Parents of rebellious boys, be encouraged. You are absolutely not alone.
All parents who love their children share the same basic desires. They want their children to be healthy and they would like their children to have it a little bit easier than they did. Loving parents hope their children walk a safe path and make intelligent, productive decisions. This is the goal, but many parents reach a point where they feel it is too late. Specifically, many see their teenage boys diving into dangerous and illegal activities or behaviors. These discouraged parents ask, “What have I done wrong?” and “Is there any hope for change?” How do you manage rebellious teenage boys?
Good question. The truth is that many, if not most, parents feel frustrated and even hopeless during while raising teenagers. Regardless how others’ lives may seem, no one has parenting down “perfect” or knows what to do in every difficult situation—even if those parents work hard at giving that impression.
Be encouraged. We’ll say it again. You are not alone. This blog is specifically for parents and grandparents who are struggling with rebellious boys. Read on for specific suggestions.
If you are reading this article, you may have already been praying. If you have not, start. That is the first and most important action parents can take. Don’t be afraid. Know that regardless of what you as an individual have ever done or not done, God is hearing your prayers. Not because of whom you are, but because of whom He is. God promises in His Word, “If anyone (that means you) lacks wisdom, let him (or her) ask of God who gives generously and without berating you for asking. It will be given.)” James 1:5. So, no excuses! Your son needs you to pray for him.
Here are three specific ways to pray for your son:
- Pray for the wisdom you need for parenting. Regardless whether you know God very well or not at all, ask Him what you need to do for your son. He’s willing to tell you.
- Pray for your boy’s rebellious heart. Ask God to change it and make it tender. Ask Him to bring people into your son’s life that will be a good influence on him. Understand that God loves your son more than you do. He desires the best for him too.
- Pray for the Lord to heal your relationship with your son. If he is rebellious and fails to submit to your authority, your relationship is hurting. Ask God to restore your parent/son connection.
You don’t have to use churchy words when praying. God’s looking at your heart. Don’t give up. God’s answer may not be instantaneous. Keep praying.
In addition to praying, there are other specific actions parents of rebellious boys need to take.
1. Warn your rebellious son of consequences—both established and natural consequences.
Good parenting includes clear consequences that are established before the situation occurs. Focus on the Family, a global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive, emphasizes, “It’s critical that you lay out your expectations of behavior in advance and make sure that everyone in the household understands them. The consequences for rebellious or disobedient behavior should also be spelled out beforehand, and the implementation of those consequences should be prompt and consistent.” To maintain boundaries of household conduct, you must (1) Tell your son the rules—even if you think he’s not listening. Lay them out in a clear way. For example, “Curfew is eleven p.m. You must be home by then, or you’re grounded for two days per exceeding hour [If he comes home at one a.m., he’s grounded for four days, because that’s two days per exceeding hour].” Don’t argue about them. Just state what they are. (2) Do what you said you were going to do. Otherwise, you lose your credibility and your words won’t matter. Think about what you are able to do and only set rules you are capable and willing to enforce.
Natural consequences are things that occur naturally as a direct result of what your son does. Every choice any of us make lead to results of one kind or another. Boys need to know what’s going to happen. Inform him, out of love and care, that the poor decisions he makes will get him into trouble. Watch your tone. Stay calm. Acknowledge that you know he will be the one making the decision. Then be quiet. There’s no advantage to nagging.
2. Criticize your rebellious son less.
Yes, that’s a hard one when he doesn’t seem to be doing anything right. But, if you’re always telling him what he’s doing wrong, he will start to believe you’re “just out to get him” and that he “can’t do anything to please you anyway.” Some things just need to be ignored and none of us wants to be called on everything we do wrong.
3. Comment on whatever good you see in your rebellious son—no matter how small or insignificant.
Okay, so you might have to look hard. Do it. For example, you might notice that he holds the door for someone, or that he simply wipes his shoes off on the doormat before walking on your clean rug. Tell him you appreciate these small acts of kindness. If you can’t find anything to complement him on, ask God to help you notice what you’re missing.
4. Remind your rebellious son that you love him.
You don’t love him for the good he’s done; you love him unconditionally. Remember the first moment you held him? He hadn’t done a thing for you yet. He was just a little lug. But you were filled with awe and loved him anyway. That’s not changed. He may not respond well but he needs to hear you say the words—over and over again.
5. Encourage your rebellious son.
Every growing boy needs encouragement. You can encourage in simple ways, like making his favorite kind of cookie and saying, “I baked some chocolate chips because I know they are your favorite.” Or, “I picked up BBQ Fritos “cause I know you like them.” It doesn’t have to be big. What matters is that that moment is about him.
6. Compliment your rebellious son’s good qualities.
Is he good at computer games or basketball? Can he sing or play an instrument? Is he witty? Maybe he is only kind to his baby cousin. Compliment that. Let him know you notice his strengths.
7. Go beyond hearing to truly listen to your rebellious son.
That can be a hard one when you don’t like what’s coming out of his mouth. Remember he is acting rebellious as a result of a storm within his heart. Regardless of what he claims, he is confused and feels lost. Whenever you see him, pay close attention to the words he speaks. Listen more than you talk, so that he knows you truly care about what he thinks. Your boy must be aware that even though you are the authority, your heart is still tender towards him. Just as Jesus is both authoritative and tender-hearted, be both authoritative and tender-hearted towards your son.
8. Stay positive with your rebellious son.
This is for both your sake and your son’s. Know that it is never too late; your boy is not a lost cause. Do not fret or worry, for that only forms an extra burden on your shoulders. Give your anxieties to God because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). When you stop thinking negative thoughts, your boy will notice a change in you. He might feel more comfortable approaching you about his problems if he sees you’re not so pessimistic.
9. Redefine your role as a parent to a rebellious boy.
It’s not a “police job” monitoring him, watching every move, standing by ready to punish him if he does wrong. But it’s also not a “friend” role of saying nothing as he makes foolish decisions. It’s something so much more wonderful than either of those.
The beautiful, irreplaceable, God-ordained role of parenting is to “bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Be an example of Christ’s love to him. If you don’t know what that means, get hold of a Bible and find out. Meditate on the words of 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Remember, you are not alone. If the situation is on the brink of spiraling out of control, get the help you need. One option is Gateway Academy for Boys. This is an acclaimed Christ-centered program designed to equip and discipline rebellious boys in preparation for a successful future. Give Gateway a call at 850-547-9011.