Rebellious son

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C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
Hey friends wondering if you could offer me some advice regarding a rebellious 11yo boy.
I have 4 kids ranging from 4 to 11. The oldest had pretty much always been of a surly, complaining disposition but even more so recently he has been disobedient, cheeky, answers back, constantly fights with his younger brother and he even made his mum cry yesterday with his answering back. Ive had countless ‘talks’ with him, he’s pretty much had all screen time removed from him. I actually had pretty strong words for him in the garage this morning much to the effect of that he needed to start consider stepping into becoming a young man now and setting an example to his younger brothers and honouring his mother. It doesnt seem to make much difference. I am all but at a loss.
I do fairly regular bible teaching and catechesis with him and his younger brother (2 years younger) as much as my shift pattern allows, but often this is just disrupted by his negativity, distractions and asking facetious questions about God’s intentions regarding Noah & the flood etc just to get a rise out of me.
He is a lonely boy in some ways as he really has no real friends as his school friends were horrors to him and he has mostly broken ties from them. He is about to start secondary school in a week and I am hoping he forms some good relationships and I want him to join Scripture Union if there is one at school ; which, of course, he abhors the idea of. Our church has no other kids his age.
I appreciate your advice dear brethren!

Grace & peace


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Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
You have not mentioned whether you trained him according to God's word, with the rod of correction enforcing your instruction, but if you haven't, I'm afraid you have an uphill battle. Still, "the rod and reproof give wisdom," remains God's method of child-rearing, and He can bless it even if begun late.
Proverbs says that if you beat the wayward child, he will not die, but rather you go far toward delivering his soul from hell by teaching him obedience.
Please read the book of Proverbs--it is a great resource on child-rearing.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
One piece of advice that my wife and I found helpful when our kids were teenagers was to find out what they like to do and do it with them. For us that included involvement in Civil Air Patrol, Astronomy, Fencing, etc. This helped to create a positive backdrop for the inevitable times when negative discipline had properly to be applied. Otherwise, it is easy to get into a self-reinforcing negative cycle.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
My advice would be to pick your battles.

And what do you do with him besides shoving religion at him? What are his interests, and what do you do with him along those lines? Do you ever have positive one-on-one time with him?

While I know the church situation over there is not good, are there any larger churches within range that do have youth activities with which he can be involved?
 

C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
You have not mentioned whether you trained him according to God's word, with the rod of correction enforcing your instruction, but if you haven't, I'm afraid you have an uphill battle. Still, "the rod and reproof give wisdom," remains God's method of child-rearing, and He can bless it even if begun late.
Proverbs says that if you beat the wayward child, he will not die, but rather you go far toward delivering his soul from hell by teaching him obedience.
Please read the book of Proverbs--it is a great resource on child-rearing.

I have indeed read proverbs many times and have applied the ‘rod of discipline’ all through his younger years whenever it was necessary, as I do his youngest brothers. However, he is simply too big for that mode now; almost same height as me and I think at this age it would be far more humiliating for him and wind up driving him further away.
I want to treat him as a younger man and try reason with him instead. (good luck with that Cam!) ha


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Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It sounds as if you are properly disciplining him and rightly responding to his sin with the gravity required. But do not give up on discipline, even though at times it may seem to be fruitless. And let the Lord work in his heart; that is not your domain. You can only influence the outward behaviour and lead him to Christ.

Pray regularly with him and for him. Pray for him in the spirit of Job who sacrificed for his children lest they had sinned against God. Pray for him in the spirit of Moses who interceded for God's people when they were rebelling against the Lord. Pray for him for Christ's mercy and grace, whose intercession is sufficient.

Take his objections to scripture and sound theology seriously. Answer them humbly and lovingly from the word of God, not hiding truth but always speaking it in love.

If you believe that he does not have any interest in saving grace, warn him of the fate of those who hear the word and are not moved by it. He is old enough to know his duty in spiritual things: plead that he take hold of Christ. Assuming that he has been baptised, remind him what this obligates him to: faith and repentance. In these things, show him love and compassion, remembering yourself lest you also be tempted.
 
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C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
My advice would be to pick your battles.

And what do you do with him besides shoving religion at him? What are his interests, and what do you do with him along those lines? Do you ever have positive one-on-one time with him?

While I know the church situation over there is not good, are there any larger churches within range that do have youth activities with which he can be involved?

He enjoys football and plays for a local team and I always support him through that, watch his games and have kick-abouts with him. But I concede I need to find something we could perhaps do together just us.
We moved from a larger church to this one recently.
In Scotland, generally the more conservative, reformed, confessional churches arent the big churches… I know we moved from a couple of his friends but my hope is that in this church through time and outreach, more young families would come.


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C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
It sounds as if you are properly disciplining him and rightly responding to his sin in the gravity required. But don't give up on discipline, though at times it may seem to be fruitless. And let the Lord work in his heart; that is not your domain. You can only influence the outward behaviour and lead him to Christ.

Pray regularly with him and for him. Pray for him in the spirit of Job who sacrificed for his children lest they had sinned against God. Pray for him in the spirit of Moses who interceded for God's people when they were rebelling against the Lord. Pray for him for Christ's mercy and grace, whose intercession is sufficient.

Take his objections to scripture and sound theology seriously. Answer them humbly and lovingly from the word of God, not hiding truth but always speaking it in love.

If you believe that he does not have any interest in saving grace, warn him of the fate of those who hear the word and are not moved by it. He is old enough to know his duty in spiritual things: plead that he take hold of Christ. Assuming that he has been baptised, remind him what this obligates him to: faith and repentance. In these things, show him love and compassion, remembering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Thanks, this is helpful. I do need to pray more with him and at the same time for him.
I am guilty of sometimes talking to him in such moments of heightened tension with harshness and perhaps I lead him to anger or discouragement. I ought to repent of this.
I have often outlined the danger of wandering down the path of rebellion and explained how he is trangsressing God’s command through dishonouring his parents.
He and his brothers are unbaptised as we have came from a baptist background to a presbyterian church and infant baptism being something I am still unconvinced of. Aside from that my wife is unbelieving and would not want our children baptised. So I am praying that by God’s grace they would be at some point later in life.
She is happy to defer to me on matters of discipline and does not resist me giving the boys Christian instruction.


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Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thanks, this is helpful. I do need to pray more with him and at the same time for him.
I am guilty of sometimes talking to him in such moments of heightened tension with harshness and perhaps I lead him to anger or discouragement. I ought to repent of this.
It is good that you see this and I would strongly suggest that after you make it right with the Lord, make it right with him. He may not respond graciously but let him know that his father is a sinner and needs God's grace as much as anyone else. Let him know that the Lord has disciplined you too, and only for your good. Hebrews 12:5-11.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
In Scotland, generally the more conservative, reformed, confessional churches arent the big churches…
You'd find the same thing here. When my daughter was that age and older, we did get her in youth programs at the local Baptist megachurch that didn't conflict with our worship schedule. They were good about not trying to convert her and were sensitive to our distinctions (or broadly evangelical enough that it wasn't a problem for them). But I know that those kinds of resources aren't going to be available to you.

:pray2: for you- and him.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Our oldest especially goes through periods of rebellions and other emotional rough patches. We work to do all the right things but it still happens. It is a marathon and not a sprint. It is easy to fall into a "just do ___" trap. You may do everything correctly and still your car breaks down at 20K miles or you get cancer or your child rebels. Sometimes you must run a containment model along with discipline, correction and instruction. A toddler is an easy example. You're not always going to fix a fit in a restaurant. Sometime you just have to grab the kid and get the food to go before you get kicked out. At home you let the toddler chill and then address the issue. Your preteen may disrespect you for awhile. Sometime progress is imperceptible. Some moments are better than others. Emotionally escalated people (including parents!!!) don't listen, let along problem solve, very well at all.
 

C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you all for your words of wisdom. I appreciate the platform this forum affords to seek the counsel of other godly brothers and sisters.


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PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I have a question. Have you asked him why he feels so negative? Does he resent having to be the example for his siblings? Has been allowed to vent out his frustrations properly? Even St. Paul had issues later in life and wrote this.

Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.


He may be stuck with something in him that he doesn't understand and connecting the dots is hard for him. His inclinations have a root cause. Bitterness is a hard Joe to deal with. We all have to deal with different kinds. He has different issues of bitterness you may not see. I have 3 boys. The oldest is 30 and life is not all clear for him. It isn't all clear for me. I am still learning how to find out how to overcome my next situation be it health or inward sin. We all mature at different times. Slamming the Law on a situation without the Spirit brings death.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I like Beeke's advice of the percentage of positive to negative interaction. He says about 80% of interaction with children should be positive, reinforcing the clear message of love for the kids, and 20% be constructive criticism/discipline. It is clear to us that you love him. It may not be clear to him. If it is not clear to him, then discipline will communicate hate, not love. Discipline absolutely, positively, must be done in a clearly loving context. I agree with the advice to find out what he likes to do, and do it with him. I am sure you are already praying about him. An important point also in this situation is to know that you don't have an all-or-nothing situation here. Parenting is mostly incremental, what Tripp calls "mini-moments." There will therefore be no silver bullet solution. Any solution (and it may very well not have anything to do with what I wrote!) will take time and prayer. Best wishes.
 

C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
I took him with me when I went food shopping yesterday and he was brand new. Had a laugh about some things and he was helpful. Totally different boy when we got home later. Surly, moody and back to his usual disposition. Will need to do something again today with him like backyard football.
He denies being annoyed about anything in particular.
Will pray for him. Thank you all for caring enough to offer advice to me, appreciate it


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Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
I took him with me when I went food shopping yesterday and he was brand new. Had a laugh about some things and he was helpful. Totally different boy when we got home later. Surly, moody and back to his usual disposition. Will need to do something again today with him like backyard football.
He denies being annoyed about anything in particular.
Will pray for him. Thank you all for caring enough to offer advice to me, appreciate it


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If he has inexplicable and extreme mood swings, it may be a sign of a mental disorder cropping up. It's discouraging that looking for professional help can just as easily lead to you a complete nut of a shrink who enthusiastically wants to medicate as to a helpful, thoughtful counselor who will be a help. Nonetheless, you shouldn't rule out professional help.
 

C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
Im not convinced theres anything like that going on. Besides I, personally, dont really believe in ill mental health. I believe its always a spiritual issue.


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greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I took him with me when I went food shopping yesterday and he was brand new. Had a laugh about some things and he was helpful. Totally different boy when we got home later. Surly, moody and back to his usual disposition. Will need to do something again today with him like backyard football.
He denies being annoyed about anything in particular.
Will pray for him. Thank you all for caring enough to offer advice to me, appreciate it


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To me, this means one of at least three things (there might be more possibilities). 1. He desperately needs more positive time with you in order to gain the equilibrium you seek. If this is the case, it will be a long-term incremental fix. 2. There is some kind of emotional problem associated with him being in the home itself. If he denies it being a particular thing, then it could be an association coming from many small annoyances. The solution would be the same as for 1, an incremental change of association for him in the home. 3. A mental illness of some sort. I know you don't believe that this could be the case. I, too, used to think that mental illnesses were a figment of the modern psychological imagination. I was completely convinced of the Jay Adams approach, thinking that all mental things were spiritual.

Three things happened to change my mind about that. Firstly, my daughter had Asberger's syndrome, which is a brain developmental disorder based on various physical factors. In other words, I learned that the health of the body affects the mind in profound ways, and that there are certain physical disorders that also affect the mind. Secondly, my work in the ministry made me cross paths with some people who were tremendously godly people, and who yet had mental disorders. I saw bipolar disorder up close and personal, for example, in such a way that I could not simply chalk it up to spiritual issues. Thirdly, I have had many discussions about this very issue with Christian mental health specialists, and have come to the conclusion that the world is more complicated than I had previously thought.

I still believe that nouthetic counseling has much to offer the counselor, when sin is the problem, or if the issue is otherwise entirely spiritual. But I also have come to realize that not all psychology is rot; not all of it is simply trying to shift blame, which is the problem I think many Christians have with the concept of psychology. Are there problems with psychology, both Christian and secular? Of course, and there are many, the worst of which is (in my opinion) the steadfast refusal to incorporate the means of grace in an ecclesiastical setting at the heart of the spiritual solution. They often tend to err on the side of overly individualistic solutions. All of this still doesn't eliminate the fact that there is something valuable here that can be explored and integrated with biblical counseling in a responsible way. I also came to realize, then, that if the problem were psychological, and not spiritual (or even if the spiritual were one component of the issue, but not the whole issue), then treating it exclusively as a spiritual problem might actually result in misdiagnosis, and therefore mistreatment. Imagine, just for the sake of argument, that someone has a mental illness connected to a physical illness, and that this mental disorder is a real thing. I'm sure you can appreciate that if a pastor or counselor were to treat this person as needing to repent of their disorder, rather than offer them what they really need, which is a solution to the psychophysical problem, then the pastor or counselor could actually make the problem worse, not better. I am not saying that your son's issue is psychological, mind you. In fact, my best guess at the moment is still that it is number 1 or 2 of the above possibilities. I just wanted to elaborate a bit on the third option as still a real possibility.
 

C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
To me, this means one of at least three things (there might be more possibilities). 1. He desperately needs more positive time with you in order to gain the equilibrium you seek. If this is the case, it will be a long-term incremental fix. 2. There is some kind of emotional problem associated with him being in the home itself. If he denies it being a particular thing, then it could be an association coming from many small annoyances. The solution would be the same as for 1, an incremental change of association for him in the home. 3. A mental illness of some sort. I know you don't believe that this could be the case. I, too, used to think that mental illnesses were a figment of the modern psychological imagination. I was completely convinced of the Jay Adams approach, thinking that all mental things were spiritual.

Three things happened to change my mind about that. Firstly, my daughter had Asberger's syndrome, which is a brain developmental disorder based on various physical factors. In other words, I learned that the health of the body affects the mind in profound ways, and that there are certain physical disorders that also affect the mind. Secondly, my work in the ministry made me cross paths with some people who were tremendously godly people, and who yet had mental disorders. I saw bipolar disorder up close and personal, for example, in such a way that I could not simply chalk it up to spiritual issues. Thirdly, I have had many discussions about this very issue with Christian mental health specialists, and have come to the conclusion that the world is more complicated than I had previously thought.

I still believe that nouthetic counseling has much to offer the counselor, when sin is the problem, or if the issue is otherwise entirely spiritual. But I also have come to realize that not all psychology is rot; not all of it is simply trying to shift blame, which is the problem I think many Christians have with the concept of psychology. Are there problems with psychology, both Christian and secular? Of course, and there are many, the worst of which is (in my opinion) the steadfast refusal to incorporate the means of grace in an ecclesiastical setting at the heart of the spiritual solution. They often tend to err on the side of overly individualistic solutions. All of this still doesn't eliminate the fact that there is something valuable here that can be explored and integrated with biblical counseling in a responsible way. I also came to realize, then, that if the problem were psychological, and not spiritual (or even if the spiritual were one component of the issue, but not the whole issue), then treating it exclusively as a spiritual problem might actually result in misdiagnosis, and therefore mistreatment. Imagine, just for the sake of argument, that someone has a mental illness connected to a physical illness, and that this mental disorder is a real thing. I'm sure you can appreciate that if a pastor or counselor were to treat this person as needing to repent of their disorder, rather than offer them what they really need, which is a solution to the psychophysical problem, then the pastor or counselor could actually make the problem worse, not better. I am not saying that your son's issue is psychological, mind you. In fact, my best guess at the moment is still that it is number 1 or 2 of the above possibilities. I just wanted to elaborate a bit on the third option as still a real possibility.

A thoughtful response with some interesting points.
I dont know. But I feel like I am failing him by being unable to reach him. He is having a sleepover at his grandparents tonight and I really miss him despite being so triggered this morning by his attitude.


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Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
I really miss him despite being so triggered this morning by his attitude.
Cameron, I appreciated Lane's comments. I am on the autism spectrum myself. I appreciate these things can be difficult.

Now, you used a word that made me wonder if this word may be a key to the problem. You used the word 'triggered'. This word is often seen as a key in dealing with psychological problems in general. Does something in his attitude 'trigger' you? Does this mean that how you relate to him 'trigger' him? I ask because I have my own 'triggers' and vulnerabilities.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
Dr Daniel Amen, a leading expert in mental disorders, suggests a blood test to determine if there are specific health deficiencies that should be rectified. His wife has a helpful discussion on this. About 3 minutes and 40 seconds into the discussion she provides a helpful list of the health 'numbers' to check.
 

C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
Does something in his attitude 'trigger' you? Does this mean that how you relate to him 'trigger' him? I ask because I have my own 'triggers' and vulnerabilities.

So I really just meant that his negative, rebellious attitude was infuriating as well as disheartening.
Anyway I appreciate everyone’s input, Im humbled people care enough to offer advice.


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