A friend of mine has eight kids ages 16 through 30. You’d think that out of eight, there’d be a couple of rebellious children in the bunch. But as far as I can tell, they’ve all turned out pretty good. As a mom of young kids, I like to ask moms like my friend what they did that worked. How do you raise kids who don’t rebel?
They usually remind me that kids make their own decisions and there are no guarantees. And it’s true that even if you do everything right, some kids are going to make choices you disagree with. But there are some habits each family practiced that steered their kids in the right direction. Here are 5 of those things that you can do, too.
1. Give reasons, not just rules.
Saying “don’t run out in the street” keeps children safe for a moment, but saying “don’t run out in the street because oncoming cars won’t have time to stop” informs them of the real danger they ultimately should look out for. Provide the “why” behind the rule to help your kids think about consequences and practice reasoning.
Provide the “why” behind the rule to help your kids think about consequences and practice reasoning.
In her book, Why I Didn’t Rebel, Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach argued that giving feels good, and when kids are exposed to it starting at an early age, they are more likely to think about how their decisions affect others. So create a Family Mission Statement, like this free printable one, and make sure service is a priority.
3. Put on your game face.
If your kids can come to you to talk about their mistakes or the choices they make and not fear a complete explosion, chances are they’ll be more likely to come to you with questions, confessions, and difficult feelings. So try not to freak.
4. Be authentic.
Kids can sniff out a hypocrite from a mile away, so admitting your own mistakes, engaging in conversations about sensitive topics, answering questions honestly—all these things build trust and respect between you and your child.
5. Go to church.
Research shows an association between religious participation in adolescence and greater psychological well-being and character strengths. That being said, simply attending church will not magically produce a family without rebellious children, especially if numbers one and four from this list are not being practiced.
But combining regular faith practice with sound reasoning, a family culture of service, a listening ear, and authenticity can help create a solid relationship between parents and kids. Fast-forward a few years and you’ll be one of those moms giving out the advice!
What did your own parents do that discouraged (or encouraged) rebellion in you?