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Parents Fear Their Children's Teen Rebellion


QUESTION: My children are still in elementary school, but I want to avoid adolescent rebellion in the future if I can. What can you tell me to help me get ready for this scary time?

DR. DOBSON: I can understand why you look toward the adolescent years with some apprehension. This is a tough time to raise kids. Many youngsters sail right through that period with no unusual stresses and problems, but others get caught in a pattern of rebellion that disrupts families and scares their moms and dads to death. I’ve spent several decades trying to understand that phenomenon and how to prevent it. The encouraging thing is that most rebellious teens usually grow up to be responsible and stable adults who can’t remember why they were so angry in earlier days.

I once devoted a radio program to a panel of “formerly rebellious teens” that included three successful ministers, Raul Ries, Mike MacIntosh, and Franklin Graham, son of Dr. Billy and Ruth Graham. Each of them had been difficult adolescents who gave their parents fits. With the exception of Raul, who had been abused at home, the other two couldn’t recall what motivated their misbehavior, or why they didn’t just go along and get along.

That is often the way with adolescence. It’s like a tornado that drops unexpectedly out of a dark sky, tyrannizes a family, shakes up the community and then blows on by. Then the sun comes out and spreads its warmth again. Even though the teen years can be challenging, they’re also filled with excitement and growth. Rather than fearing that experience, therefore, I think you ought to anticipate it as a dynamic time when your kids transition from childhood to full-fledged adulthood.


QUESTION: How can I help my child develop wholesome, respectful attitudes toward people of other racial and ethnic groups?

DR. DOBSON: There is no substitute for parental modeling of the attitudes we wish to teach. Someone wrote, “The footsteps a child follows are most likely to be the ones his parents thought they covered up.” It is true. Our children are watching us carefully, and they instinctively imitate our behavior. Therefore, we can hardly expect them to be kind to the entire human family if we are prejudiced and rejecting.

Likewise, we will be unable to teach appreciativeness if we never say “please” or “thank you” at home or abroad. We will not produce honest children if we teach them to lie to the bill collector on the phone by saying, “Dad’s not home.” In these matters, our boys and girls instantly discern the gap between what we say and what we do. And of the two choices, they usually identify with our behavior and ignore our empty proclamations.

If you never speak derogatorily about racial minorities, and if you absolutely will not tolerate racially based jokes and slurs, your children will not fail to notice. It’s the best place to begin your teaching process.


QUESTION: How do I get started in discussing sex with my children? Is there a natural way to get into the topic?

DR. DOBSON: Fortunately, most children will ask for information when they need it. You should be ready to grab those opportunities at the drop of a hat.

Sometimes very little warning is given. Our daughter asked for very specific details when she was only 7 years old, catching her mother off guard. My wife stalled for an hour during which she alerted me. Then the three of us sat on the bed drinking hot chocolate and talking about matters we hadn’t expected to discuss for several years. You never know when such a moment will arrive and need to think them through in advance.

Although those spontaneous conversations are easiest, some children never ask the right questions. Some boys and girls have “inquiring minds that want to know,” while others never give the subject of sex a second thought. If your child is one of those who seems uninterested, you’re still on the hook. The task must get done. Someone else will do the job if you won’t – someone who may not share your values.

Send your questions to Dr. Dobson, c/o Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. These questions and answers are excerpted from books authored by Dr. James Dobson and published by Tyndale House Publishers. Dr. Dobson is the chairman of the board for Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.