The Rebellious and Unlovable Child

There are some children whose behavior makes them very unlovable. You might be thinking that is a horrible thing to say! How could any sweet child be unlovable? How could any parent think or dare to say such a thing?

As much as I hate to burst your bubble, I have met many children who are quite unlovable and give their parents a terrible time. What does a parent do when their child is rebellious, ornery, hateful and impossible to live with? How do we treat a child who refuses to obey, or runs away from home, uses drugs, or gets in trouble with the law?

Parenting books abound in our culture, one after the other telling parents to carefully guard the child's self-esteem and to build him or her up with positive comments and to be sure the child is the center of the home. This is contrary to the Bible's instruction on parenting. The Bible instructs parents to train children to be obedient, reverent toward God, and to live their lives for Him. This is the exact opposite of the world's philosophy of child centered parenting.

Let me begin by dealing with "Christian" kids who are unlovable. These would be kids whose parents are faithful church goers, involved in ministry, read their Bibles and their kids have been in Awana, Sunday School and VBS all their lives. Many of these kids "got saved" as youngsters and have possibly been baptized. When they were very young they were difficult to control, did not listen well or cooperate well for you. As they grew they got worse. The parents of their friends love them and often tell you your child calls them "mom" or "dad." They describe your child as wonderful and helpful and kind and declare that he or she is a delight to have around.

This certainly does not match the person who lives in your house! It is a painful realization to come to when you understand that your child is two very different people, depending on the audience; and that the one that lives with you is the real deal.

Many parents are shocked and dismayed when, despite the years of training they have put in to their child the child does not turn out to be godly. One mom was very upset when she understood that Proverbs 22:6 is not a promise. Some people have been taught that the Proverbs are to be claimed as promises and that is not so. There is no guarantee that just because you put all the right things in your child that he or she will come out a godly person. Each person must decide for him or herself if they will obey God.

If your child follows Jesus Christ it is by God's grace and mercy and nothing else. If your child does not follow Him, some very difficult realizations will follow.

Pray for your child daily, continue to live in a way that he or she sees Christ in you rather than harping and nagging at them about it. Live biblical principles, and be "real" with your child. Admit when you blow it and don't be afraid to admit you have been wrong and by all means, ask their forgiveness when you sin against them. One of the most critical things I have learned about loving the unlovable child is that you must accept them just as they are right now.

One family was looking for help regarding their teenage son. He listened to hip hop/rap music, wore his pants around his thighs, and was worldly in almost every imaginable way. Because the young man was involved in pornography he had no access to the family computers. He avoided his family and lived what the parents described as a "hotel existence", being there only to sleep and eat when he had to. His father was a minister and was quite distressed about how to handle his son. The more he pushed his son to conform, the further away his son withdrew. Fights and screaming matches were common at home, and their son nearly hated his father.

The first thing we had to help the parents understand is that while they did not have to (nor should they) condone their son's actions, they must begin to accept who their son is as a person. He has his own likes and dislikes and preferences in style and while they are not the same as the parent's are, it is ok unless these likes and dislikes are sinful. For example: there was nothing sinful about his pants, he just looked sloppy. Dad agreed to stop harping on the pants on a daily basis and to tell his son that he would do so. He also asked his son to wear pants that fit better if they had to go someplace together for ministry purposes. As far as his music tastes went, the son was agreeable to listening to Contemporary Christian Music alternatives in the hip/hop/rap genre at home. Anything else was not allowed in the house and if it was found it would be destroyed.

These were just a few of the first steps we made toward helping these people begin to love one another again. Accepting your child as he or she is right now at least leaves the door open for future conversation!