Hello! Thank you for accepting my case.

I need help in how to discipline my son who is seventeen years old. He is loving when he wants to be, but most of the time he is very rebellious. He doesn’t do what I ask or tell him to do. When I don’t go along with what He wants, he breaks things and uses bad language. But within ten minutes or so, he has already forgotten how offensive he was, and asks me to do him favors as if nothing happened.

I would like to know how to get him to understand that I love him and that it hurts me when he treats me this way. Thank you.

Dear Friend,

The ages between sixteen and twenty-one can be extremely difficult for parents and their teenagers. It is a time when the children have to learn to become independent of their parents and to survive without their parents. Many times the process goes too fast for the parents to handle, but not fast enough for the children. Parents have to be incredibly wise in how to give as much freedom as possible in choices, while at the same time, provide guidelines and structure that will help their children mature.

As long as a child lives in his parents’ house, he should have reasonable rules and household duties. At the same time, he should be given increasing freedom and choice. He should be able to decide whether to spend money on several items of clothing, or put all the money together for one special item that all his friends have. He should be able to decide what time to go to sleep, as long as he gets ready on time for school the next day. He should handle his own school issues, as long as his grades are acceptable and he is not truant. Parents must find as many ways as possible to give choices, while remaining firm on things like a reasonable curfew and obeying house rules.

You will be happier if you make a decision to not get your feelings hurt when your son is rebellious or when he treats you badly. Yes, you should discipline him for those actions. But when we let our feelings get involved, it allows our children to take advantage of our weakness. Even though our children do love us, they will by nature do whatever they think will help them get their own way. If they can wear us down or cause us to give up in frustration, they will do it. When your son was two years old and he threw fits, it didn’t hurt your feelings. This is exactly the same, and if you can remember that, it will keep him from taking advantage of you.

We recommend that you find a support group of other mothers with children this age. Your children’s school is a good place to find other mothers like you who have these same concerns. When you see that you are not the only one who has these problems, it can help you be prepared for the moments of crisis.

We also encourage you to find a church where there are people who have strong personal relationships with God. They may be able to offer you some support during the difficult times.

In the same way that your son doesn’t obey you but then comes to ask favors of you, we human beings tend to treat God, our Heavenly Parent, the exact same way. He has given us rules to follow, but we often choose to break them. Then, even while we are breaking His rules, we ask him favors. “God, give me a better job.” “God, fix my marriage.” “God, please, I need help!” We ask favors of God without even caring if we hurt His feelings, without even thanking Him for all that He has already done. We expect Him to give and give and give and never ask anything in return. Sounds like your son, doesn’t it?

Now then, the love you have for your son is like the love God has for each one of us. He loves us so much that He extends us His mercy even when we least deserve it, yet remains strong by allowing us to suffer the consequences of having broken the rules. If you determine to follow His example, you will succeed in disciplining your son in love.

Stay strong!