Teen rebellion is seen as a cultural norm, but Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach begs to differ. In Why I Didn’t Rebelbased on a viral blog post that has been read by more than 750,000 peopleLindenbach shows how rebellion is neither unavoidable nor completely understood. Based on interviews with her peers and combining the latest research in psychology and social science with stories from her own life, she gives parents a new paradigm for raising kids who don’t go off the rails.
Rather than provide step-by-step instructions on how to construct the perfect family, Lindenbach tells her own story and the stories of others as examples of what went right, inviting readers to think differently about parenting. Addressing hot-button issues such as courtship, the purity movement, and spankingand revealing how some widelyheld beliefs in the Christian community may not actually help childrenWhy I Didn’t Rebel provides an utterly unique, eye-opening vision for raising kids who follow God rather than the world.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
WHAT IS REBELLION?
IT'S NOT AS STRAIGHTFORWARD AS WE THINK
I lost my first front tooth because my little sister punched me in the face. Of course, the first time I saw her I hit her on the head, so I had it coming. At the time of the tooth incident, I was five and Katie was three, and we were cuddling with Mom while she tried to read us a story. My sister has always been extremely possessive of both of my parents, so with a resounding, "Back off, buster! Go find your own mom!" she popped me in the mouth and out flew my tooth.
My childhood was full of s'mores in the summer, falling out of my chair laughing at dinnertime, and trying to convince my mother that tutus were perfectly acceptable church wear. We made a fort in the backyard out of a rotting old shed where Katie and I played for hours at a time, pretending we were part of Little House on the Prairie. The first song I ever learned was "Jesus Loves Me," and I didn't realize that some people didn't know God until I was five years old and one of my kindergarten friends didn't know how to say grace before lunch.
Of course, I got into some mischief too. I got in trouble more times than I can count for using Katie as my guinea pig for various experiments. Like the "Let's see if this is safe to eat or if it will make you throw up" experiment or the "If I pull away your chair at the last moment, how high will you bounce off the floor?" experiment. I don't know why she trusted me so much.
I had a happy childhood, but that doesn't mean it was perfect. Our family was marked by loss, as I had a brother who passed away before Katie was born. My parents, although wonderful, both had tempers and yelled at me too much. I've always struggled with emotion-regulation issues, starting with intense tantrums at age two and continuing into some pretty dark phases in my teenage years. I cried over boys, was betrayed by friends, and fought with my sister.
But I never rebelled.
I had my own issues, yes, and I wasn't anywhere near perfect, but at the end of the day I was the kid who honored her parents. They gave me a happy childhood that has followed me into adulthood, and one day, when I have kids, I hope I can do the same for them. My mom and dad definitely did something right.
WHAT IS REBELLION?
Before I can be your family's cheerleader to raise rebellion-resistant kids, I'm going to spend the rest of this chapter clearing up what rebellion is — and what it isn't. I can't tell you how to raise children who will do everything you want them to, who won't ever make mistakes, and who won't ever be moody or hormonal. What I do want to do is share with you the stories of parents who raised kids to run after God, because that's what I hope we're all aiming for.
Unfortunately, that's not the normal definition for a "good kid." Usually, when we talk about rebellion, we're talking about going against authority — especially parental authority — and a good kid is a kid who always does exactly what he or she is told and never makes a fuss. I don't think I've ever known a kid like that, but I do know many children who haven't rebelled. So let's expand our definition of what rebellion isn't.
TEENAGE TRANSITION IS NOT REBELLION
When I was twelve my sister drew a picture of me with devil horns. That pretty much summarized our relationship then. The years when I hit puberty while my sister was still a child were especially hard. I screamed and cried, she screamed and hit, and my poor mother felt like a failure. Two years later, after Katie had gone through puberty as well, we were friends again.
Teenagers are just plain annoying. They're hormonal, they're moody, and they think they're better than you because for the first time in their lives they can logically reason through things (though they don't have the experience to show them they're actually quite naïve). Teens are going to do things that parents don't understand, whether it's wearing crazy shoes or watching stupid movies saturated with fart jokes.
Adolescence is a unique time of life when one can try out pretty much anything and not have to make any commitments. In fact, Erik Erikson, one of the most influential developmental psychologists ever, coined the term psychosocial moratorium to describe this phenomenon. Psychosocial moratorium means that society has decided it's perfectly acceptable for teens to try things that are taboo at any other age, since they're at a crossroads where they're trying to form their identity. Dyeing their hair pink or wearing certain clothes, for instance, might not be appropriate at twenty-five or forty but is completely okay for a fifteen-year-old, socially speaking. Children need this time of transition where they go from being who their parents say they are to who they decide they are.
Often, though, when thinking of a moody teenager, it's easy for parents to just see a troublesome kid who needs more discipline. But although, yes, it is important to learn emotional self-discipline techniques, it is not rebellion to be a moody teenager. A thirteen-year-old girl going through all the horrors of PMS for the first time is not going to be docile, sweet, and selfless. She's just not. She's going to resemble something along the lines of an anaconda mixed with a tiger that has a thorn in its foot and is hunting for blood. How parents handle a child's natural transition from kid to teenager has a lot of power. Are you the kind of parent who hugs her daughter while she cries and tells her, "I know; everything is horrible when your uterus tries to eat its way out of you," or do you tell your cramping, PMS-i ng daughter, "Honey, the Bible says, 'In everything give thanks,' so you really need to work on being gracious and thankful right now"? God created the female reproductive system. I'm pretty sure He has sympathy for cramps.
My poor father had it bad. He had two daughters, both of whom were emotionally volatile, going through puberty and all the social upheavals that happen along with high school at practically the same time (we're only two years apart). I will tell you: the years between my twelfth and sixteenth birthdays were dark times in the Gregoire household. My parents, however, handled us very well. I remember that whenever my teenage angst was particularly distressing for me, my dad would bring home ice cream or popcorn, and we would watch a movie together. He didn't ever have to talk to me about my teenage issues (except for when I wanted to talk, of course), but just knowing that he understood my utter anguish was comforting to me.
Being a teenager is not a sin. Going through transition is not a sin, and it is okay to allow your children to feel the intense emotions that come with adolescence. My parents allowed us the freedom to grow and develop by acknowledging how difficult those years can be, and our relationship is stronger for it.
PERSONALITY CLASHES ARE NOT REBELLION
I think we also need to expand our ideas about what being a good kid really means. When we think of a good kid, we think of one who doesn't have a problem listening to authority or who is always smiling and happy and in touch with how the people around him or her are feeling. We think of the girl who can go into any room and make five friends, who never wears heavy makeup, and who always wears a purity ring on her left hand. We think of the boy who loves to help with the kids in Sunday school, who is soft-spoken, but who is also a leader.
Often our examples of a "good girl" or a "good guy," though, are based more around personality than around character traits. But my personality is the complete opposite of your average good kid.
I'm opinionated, I despise rules, and I don't take no for an answer. I am driven, competitive, and independent — probably the opposite of what most people picture feminine to be. I'm pretty sure God put me on this earth for the sole purpose of stirring up trouble by pointing out where others are wrong. I may not have been the typical "perfect" feminine Christian teenager, but I can also assure you that despite my intense, contrary personality, I never rebelled.
I was the kid who did my schoolwork, who marched off to my job (even at 5:45 a.m. to a cold pool at the YMCA), and who memorized the Bible in my spare time. I'm not even kidding about the last one — my sister and I were involved in a Bible-quizzing program, and we both made it to the international level multiple years running. I have memorized all of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, 1 and 2 Corinthians, John, and most of Luke.
I never drank, never partied, and had never even kissed a boy until I met the man I married. All this despite the fact that in high school many of my friends were heavily into the party scene, smoked pot every once in a while, and were openly having sex. I wasn't sheltered, I wasn't naturally submissive, but I always respected and honored my parents' decisions, even when many others were doing the opposite.
When I was in junior high, I attended an amazing weekly youth group. There was a great group of high school kids who were strong in their faith, and they all looked out for me and took care of me. By the time I reached high school, though, that youth group had started to shift. The kids who'd been so strong had graduated or moved away, and the leadership changed. It slowly continued to slip until one day I realized it had fallen somewhere bad. I remember walking into one of the weekend overnighters, hearing Lady Gaga blasting from the speakers in the dimly lit basement, and seeing girls dancing on the pool table in short shorts and tank tops, with the leaders watching and laughing. My church's basement had become someplace dirty, and I was heartbroken.
So, at only fifteen, I phoned my youth leader and confronted him. I had my dad sitting beside me for emotional and moral support, and I remember my hands shaking as I punched in the numbers. It rang and rang, and eventually he picked up.
I'm not quite sure what I expected, but that conversation did not go well. I told the leader that what was happening in the youth group was not at all God-honoring — the music videos with half-naked girls, the explicit songs, the language (sure, I'd heard the f-word before, but I knew it wasn't appropriate in a church basement), and especially the table dancing.
I suppose I expected him to see the truth of the matter, but that is not what happened. Instead, this man who was running the youth group told little tenth-grade me that I was judgmental and that I needed to understand what God's love really meant. The conversation ended shortly after with me in tears and my dad stroking my hair.
The next year or so was a blur of confrontation. I was not able to let this be — even though it meant telling every single leader of the church that what was happening on Friday youth nights was wrong. Even though it meant standing up to everyone I was supposed to submit to not only as a young person in general, but as a young person under church leadership.
Many people in my church supported my cause, but many didn't. I lived for two years feeling so ostracized that I started sitting with the sixth-grade kids because they were the only ones who didn't hate me. The leaders and people who had formerly been my friends called me "traitor" — among other mean names — after I began attending a different youth group. They even tried to turn my sister against me. They told her that they loved her and that they wouldn't judge her based on her family, because they knew that she wasn't judgmental or a goody two-shoes like I was. As soon as my parents learned this they were furious, and both Katie and I left the youth program at the church for good.
It took two years for the senior leadership of the church to finally realize how bad things had gotten, but at that point it was already too late. The church had lost its Christian high school youth and had gained a bad reputation. Four years later the church's youth program finally got back on its feet — and only then because the entire leadership and student body had turned over. I'm on good terms now with those I fought against, but it was a very rough road for a long time.
Many people in the church thought I was overstepping my bounds. I was causing trouble, stirring up mischief, making mountains out of molehills. Since I was questioning leadership instead of trusting them, I wasn't respecting authority and was being impertinent. I was just a little girl. What did I know, anyway? I wasn't the good kid in that situation; my church's entire youth ministry was against me because in that moment, with that phone call, I was the one who was rebelling.
QUESTIONING AUTHORITY IS NOT AUTOMATICALLY REBELLION
I have to ask myself, though, was it really rebellion? When we think of the kid who doesn't rebel, we tend to think of someone who doesn't make waves. He's the kid who is happy all the time, has a few good friends, and doesn't hang out with the bad kids. She picks up her laundry off the floor and helps with dishes after dinner. He goes to church and plays piano for worship. She doesn't decide to tell the pastors that they are doing something wrong, and she definitely doesn't create conflict within church leadership.
But is that accurate? In my situation I know I did the right thing. Today the church youth group is once again a safe place in which Christian kids can worship God and invite their friends to encounter the real Jesus. But back then it was not. I saw God's house being misused and disrespected, and I addressed it. The cost was discomfort and conflict, but I stood up for what was right.
So is a kid who doesn't rebel really someone who doesn't rock the boat? No — a good kid is one who listens to God's voice and does what he or she is called to do.
Sometimes following God's plan means shaking things up. When we think a good kid is synonymous with a placid kid, we're limiting the ways God can work through that child. Some people are primarily meant to be peacekeepers. Others, though, are meant to be warriors, and it's important to be able to see the difference between making waves and making trouble.
What it boils down to is this: true rebellion is not rebelling against parents or against other earthly authority — it's rebelling against God. When I stood up against my church, I rebelled against my church leadership, and to be honest, even my dad wasn't completely on board at the beginning. (Once he saw for himself what was happening and how my leader was treating me, though, trust me — he got on board.) However, I was not rebelling against God. I was making everyone else's life pretty difficult, but it wasn't rebellion, because I was trying to honor God.
In fact, I think that sometimes going against your parents is the right thing to do and is not an act of rebellion either. What happens if following God's call means you must forsake your parents?
In our neighborhood there was only one other homeschooling family, but unlike ours, that one had a whole pile of kids. Also unlike us, they didn't continue the girls' education past eighth grade, because that's when they started training their daughters to become wives and mothers, concentrating on sewing, canning, and housekeeping skills. They completely sheltered their children. One time all the teen homeschoolers were at a Bible study together, and those girls weren't allowed to stay for the video sermon we had brought. "You never know what will be on a video," they were told. (That particular video series was Francis Chan talking about love.) Their parents confined them to their own very narrow definition of housewives.
These girls, in my opinion, should have rebelled against their parents. They should have said that they wanted an education, that they could do more than just cook and clean for the rest of their lives. Now, being a housewife can be a wonderful and fulfilling life goal — if God has called you to be a full-time mom and wife. But what if God has called one of these girls to be a surgeon who does missions in Nepal? Or what if one of these girls never gets married? The way their parents raised them has limited the ways they can serve God or even provide for themselves if necessary.
I grew up with a friend named Samuel whose family was extremely involved in a local church. This church was their family's "thing"; it was what they did — and what they had been doing for generations. The family environment, though, was neither warm nor caring. Samuel frequently clashed with his parents. He didn't feel understood, and the church they attended wasn't giving him what he needed to grow spiritually, which he longed for. When he became an adult, he told his parents that he was switching churches. They did not take it well. They even excluded him from many family functions. For Samuel, leaving the church meant he was no longer welcome in his own family. But was it rebellion to follow God's call for his life instead of his parents'? I don't think so.
The idea that children should never go against their parents is not even biblical. Look at Jonathan and Saul — in 1 Samuel 19 Jonathan went directly against Saul's clear orders to kill David. He did so because he was David's friend. He followed what he knew was right over what was asked of him.
More important, look at Jesus' words in Luke 14:26: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple." That means if you follow Jesus, you must be willing to forsake your own family. Sometimes God's calling for us as children means that we go against our parents. The trick is in knowing when that is our calling.
This book, then, isn't about showing how parents raised kids who never rebelled against them. Instead, it's showing how parents raised kids who didn't rebel against God.
MAKING A MISTAKE IS NOT REBELLION
Nothing in this book is going to tell you how to raise a perfect kid, because the scenario of raising the perfect kid doesn't exist. But just because your kid isn't perfect doesn't mean he is automatically rebellious. Everyone has sinned, and all of us naturally fight against God. In fact, technically, all of us have rebelled. Jesus came down and has reconciled us to Himself, but that doesn't mean we don't still sin. Hear me on this: making a mistake is not the same thing as actively living a sinful life. There is a big difference between the kid who sneaks out every Friday night to party while pretending everything is perfect on Sunday and the girl who gets drunk once and comes home crying and apologizing to her parents. The second mistake is neither good nor okay. Nor should it be ignored. But while parents need to expect greatness from their children, there is a difference between expecting greatness and demanding perfection.
All hope is not lost when your child makes a mistake ... or two or even three. Look at King David — he committed adultery and then murdered the woman's husband. And yet he was a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22). Of course, it wasn't that God didn't care about David's sin, but He saw true repentance and the anguish David was going through because of his sin. And because of that repentance, God forgave him.
Excerpted from "Why I Didn't Rebel"
Copyright © 2017 Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 What is Rebellion? 1
2 Rules Versus Reasons 17
3 Expectations 39
4 Communication 53
5 Friendship 79
6 Discipline 97
7 Reality-Based Parenting 121
8 It's About God, Not the Church 139
9 The Family as a Team 165
10 Works in Progress 187
About the Author 205