Accountability for the Rebellious

Something that tends to make the people that would be “unlovable” is that we cannot trust them, and holding them accountable is not easy. These unlovables are manipulative and some are quite charming when it suits them. Or they are intimidating and we fear crossing them out of fear they will harm us in some way, even possibly becoming violent.

Accountability is an important component in loving these people. Helping them understand that their actions have consequences for them and others is a part of loving them. At the same time, enforcing the accountability is hard! It seems so much easier to just let things go on as they always have, making excuses for them, and cleaning up their messes when we can. We are not helping them by doing this.

You see, when a wife covers the drunks bounced check, she has just bought him his next drink. Often she does this because it just becomes too difficult to fight against him and she holds out the hope that he will change. What she fails to realize is that giving in to them makes them more unlovely and not better. I have learned that there comes a time when giving grace to an unlovable person is detrimental to them. There is a better way!

We must realize that we are helping them when we enforce the rules we set down and stop buying into their excuses, manipulations, and blame shifting and charming smiles.

How many times have we found ourselves bowing down to our idol of peace and convenience, caving in so to speak when we would have been better pursuing God’s will by proper biblical correction.

“As much as I dislike holding him accountable and all the emotional outbursts and hurt feelings it brings; I know that to do otherwise is harming him now. He takes advantage of our grace. He assumes it will be given to him and that nothing will be required of him or expected of him. Our grace is being abused and he is not seeing it as grace. He is seeing us as fools and pushovers. The grace intended to bring him to repentance and change has not accomplished that in his life. It has allowed him to continue to sin.”

So we must change our approach, be firmer, and give consequences for his lack of responsibility.

“My unlovable person is a habitual liar. She would just as soon lie as tell the truth. Even when the truth means admitting to a simple mistake, or error, she prefers to lie and make excuses. I can only point out the obvious and listen to the objections and protestations that I am wrong and she is right- even though it is plainly obvious that she is lying. It breaks my heart to be so helpless.”

“I tell her I wish I could believe her, but that I strongly suspect she is not being truthful with me. I tell her that lying destroys any remaining trust I have for her. I also tell her that I intend to check up on her story and that if I am going to find out what she told me is a lie, that I would rather hear the truth from her than someone else. Sometimes she comes clean, but at least she knows I am done allowing her to lie without being challenged.”

This parent understands that these are issues of the heart. A heart so prideful that admitting a mistake is nearly impossible for her! What is the fear about in admitting a mistake? It is about not being perfect, being found out for being human and capable of making an error. It is outrageous pride.

They make our lives so miserable. It is not a joy to be their parent. The hours when they are gone at school or work are times when peace exists in the house. We dread their coming home and look forward to the time they will leave again. And yet, we know this is not right! We sorrow because this is not how we want it to be, we want the Hallmark moments, kisses goodbye; “love you” as they walk out the door. We long for a nice family dinner, or a movie night without a conflict. As hard as we think we try it never seems to be enough. It seems we are always left in some conflict or awkward silence. Conversation is like tripping through a mine field. We desire to communicate but fear each topic will bring a new argument or some new area of dissension.

A part of every parent with an unlovable child wonders, “Where did I go wrong?” How did I mess this up so badly that he/she has turned out this way? We question ourselves constantly, sometimes holding up our other children “success stories” to the light as though to prove to ourselves it could not possibly be us that messed up. We wonder about “the bad seed” and demon possession/oppression. We wonder (constantly) about the salvation of these kids and never arrive at the answer to the elusive question of “are they really saved?”

We watch for ANY glimmer of hope or evidence to support the profession of faith they made as children in Sunday School, or Pioneer Club, or AWANA. But most of all we fear. We fear for them. We fear for their eternal destiny and we fear for them in the here and now in so many ways.

One mother said, "Once we took a family vacation and our unlovable son was particularly disagreeable as we were getting ready to go out for the day of site seeing. He left the building after a nasty conflict with everyone and we continued on discussing him and his numerous poor attitudes in his absence. We tried to figure it out and tried to figure out how we could not have our vacation ruined by him. To our sorrow and horror he was sitting on the bottom step of the building, having heard every word we said. The horror was that he heard it that way, and the sorrow was that we could not take any of it back, it was all true."

Another family warned their daughter that if she got too out of hand on their vacation they would out her on a plane and send her home and continue on without her!

The sad thing for us parents is they appear not to care! They act as though they hate us, and could care less about being with us at all. Our gifts are not good enough, or lavish enough or we are not as good as someone else because their parents get them what they want. We appear to be expendable and not needed for counsel or input. Our advise is stupid or preachy or we don’t get it. They have no desire to listen to us. We are only good to give them what they want at times. It is so hurtful to be the parent of such a child.

You may think they are not listening, but don’t be fooled. Your words –both good and bad- are penetrating. Years later I see and hear my son acting on the counsel that was once so stupid to him.

When you have an unlovable child- you essentially have 2 options- as in a Y in the road: one way of dealing with them is to withdraw and back out of their life. Determine not to quarrel with them, or confront them. It is the “peace at all costs” model of parenting. In many ways, that is the easy route to take. Withdrawing emotionally feels better. When I withdraw they can’t hurt me, there is no confrontation or conflict. I can pretend all is well. The child becomes like a terrorist and uses the threat (spoken or unspoken) of verbal retaliation and conflict with you as a weapon to keep you in your corner while they run self will run riot.

These unlovable kids will attempt to draw you into verbal matches where all the reasoning is circular and by the time you are ready to scream they have you forgetting what you originally wanted to talk about. Simple questions like, “Who’s house are you going to?” are responded to with accusation of accusations by you.
The other part of the fork – the other way of dealing with them is biblically. This way will not be peaceful, and there will be conflict and confrontation. “the way of the transgressor is hard.” The biblical road will not feel good all the time. Circumstantially it will be difficult. Emotionally you may be wounded and experience no deeper pain.

As you learn to confront your rebellious child biblically and he or she sees the rules of the game changing there will be much anger and rage on their part. Primarily it is because you are taking back the parental authoritative ground you have ceded over time. These children hate authority and anyone who would dare to alter their reality will have to pay. I would maintain that this road is the only biblical option.

As parents, we are charged with raising up our children according to the law- both moral and legal. To raise them in a way that they will submit to authorities placed in their life. These authorities begin with Sunday or nursery school teachers, hall monitors, playground supervisors, scout leaders, life guards at the pool, speed limits, rules of the road, teachers and professors, boss’s, team leaders and so on. To abdicate this responsibility at any point in the process of growing up brings tragic consequences to the child and to society. If the child is allowed to disregard the authority in the home why would he or she obey the teacher? If the child won’t obey the teacher, why would he or she obey the boss at work? If all children were allowed to go their own way for the sake of peace in the home our world would rapidly be reduced to anarchy. We can see some of the tragic results of this kind of thinking in those who were the hippies and anti-establishment crowd of the 1960’s. There is a new generation of disobedience afoot in today’s youth, equally as troubling and with increasingly far reaching devastating results.