Troubled Teens: myth or truth – 1.0

Beth calls you about her son Josh. He’s 16-year old and in rebellion. The patterns of rebellion were a whisper in years past, but they have now grown into a full-fledged storm that is consuming the entire family.

Beth is hurting, confused and desperate. She is also impatient. She wants help and she wants it now. Her husband is not involved in the initial phone call or the ensuing counseling that proceeds from the initial call.

The story above, though fictional, is all-too-often the general process in which a family begins counseling for their teenage son. Over the next few blog posts I want to deal with some of the myths and truths about troubled teens.

Upcoming discussion points

Passive dads - Nearly all troubled teen counseling is initiated by the mom rather than the dad. While most dads work during the day and it is easier for the mom to make the phone call, it typically becomes apparent during the counseling how the dad is passive and the mom is not.

This typically applies to their marriage in addition to their parenting models. Passive or angry dads are two of the biggest factors in teen rebellion.

Collaboration - Biblically speaking, it is a false-continuum to believe the teenage years are years of rebellion. This is a myth. The seeds of rebellion are in the heart of a kid long before he becomes a teen and the collaborating factors of his indwelling sin, plus selfishness on the part of the parents, contribute to what is understood as teen rebellion.

Humility - Almost always the trouble with the troubled teen does not begin with the teen. It is rare for kids to become messed up in 16 short years without help from the parents. At some level, nearly all parents have areas which need to change. Their humility is key to the change process regarding their teen.

Starting point - It is difficult to tell a mom, who you do not know, how part of the problem is with her and her relationship with her husband. There are hardly any exceptions. The parents will need to make some changes too. If the parents will own their negative shaping influences on their child, much good could come from the counseling.

Dear dad - Also, the dad must be engaged in the counseling process. Typically, it is a poor relationship with the dad which is at the core of the teen’s problem. Dads of rebellious teens must understand how their roles as fathers have a lifetime impact on their sons or daughters.

No enemies here - When the teen comes to counseling, he is typically thinking two things: (1) it is three against one: mom, dad, and this stranger who is going to fix me (2) and because it is Christian counseling, the counselor is about to “ram” the Bible down his throat. A wise counselor will be prepared to deconstruct these dangerous presuppositions.

Future grace - Unfortunately, by the time the parent calls, the heart attitude of the child has been in place for years. The accumulative disappointment in the child makes immediate change nearly impossible. Though many of these teens do change, it usually happens years later.

Impatience - It’s also common for the parents to become impatient with the counselor because he cannot “fix” the problem (the rebellious teen) which was years in the making. I have reminded many parents how I was in jail when I was 15-years old. This is important information for them to know. What took years to mess up will not be fixed overnight. God regenerated me ten years later.

Community - The local church is rarely involved at a level that matters–with the parents or with the teen. At some point there is usually a communal disconnect with the local church. If sanctification contexts and processes are not engaged and sustained over a long period of time, none of us can live victoriously. Dynamic Christian living happens in community.

Hope - This is a lot of bad news! The question then becomes, “Is there hope for my kid?” And, “What recommended resources do you have?” God does have an answer for the parent and the teen. It does not have to be the way it has been. God can reorient their thinking and behavior, but it will not be as simple as speaking to the teen about what he is doing wrong while in counseling.

For further reading

In this series

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About Rick Thomas

Rick is an author, speaker, consultant, and podcaster. He has been training in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1997. After several years as a counselor and pastor he founded and launched his own training organization in order to encourage and equip people for more effective living. In the early ’90’s he earned a BA in Theology. He then earned a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry and in 2000 he graduated with a MA in Counseling. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow with ACBC. Today his organization reaches people around the world through consulting, training, writing, and speaking.
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