Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while. It’s time for Coffee and Conversation.
When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.
I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own..
“All teenagers rebel, at least a little.” – This was written by a family member of mine, when my oldest child was eight years old, as though it was a fact everyone knew, to be accepted without question.
But is it a fact?
My oldest will be thirteen tomorrow. Is it a foregone conclusion that he’s going to rebel, now that his adolescence is at hand? Will he morph into someone with an entirely different personality than he’s had up till now?
I don’t think so. Why not? Well, let’s take a look at the word ‘rebellion’, as defined by Google.
an act of violent or open resistance to an established government or ruler.
“the authorities put down a rebellion by landless colonials”
synonyms: uprising, revolt, insurrection, mutiny, revolution, insurgence, insurgency; More
the action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention.
“an act of teenage rebellion”
synonyms: defiance, disobedience, rebelliousness, insubordination, subversion, subversiveness, resistance
“an act of rebellion”
Do you notice something, there?
In order for the action of rebellion to occur, there has to be an opposing force to act against. In this definition, ‘established government’, ‘ruler’, ‘authority’, ‘control’, or ‘convention’ are the opposing forces.
Those things aren’t part of our family dynamic.
My Accomplice in Mischief and I aren’t fond of using our parental authority as a tool or a weapon – we reserve it to use when we truly need it, and, the rest of the time, we live in our home as four equals. When disagreements crop up, adult views don’t supersede younger ones. That’s our convention; and there’s nothing to rebel against in a convention that guarantees him equal footing and due consideration.
As he enters his teenage years, Jeremiah is in control of his own life. He knows that:
- His parents are on his side, willing to do what we can to help him to fulfill his wishes and his purposes.
- He can make mistakes without fear of being punished. As he’s growing up, the slings and arrows of life will inflict enough damage, without us adding to it.
He can talk with us, ask us questions, state his wishes, and have them respected. That’s why he doesn’t appear as often as his sister on this blog- he’s a more private individual, and part of respecting that is honoring his desire to keep most aspects of his life personal, rather than having me expose them to anyone who comes here to read.
- When he wants new freedoms, he can ask us. His requests are considered, and usually granted, because he tends toward being very aware of his own limits, and seldom asks for freedoms he doesn’t feel ready for.
We don’t say no, without offering something he can hang onto or work toward. When we don’t allow something, which isn’t commonplace, we are prepared to explain why, discuss options, or what might need to change first.
With these as the conditions of his life, rebellion would be a waste of energy!
I think teenage rebellion is something of a boogeyman, and often has more to do with parental attitudes than with the behavior of adolescents biologically geared toward gaining independence and adult status. As in many other aspects of life, point-of-view and purpose can define an interaction. If life is black-and-white, with the demand of adherence to parental rule, any deviation from that is an uprising that must be suppressed (but is likely to surge up again, in some other conflict). Eventually, suppression will fail, because teenagers do become adults, beyond their parents’ ability to legally control.
Our purpose is different. We accept that our children will be adults, and we don’t think that rules and punishments are the most effective way to help them get to that point well-equipped to function in the adult world. We’d rather give them as high a degree of autonomy as possible, so that they can learn, piece by piece, choice by choice, interaction by interaction, how to manage the matter of living.
What some might term rebellion, because they are focused on controlling their older children, I see as an opportunity to help my kids build conflict resolution skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Conflicts can be resolved without an escalation of tensions only so long as everyone involved is willing to listen to the others, and to negotiate a mutually agreeable solution. I can’t expect my children to develop that ability if I’m not practicing it myself; so it falls to me to be willing to hear my children’s perspectives and be open to them.
When life is engaging, and teens aren’t being forced to simply carry out parental choices with little regard for their own, there’s no need to rebel, and nothing to rebel against. There’s simply life – with all its successes and failures, contentions and resolutions, growth and learning, grace and missteps.
And isn’t that enough for anyone?
What do you think? Are teens fated to rebel, even in a family whose objective is to support them as they pursue their goals? Is my family headed for even more lovely chaos, or utter disaster? There’ll be birthday cake here, later, and a variety of beverages. Won’t you stop be and enliven the conversation?
On a final note, this post is Jeremiah-approved. =)