2009-06-25 / Church

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Rocky Teenage Years Bring A Lot Of Heartache To Parents

QUESTION: Give me your shortest answer to the question: How can I best survive the tumultuous years of my three teenagers?

DR. DOBSON: This is my best shot:

1. Keep the family schedule simple.

2. Get plenty of rest.

3. Eat nutritious meals.

4. Keep your teenager involved in nonstop, wholesome activities.

5. Stay on your knees.

When fatigue and ill health lead adults to act like hot-tempered teenagers, anything can happen at home.

QUESTION: What are the longrange implications of raising a strong-willed child? What can we expect as the years go by?

DR. DOBSON: Well, I can give you a few encouraging conclusions from our study of more than 35,000 parents. The tendency of strong-willed children (SWCs) is to return to parental values when they reach adulthood. Parents told us that 85 percent of their grown SWCs (twenty-four years of age and older) came back to what they had been taught — entirely or at least "somewhat." That is good news. Only 15 percent were so headstrong that they rejected their family's core values in their midtwenties. In those exceptional cases, I'll wager that other problems and sources of pain were involved.

What this means, first of all, is that these tough-minded kids will argue and fight and complain throughout their years at home, but the majority will turn around when they reach young adulthood and do what their parents most desired. That should be reassuring. Furthermore, if we could have evaluated these individuals at thirty-five instead of twenty-four years of age, we would have seen that even fewer were still in rebellion against parental values.

Second, raising a strong-willed child (or a houseful of them) can be a lonely job for parents. You can begin to feel like yours is the only family that has gone through these struggles. Don't believe it. In another study of three thousand parents, we found that 85 percent of families had at least one strong-willed child. This is parenthood. This is human nature.

Third, I urge you as parents of strong-willed children not to feel "cheated" or depressed by the assignment of raising such individuals. You are not an exception or the butt of some cruel cosmic joke. All human beings, including the very compliant child, arrive with a generous assortment of flaws. Yes, it is more difficult to raise an independent little fellow or gal, but you can do it! You can, through prayer and supplication before the Lord, bring him or her to that period of harmony in early adulthood that makes the effort worthwhile. I also believe that you can increase the odds of transmitting your values to these individuals by following some time-honored principles found in Scripture. So hang in there! Nothing of value in life comes easy anyway, except the free gift of salvation from Jesus Christ.

Hold tightly to Solomon's encouraging words, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6, KJV).

QUESTION: You have talked about how Barbie dolls place undue emphasis on clothing, possession and appearance. Barbie isn't the only example of this adolescent influence in our culture, is it?

DR. DOBSON: No, our children are saturated with commercial stuff that has the same impact. More and more, we see adolescent clothes, attitudes, and values being marketed to younger and younger children. And rock and rap music, with adolescent and adult themes, is finding eager listeners among the very young.

I believe it is desirable to postpone the adolescent experience until it is summoned by the happy hormones. Therefore, I strongly recommend that parents screen the influences to which their children are exposed, keeping activities appropriate for each age. While we can't isolate our kids from the world as it is, we don't have to turn our babies into teenyboppers.


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