What Is a Rebel?
About the Guest
Some kids rebel. Others don't. Why? Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, author of the book, "Why I Didn't Rebel," looks back on her teen years and explains what rebellion is and what it is not. Lindenbach recalls how her parents responded to her mood swings and teen angst, and encourages parents to really listen to their teens and equip them to face life's disappointments and challenges.
Rebecca Gregoire LindenbachRebecca Gregoire Lindenbach never set out to be an author. After considerable prodding from her mother (popular blogger and award-winning author Sheila Wray Gregoire), the psychology student living in Ottawa, Canada wrote a blog post that inspired her first book, Why I Didn’t Rebel. Lindenbach grew up around words, and from a young age had a drive to use her words to help people through their struggles,...more
Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach looks back on her teen years and recalls how her parents responded to her mood swings and encourages parents to listen to their teens and equip them to face life’s challenges.
What Is a Rebel?
Bob: Rebecca Lindenbach says, when she was a teenager, she didn’t rebel; she didn’t push back. She went along with what her parents told her to do. So why is that? Well, she has, at least, one reason why she thinks that’s what happened.
Rebecca: My parents had created this family environment, where we were so open; we were so honest. They spent so much fun time with us—not just these really difficult conversations: not just the “Have you done your chores yet?” / not just the “Have you gotten your school work done yet?” We had, you know, our game nights; and we went out to see movies; and we had friends over—they gave me something better to belong to.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 30th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What did Rebecca Lindenbach’s parents do that kept her pointed in the right direction? We’re going to talk more with her about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We have talked many times with moms and dads, who have experienced the heartache—and it is a heartache when a son or a daughter heads in a different direction from the one that mom and dad were pointing them in—especially when we’re talking about where they’re going spiritually. Today, we’re going to go and approach that same subject from a different angle; right?
Dennis: —a non-rebel.
Dennis: —a self-admitted non-rebel. I just—I want to find out if she’s a Pharisee. [Laughter] I’m actually kidding. Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach joins us on FamilyLife Today. Rebecca, welcome to the broadcast.
Rebecca: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Dennis: You’re the second Canadian we’ve had around here in the past few months.
Bob: Yes; that’s right.
Rebecca: Only the second, eh?
Dennis: Yes, eh; eh? [Laughter]
Rebecca: Yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: Rebecca’s written a book called Why I Didn’t Rebel. Now that’s pretty bold. I wonder, if we called your parents right now, [Laughter] if they would agree with that title. They must or you wouldn’t have put it in print; right?
Rebecca: Well, exactly or else I’m just really brazen; right?
Dennis: Yes. Well, your mom’s been on the broadcast. We know her well enough to call her.
Dennis: Rebecca’s been married to Connor since 2015. She hosts the blog called “Life as a Dare.” I just want to ask you—you say that the whole idea of being a rebel is misunderstood and over-rated within the Christian community. What do you mean by that?
Rebecca: Well, Christian community has made teenaged rebellion almost like this inevitable thing that parents can do nothing to prevent. Well, we do the pendulum swing; right? It’s either: “We have to completely control to make sure that our kids never rebel,” or “Well, just close your eyes and cross your fingers—there’s nothing you can do anyway”; right?
I just kind of think there’s got to be a middle ground there, because I’m personally living proof kids do not have to rebel in high school; and I’m not the only one. I interviewed 25 young adults for this book.
Some of them rebelled; some of them didn’t.
Bob: When you’re talking about rebellion—let’s define terms.
Bob: Because every teenager emerges as his or her own person and wants some freedom and some authority to make choices that are different than the choices mom and dad might make for them. That was true of you; wasn’t it?
Rebecca: Completely. I’m a very different person than my parents. I mean, I like to believe I’m more different that my mother than I actually am. We’re kind of carbon copies of each other to a certain extent. [Laugher]
Bob: When you talk about rebelling, you’re not talking about that “coming of age,” where you kind of emerge as your own person.
Rebecca: Well, no; exactly. Personally, for myself, I was a very hormonal teenager. I am very self-aware about that. I must have been horrible to live with for a few years there.
Rebecca: Oh, my goodness! That doesn’t even begin to describe it. I was dramatic; I had all my angsty poetry. I was nit-picky with my sister.
A lot of that is because you’re experiencing all of these horrible puberty changes for the first time—it’s overwhelming. But a lot of times, stuff like those mood changes—those hormones—they get labeled as like sinful. I just don’t think that’s true; right?
Rebecca: Is it sinful to go through natural change as you’re becoming a teenager and be a bit moodier? Well, no. That’s just something we need to learn how to, you know, control our emotional reactions to things that are happening. It’s a place for growth and for learning. It’s not something that is bad in and of itself.
Dennis: So are you saying your mom did a good job of handlingyour mood swings as you went through the teenage years and became a young lady?
Rebecca: Yes. I think my parents were very gracious about it all. They didn’t tend to over-react. If I got really moody, they didn’t immediately start to punish me, like, “You’re grounded for two months because you yelled at me.” It’s more like: “Hey, that’s not acceptable. Here’s why... We need to figure out how we can make sure that your reaction isn’t too lash out next time; because this is a new skill you have to learn as you’re going through, you know, becoming a teenager / becoming an adult.”
Emotional regulation is a skill that you learn all throughout the years; right? Some people find it easier than others.
Dennis: I’ve got to tell you—I raised—had four teenaged daughters.
Rebecca: Oh, wow!
Dennis: That was a challenge.
Bob: There were some rapids you went through with them? [Laughter]
Dennis: Better stated—a roller coaster. [Laughter]
Dennis: Hanging on for dear life; you know? [Laughter]
Bob: So when we’re talking about rebellion, we’re not talking about a time when you may have argued back with your mom.
Rebecca: No! Well, what I say in the book is: “The reality is that a 13-year-old girl, who’s experiencing PMS and hormones for the first time in her life, is simply not going to be a submissive, gracious, lovely, friendly person. That’s not how her brain is right now.” She’s going to be more like—I think I said “…a tiger with a thorn in its foot, who’s out for blood.” [Laughter] Right?! That’s just more the reality.
How parents respond to that can be huge for their kids; right? My parents were more of the: “Okay; I recognize that this is horrible right now. We’re going to get through it. Believe it or not, you’ll survive.”
You know, everything’s dramatic for preteens and teenagers. A lot of parents—it’s this strict idea of what’s good and what’s not. What I wanted to talk about is this idea of what rebelling is versus it isn’t—is get back to the understanding of grace / of truth—not imposing our own ideas of what is right—but instead, focusing on: “Is this kid following God with his or her whole heart, or are they living in a way that is consistently walking away from God?”
Dennis: Here’s the problem, Rebecca—at the same time you’ve never experienced puberty,and the mood swings, and all the changes that come with the hormones that are flooding and invading your body—
Dennis: —your parents have never hada teenaged daughter—
Rebecca: Oh, yes!
Dennis: —or a son, who is going through the same thing. They’ve never had one before.
Now, as we had six, there were certain things that I began to recognize by the time we got to number six. You know, you kind of wise up at a point.
Rebecca: Oh, yes.
Dennis: But as you start out, the parents aren’t a whole lot better than the kids, who are going through it as well, because they’ve never experienced it.
Bob: But one of the things that is talked about in the Art of ParentingTM video series that FamilyLife® has just done—that I think is really helpful for moms and dads here—is you candifferentiate between a child’s behavior, whether it’s a toddler or a teenager: “Is this sinful rebellion or is this childishness? Is this a hormonal change, or is this deliberate willful rebellion against mom and dad’s authority?” If a child is being childish, you don’t punish childishness; you help them adjust and correct.
Bob: You punish the rebellion and the willful disobedience; right?
Rebecca: Well, exactly; and it’s the same with teenagers. The problem is that, because teens have more of an ability to think for themselves, it’s sometimes easy, I think, to forget that they’re still—their brain is still developing; you know, their brain’s not done. I mean, my brain’s not even done developing—I’m only 23; right? I’ve still got, I think, two years—psychology research says—until I’ve got a fully-formed frontal lobe. [Laughter]
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
But I think, just like what you said, where by the sixth kid, you kind of have an idea of what you’re doing. What I’ve found from my interviews for this book is that none of these parents knew what they were doing; you know? It’s not that they had all of the right answers—it’s that they were able to admit they didn’t know what they were doing, necessarily.
Like with my parents, they didn’t handle everything perfectly. In fact, when I wrote this book, my mom actually said: “You have to say every single thing we did wrong. Like, you know that; right? Like, you got to expose us. [Laughter] Tell everyone that we weren’t perfect.” The message of my book isn’t: “You need to be a perfect parent.” It’s: “We can accept the imperfection as long as it leads to authentic relationship”; right?—because that’s the main difference. If you have a kid, going through puberty for the first time, it is okay to—if you mess up, go to them and say: “You know what? I’ve never had to deal with this before. You’ve never had to deal with this before. We’re going through this together. How can we do this better next time?”
Dennis: That’s almost verbatim what I told one of our daughters, but she was number five of the six; so it took a while to get to that point. [Laughter]
Dennis: Rebecca, when we raised our kids, one of the things that our daughters would do—more than the guys would do—is they would have—just have a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day; and they expressed it emotionally. As a daddy, I didn’t know what to do with that; okay?
I compared this, Rebecca—here’s my analogy—at that point, what they’d become is a mud wrestler. They’re in a mud hole, and they want to get the parent in the mud hole with them; because they know, if they can get them wrestling in the mud hole with them, emotionally, that’s 90 percent of the win. Rebecca, you’re laughing! [Laugher]
Rebecca: I’m dying! That’s exactly what I did as a teenager. [Laughter]
Dennis: You’ve been found out. Your mom did not call me. [Laughter] I think that’s what most teenagers try to do.
Dennis: It’s a way of controlling parents.
Rebecca: Well, I think more than that—it’s that teenagers—what we want more than anything is to be heard; right? We want to know someone understands us. The thing is, when you’re 13 or 14, and you’re going through this for the first time, you feel like so many emotions on such a deeper level than you’ve ever had before. The problem is—although people tell you—like, “No; you’re not the only one who has ever gone through this,” your brain is telling you: “No one understands! You’re all alone in this! This doesn’t get any better!”
If you can bring your parent into that, it’s more of a: “Feel my pain! Please understand! I just want to know that you hear me!” I think that often is a lot of the motivation as well—it’s the desire to be heard. Unfortunately, when you don’t have a lot of those healthy emotional regulation skills, the answer seems to be to drag people into it; so that you can know that people understand.
Dennis: I think what Bob shared a few minutes ago is really helpful for parents to realize—it’s not just out of toddlers that you get childishness.
Rebecca: Yes; completely! Yep!
Dennis: You can get childishness, which is foolish, out of younger adults—
Dennis: —who are in the process of growing up. They’re going to spread their wings; and in doing so, they’re going to go places they shouldn’t go.
Bob: So let me give you an example of a place they shouldn’t go; okay? One of our children later told us, about the time when he was 14—when after we had gone to bed—he took his sister’s car and drove to Wendy’s®. Now, you don’t have a driver’s license when you’re 14. He hadn’t been taught to drive. Let’s say mom and dad find out about that in the middle of that happening. Do we look at that and go: “Well, that’s just childishness and foolishness,” and “Kids will be kids,” and let it go? Or do we ground them for a month?
Rebecca: Well, first of all, I don’t believe in the whole “Kids will be kids” mentality—the whole “Kids will be kids; let it go.” I don’t think that’s necessarily helpful; because—yes; “Kids willbe kids,” but then that’s the next step: “Okay; so you’re doing this childish thing now, but that shouldn’t happen forever. Let’s not let it go. Let’s figure out how we can talk about it.”
You know, when I was being emotionally manipulative of my parents, it wasn’t like they just let me manipulate them—
—they said: “Hey, that’s not appropriate, and here’s why… You need to respect me. You need to recognize that you can’t make other people miserable, because you’re miserable; because that’s not fair and that’s not loving.”
Dennis: How did you feel about it when they said that to you?
Rebecca: Well, I tried to manipulate them harder! [Laughter]
Dennis: You doubled down!
Rebecca: I doubled down, but they stuck with it; you know? Because this idea that “Kids will be kids,”—my parents actually had a very opposite idea. They believed very much in the natural transition of growing up, and that we shouldn’t be punished for natural transitions. But they also used to tell me again and again: “You have the Holy Spirit as much as any adult does. You have the power to follow God. We just need to figure out how you can deal with things like impulse control / things like emotional regulation, so that you can follow Him properly.”
Having conversations and figuring out: “What’s the next step?” versus just, “Kids will be kids; let it go” is the important thing. It’s about expecting more but also equipping kids to be able to do more; because a lot of parents expect a lot, but don’t take the time to equip them.
Bob: Did you ever have a disobedient moment like my son had?—maybe something your mom doesn’t know about yet—that you want to confess here on national radio?
Rebecca: I’m honestly thinking. I’m honestly trying so hard to think. I don’t think so!
Bob: You’re the first-born compliant child; right?
Rebecca: Like my parents were so open and honest with us that, even when I did something bad, it wasn’t like I held it from them; because that was not what we did in our family. I never did anything really rebellious, because I never felt the need to. My parents gave me an alternative that I was perfectly comfortable with.
Dennis: Hold it—you never pushed the curfew?
Rebecca: No; I didn’t really have a curfew. Okay; here’s—that’s actually a really good example of the families that I interviewed—of kids who rebelled versus those who didn’t—the curfew example; right? There are a lot of parents who are really, really strict about that—like, “You must to be home by ten o’clock,” etc.
I had one girl, who explained it absolutely perfectly when I interviewed her. We call her Rachel in the book.
Instead of having a curfew when she went out—she’d say, “Hey, what time do I have to be home?” And her parents said, “What time do you think you should be home?” She hated it; because then she has to go through and think: “Okay; I have a test in the morning. Okay; well, it’s also kind of raining; I don’t want to be out on dangerous roads driving past a certain time. Okay; so I guess I should be home by 10:30.” Then her parents would be like, “Okay; sounds good.”
Bob: “Sounds good.”
Rebecca: They might have said, “You can come home at 11”; but they won’t tell her what they thought the curfew should be.
Bob: Okay; I don’t know who this Rachel is, but here’s how that would have played out at our house. [Laughter] “What time do you think you should be home?” “Three?!” “No; that’s not going to fly, son. Three is not going to work. Nothing good happens after midnight”; right? [Laughter]
Dennis: I want to go back to your story, Bob; because your child, who is becoming a young man at 18 or 19, when he “fessed up.” What did you do with his confession at that point? Did you just laugh it off or was there still the Daddy Bob who kind of put his arm around his son and go, “Son, what were you thinking?” [Laughter]
Bob: Well, because who he was—when we learned it, at 19 or 20, was so different than who he had been at age 14—we celebrated the growth we had seen in him [Laughter] and the fact that he’s not the same any more.
Rebecca: That’s a great response!
Dennis: You celebrate the independence.
Bob: No; another story with him was the time that he told us about when he and his friends—we live in Arkansas. The Arkansas River goes right through Little Rock. Out in the middle of the river, there are some islands; right? You know what I’m talking about—
Bob: So one night, he and his buddies decided they were going to swim out to those islands at 11:00 on a Friday night.
Rebecca: Oh, dear!
Dennis: Some of them [islands] are quite a ways from shore—
Dennis: —and there’s a lot of current—
Dennis: —dangerous current.
Bob: Yes; right. So we celebrated when we found that out—the fact that our son was still alive.
Rebecca: Well, exactly.
Bob: And he knew, later, that that was a foolish choice to have made and that it was a very dangerous choice to have made. [Laughter] But when you learn about it years later, there is not a whole lot you can do, especially if they’ve demonstrated, now, the wisdom and maturity that they didn’t have back then.
Rebecca: Well, and that’s exactly the thing—it’s: “Where are they at?”—right? It’s not—what I’ve found is that it’s not necessarily the behavior that’s always the problem—it’s the heart behind the behavior. Like—I give the example that, you know, there can be a kid, who looks picture-perfect on the outside—who has their Sunday-best on every Sunday morning; shows up at church; and is, you know, volunteering throughout the week—but has a really, really prideful vindictive heart.
And you can have a kid, who’s got a really soft heart, who’s just really loving and comes home one night completely drunk from a party, who is just so ashamed of what they’ve done and cries [in front of] their parents—says: “I’m so sorry! I’ll never do this again.”
Which one’s the rebellious one; right?—that’s the question. I would argue that the kid, with the heart who is not following God, even if they look like they are, is the rebellious one.
Dennis: That’s far more dangerous.
Bob: You’re describing Luke, Chapter 15—
Bob: —the story of the prodigal son and the older brother.
Bob: The prodigal son, who was disobedient and immoral came to his senses / came home and repented. The older brother, who was the rule-keeper, was miffed because his self-righteousness wasn’t gaining him any brownie points. Moms and dads need to be as concerned about self-righteousness as they are about prodigal kids.
Rebecca: Well, exactly; because the reality is that God looks at the heart; right? It says again and again and again; so if your kid has a good heart—even if they make a mistake—that isn’t necessarily rebellion. I think that offers a lot of grace to parents as well; right? You don’t need to raise perfect kids; you don’t need to be a perfect parent. It’s about the heart.
Bob: So were you tempted to rebel at some point?
Rebecca: I actually talk about this in the book. I worked at a local recreational center. I had a bunch of friends there, and I was the only Christian of all the people who worked together. We were all within about two to three years of age. We were super close—
—well, like the best work environment you could ever ask for. But every single Friday night a different person of our staff would host a giant party at their house.
Rebecca: Every single week I would get invited, “Hey, Becca, coming to the party this week?” And I’d be, “Nope; sorry—not gonna.”
Bob: A lot of drinking going on at the party?
Rebecca: I knew there’d be drinking going on and probably some other stuff as well.
Rebecca: I just said, “No,” every single week. It may have been a little bit like I felt, “Man, I wish that my friends were doing things that I could be involved in.” But it wasn’t like I felt miffed that I couldn’t go to the party. My parents didn’t even tell me I couldn’t go to the party. I decided for myself that I couldn’t—like, obviously, if I had asked them, they would have been like, “Well, you can’t go somewhere where there’s drinking.” But we didn’t have that overt conversation in the same way. It was more because of the general discussions we’d had about the dangers of alcohol when you’re a teenager / the dangers of drugs—the dangers of being in situations where you might potentially be unsafe. I knew that this wasn’t a good choice. It wasn’t that I was tempted. I may have been a little bit sad that my friends were doing things that I couldn’t be involved in—but it wasn’t like I felt like I was missing out. It was more that I felt that they were missing out.
Bob: Was it appealing to you to go get drugs with your friends?
Rebecca: No. What I said in the book: “My parents had given me something so much better. They had given me somewhere so much better to fit in. I loved my family. I loved being in my family”; you know? My parents had created this family environment, where we were so open; we were so honest. They spent so much fun time with us—not just these really difficult conversations: not just the “Have you done your chores yet?” / not just the “Have you gotten your school work done yet?” We had, you know, our game nights; and we went out to see movies; and we had friends over—they gave me something better to belong to.
Dennis: Rebecca, I got to believe there’s a number of listeners, right now, who are going: “She’s 23? What happened to our son”—or our daughter—“who went through the same period of time, who were trained by parents, who had good intentions of passing on their faith and wanted to cultivate a heart of obedience?”
Yet, you appear to have gone through this same period of time and pretty much unscathed by the teenage years, which I think are some of the most tumultuous testing times that are allowed into our lives as human beings, growing up. What you described is found over in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, when Paul was speaking of himself—he said: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child”—go ahead and finish it, Rebecca. You’re mouthing the words out.
Rebecca: —“I talked like a child, I walked like a child, and I acted like a child”—is that it?
Dennis: —“I reasoned like a child.”
Rebecca: —“I reasoned like a child.”
Dennis: —“But when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” This is what parents are being challenged to do. The Art of Parenting, our new video series that we have—that trains parents to think biblically. You’re training your children to grow up and through childishness to, ultimately, embrace the responsibility of being a man [or] a woman and being comfortable in their skin.
I think Rebecca, Bob, gives us a great aspirational picture, here, of what parents ought to be shooting for. Maybe what they need to do to better understand what their teenagers are going through is pick up a copy of her book, Why I Didn’t Rebel—
Bob and Rebecca: Yes.
Dennis: —because some parents’ parenting style is aggravating rebellion in their children.
Bob: That’s one of the things that I think moms and dads need to recognize is—there are some things we can dothat can make it easier for our children to respond favorably to our leadership, and there are things we can do that push them in the other direction. We can’t control the outcome, but we can influence the direction they head in. Rebecca’s book is helpful in that regard. The book is called Why I Didn’t Rebel. We’ve got copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order a copy from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I was thinking about the video series that we produced recently, called the Art of Parenting, and about your new book, The Art of Parenting, where we’re trying to help moms and dads with biblical strategies for how we raise the next generation to prepare to release them to be pointed in the right direction. Again, there are no guarantees; because kids have a mind of their own and a will of their own, but we want to make sure that, as parents, we’ve done all that we can to point our kids in the right direction. That’s why FamilyLife has created these resources to help parents with the challenging assignment of raising the next generation.
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We hope you’ll join us back tomorrow when we’re going to continue our conversation with Rebecca Lindenbach about why she didn’t rebel against her parents. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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