Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Avoiding Rebellion, Inviting Respect

It is a common belief that all teens go through a period of rebellion.  But the fact is, teen-age rebellion can be prevented.  There are two things that parents need to do as they raise their children to prevent rebellion in the teen years.  The first is, always treat your child with respect.  One of the main ingredients in a good relationship is respect.  Respect is essential whether it is a marriage, a friendship, or a parent-child relationship.  People will not trust you, or think well of you, or even like you if they feel like you do not see them as valuable or worthy.  People feel degraded when someone calls them names, predicts a negative future for them, bosses them around like a slave or servant, or uses anger, fear, or intimidation to control them, regardless of their age. When someone treats us with disrespect we feel violated and angry and we lose respect for them. When we are intimidated we see a person’s lack of love and integrity and we no longer respect their opinions or trust their intentions toward us.  Discipline should be aimed at the heart by teaching principles, allowing children to make choices, and providing consistent consequences, rather than using anger, force, or manipulation to control thoughts and actions.  You can keep a child from doing wrong, but forcing compliance does nothing to help the child want to do right; it doesn't change the heart.  You can’t force someone to think differently, you have to show them how thinking differently is better for them.  Respecting someone includes letting them know that you see their value and acknowledge their right to have their own thoughts and opinions.  It also means not causing them to doubt their own worth and rights.  So always be polite and respectful of your child’s value and dignity even while you require obedience or are in the process of administering discipline.  It is possible to be consistent, firm, respectful, positive, empathetic, encouraging, and hopeful, and still be the authority in your child’s life.  If a child is always treated with respect, he will have respect for you and trust in your love for him.  When these things are in place, he will not have a reason for rebelling. 

The second thing that is necessary for avoiding rebellion, is settling the order of authority early on. It needs to be made clear to the child from the very beginning that the parents correct, train, and lead, and the children learn, follow, and obey.  Young children can easily accept this but many parents allow it to be an ongoing battle by giving in to whining, tantrums and arguing because they don’t see the need to stand strong in their authority.  When children are not sure who is in charge, it is confusing and frustrating.  Parents should have high control in the beginning of their child’s life and very little control at the end of their teen years.  It is a mistake to give kids large amounts of freedom on the front side of their childhood and then take it away from them when they become teenagers. Too much freedom without a balancing amount of responsibility leads to chaos.  Young children don’t have developed reasoning skills to make good decisions, and teenagers do.  So, we need to walk through every decision with a young child and help him develop reasoning skills.  And we need to allow the teen to begin using the reasoning skills that we have helped him develop.  But most parents get it reversed and let a child with no reasoning abilities make all the choices for his life, and try to make all of the decisions for the teen who needs to begin to make decisions for himself.  Control should be high on the front side of childhood and low on the back side.  The child’s freedom and responsibility should increase at an equal rate gradually over the 18 years that he lives under your roofChildren need to wait their turn to have the privileges that come with being older.  They need to pass through all of the rights of passage the same way that we did to gain the authority over their lives that we have over ours.  It is not mean or selfish to treat a child like a child, rather than as your equal.  It is in their best interest.  You can save many decisions and privileges for when a child is older, then you have the option to slowly let out the reigns over the next eighteen years.  The parent does not have to take back any authority they previously gave away, in fact they have freedoms and responsibilities to give away.  Also, teens who were given freedom too soon in life will have to try to manage their freedom and autonomy without the wisdom and responsible character qualities that years of training would have provided, which will result in many poor choices.  However, if you are slowly giving out privileges and decision making abilities throughout their growing up years they will have more appreciation for those privileges, and therefore treat them with the care and respect they deserve, and make good choices. If they have too much authority too soon, they will have no respect for the power that they wield, and they have no values or morals behind them. They will use their power to boss you around, get their way, and disrupt the peace and routines of everyone around them.  Children need many years of parent directed options to receive the benefit of your wisdom and training in values and reason.  If a parent has not established their role in correcting and teaching in the early years, they are not going to be able to gain the role in the teen years.

Finding the balance between being firm in authority and yet respectful in delivery of expectations and consequences, is one of the most difficult challenges of parenthood, but one of the most important requirements of success.  Teens who have been treated with respect throughout childhood accept their parents as the authority and do not see it as a negative because authority has been experienced as fair, loving, respectful, gentle, and serving, so there is no need for rebellion.  They also have no rebellious feelings toward God and His authority because their experience with authority has not been marred.  Also children that are being handed freedoms in the teen years rather than having them taken away, actually enjoy their relationship with their parents because they feel honored  and respected and return that respect, rather than rebelling.

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