Navigating in the New World: Parents and Teenagers Growing Together

One of the most prevalent myths of our modern culture is the one that says, "Adolescence is a time of inevitable conflict." You will hear doctors say it, and teachers, and therapists, and pastors, and even parents. It seems that nearly everyone has bought into this myth.

The thinking goes like this:
1. Teenage "rebellion" is normal;
2. Because teenage "rebellion" is normal it is to be accepted, perhaps even encouraged by those who work regularly with teenagers;
3. Because teenage "rebellion" is normal, teenagers who do not rebel are "not normal," and will certainly have serious problems later in life;
4. Therefore, to be healthy, teenagers must rebel;

The Conclusion to this logic is that "Rebellion today equals healthy living tomorrow." Therefore, Rebellion is simply an investment in the future!

However, the Truth is that conflict and rebellion during the adolescent years is not inevitable. In fact, the adolescent years can be a time of great closeness between parents and teens. The fact that teenage rebellion is "common" does not make it "normal." By "common" we mean a behavior that is observed often; "Normal" means that a certain behavior is the way that God intended for the behavior to be from the beginning. Never confuse "normal" with "common."

Teenage rebellion is simply rebellion against authority, against their parents.

Rebellion is not simply a difference of opinion between parents and teens. Please do not interpret a difference of opinion as rebellion. And rebellion is not simply a teenager's attempt to "grow up" and become more "independent."

Instead, rebellion is the attempt to overthrow the legitimate family government that is in place. Rebellion in a family is similar in this respect to rebellion in a nation's government.

Rebellion by teenagers against their parents is the attempt to overthrow the parents as the authority in the home; the attempt by the teenager to make himself "King" in his own life; the rejection by the teenager of his parent's values and beliefs.

In every layer of human society God has instituted a system of "government" or a "chain of command structure." These systems are seen from national governments right down to marriages, families, and the church. Every social organization, or social system, has an organization that provides structure, teaches values to new members, provides for the enforcement of values among its members, and provides leadership.

The family is important to our society, as it provides the next generation with core values and beliefs, and with a model of appropriate behavior.

In America, the leading causes of teenage rebellion are:
5. Moral relativism in the culture;
4. Lack of parental supervision, or lack of parental influence;
3. Outside influences from the culture (especially the glorification of sex) delivered to teenagers through the entertainment media, such as popular music, movies, and TV;
2. Peer dependence, peer influence, and peer pressure;
1. Boyfriends/girlfriends.

Work with your teen, spend time with your teen, and talk with your teen. There is no substitute for your time and attention invested in his or her life.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net, helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.

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