I have three sons and a daughter. The oldest is nineteen, and he has turned out to be rebellious, having already graduated from high school. He didn’t want to study anymore, so he went away to work for six months. But they fired him because he was irresponsible, and now he doesn’t want to work at all.

My second child is fifteen. He’s still in school, but he’s not a good student. My daughter is twelve, and she is just like her brothers. I try to be the best father I can, but I don’t know how I have gone wrong. I would appreciate it if you gave me an idea as to how to improve my life with my children.

Dear Friend,

You are not alone! Many other parents have some of the same issues with their children. They too find it difficult to know how much to control and how much to let go, especially with older teenagers. Holding on too tight can make your children more rebellious, but letting go too soon can cause them to make disastrous mistakes. It is not easy to be a parent!

Please read Cases 283 and 377 at message2conscience.com to take advantage of the advice that we have given to other parents in almost the same situations. In Case 283 we talked about the need to let young adults suffer the natural consequences of their actions. And in Case 377 we discussed the development of the brain and the physiological reasons why some young adults make such bad choices. Both of these cases will give you some ideas as to how you can handle your oldest son.

But you have three other children! Those three are watching what is happening with their oldest brother. If you don’t manage to handle this well, we can almost guarantee that some of the others will become even more rebellious.

It is very important that you take advantage of community resources and programs that can help you learn to be a better parent. There are many classes offered by social services, universities, and churches. Search online or ask your medical doctor for a referral to classes in your area.

We also recommend that you read the books Boundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, to Help Your Children Gain Control of Their Lives by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, and Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by John Townsend. If you put the principles of these books into practice, you will experience good results in your family.

It is extremely important that you find a church that has vibrant programs for the ages of each of your children. Look for a church that teaches the whole truth of the Bible and that helps people of all ages to find and experience a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Church people are not perfect, so look for those who are on a continuous journey of becoming more like Christ. They can help you in your own journey.

We wish you the best,