Bible Gateway interviewed Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach (@LifeAsADare) about her book, Why I Didn’t Rebel: A Twenty-Two-Year-Old Explains Why She Stayed on the Straight and Narrow–and How Your Kids Can Too (Thomas Nelson, 2017).
Why is teenage rebellion against parents accepted to be normal?
Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach: Teenage rebellion is scary. You can make huge decisions in your teenage years that affect you for the rest of your life—and teens are often really dumb. Even the smart ones. They don’t always make the best decisions.
On top of that, many parents rebelled themselves when they were teenagers. And they see themselves in their kids.
Parents love their kids so much, and when it comes to the teenage years they have two choices: faith or fear. And fear is a whole lot easier; it’s our natural response. Faith takes work. Faith takes prayer, trust, and surrender (Romans 12:1; Galatians 2:20-21; Matthew 16:24-25).
So when we think of teenage rebellion, we immediately jump to the fear response, which says, “It’s inevitable! Every teen rebels! There’s nothing you can do!”
But what if that’s not true? What if that’s faulty logic that doesn’t consider Jesus’ redeeming power?
It’s time we stop allowing ourselves to be controlled by fear. It’s time we start accepting that there is hope, and that there are things parents can do to equip their kids with the tools they need to make good decisions in their teenage years. Because “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Give a few examples of what parents should NOT consider to be rebellion.
Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach: We tend to see a “good kid” as one who fits a certain personality description. The good kid is the one who’s friendly, always knows the right thing to say, is well-dressed, soft-spoken, and doesn’t rock the boat.
The problem? Most people don’t fit in that personality!
I certainly didn’t.
We need to stop seeing rebellion as anything that goes against that “nice kid” persona. Because there are a lot of things teens do that, although they aren’t rebellion, aren’t “nice.”
Teens are hormonal, moody, and often have different beliefs and values than their parents do. None of those things are inherently wrong. None of those things are rebelling. The only thing that’s rebellion is when we’re living against what God wants (Matthew 6:33).
Some kids are going to stir up trouble. Some kids are going to be called to turn over the money tables (John 2:14-16). We shouldn’t scold them for rebellion simply because they aren’t being “nice.”
Raising kids who don’t rebel doesn’t mean raising kids who fit in and don’t rock the boat. It means raising kids who’ll go to the ends of the earth for God’s kingdom (Colossians 3:17).
What do you mean “successful parents aren’t perfect; they’re authentic”?
Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach: So often parents have this vision of “the perfect dad,” or “the perfect mom,” and they feel so much pressure to match that ideal they have in their mind.
They put their identity into what they can give their kids, what they can provide, whether their kids are the best they can be. And they take any slight failure, any slight inability to meet every unrealistic “should” that they’ve put upon themselves, as a sign that they aren’t good enough.
From my research, a huge difference between parents who had kids who rebelled and those who didn’t was that kids who didn’t rebel had parents who were comfortable being imperfect. They talked about their struggles, apologized when they had wronged their child, and admitted to their child that they didn’t have all the answers—but that it was OK.
Many parents who had kids who did rebel, though, were so tightly holding on to this image of being the “perfect” parent that they couldn’t share their heart with their kids. They didn’t share their fears, their failures, their uncertainties with their kids for fear that it would shatter that illusion of perfection.
The problem? Kids are way more perceptive than we give them credit for.
Nobody has it all together—but when you frantically pretend you do when you really don’t, it teaches kids that being honest about flaws and imperfections is unacceptable. Opening up, on the other hand, and sharing your heart with your kids, creates a family that is centered on truth. And where truth can flourish, Jesus can work freely (John 8:36; Luke 8:17; Romans 3:10; Ephesians 2:8-10).
How do you explain Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” in light of rebellious children raised in a Christian home?
Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach: I think the first thing we need to understand is that Proverbs is a book of principles—general trends of how the world works. But it’s not law. Take Proverbs 10:4 (NIV), for example: “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” In general, yes, that’s true—but we all know very lazy people who have a lot of money until the day they die and very diligent people who struggle to get by. Or Proverbs 10:2, “Ill-gotten gains do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.” There are a ton of people who’ve made their millions by cheating their way to the top, and there are many righteous people all over the world who are killed or tortured for their faith.
So when we look at Proverbs 22:6, we need to see it as a general principle—if you train your children to follow God’s law and instill the love of God in his heart, you’re making it much more likely that later he’ll continue to follow God’s desire for his life. But it doesn’t guarantee.
An important part of this principle, though, is the word “train.” Studying the interviews I did for my book, I noticed that families with kids who rebelled didn’t “train” their children—they dictated their children’s behaviours. They had strict rules, harsh discipline, and tried to have complete power over their children’s behaviours. They used parenting lines such as “because I said so,” or “as long as you live in this house you’ll obey me.” There wasn’t discussion around the rules—what mom and dad said was law.
Kids who didn’t rebel, though, had a very different home environment. Instead of being told what to do, we were taught how to make decisions for ourselves. One girl I interviewed (let’s call her Rachel) explained that instead of having a curfew her parents would ask, “What time do you think you should be home tonight?” Instead of dictating when Rachel had to be home by, this forced her to think through her decision and make an informed choice. She hated it at the time, but looking back now is so grateful that they trained her in good decision-making. I think we so often think that imposing more rules and discipline is the same as training, but according to my interviews it’s not.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach: One of my all-time favourite verses I find myself turning back to time and time again is Matthew 6:33, which reads, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
It’s my “I-need-a-kick-in-the-pants” Bible verse. I’m a perfectionist and get really caught up in chasing goals, and it’s so easy to forget that simple phrase: seek FIRST the kingdom of God and his righteousness. I so often need to be reminded that I shouldn’t seek first to have the perfect house, or seek first to hit that work milestone, but seek first to bring God’s kingdom here on earth and to chase after his righteousness.
We make life much more complicated than it needs to be by focusing on the wrong things. Life isn’t about being the best parent, the best student, the best spouse—it’s about seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness. Then everything else comes second to that.
Bio: Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach is an author, blogger, and psychology graduate from Ottawa, Canada. The daughter of blogger and author Sheila Wray Gregoire, Lindenbach is an online entrepreneur passionate about challenging pat answers and daring people to live beyond the status quo. She just celebrated her second anniversary this July.
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