One of the scariest thoughts is your teen rebelling against you and everything you stand for. What if my son hates what I love? What if my daughter rejects all we're trying to do?? You see it in other families and start dreading: is this going to happen to me too? Is this inevitable? Isn't there some work-around to hack the system and avoid this??
We don't realize it, but a good chunk of who we are today might actually be a result of our own teen rebellion. But here are some thoughts surrounding the subject...
People by nature love themselves. Allah created us this way. Nothing is better for the self than to be unique and special. You can't be unique and special by being a Ctrl+C of your parents. If a kid has any sense of worth, they *must* carve out their own path in life. It's natural. The easiest course of action is to just be the polar opposite of what your parents are. It's a simplistic route that one would expect from a young person who doesn't have much life experience yet. Most likely, however, they'll come to realize that going polar opposite isn't original, and will grow out of it.
There's a saying, "nature abhors a vaccum." We would also add, Allah decreed balance on all things. Teen rebellion has the function of balancing out a family, which actually helps that family relate better to the world around them.
-Your Achievements Are Their Default Settings
Humans naturally seek expansion and discovery. We discovered things and struggled to make them part of our lives and families. But what was new and amazing to us is the default setting of our kids. Nobody gets excited about default settings. So we shouldn't expect them to love what we love with same vigor.
-A Tragic Story from the Founder of Nike
When a Muslim kid rebels, we think: it must be our our masajid, our culture, our imams... It's none of that. Teen rebellion is about imbalance. If all your family did was have fun, make money, and hang out with celebrities, your kid might still rebel. Nike founder Phil Knight spent his whole life building up Nike. How awesome would it have been to be part of that? Your dad signed Michael Jordan and created one of the greatests brands of all time. However, a lot of Knight's energy is now spent mourning a tragic father-son relationship, which he wrote about in his auto-biography.
“At his games, my son Matthew was constantly sparking fights. I realised he didn't want to be there. He didn’t like soccer. For that matter, he didn’t care for sports at all. He was playing out of some sense of obligation,” Knight wrote. Matthew’s attitude towards athletic competition rubbed off on his brother Travis, who also stopped playing sport, much to his father’s disappointment.
“On New Year’s Eve, 1977, I went around my house, putting out the lights, and I felt a kind of fissure deep within the bedrock of my existence,” Knight wrote. “My life was about sports, my business was about sports, my bond with my father was about sports, and neither of my two sons wanted anything to do with sports ... it all seemed so unjust.” Matthew announced that he would never put on a pair of Nike's or ever don a shirt with a Swoosh. To me, this goes to show that kids don't rebel against content, but rather against extremes and imbalance. It's actually a wonderful mechanism of the fitra.
-Not Everyone Rebels
I think that some parents are so mild and middle of the road, that their kids don't have anything to rebel against. The down side: life in that household must be extremely boring, so they'd probably flee. (I have also heard that the new generation does not rebel because they are too lazy. A positive unintended consequence of video games?)
-Siblings of Rebels
I tend to find that when one kid rebels, the second kid feels bad for the parent and purposely follows in their mom or dad's footsteps to soften the blow. This supports the idea that it's about balancing things out. People crave balance naturally and instinctively without thinking.
-Push & Pull
The Prophet ﷺ gave a parable: "When your animal runs away, you
chase it, so it goes further. When mine runs away, I shake its bag of oats until it comes back, then I grab its stirrup." Lesson: if rebellion happens, the more your push, the harder the reboudn. The more you pull, the more the opposite side pulls.
-Hacking the System
Usually, thinking about a problem is a sign that Allah wants us to avoid it. Some ways to pre-empt teen rebellion include:
-Not being too staunch about anything (even if you are, appear not to be)
-Balance and diversity in family activities
-Sharing stories about other rebel kids
-Encouraging them to bring something new to the family
-Learning about temperments, personality types, birth order, & sibling chemistry/rivalry
-Laughter, because it's hard to be angry with someone who makes you laugh
The best time for a mu'min is at the end of life, when you reap the fruit of your efforts. I have seen many rebellious sons mature and patch things up with their dad. It's wonderful to see. The dad is now a grandpa and gets to watch in amusement as that teen who drove him crazy is now 40 and is being driven crazy himself by his own kids. I have even seen some grandparents playfully team up with thier grandkids for some payback. The elders have lived through it, so they know it's just a passing phase. Al-hamdulillah we have elders to reassure us that things will work out fine, just some bumps in the road.
Parenting is one of the hardest things these days, but it's a challenge well worth it. What else would we be doing with our time? And what would we have to look forward to when we get old? May Allah help all the moms and dads out there striving and struggling.