We want our children to become independent; to be able to take control of their own lives. But their choices won’t always be in line with ours, and that’s when we can feel rejected.

A natural and essential part of your child’s maturing process is to make choices for themselves. Every decision they make is another step along the path from total dependence at birth to maturity and independence when they leave home. But not every choice teenagers make is going to seem “right” to you.

There is a process they go through to establish their own beliefs, and that often includes rejecting our beliefs, and even us, for a time. So, when they make a choice with which we don’t agree, we have two options.  We can step in and assert control over them (treating them like a child again), or we can work through the process with them; taking time to understand why they made the choice they did. I suggest you do the latter.  Let me give you some tips to help you work with your teen through this sometimes painful process.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love. – Psalm 103:8

Stay Positive… Compassionate…

When your child is doing things and making choices that are against your values, it’s easy to blow it all out of proportion.  But rather than immediately condemning and preaching, position yourself in the role of a coach and mentor.

If you have done your job instilling values in your kids in the earlier years, they already know when they’re doing wrong as teenagers.  You don’t have to tell them again and again and again.  That badgering will wear out your welcome in their increasingly independent life.  They are already struggling with feelings of guilt and confusion, so they need a positive, encouraging voice in those teaching moments.

Please note that I’m not saying you should approve of what they’re doing or forsake your role as a parent.  What’s right and wrong doesn’t change, and consequences still need to be applied.  What I am suggesting is that you maintain your relationship in such times in a way that you will be able to continue to speak truth into their heart and be heard. Start by talking through various options that were available to them, until they can identify for themselves what would have been a better course of action.  This process promotes independence and good decision making skills.

Allow Independence to Grow…

It’s common to hear a teen say, “I don’t need you anymore.  I can do it on my own.”  There’s something in the heart of parents that doesn’t want to hear those words (sometimes delivered in a loud and angry tone), but those are good words.  They show a drive for independence that your child will need to launch into life on his own.  Now, in reality you and I both know that if you shut off the electricity to his room he’d find out real quick that he does still need you, but don’t let those words drive a wedge between you.

Instead accept those words for what they are and work to find ways to promote independence.  Along with their desire to be independent in their decisions, make them responsible for their own daily life, like getting out of bed in the morning, managing their own finances, and getting a job for a few hours a week.  This is a great way to show them the responsibility that goes along with being independent.

Pick Your Battles

One question that I often hear from parents is about church attendance.  This can be a real flashpoint issue in the home.  If a teen says, “I don’t want to go to your church anymore,” that can feel like a real rejection and a threat.  I know about that feeling, not just from talking to other parents, but from being a parent.  When my children were older teens they didn’t like the church we were going to, so Jan and I decided to move to a church they did like.