Wayne S. Walker

     Question:  “If a thirteen-year old daughter is becoming very
stubborn and self-willed, has begun to talk back to her parents, and
seems to want her own way, what can be done, and is she too old to be

     The basic function of parents with regards to their children, as
stated in Proverbs 22.6, is to “Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  However, the Bible does
not promise that it will be easy, and it seldom is!  The difficulty with
the daughter described in the question is som common that every parent
who now has or has ever had children between the ages of twelve and
twenty-one can easily identify with it.  Indeed, if a daughter begins to
express such stubbornness and rebellion only by age thirteen, these
parents are fortunate, since this attitude can often begin much earlier
than that.  In fact, a thirteen year old does not just wake up one
morning and decide to rebel.  Problems such as this often, although not
always, have roots that go back beyond that.

      While teenage rebellion itself is not natural, or should not be if
the proper training is given when the child is younger, testing parents
as a means of learning independence is a natural part of growing up.
Part of the parents’ responsibility is to harness this as a means for
good by both rewards and punishments rather than letting it get out of
hand.  Children are not born with wisdom and make a lot of mistakes along
the way, so they need parents to help them learn better.  Proverbs 22.15
says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of
correction will drive it far from him.”  Many parents are purely
reactive.  Instead of seeking to gain their children’s hearts and control
their behavior before it becomes a problem, they wait until they are
forced into a corner and have to take action after the rules are broken.
To start from the very beginning will make it much easier later on.

     A thirteen-year old is probably too old to spank, although there may
be exceptions when immature behavior deserves discipline fit for a child.
 Proverbs 13.23 says, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who
loves him disciplines him promptly.”    However, corporal punishment
should normally be a last resort, especially for a young teenager.  Also,
the rod does not always have to be literally spanking but can refer to
punishment in general.  And there are other ways to disciopline.  In
fact, more creative punishments can often produce results that are better
and longer lasting, such as the loss of telephone, television, visiting,
or weekend privileges.

      What is important is to make sure that all the rules and
punishments are clearly understood, that both parents agree to them, and
that they are adhered to strictly.  There will always be some problems
along the way, but this will make them much easier to deal with.  “And
you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in
the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6.4).  “Fathers, do
not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians
3.21).  When parents are firm but fair, loving but consistent, they will
usually find ways to solve any problems with “spiritual growing pains”
that they face.  And they will probably find that prayer will help too!
(From “Search for Truth,” Aug., 1997.)


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