Before we get started, I feel like I should begin with a little disclaimer. Growing up I was never labeled a “rebellious girl.” I never experienced a wild phase as a child or teen. And it’s not that I was never rebellious; back-talk was my specialty. I just never acted out of rebellion or did destructive things.
So I’m guessing right about now you’re probably wondering why in the world I’m writing this blog post. Well, this post flows out of a conversation I had with my parents about how they raised me. So much of me believes that it was the consistency in the way they parented that helped me avoid the dangerous pitfalls of being a teen girl.
More often than not, ministry leaders are approached by parents who are heartbroken and lost on how to help their rebellious teen daughter. “How do I get them back on track?” “What did I do wrong?” “Is it too late?” “They’re making terrible decisions and want nothing to do with God. What do I do?”
Unfortunately, one-size-fits-all answers do not exist. But please know that you are not alone. I know that it is heartbreaking to watch your child headed in a direction that conflicts with your hope for her life. But, you don’t have to live hopeless or afraid or alone in this. Christ offers us comfort, hope, and wisdom through His Spirit and His Word.
I am sure many of you are familiar with a few Scripture verses that speak on parenting. Whether you are or you aren’t, let’s always start there.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6).
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9).
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Prov. 13:24).
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Ps. 127:3).
Now with God’s Word in mind, let’s approach the following question:
How can you protect and steer your daughter without driving a wedge in your relationship?
You must first define what your daughter is doing. Is her behavior dangerous? If yes, then you need to take immediate action to keep her safe. As Proverbs 13:24 explains, this kind of discipline is not done out of hate or harm (even if she may not see it that way). It’s out of your unconditional love for her that you protect her.
“I know your friends hang out at the mall without supervision, but let’s find an option to hang out that makes sure you and your friends are safe.”
The complexity of your daughter’s rebellious actions determines the complexity of your response. Many times, teens rebel only to test boundaries you have set in place. What she may not realize is that these boundaries help shape the adult she becomes (Proverbs 22:6, anyone?).
Three tips my parents have shared when it comes to boundaries: be consistent, share the why behind good boundaries, and do not give into her anger and frustration.
“I know it seems like we are limiting you, but as parents we want to help you avoid short term decisions that have a negative long term impact. Your future is important to us.”
But, beyond boundaries and discipline, there is a foundational truth for you to remember: you are the first example of Christ for your daughters. Therefore, pursue your girls like God pursued your own rebellious heart since the beginning of time.
So, what might this look like?
- If they are actively running from God, you should run to them just like the father did with the prodigal son (Luke 15:20).
- Be consistent with your own behavior and do not allow your message to be contradicted with a “do as I say, not as I do” message. Ask God to create in you a clean heart and lead by example.
- If your teen is convinced she is undeserving of Jesus’ love, show her Scripture that explains that no one is deserving of His love. However, He gives love away freely. Just like you do as a parent.
- If the wrong crowd is influencing her, make yourself available to hang out. You can become the “good influence” that you want for your girl. If they have no interest in spending time with you, help find her a godly mentor. Sometimes another trusted woman can help your teen learn that Jesus isn’t just her family’s God, but He is for her personally. How many times have you witnessed young adults say, “I was raised in a Christian home” Rather than, “I became a Christian at a young age?”
- If they refuse to go to church with the family, find out her “why.” Is church boring? Is there no one her age group or no girls that she considers a friend? If your children are not engaged in church due to style or demographics, it might be time to seek out a church that offers your girl a welcoming youth group or small group environment that she enjoys, rather than limiting her exposure to a church that is not focused on youth ministry. Her relationship with Jesus is more important than your tradition or your comfort, so be prepared to do what it takes.
- In the midst of the talking, the doing, and the hoping, do not forget to pray. It is Jesus alone that can change her heart.
There are many ways to woo your daughters out of teenage rebellion. Usually it comes down to this formula:
Time+Grace+Love+Power of the Holy Spirit=Jesus Loving Daughter
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, NIV).
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.
Abby Underwood has struggled with social anxieties her whole life. Realizing her value in Christ, she overcame the challenges of loneliness, she is now fueled by her passion to help girls find their identity in Christ. Abby works as a member of the social media team and student ministry at Life.Church Hendersonville. Connect with Abby: Instagram // Website