  Just be that solid foundation for them when they need it. 

Fifth: Strengthen yourself.  Make sure that you are doing the things that you are supposed to be doing.  Set that example.  Do your best to live how you want your children to live when they grow up.

Sixth:  Have Faith. "Faith is not only a feeling; it is a decision" - Neil L. Andersen.  Have faith in God.  Have faith in the example you are setting.  Many of you out there are worried, almost paralyzed with fear at times that your children will follow in your footsteps making the same mistakes that you did in high school.  Please realize that your children see you as you are today.  Not the person you were in High School.  Please realize that you are providing your children with a much different experience growing up than you had.  Many of you come from broken homes and inactive families.  What environment are your children growing up in?  Is it the same?  Have you learned from your past?

Seventh and last but not least: Give yourself a break!  Be merciful with yourself.  Forgive yourself.  Cut yourself some slack!  This is your first time raising this particular child.  And this is the first time he/she will be a teenager!  You are both figuring things out and you are both making mistakes.  God knows that and he is absolutely incredible at putting things in your life to help you both out.  His mercy will help. His grace will compensate.  He cares about what happens to both of you.  Will it all be perfect?  Absolutely not.  Will there be heartache?  You bet!  Will you wonder what you could have done better?  Absolutely.  Did you do your best anyways?  Of course.  Of course you did, and of course you still are.  The Lord knows that.  He will help.

Okay.  There it is.  There's my blah blah blah on things that I will have to deal with in the future.  I hope some of it helps.  I hope you parents can go a little more easy on yourselves.

One more thing.  As I was talking to my mom a few things occurred to me. I did not have the best high school experience.  There was a time when I was grounded for pretty much the entire year.  I would get off of groundation just long enough to break the rules again and get grounded again.  I was a mess and a bundle of joy to live with, let me tell ya.  As I look back I realized that even though I knew the consequences of my actions, absolutely nothing was going to stop me from breaking the rules.  No amount of punishment would do the trick. It's like I had this need to see if I could get away with it.  The hammer always came down and I was never surprised.  My parents were frustrated beyond belief and we didn't exactly get along.  But still, nothing was going to keep me from breaking those rules until one day.  I realized that I was tired of fighting with my parents.  I realized that I wasn't happy and that I didn't want to live like this anymore.  I realized that something needed to change and I took action and made those changes.  What I'm trying to say is that no amount of lecturing or nagging or anything was going to make a difference until I saw for myself the need to change.  It was something I felt.  It wasn't like a lecture had finally set it, it was that I had finally asked the right question and then the answers that I learned in Primary had meaning.  I wanted to be happy again and I knew how to do it.

Provide that solid foundation, be the safety net, establish the rules and love your children.  You are wonderful!  You are doing something marvelous and worthy of praise.  You are being parents.


  1. I believe some of this applies to 4 year olds too. Thanks.

    My favorite part- the nightly hugs.
    As a whole we probably don't hug enough.

  2. Lora, you are so sweet... you know that I am one of those parents right now and your words really brought comfort and inspiration to me. :) I especially loved the quote about Faith from Neil Anderson. BREATHE... he's only 13, right? And there's just 3 more teenagers to go... BREATHE.... :) love ya

  3. You. Are. Amazing. I LOVE this entire post. It's SO full of good information (for both young and old). Thank you

  4. I'm so glad that some of you thought this was worthwhile. after I hit publish I kind of freaked out and almost deleted it twice. Glad I swallowed the fear of "What the crap are you telling us this for you who have NO experience!" and just let it ride. You guys are the best.