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How to win the heart of your rebellious teenage son

Many families I know stop homeschooling their sons when they reach high school. Moms state many reasons for this. I hear, “Well, my son plays baseball and the high school team offers more options for him.” Or, I hear, “My son is into computers and techie stuff. He can get that at the high school since I can’t offer him that at home.” But, the most common reason is that she has a rebellious teenage son. He doesn’t respect her authority. How can you win your (teen) son’s heart? What do I mean?

What it means to have your son’s heart

When you have your son’s heart, he obeys you out of love and regard for you. When you are face-to-face with a young man that is taller than you, you physically cannot make him do anything. You can take away privileges, sure, but he will not accept your discipline if you do not have his heart. If your son deceives you with an appearance of obedience, if he behaves differently when he is out with friends, then you do not have his heart. His behavior is often that of a rebellious teenage son. A young man whose heart is soft and humble toward you will listen to your counsel and he is the same person no matter who he is with. He is usually a young man who loves the Lord, but even non-Christians can win their sons’ hearts.

rebellious teenage son sitting on the couch looking at his phone

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How to win your son’s heart

There are three key ingredients to a healthy relationship with your son. I once heard it said that rules without relationship equals rebellion. Your relationship is more important than an awesome transcript, more important than extracurricular activities, more important than almost anything else he does during his high school years. I know that sounds provocative. Why? Knowledge can be gained at any age, but a broken relationship is hard to mend. Scars remain, even if there is healing. So the first thing to focus on is your relationship with your rebellious teenage son.

The three key ingredients are:

Do not provoke to anger. Do not exasperate.

Respect your son as a young man, not a little boy.

(Check out this post about the 3 R’s of motivation.)

Find a community of mature Christian men to mentor him.

Being a nag is the best way to provoke your rebellious teenage son to anger. Asking him to do things for which he has not been equipped by God is another. Your expectation should match his abilities and should be explained clearly. This is not peculiar to teenagers, it should be true at all stages of a child’s life.

Honor his manhood

Respecting your son as a young man means that you honor his manhood by:

  • encouraging and appreciating his desire to do meaningful work, whether paid or academic;
  • giving him responsibility over his own life and decisions, even if you disagree;
  • facilitating problem-solving, decision-making, goal setting, and self-challenges;
  • understanding his need for emotional distance from you.

He is getting ready to become the leader of his own family and needs to develop confidence in his ability to do so. Check out this post for more ideas of how to nurture and respect your son.

Mature Christian men need to step in to teach him what real manhood is. They need to be a community that helps your husband train him to stand against temptation, to be friends and confidantes for your son, and to help him learn to be a servant leader.

He no longer needs mom to bandage his booboos and rock him to sleep. What he needs most of all from mom is what every man needs–respect. He needs mom’s confidence in him, her encouragement, and her trust in his abilities.

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