Regaining the Hearts of Your Teens
– Discovering the Root Problems (Part 1) –
Paul J. Bucknell

Part 4/5 of "Not Too Late to Reach your Teens (Discovering the Root Problems)" desribes the second and surprising reason that teenagers rebel against theri parents–their parents teach them to!

Problems (Part 1): Family Problems | Solutions | Problem #1 | Problem #2 | Delinquency
Solutions (Part 2): Barriers | Let’s Solve it! | Confession | Steps of Love | New relationship

Why do our teens rebel?
I would like to focus on two reasons why our children rebel and get so arrogant? By the way, do not be deceived. If your child complies with your request but does it with a poor attitude, know for sure that the child is in passive rebellion. Because of your strong hand, they do not openly rebel. But give them time and room, and you will see your maturing child reject you and your life.
I want to talk about two problems. There are many other things that can be said, but we need to get down to the roots of why our teens rebel. Later we will come back and show how this is related to our love for God.
1) Children build up resentment. They lack their parents’ love and anger builds up.
2) Children have learned to rebel. Children learn how to handle relationships through the way their parents handle relationships especially in their marriage.
#1) Children build up resentment.
#2) Children learn from their parents.
This might shock you. It shocks me too. Still, even after all these years. But when I finally understood how children learn, it all made so much sense. Now I could say a lot about the peers they learn from and the music and media that hypnotizes them. But there is a problem much deeper. Attacking these things alone will not help. Until we have obtained their trust, we cannot deal with these issues.
A child imitates her parentsWe all know that children learn from their parents. Each of us can describe how when small, the child would do this or that to mimic dad or mom. Our littlest one likes to drop in showing herself all dressed up in adult clothes and shoes. It is so funny.
But children are learning much more than just how to wear clothes. Let me mention three important areas they learn from their parents.
(a) Children learn from how parents respond to different situations.
They are learning how to respond to different situations. For example, do you worry when things don’t go right? Some children will learn to be a specialist in worry. They have mimicked your response.
Of course, if you are going through a stressful time and they see you take special time out to pray and find extra peace by trusting in the Lord. They learn from you how to trust in God. By time they have grown up, they have so regularly seen you do it, they also unconsciously copy you. Children learn how from how parents respond to different situations.
(b) Children learn from how we treat them.
We have largely talked about this in the first root reason. They somehow have learned that they are not important. The parents do not treat them important so they do not feel important. This is the real problem of self-esteem today. Parents are so selfishly seeking their own lives that they do not really care for their own children.
(c) Children learn how to relate from how Dad and Mom relate to each other.
I would like to spend a bit more time on this. Perhaps it is because we are so blind to it. But the real reason is that husbands and wives do not often have a good sweet relationship. I know, you are probably asking again, “What does our marriage have to do with teenage rebellion?” But it does.
Dad and Mom's interaction
You see, you have trained your children how to rebel. Let me give you two examples. They might seem not too important, but the more I study this, the more I find that they are foundational stones to a great family. Without a great marriage, you will not have a great family.
1) Husbands teach how to treat people by the way they love their wives.
Dad loves Mom by cherishing her. He respects her. Even when she is moody, he is patient and helpful. He puts aside his own wants and desires to meet special needs in her life. He is concerned with how things are going in the home partially because it is his overall responsibility but also because he wants to know how his wife is doing.
He has learned to care for the people in the home as God cares for him. He will pay attention to those things that his wife has mentioned to fix around the home. He is concerned with the building, but he is more concerned that his wife knows how much he cares for her. It is important to her and therefore it is important to him. This is not a mere emotional type of love, but a practical one that originates from a desire to care for as a special treasure.
He has retrained his eyes and desires only to fix on his wife. She might be getting older and might be real tense about something. But he slows down his pace, purposely, so that he can bring extra comfort to her. Perhaps he mentions that she is special to him. Or that he takes her out so she can share with him what is on her mind. Or he volunteers to help her with something.
But the eyes of others are watching. They see how their Dad gently deals with her. He really loves her. They begin to see how one is to care for another. They believe that they also are really important. He is slow to anger. And when he makes a mistake, he apologizes.
Even though Dad is very busy, they see him set special time with her because she is special to him. They conclude if he treats her special, then she must be very special. Dad is so busy. Through this they learn about the importance of relationships–people are important. Men love their jobs, but when they take time aside for their wives because they cherish them, then children know how important people are in a general way. They learn about how to share their lives with others. They naturally share their lives with their parents because they care.
If Dad does not care for his wife, they learn about how mean society can be. It is a ‘rat race.’ Everyone is for himself. They see their Dad not being faithful and looking at pornography. They see their Dad blow up at his wife and just stomp out of the room. They are learning how God relates to people. Is God just some distant Being or is He the one who personally loves us? What you say is not anywhere as important as to how Dad treats Mom. We learn more about God from our Dad’s then we would care to admit. Does love exist? If so, children will relish it and love others. But if not, they will learn how to treat others meanly (just like Dad did). If they see Dad apologize, then they will learn to resolve things through humbling of one’s heart and apology.
He does not work to build up wealth. He knows pleasing God is more important. God tells him to love his wife but never says to make a lot of money. He works to take care of his family and to help the poor. If God gives him more, he gives more away.
Children learn how to live for someone beyond themselves through the way Dad loves Mom. This is how life is. They ‘naturally’ focus on caring for people and not just their own success. They importantly learn how deep and personal God’s love is for them.
2) Wives teach how to relate to one in authority by the way they submit to their husbands.
Women today are being challenged left and right to disobey God by asserting their choice against their husbands. Submissiveness is suppose to be an old-fashioned, out-of-date perspective. For God, though, it is the key to harmony in the home. There is no other way to bring a house together than through His commands.
Behind this command is the great “two become one flesh” principle. If there are two heads in the family, then you will have struggles. Jesus through His life showed that submitting Himself to do God’s will is a precious learned response. The church as a whole is to be the bride of the Lord. Just because our society looks down on submission, we should not. It is the key to a great marriage and good children. We train our children through our own responses.
Children learn a lot about love through the Dad’s care and valuing of Mom. But they learn other things through the Mom in her response to Dad.
Wives need to see that God’s special calling in life is to be their husband’s helpmate. They are to work along their husbands rather than separate from them or even against them. Their goal is to merge with their husband in such a way that they are one. Of course, if the husband is eyeing other women, the wife does not trust him. This is hard to do apart from God’s grace. Society is gradually starting to accept a separate doctrine.  More and more husbands and wives are deciding to live separately. Not only do the scriptures forbid this, but it is setting the whole family up for trouble and loneliness.
When wives work alongside their husbands, many longstanding tensions just disappear. Yes, I know, the world says you must stand up for your rights, freedom and choice. But this is exactly what the evil one wants you to believe. Just think, do you ever find harmony when you assert your ways? Of course not. As long as you believe that you should have your own way, you will find God’s command to submit to your husband a most disagreeable thing..
Why don’t you believe that your submission is better? It is because the words of the evil one that tricked your great mother, Eve.
When you begin to choose to be submissive, then you are taking the words of God seriously, and they begin to shape your life perspectives. When a wife begins to submit to her husband, great changes take place. The husband finds he does not need to resist her. In fact, he begins to enjoy her presence. The wife begins to get excited about God’s calling in life to please her husband.
The wife will begin to pay close attention to her husband. She will learn how to work along with him. She will discover God’s special grace to work alongside him despite his imperfections. She will also see that she begins to care more for her children, not just in a personal way, but in a larger and wider sense.
The children will see that harmony in the home and love it. They will not see it anywhere else. The home is where they will find it. They will want to be home. They will love to bring their friends over. Their friends will want to come over.
The children will learn how to obey even when they don’t personally like it from their Mom. They will see at times the husband wants a certain thing. They know it is hard for Mom, but Mom does it with a gentle and quiet heart. Her sweetness makes that whole scene like one of those magical moments one never wants to forget. She chose to put another’s will above her own and with her gracious spirit even looked like she enjoyed it. The children learn that obedience has a special power and joy. God gives grace to do it, and there is a wonderful harmony that comes over the hearts of people.
Of course, if they do not see Mom submitting her will, then they see her obedience. Lots of fights develop. There is no harmony. In short, the children learn to rebel from the way Mom rejects God’s command to submit to her husband.
We often do not think our marriage has anything to do with parenting, but it does. Actually, the way we relate to our spouses is more important in shaping our children’s perspectives and attitudes than anything else.
Either our children will learn how to be selfish, commanding, prideful, material-centered, quick to get angry and how to store up hatred and resentment for a good argument, or they will learn how to choose God’s ways: be obedient, caring, gentle, other-oriented (love) and humble.
Most children do not reject Christ and His ways because they know Him. No. They reject Him because they do not see the real Jesus in their parents. They don’t want that kind of religion.
In the next article, we will talk about fixing up all the problems from the past. But before this is done, you as Dad and Mom, need to commit yourself to persistently live God’s ways. You must not think that your children will believe you if they do not see a real change in your own commitment toward God, your spouse and them. You need to confess your idolatry–wealth-centered life if it is at all present. You did believe that wealth and education gave your children everything they needed but now you see that you have not trained them to love God, whether poor or rich. You have not been properly training your child and therefore have not obeyed the Lord. You need to humble yourself before God and then confess your sin against whomever you have offended. Do you best simply describing what you did do that shouldn’t have, what you should have done (this sets the road for the coming changes) and then simply ask for forgiveness.

reflect ... reflect ... reflect

Step back and tell the Lord that you really want Him and do not want this world. Be willing to give up and change what He wants. As a husband, begin to love only your wife. Repent from pornography and looking at other women. You are going to show how valuable she is by setting only your heart on her. Will your wife like that? She sure will. She can’t trust you while your eyes are roaming all around.
Again, I realize that the society might mock me, but as the scripture says, wives need to put aside their dreams for their career. If a woman gets married, then her career, so to speak, becomes her husband. You want to put all your energies into blessing him. Think about how you can best serve your husband. What does he really want? The model we find in Proverbs 31 is where the wife first cares for her husband, children and home and then by God’s grace find special projects from out of the home.
When we have done this, then we can take some concrete steps into straightening up the mess in the parent-child relationship. The children will believe you when you change. Otherwise, there is nothing to offer the child. All you offer is selfishness and hatred. They don’t want that. That is the fruit of the world.
    1. Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
But carefully note the difference of God’s Spirit in His people.
    1. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? (James 3:13-4:1, NASB).
Dangers lurk all about us. By avoiding the trouble, we are like that family having a picnic. We pretend all is well when it really isn’t. Grades are important but only a part of life. If we are going to straighten things out, we need to change our goals in life to have them conform to God’s. He has given us children so that we can train them to live out God’s will. We want godly children.
In order to do this, we need to recognize that many of us have been pursuing things other than God. God has just be one of the things we do. God wants us to place His commands at the forefront of our lives so that we actually start being influenced by them. You have changed some. Good. You need to change more in areas that we have mentioned. Otherwise, you will not get at the root problems. Unless you get the heart of your child, then you will not have his or her trust.  Without his or her trust, you will not change your relationship. Let us together evaluate.
1) Is your child resentful? Is there silent or forceful signs of rebellion. Does your child obey you from the inside or just conform on the outside. If there are signs of resentment, then you have caused offense in the past. Perhaps you are not at fault on all of them. That doesn’t matter.
This week work through how you carry on your relationship with your children. Do you really care for them? Do they feel it. Without a knowledge of your commitment to care for them as individuals, then it is hard to take the plug off and release that inner anger.
2) What have your children learned from you? Have they in fact learned how to rebel from your own lives? Do they know your love?

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Problems (Part 1): Family Problems | Solutions | Problem #1 | Problem #2 | Delinquency

Solutions (Part 2): Barriers | Let’s Solve it! | Confession | Steps of Love | New relationship

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Biblical Foundations for Freedom

Paul J. Bucknell