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Home > Support > Family Life > My oldest daughter has become very rebellious and hateful...
 
 
Question: We have 8 children ranging in age from 16 down to 5 months old. We have always homeschooled our children and have always had our Catholic Faith the center of our education and our lives. We attend Mass during the week in addition to Sunday and my children are active in choir and altar serving.

I am having trouble with my oldest daughter, 16, who has gradually become very rebellious and hateful. In a conversation yesterday she told me she can't wait to get out of the house. She hates living here with all these people. She also indicated that once she is on her own she will not be a "good Catholic girl" as she put it. She hates having to do everything right according to the Church.

We are a family that has tried to remain balanced and not gone to extremes in living our faith (for example we do not always wear dresses, we watch some television, etc.). I thought keeping a balance might prevent a complete rejection of the Faith once they became independent.

It seems to me that her problem is spiritual in nature. But forcing her to go to confession and to pray just doesn't seem appropriate if this is what she is throwing back in my face at this time. What do you suggest? Thank you for your advice.
Answer:

Dear Mom,

Your letter was written with such wisdom and the evidence of deep spirituality that in itself it was uplifting and provided me with great encouragement. The teen years are a challenge. I continue to work through these years and the unique situations that they provide.

Let me tell you some of my initial insights. In our household there were always "babies" when there were teenagers. I really never gave this much thought because I was always so busy just keeping my head above water trying to meet everyone's needs. Now that our household consists of all teenagers and young adults, with only one "baby" who is 10 years old, there is a dramatic difference in the way issues are handled. Let me explain.

When teenager conflicts or discipline issues would arise, certainly my husband and I would handle these immediately. However it seemed that a "little person or nursing person" would also need something at the same time. This created a tension and a feeling of urgency to "get the problems solved" so that we could attend to what appeared to be the more pressing issue, a crying or fretful baby. I am sure that you understand what I am saying. In the same respect, trying to remain focused and calm while so many people were needing the parents was difficult. Many times the tension created due to the normal circumstances spilled over into the "teenager issue" and I could feel myself overreacting or becoming unduly irritated. Usually these eruptions into the already hectic and busy household created more tension than they would have in another type of household. In other words conflicts and arguments with teens need to be handled in the "now" not when all the little people are asleep or "everything calms down." Issues that arise and are of a nature that require our immediate attention, demand just that. As parents we can feel pushed to the limit and this creates a chemistry that just fuels the flame.

I am certain (as my children have told me) there were times when teens were made to feel that they "were in the way" or "not as important" as the needs and demands of younger siblings. It is a blessing that my children have been able to express this sentiment because it has given my husband and I an opportunity to explain and to apologize for the times that this happened. Certainly this was never an intentional feeling that was put out there, but just a result of the circumstances. Children are very forgiving of their parents when they are given the opportunity to share their feelings and discuss their side of the story. In fact I have found that my children are quick to forgive me for my failings when I come to them with a pure and sincere heart. Praise God.

Now that the household is a bit quieter (not always, thank God), issues can be discussed with ease and without the constant threat of interruption. Maybe this coupled with more experience dealing in these matters has helped to calm the teenager conflicts. I guess what I want to say with all my heart is, "Hang in there and call upon the strength of the Lord and wisdom of the Holy Spirit for it is at your constant use."

With all that said let's look at the specific issues you raise. Probably understanding the unique nature of a large household will help you to listen with compassion to your daughter's statement concerning "all the people." I believe with all my heart that a woman of prayer such as yourself will be guided by the Holy Spirit to find solutions for this concern that your daughter has raised. Making time for one-on-one discussions, seeking conversations that are based upon each other's feelings instead of actions, and increasing the amount of responsibility that is given to your daughter, will go a long way towards helping the two of you deal with conflicts.

Emotional outbursts like the one you describe are just that: "emotional outbursts." These statements can be likened to the eruption of an active volcano. The feelings of resentment, hurt, confusion, and anger probably have been building for some time and finally release themselves in this one-time statement. I am certain that as soon as your daughter said this, she was wishing she could have made the words disappear (though she may not let you know that). Young people are mercurial. Meaning that their hormones, lifestyle, and maturity collide all too often into intense emotion. Learning to measure our words when discussing issues and to react with a centered peace is a mark of maturity and as such must be learned gradually as we progress through life. I am still learning this. :)

You are right when you say that you feel the problem is spiritual. There is a battle going on constantly in our world for the souls of our children. The Tempter is a lazy combatant who uses the road of least resistance to effect his goal. In other words he uses the normal and completely healthy passion often found in the teen years to his unfair advantage. Our teens are lovely people who love with deep concern and act from focused attention. What we celebrate in their youthful optimism the Tempter spoils to his advantage.

Stay focused on the beauty and goodness of your daughter. She is created in the image of the Lord and it is the Lord alone that owns her. The Tempter only thinks he can win this battle. We all know that the Lord has won the battle for our souls on Calvary. The Tempter reacts in this world like a spoiled child that has lost a game. He enters our lives and creates conflict, confusion, and hurt hoping this will make us forget to whom we belong.

You are very blest that your dear daughter has expressed her feelings aloud. I always believe that feelings and emotions expressed are easier to work with than those that remain hidden in the heart. She is only 16 years old. I promise you will see a difference next month. Issues are constantly changing and needing to be addressed.

Stand firm on the Lord's promise and call upon His strength. The Lord honors the prayers of mothers and fathers who call upon Him.

Remember to pray for your daughter not about her. That is to say, pray for your daughter and her unique life as it is seen in the Lord's eyes. The Lord alone knows the full extent of her need.

I am sure that you probably already pray the family rosary. Pray aloud for your daughter, by offering up one decade just for her. Certainly do this for the other children as well.

You are a beautiful woman in the Lord's eyes. He will empower you with the graces and resources to weather these storms. Your wisdom comes from a willingness to be docile and open to the Holy Spirit and this is to be admired. Your witness before your family is one of quiet strength and firm purpose as your travel into the Lord's will each day. God love you.

Dearest Jesus, we ask for a fresh anointing of Your Holy Spirit today at this very minute for our dear sister in Christ. She is the pearl of great price and as such pours herself out for her family and all those that she loves. We ask that You send the healing touch of Your hand to her daughter. Heal her in the ways that she may be hurting and not even have been able to express. Allow for fruitful communication and peaceful solutions in this family. Amen.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

   
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