by Barbara Frank
One of the many reasons I wanted to homeschool is that I didn’t want rebellious teenagers.
The homeschool magazine I read back then (before there were many homeschool magazines at all) was great for keeping me enthused and inspired about homeschooling before I was even doing it. The articles in it assured me that as long as my kids were homeschooled in a Christian home where God’s Word was taught, there would be no rebellion. In fact, more than one writer insisted that teen rebellion is not only unbiblical, but is also a product of our society, unique to our modern times.
I bought that argument completely. Besides, I was so busy keeping up with my growing family that I didn’t have time to consider the biblical stories of the Prodigal Son (rebellion) and the behavior of the Israelites in the desert (repeated rebellion). All I knew is that I didn’t want my kids to become the self-absorbed teens I’d seen in our extended family, our church and our neighborhood.
Fast-forward to the present. I’m a recently retired homeschooling parent whose four children are now adults. I often meet homeschooling newbies who love their adorable little ones so much, who enjoy their innocence to such an extent, that they fear what will happen when their children hit their teens. One even told me, “I can’t bear the thought that they will change into people I don’t like!”
This presents me with a dilemma. I can whitewash my response so the newbies can stay in their comfort zone, or I can be honest and risk a “shoot the messenger” situation. So if you, dear reader, want to stay in your comfort zone, I suggest you stop reading. You’re not going to like the rest of this article, because the truth is, even when you’re Christian, even when you homeschool and study the Bible together and pray together, and even when you do all those things and Dad works at home and is involved in your children’s lives on a daily basis, you will still have rebellious teenagers.
The thing is, it depends on the teen. I’ve seen homeschooled teens sail through those years as calmly as though nothing had changed. I’ve also seen kids from wonderful Christian families turn into scary-looking, sullen people. I’ve even seen both of these happen in my own home.
The word “seen” is important, though, when it comes to teens, because what you see may or may not be what you get. Inside the young lady with the ever-changing hair color and pierced eyebrow may beat the heart of someone who is passionate about the unborn and has a sincere concern for the underprivileged of this world. Conversely, inside the young lady wearing the flowered jumper and no makeup may beat the heart of someone who is just biding her time until she’s old enough to jump ship and live life her way, no matter how unbiblical her way may be.
What’s a parent to do? It’s scary to think that the loving, sweet-natured six-year-old who lives in your house may turn into someone you don’t like eight or ten years from now. What will you do if that happens?
The answer is to love that child anyway. Love is a verb, you know. No matter what you feel inside when you see your formerly winsome child with a snarl, or funny-looking hair, or even a face covered with zits, you love them with your words and with your actions (which include discipline, but that’s another article in itself). You love them even when you don’t feel very loving towards them. It’s not easy. I don’t think it can even be done without lots of prayer. But it must be done.
Because the rebellion, the strange clothes and behavior, the gangly appearance—these things will pass. For some kids, rebellion is part of the process of separating from the family. We parents know we’re here to work ourselves out of a job by raising kids who grow into independent adults. Some kids can make that transition smoothly, while others have to fight their way to independence. And even the kids who sail through their teen years often surprise you with a few rebellious issues when they reach young adulthood and are out of your reach. Still, as the saying goes, this too will pass. They come through on the other side as mature versions of the little people you once knew, but this time without the dependency on Mom and Dad.
So if you’re homeschooling because you don’t want rebellious teens, I’m sorry to tell you there are no guarantees. But if you’re homeschooling because you love your kids, then you’re on the right track, because practice in loving your kids can only help. You may have to face a time where you discover that despite your best efforts, despite years of homeschooling and a loving Christian home environment, your child has turned into someone you don’t always like very much. But hang in there and keep loving that “someone” anyway, because the best is yet to come.
“….he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV).
Note: If you are struggling with a rebellious teen, I highly recommend the book Prodigals and Those Who Love Them: Words of Encouragement for Those Who Wait by Ruth Bell Graham.