Self-admitted non-rebel Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach interviewed former teen rebels. Lindenbach tells what she learned from these prodigals about being heard and understood, household rules, dating, and more.
Self-admitted non-rebel Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach interviewed former teen rebels. Lindenbach tells what she learned from these prodigals about being heard and understood, household rules, dating, and more.
Bob: As you think about the conversations youhave with your teenagers, in how many of those conversations would you say you’re being motivational or inspirational? Rebecca Lindenbach says your kids will respond to that.
Rebecca: Kids are very, very capable of reasoning and of making good decisions. It’s just that they need to be given the proper stage to do it. That’s where conversations with parents are so important, and that’s where it’s honest conversations with parents—not just, “Here’s what you aren’t allowed to do,”—it’s more: “Here’s my hopes for you…” “Here are my dreams for you…” “Here’s how I see God being able to work through your life. Here is my concern with how you are acting, and how it might get in the way of that.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 31st. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Our kids aren’t robots; but as parents, there are things we can do to point them, and to even nudge them, in the right direction. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’ve been sitting here thinking today: “How many of our kids would I say rebelled?” Rebellion is kind of on a grading scale; isn’t it? I mean, there’s wholesale rebellion, where the kid just says, “I completely reject everything you’re all about.”
Dennis: —and becomes a prodigal.
Bob: Right; but there are little acts of independence and rebellion that emerge during the teenage years that—
Dennis: They don’t identify themselves as a prodigal, but they’re toying with the world.
Bob: You wouldn’t say the child’s a rebel, but you would say the child broke the rules or was making his or her own choices—and not good choices—at the time.
Dennis: That’s exactly right.
We have a guest with us today, Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, all the way from Ottawa, Canada; heh?
Rebecca: Yes! That’s exactly right!
Dennis: That’s right! She’s written a book called Why I Didn’t Rebel. We’re talking about a 23-year-old young lady.
She’s newly-married to Connor since 2015, and she’s written a book called Why I Didn’t Rebel.
Now, if you’re a parent about to raise teenagers, or you’re in the thick of it, you’re going, “Okay; I’m turning the radio up just a little louder at this point.”
Bob: Yes; and, Rebecca, here’s what moms and dads are hoping for—and we just have to, at the beginning, say, “We’re not going to give you what you’re hoping for,”—they’re hoping for the checklist or the recipe—
Bob: —so that “If I can do these things, you will guarantee me that my kid won’t rebel.”
Rebecca: Well, exactly; because we all love a guarantee; right?
Rebecca: Guarantees are safe; guarantees are comfortable.
Bob: Teenagers are not safe or comfortable!
Rebecca: Well, God gives us this pesky thing called “free will”; right?
Rebecca: So the problem is—you can do all of the “right” things; but at the end of the day, faith and a relationship with God is your kids’ responsibility.
I kind of see—with my book and all of the interviews that I did, of kids who did and didn’t rebel—to figure out what makes some kids rebel and some kids stay on the straight and narrow is that parents do an amazing job.
They have an amazing responsibility of setting the stage for their kids. You’re not in charge of their salvation.
Bob: Right; right.
Rebecca: So, doing what you can to set the stage.
Bob: So, as you did these interviews, if you had to identify the top two or three things that the rebels told you—
Bob: —“This is what pushed me in rebel direction,” are there two or three things that stood out?
Rebecca: A big one was a feeling of powerlessness in their family. A big one was feeling like parents didn’t understand them. And a lot of that came down to how parents handled rules in the house, and how parents handled who kind of made decisions and what kids were and weren’t allowed to do.
Bob: So unpack that.
Rebecca: Rules—I love talking about rules; right?!—because, whenever we talk about parenting, we talk about rules: “What are your kids allowed to do?” And when you’re in high school, it’s like, “How late are you allowed to stay up?!”—you know—“What movies are you allowed to watch?” It’s like we’re obsessed with where the lines are in the sand.
Dennis: And to that point, what were the rules in your house?
Rebecca: We didn’t have any.
Dennis: No rules?
Rebecca: Not really. And that was a big thing I found! And I’ll explain what I mean, because—
Dennis: Some teenagers, now, just turned the radio up! [Laughter]
Rebecca: Yes! Teenagers are like, “Hear that, Mom?!”
No; but we did have boundaries.
Dennis: I was getting ready to say—
Rebecca: I interviewed 25 young adults, and the ones who didn’t rebel all said the same thing. When I asked them—I asked them all this question: “What kinds of rules did you have growing up?” All of them said, “I don’t know!” We couldn’t really remember, because the thing for us is that we had more guidelines—more reasons for why we shouldn’t do things / more of these kind of moral patterns of behavior that were expected.
Okay; here’s an example—in our family, my dad is very asthmatic and has a ton of allergies. My sister and I loved fluffy boas. We dressed up in them like crazy! We were about four and six years old and, of course, this was going to send my dad to the ER; right?
Rebecca: Like he was just going to be completely stuffed up. My mom would sit us down and say: “Okay; Daddy’s allergic to your feather boas.
“We want Daddy to be able to breathe, so the feather boas need to stay downstairs.” It wasn’t this rule, where if we brought the feather boas upstairs, we’d get in trouble. It was just a reason: “Here’s why the boas stay downstairs.”
So then, what would happen—is we would have friends come over and play with our fluffy, feather boas and start to go upstairs. We would say: “No! You can’t go upstairs, because we want our Daddy to be able to breathe”; right? We would pounce on our friends and take off the feather boas and make sure they were always put away, because we understood the reason behind the rule. I know that’s a very strange example.
Dennis: No; that’s good.
Rebecca: But as I was growing up, obviously, the rules changed; and the boundaries are discussed.
Dennis: What about dating? Did you have a rule on dating?
Rebecca: That’s actually the one I was going to go with next. [Laughter] My parents actually—their views on dating evolved a lot as we were growing up. It started out as, “You’re not allowed to date until you’re 18.” Then, as we got older, they kind of realized, “Well, I don’t really know if we believe that anymore”; so we would talk about it—we would honestly talk about it.
If my parents didn’t know what they wanted from us, they would be like: “Well, here’s why we’re concerned. We are concerned about you dating in high school for these reasons….” “This is why we would prefer if, maybe, you didn’t date in high school: Because we’re worried you’ll miss out on these things…” or “….you’ll get pressured into these things…” We understood their fears behind it. So when, you know, I might meet a guy that I really liked—if it came to a point where we might start to date—I knew I was allowed to; but I got to think through it for myself: “Is this a good decision?” because my parents were so open about it and so open with their fears and their concerns.
So here’s an example—growing up, I had a friend, whom I will call Mark. My parents had a very strict “No skyping or video chatting with boys” policy when I was in high school, which is quite understandable.
Bob: That sounds like a rule!
Rebecca: Not a rule! It’s a policy!
Dennis: You said policy; you said policy.
Rebecca: It’s not a rule: “So here’s what we wouldn’t want you to do…”
But, then, the rule difference is—I went to them and said, “That’s not fair.” And they said, “Why?” I said, “Well, I’m an international Bible quizzer,” for which I used to go all over.
Every year—we’d go down to the States, or maybe it was in Canada—but kids from all over, who did this international Bible quizzing competition, would get together. I would make these amazing friends who, then, lived in like South Carolina, or lived in Washington, or something.
I said: “Well, you know what? If I was in high school, I’d be able to talk to my friends in the hall. I’d be able to hang out with them; but because my friends are from across all of North America, I can’t talk to them, so I need to be able to Skype with my friends, even if they’re guys.” That’s why it was a policy and not a rule, because they listened to me. They said: “Yes! That’s actually very fair, but would you please keep the door open while you’re doing that?” I said, “That’s also fair!”
So that became, kind of, our agreement of: “This is the guideline of how we’re going to behave.” That’s the difference, I think, [with] a family that is more based on these guidelines of “How should we act as Christians?” Why is it that they didn’t want me video chatting? Well, it’s because they didn’t want me getting into any weird situations, where I was having these really intimate conversations, where my parents weren’t involved—right?—or there weren’t adults in the area.
But then, when my situation changed, and my friends were across different countries, the rules had to change; right? So we didn’t have these set-in-stone rules.
Bob: Okay; so what I hear you saying is: “If a teenager can understand the ‘why’ behind the boundary, it helps them a lot.”
Rebecca: Completely! The heart cry of teenagers is to be heard.
Rebecca: They want to be understood; so, yes.
Bob: But what if you’ve got a teenager, who is on the debate team? When they say, “Well, why can’t I do it?” and you say, “Well, here are the reasons why we feel this way…” Now, they’re into, “Okay; well, here are the reasons why your thinking is all wrong and messed up!” [Laughter]
It’s not an, “I want to understand”; it is an, “I want to win!” situation. Sometimes, moms and dads get into this, and they start to explain it; and the kids are saying: “But that’s not fair! This isn’t right! This isn’t…My friends get to do this!” And finally, the parent says: “Because I say so!
Rebecca: Yes; exactly.
Bob: “That’s all the reason you need.”
It’s because these teenagers have been mugging you with, “Well, Johnny gets to do it, and he goes to the youth group!” [Laughter] You know what I’m talking about!
Rebecca: Yes; I completely get what you’re talking about. I was actually a very headstrong teenager; so I actually had a lot of those conversations with my parents, where we didn’t agree. We didn’t fight—well, we fought. [Laughter]
We would fight about some of these things; and a lot of it was around like clothes, often, and what I was allowed to wear; because my friends were allowed to wear these things, and my parents weren’t comfortable with it. There would be one of those things, where I would think, “Well, I technically could probably sneak out in it,” but I just didn’t want to be ashamed; so I never did.
But a big thing that I would challenge that with is—we want kids to follow God’s truth. If kids are challenging it because it doesn’t seem fair or right, truth will come out; right?—if we stick through / are patient, and we are willing to put in the time and effort that it takes to have those difficult conversations. This is what my family’s mantra was: “Either the parents will realize that they’re wrong, or the kids will,”—right? [Laughter]
Dennis: I would say that to our kids: “Look, if I’m wrong” / “…you’re mom and I are wrong on this deal, we’ll back off.”
Rebecca: Oh, exactly! And that actually happened with us quite a few times, like even about clothing stuff.
Bob: —or the video skyping.
Rebecca: Exactly! The video skyping—like with them saying, “Yes; you’re right.”
Dennis: I want to go back to the clothing stuff, because I want to understand the mind of a teenage girl, who is dressing in a way to turn heads and not hearts.
Rebecca: My parents were just really, really open and honest—you know, I’m going to sound like a broken record—but they were open and honest about their fears and concerns, and about their hopes for us; right? My dad would see something I was wearing and just say: “You know what? The problem isn’t that it doesn’t look good on you. The problem is that guys are going to think it looks too good on you, and I’m not comfortable, as your dad, having guys see that about you.”
He would be really, really honest with me; but he would tell me—not only, “Hey, you’re not allowed to wear that, because of this specific line that you’ve crossed,”—it was more like, “This is why I’m concerned.” And I often didn’t agree with him, because I really wasn’t trying to dress to turn heads myself.
It was more that I was very into figuring out what the trends of the day were. I was just innocent and naïve and didn’t realize a lot of that.
Dennis: Now, we’re talking about what’s bound up in the heart—
Dennis: —of a young lady in the teenage years, who’s very impressionable by her peers.
Rebecca: And I was homeschooled, and the big thing for me was figuring out how to fit in; right? So, for me, clothing was the way to do that. My parents talking to me about their fears and concerns about that kind of mitigated a lot of the issues that I was having in figuring out, “Who am I?”
Bob: Okay; so here’s one of the things I’d get in those conversations—is: “Yeah, I don’t think guys think the way you think they think. Maybe they did in your day, but that’s not the way guys are today.”
Bob: Did you ever throw that line out?
Rebecca: Yes; I did! And my dad would say, “Yes; well then, can you just do this for me then?” A lot of parents may not get that reaction from their kids; but when you are in a pattern of being honest with each other and having a real relationship, then you don’t want to hurt the other person. I never would have wanted to do something to hurt my parents because, you know, I really enjoy being around them.
Bob: So, at the end of that conversation, was it your decision?—or was it their decision?
Rebecca: I always felt like it was my decision. I’m not sure how much that was the reality, but it always felt like it was my decision! [Laughter]
Dennis: Did you ever have to go back upstairs and change your clothes—
Rebecca: Oh, yes!
Dennis: —as you were getting ready to go to church?
Rebecca: Oh, yes! And a lot of times too—my parents were very good at the whole situational thing too. I was a lifeguard—pretty much, our dress code is bathing suit and short-shorts—that’s just what lifeguards wear. Obviously, the shorts I wore to work would not be appropriate to wear to church; and my parents were pretty good at figuring out the boundaries there with me.
Rebecca: We had those conversations together. It wasn’t like my parents were upstairs, writing a list of rules that I was or was not allowed to wear something.
Dennis: No; but they had policies and they had boundaries.
Rebecca: They had their policies and their boundaries! [Laughter] Exactly!
Bob: I hear you saying that a lot of dialogue—a lot of openness and honesty—
Bob: —was a big part of you saying, “Okay; this is reasonable.”
Bob: But you know that 15-year-old boys and girls aren’t thinking what’s reasonable. They’re thinking, “I want what I want right now!”
Rebecca: I do know that some of them do, but it’s about: “How you have trained your kids to think? Are you in a family dynamic?” This is why, a lot of times, it’s so important to start so early. Like the feather boa example—that was when I was four years old—the idea of: “Our actions have consequences, so how can we act in a way that brings us the consequences that are good?”
When we’re in this habit of talking to kids like they can make the decisions, that their decisions are important, and that they do have the power to follow the Spirit in their life, you can have those good conversations with them. And you can start that as a teenager—like you can repair relationships. I have a couple of stories of kids in there, where the repair really started when they were 17 years old—in my book—but it is so much easier if you start earlier.
Rebecca: Kids are very, very capable of reasoning and of making good decisions. It’s just that they need to be given the proper stage to do it. That’s where conversations with parents are so important—and that’s where it’s honest conversations with parents—not just, “Here’s what you aren’t allowed to do,”—it’s more: “Here’s my hopes for you…” “Here are my dreams for you…”
“Here’s how I see God being able to work through your life. Here is my concern with how you are acting, and how it might get in the way of that.”
Bob: I asked you, at the beginning of this dialogue, if there were two or three things that caused the kids who didn’t rebel not to rebel, and you said they didn’t have rules; they had boundaries; and they understood what the reason was behind those boundaries.
Bob: Let me flip it—the kids you talked to—who did rebel?
Rebecca: A lot of the kids I talked to, who did rebel, had very, very, very strict rules. There is one girl in the book, whose name is Shiloh. Shiloh grew up in a family that was very, very concerned about their children’s spiritual health; you know? She’s the first one to say that her parents were so involved, because they love their kids so hard. You know, they just love them so much, and they wanted them to know Jesus. And the way they did this was by trying to create rules; so that if they followed all of the rules, they’d be the perfect kind of Christian family.
Rebecca: So they had family devotionals every single night.
As a rule, they had quotas for how many chapters of the Bible their kids had to read every single day. If any of those rules were broken, the kids would be punished; so Shiloh, if she missed a day of devotions—she might lose her phone for a week. Although Shiloh’s really grateful to have parents who are super-involved in her life, because that also brought a lot of benefits, she said the most heart-breaking thing to me in our interview—she said God became part of the rules that she hated.
Rebecca: That, to me, just broke my heart when I heard that. And then, what happened for her was—she was in this home, where she felt like she could never follow the rules well enough; you know? She would make one mistake, and she would be punished; she would be grounded for a week or two; she would lose her phone.
She felt that her parents didn’t trust her to make good decisions. What she would say—like her parents would say: “We trust you. We trust you so much!” but, because of all of these rules that they were so heavily enforcing, she just felt like she didn’t have a chance to prove herself. What happened was—she actually met this friend in school, who came from this really, really big, gregarious, Greek family.
She started going over to their house all of the time. They weren’t Christians; but what she saw there was unconditional acceptance, which she didn’t feel she had in her family.
Looking back now, she realizes that, even if she had made huge mistakes, her parents would have accepted her; but she didn’t feel that, because that’s not how their house was set up. Their house was set up so that the smallest infraction was punished; whereas, at her friend’s house, they were loud and very involved in each other’s lives. If they made a big mistake, they might get yelled at or something; but they were still accepted and loved. There wasn’t the harsh sense of: “You have done wrong. You must be punished.”
What happened was that she started going over there more and more. They started serving alcohol to under-aged kids, and she started partaking. That’s how she kind of got her entry into the party scene in high school. It wasn’t until she found a friend—she reconnected with, from back in junior high—who introduced her to Christianity, as a relationship with Jesus, more so than a checklist of rules to follow, that she came back to God.
That, to me, is just so sad; because you have these parents, who are trying so hard to give their kids this amazing relationship with God, and what they did was turn God into a list of rules that was telling Shiloh: “You’re not good enough. You’re not good enough. You’re not good enough.”
Dennis: One of the ways that I think parents create a home [that is open and honest] like you’re talking about is, when a husband and a wife are so in sync with one another in how they’re attempting to raise their children, as mom and dad together, that they represent a solid, single front to their kids. What’s the best thing your dad did?—and what’s the best thing your mom did, as they were tag-team experts on raising this non-rebellious daughter of theirs?
Rebecca: I talk about it in the book—I struggled with depression in high school. My dad was much better at handling it than my mom was. That’s okay. It’s just that he would handle it in a much different way than my mom would, and I preferred his way.
So he was—my dad was—the comforter, I would say, and my mom was the person who instilled in me to do big things.
Bob: —the challenger.
Rebecca: —the challenger; exactly! I take after my mom a little more than my dad. I would love to be more comforting than I am.
My parents, though—again, I know—broken record; but they were so open, and they were honest with us. There were times when, if my dad did something wrong in an argument, my mom would go to him and say: “Hey! That wasn’t okay. You need to apologize to the girls.” He would come up, and he would apologize and say: “You know what? I spoke in anger. I’m so sorry for that. That wasn’t appropriate. Here’s why I did it, so that you can understand that it isn’t because I don’t love you. It isn’t because you did anything wrong in that situation. Can you forgive me?”
Rebecca: So, when they didn’t agree, it wasn’t like they closed ranks and didn’t let us in. It was more that they were open about their mistakes as well, which was so therapeutic for us! I mean, having a parent apologize to you, as a kid—there is nothing that shows you more that you are respected and that you are seen as a human being.
Bob: So [Dennis], you and Barbara have just finished writing this book on parenting called The Art of Parenting. We’ve got the video series that’s come out on this. Listening to Rebecca describe the people she’s talked to and her own experience, what would you sum up as your counsel to moms and dads based on the conversation we’ve had here?
Dennis: Well, I hope they’ve heard her. I hope they understand that it’s their relationship with your child that keeps the communication and the love flowing. That’s where we start the book—we talk about four areas. The first one is building a bridge to your child. You’ve got to build the bridge—it’s a four-lane bridge—knowing that you, as parents, are going to use two of those lanes a lot before your child is grown up enough to use the other two lanes, coming back to you.
What we’re hearing in Rebecca, here on this broadcast, is a young lady who benefitted from the steady love and pursuit of a mom and a dad in a tag-team effort to pursue her; and she got it!
Dennis: There’s also the issue of character. They trained her in what’s right and what’s wrong, and in how to obey God, and the dangers of disobedience. There is also the issue of identity: spiritual identity, knowing who you are in Christ; emotional identity; sexual identity. Finally, parents are to give their children a mission—a sense of purpose and a mission in life. We can see this in Rebecca’s life—
Dennis: —through her blog. She’s written a book at age 23.
Dennis: I mean, Bob, you can count on one hand the number of guests we’ve had in 26 years who’ve been under the age of 25.
Rebecca: Yes; and I’m honored! [Laughter]
Dennis: We’re honored to have had you here.
I think parents just need to hear what she’s embodying, and what her parents transmitted in terms of their love for Jesus Christ, and their humility, and their desire to be there for her and to help her grow through some really dangerous days.
Bob: Rebecca, you echo this in your book, Why I Didn’t Rebel. It’s something that I heard a guest say, more than two decades ago; that is—to what Dennis is saying here: “Rules without a relationship will lead to rebellion.”
Rebecca: Oh, completely!
Bob: So, if a mom and a dad want to make sure that they’re doing all they can to steer their child away from rebellion, there may need to be some boundaries and guidelines.
Bob: There will be; yes. But there’s got to be a rock-solid relationship—that the child knows: “I am loved. I am accepted. I belong here. Mom and Dad have got my back. They believe in me. They support me. They’re on my side, and they want the best for me.”
Bob: And then those boundaries feel a little different, if you know, “Mom and Dad really do care for me and have my best interest at heart.”
Rebecca: Well, exactly; because, even if you don’t agree—like me, with some of the clothing choices my parents didn’t agree with—you know that, even if you have to go upstairs and change, it’s not because your parents don’t approve of you or don’t hear you.
It’s because they have their own concerns and they have their own fears, and you want to be nice to them.
Bob: Well, I think there are going to be a lot of moms and dads, who are going to want to get a copy of your book, Why I Didn’t Rebel: A Twenty-Two-Year-Old Explains Why She Stayed on the Straight and Narrow—and How Your Kids Can Too. We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329 to order a copy of Rebecca’s book.
Now, today is the last day of August. I know, for a lot of folks, there’s a holiday weekend ahead. For some people, school starts on Tuesday. I know a lot of you have already headed back to school; but a big part of the country goes back to school following Labor Day, so this is a busy time of year for families.
It’s also an important time of year for us, here, at FamilyLife®; because during the month of August, we’ve had a matching-gift challenge that’s been in front of us. Some friends of the ministry offered to match every donation we received during the month of August, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $500,000. This is the last day we can receive your donation and have it qualify for that matching gift; so we’re asking FamilyLife Today listeners, in the middle of everything else you’ve got going on, could you take just a couple of minutes and go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make an online donation?—or if it’s easier, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY and donate over the phone?
Again, your donation is going to be doubled today when you get in touch with us; and we’re going to send you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s brand-new book, The Art of Parenting, as our way of saying, “Thank you for helping us with this matching-gift challenge, and for your support of this ministry.” Again, you can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FLTODAY to donate. We want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for your support.
We appreciate your partnership with us, here, at FamilyLife Today.
And we hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday, when we’re going to talk about singles in their 30s and 40s and 50s, and about dating, and how you think about those things and handle those things. Lisa Anderson will be here to talk about that with us. I hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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