4 Truths About Your Rebellious Child

I know a group of parents who meet once per month to talk about how hard it is to have children who have drifted away from their families for one reason or another. It’s sad, but they still have hope.

Maybe your kids are still little like mine. Maybe they are older, struggling in middle school or finding their way in college. Or maybe they’re rebelling, like the kids whose parents meet monthly, and you don’t know what to do about it. If you’re at your wit’s end with your rebellious child, there are 4 truths you need to know.

Even if he or she hopes to appear bulletproof, every rebellious child is emotionally vulnerable.

1. Your rebellious child is hurting.

Your child is like a flag on a pole. There are powerful winds blowing on him or her from every direction. Failures feel like craters. Every remark from a bully hits like a hurricane. Even if he or she hopes to appear bulletproof, every rebellious child is emotionally vulnerable.

Your child is hurting. I write that with confidence because most children are hurting in some way. It’s normal for children to experience highs and lows. If your child is showing signs of distress, make sure you empathize.

2. Your rebellious child needs stability.

A ship without a rudder eventually finds rocks. All children need stability, but a rebellious child needs it more than most. It is natural for growing children to search for whatever provides them the most solid feeling.

Remind them that you are a stable place to anchor. You will always be their safe harbor. My parents told me that their door was always open. I will tell my kids the same thing. That’s because stability is what all wavering kids need. They may exhaust many options, but they should know you are one of them.

3. Your rebellious child is not hopeless.

I have always liked the redemption element of the prodigal son story recorded in the Luke 15. The parable includes a father reconnecting with a child who has returned from “wild living.” The passage says, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” It’s such a sweet picture of a parent’s unending love for a child.

That’s how God feels about us. There is nothing we could do to cause him to stop loving us. God has never given up on you or me, even when we get rebellious. So, let’s not give up hope on our rebellious children, either.

4. Your rebellious child needs love.

Love is our most basic need. It’s tragic when children don’t feel their parents’ love. Because it’s such a need, the kids who don’t feel loved at home will try to fill that need elsewhere. This can spiral quickly, leading kids to make poor choices, create harmful relationships, and end up living a life without a clear objective. Ultimately, I hope I teach my kids that God loves them first and foremost (John 3:16), but it’s also important for me to remind them that I’d do anything for them. Tell your kids you care about them dearly. Demonstrate it with your actions, time, and enthusiasm.

Sound off: How can you show love to your rebellious child?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some things I do that upset you?”