Confessions of a 19-Year-Old Girl: Why I DIDN’T Rebel

“I honestly don’t think there’s any one way to make sure your children don’t rebel.”

Why do teenagers rebel? Is it automatic? And can you do things that prevent teens from rebelling? I asked my 19-year-old to help us answer that today!

“All kids will rebel, and my job as a parent is to be there to help catch them when they fall.”

I’ve heard Christian parents say that to me time and time again–strong Christian parents, too. But the Holy Spirit does not have an age limit. The Holy Spirit is with ALL Christians, young or old. And so if we can expect ourselves to act appropriately, we can certainly expect our teenagers to as well.

I’m a big believer in this philosophy, and I’ve written about these two different approaches to parenting before. This week, I thought I’d let other people speak about how to raise kids to make good decisions. We started on Monday about how to raise kids who won’t date too young, and then on Tuesday my 16-year-old chimed in telling us why she’s not dating in high school.

Today I’ve invited my 19-year-old to share her thoughts on why teenagers rebel. I said to her, “can you just write something explaining why you DIDN’T rebel?” She sent me this. It makes me tear up to read it.

Hello. My name is Rebecca Gregoire, and I was the perfect teenager.

Obviously I’m saying that as a joke, but by most standards, I truly was pretty perfect. I never drank, never smoked, never partied, never dated, never even swore. (Honestly. I didn’t swear until I was 18.)  I may have been moody, but I always had a good job, and was extremely involved in church and volunteered in childcare and youth ministries. I didn’t rebel at all–I walked the straight and narrow all through high school, and am continuing to do so now that I’m living on my own.

I’m not saying all this to try and make myself look great–I’m saying it to make a point. I’m saying it to destroy a myth that has been hovering over Christian circles for way too long.

Teenagers do not have to rebel.

I am living, breathing proof of that statement. And so are the three girls I live with, and my best friends at our university IVCF group. We didn’t rebel.

Before I continue, let me tell you something else about myself.

I am not demure in any sense of the word. I don’t like listening to authority, and I often get frustrated when I’m told what to do, or how to do it. I like to question everything. I’m naturally extremely proud, a challenger of authority, and extremely stubborn.

Why am I telling you this? To prove that I’m not “naturally predispositioned to submit”. I’m actually the complete opposite.

Whether or not teenagers rebel isn’t contingent on their natural personality, and kids aren’t “guaranteed” to rebel. Obviously teenagers aren’t guaranteed to NOT rebel, either, but there are things you can do that make it less likely.

My family had two children who were complete opposites, and neither of us had a rebellion stage. So it has to be something about the family, not our natural dispositions.

So why do teenagers rebel? And why do some teenagers never rebel? I’ve tried to pinpoint what kinds of things my parents did that helped my sister and me not rebel (though, of course, there are never guarantees that a teen won’t rebel), and here’s what I’ve come up with:

5 Reasons I Didn’t Rebel as a Teenager

My parents instilled in me a sense of family honour

Often teenagers feel distant from their families, like they’re part of it by blood, but that’s it. In my family it was never like that. My mom and dad would make decisions on their own, of course, but they always talked everything over with my sister and me. Even things that we weren’t directly impacted by–we’d discuss everything over the dinner table.

My family is the kind of family where everyone is involved–it’s a team experience. A result of this is that I received a huge sense of family pride, dignity, and honour.

Family honour has been lost in our culture. We are so focused on ourselves, and have become extremely selfish. And I think a lot of that is that parents put their children’s wants over the family’s needs. In our family, Katie and I never went without. But we didn’t get everything we wanted–I wanted an X-Box when all my friends were getting one, but because that would cut out of major family time my parents said no. A small example, I know, but it shows the worldview my family had. No matter what, family comes first.

When your mindset shifts from “me” to “we”, your behaviours and your actions aren’t just going to affect you–you begin to see how what you do affects other people. What I do when I’m in my free time reflects on my family, whether good or bad. And for me, that was a huge incentive to be responsible and make my parents proud.

My parents were extremely encouraging, but also demanding

There needs to be a middle ground. I cannot stress this enough.

So many parents I see are all about the encouragement. Their kids can’t do any wrong in their eyes, and they just constantly pour love and affection and butterflies and rainbows into their children’s life. And then other parents are the opposite–they don’t pay any attention to their kids unless they do something wrong and then they blow up. Or, even if they don’t explode in anger, they only ever criticize and never praise their children.

My parents had a happy medium. We weren’t coddled, but we weren’t picked on, either. My parents chose their battles, and also encouraged us when encouragement was necessary but didn’t lie and tell us we were great at something when we weren’t. For instance, my parents never would have told me that I should go for a career in gymnastics, because I am not flexible in the least.

We always knew where our parents stood, and through that, we always knew that they were honest and had a better understanding of who we were.

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Sheila Wray
Sheila Wray Gregoire is a Christian author of 7 books and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences.

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