with

Mike Bellah

 

The boy seemed determined to destroy his own reputation, but his name was not the only one muddied.

 

 

 

When teens rebel, the temptation is to blame--parents, teachers, society, anybody. But assigning blame doesn't help.

 

 

 

"But sometimes pain really is the best teacher," he assured me. "Stop the pain too quickly and you stop the learning."

 

 

"We had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found" (Luke 15:32 NASB).

 

When Teens Rebel

Note: This column is dedicated to K.C. who loved too much to quit.

When my own teen-agers rebelled--and most of them did in one way or another--I sought the advice of another father I knew who had been through it. This man didn't just write books about rebellious teens; he had first-hand experience.

When this man's youngest boy reached adulthood, he rebelled with a vengeance. You name it; he did it--everything his parents had forbidden. The boy seemed determined to destroy his own reputation, but his name was not the only one muddied.

As rumors of the child's aberrant behavior swept the community, this midlife father saw his own reputation plummet. What kind of family would raise a kid like that? What had they done (or left undone) to make him rebel? Why didn't they do something to make him stop?

Throughout all this, the father persevered, and the son's ultimate turn-around became as legendary in his community as the initial rebellion. How did this parent pull it off? Though not in his exact words, following is what he told me.

Don't assign blame.

"Don't become too introspective," the father urged me. "When teens rebel, the temptation is to blame--parents, teachers, society, anybody. But assigning blame doesn't help. And besides, often there is no one to blame. Good parents can raise children who rebel. It happens all the time."

Be firm.

My adviser told me how he remained firm with his child, forcing him to face the consequences of his own decisions. "You have to release them," he said. "Don't pay damages they need to restore. Don't replenish funds they mishandle. Don't tell lies to keep them from facing the truth."

As this father spoke, I could feel the emotion in his words. It had not been easy for him to watch his child suffer. "But sometimes pain really is the best teacher," he assured me. "Stop the pain too quickly and you stop the learning."

Never stop loving.

The most impressive thing about this parent was his love for his wayward child, and the most impressive thing about his love was its tenacity. He never stopped loving.

No matter how badly the boy behaved, his dad never stopped pulling for him, never lost faith in him, always stood ready to meet him half-way. And one day the boy took him up on it. He turned from his destructive behavior. He sought his father's forgiveness.

Some criticized the father for forgiving too quickly and too completely. After all the hurt this boy had caused, he didn't deserve full restoration. The father's response to his critics (and to me) are words you already know. You heard them in the same place I did.

For I sought advice from the most famous father in the Bible. You know him as the father of the prodigal son. This man's words--originally directed to the prodigal's older brother--are sentiments every parent of a rebellious child hopes one day to voice. They are the words of a parent who loves too much to quit.

"We had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found" (Luke 15:32 NASB).

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