Sitting around with other moms in the nursing room, one of them asked, “So what percentage of kids of ours will rebel?” There was silence. We were moms of newborns and toddlers, and none of us wanted to fast forward to the days when our children would be making their own choices. None of us wanted to even think about our kids making different choices.
But the truth is, all of our children will come to a point where they assess for themselves the values we’ve taught. They’ll either embrace them as their own or reject them. They might embrace some and reject others. That rejection leads to disappointment, tension, and conflict. Here are 7 things to do when your child rejects your values.
1. Determine whether it’s minor or major.
Step back to see whether your child is wholesale rejecting your values or making an acceptable but different decision within the same general value. For example, a difference in dress, appearance or music while not your preference may not be a rejection of the underlying value. Encouraging your child to express his individuality within shared values is a healthy part of growing kids.
2. Maintain communication.
When your child voices an opinion reflecting a different value, don’t shut down communication with a lecture. It’s easy to feel threatened or even bewildered by your child’s choice. Often the child is struggling to find out what she believes. Let your child know she’s free to talk to you and work through issues with you. Ask questions, show respect, and be available when she wants to talk. If the discussion becomes too heated, agree to push pause and revisit the discussion when emotions are under control.
3. Love unconditionally.
Make sure your child knows that disagreement over values doesn’t mean rejection of the child. Find your child’s love language and make sure you not only show plenty of love but that your child feels loved. Your child may pull away, but make sure you don’t. Carve out one-on-one time with your child as well as family time to encourage the relationship.
4. Break off negative peer influence.
Negative peer influence is a huge wedge in the parent-child relationship. Cutting off that influence may require hard decisions like pulling out of a cheer squad or sports team, changing schools or even neighborhoods. At the same time, encourage positive peer influences by inviting other like-minded families over for evenings together and bolstering healthy friendships.
5. Find or build bridges.
What do you have in common with your child? If your daughter is into photography, take a course together or visit an exhibit. If your son enjoys golf, spend a few evenings at the driving range or watch some tournaments together. When the pull against your values creates tension, find ways to strengthen your relationship through shared interests.
6. Keep boundaries.
Just because a child rejects your values doesn’t mean he can reject the family rules. This is especially true if there are siblings and younger children still at home. Make sure your child knows that though he may disagree, he still needs to respect your authority and obey the family rules.
7. Consider counseling.
Of course, a child who rejects your values is also often rebelling against your authority. So it’s not so easy to just enforce the rules. That’s when solid, outside counsel can help. I have found that churches offer great counseling for both the parent and child to work through deep issues. As an added bonus, many times it is free.
Tell us! What do you think would be helpful when a child rejects the values you have taught?