6 Causes of Rebellion

Are you tolerating rebellion because you think it’s normal?

Rebellion is not ok.  It is not “normal”.  In fact, the Bible reveals how serious a sin it is – Deuteronomy 21:18-21 tells how a parent should deal with a son who is rebellious.  The consequence of continued rebellion was death by stoning.

Why is it so serious?  Because rebellion to human authority leads to rebellion toward God.  And rebellion has a way of spreading.

Sometimes rebellion rises without motivation – as in the case of Satan in heaven and Adam and Eve in the Garden – but most times rebellion in children can be traced back to some cause.

As a parent you should do all you can to prevent rebellion in the hearts of your children.

Here are 6 causes of rebellion for you to consider:

  1. Hypocrisy.  One of the main reasons young people leave the religion of their parents is they see that it does not work for them (the parents).   Their religion doesn’t make them kind to each other. They still fight and argue. They do crooked business deals, and live out of harmony with what they profess – Christianity. Be what you want your children to be.  Practice what you preach.

“If parents desire their children to be right and do right, they must be right themselves in theory and in practice.[i]

“It is because so many parents and teachers profess to believe the Word of God while their lives deny its power, that the teaching of Scripture has no greater effect upon the youth.[ii]

Demonstrate in your home that you are Christians. Children are not fooled by pretense.  They need to see the real thing, at home.

  1. Beholding. What books are your children reading? What are they watching on TV? What video games are they playing?  What music are they listening to?  Rock music, by nature, is rebellious and will cultivate this in your child.

By beholding, your children will be changed. For good or bad.  To teach right principles for 15 minutes a day and then counteract that teaching with 2 hours of kids TV that encourages disrespect for authority, parents, and life itself, is not going to produce children with good character.

 A family member once told me that I should expose my children to both bad and good so that later in life they would be able to make an “educated” decision about what is right and wrong. At the time I didn’t have an answer.  I knew what I thought but didn’t have backup.  Later I found the backup:

“The young should not be suffered to learn good and evil indiscriminately, with the idea that at some future time the good will predominate and the evil lose its influence. The evil will increase faster than the good. It is possible that after many years the evil they have learned may be eradicated; but who will venture this? Time is short. It is easier and much safer to sow clean, good seed in the hearts of your children than to pluck up the weeds afterward. Impressions made upon the minds of the young are hard to efface. How important, then, that these impressions be of the right sort, that the elastic faculties of youth be bent in the right direction.” [iii]

  1. Association. Guard your children’s associations. The people your children spend the most time with will have the greatest impact on their characters. Any good teaching you do will be nullified by the habits of those they associate with if your children spend more time with them than with you.  That’s just the way it is.

Keep your children within earshot when they are with friends. Have children over to your house so that you can stay in touch with their play and association.

“Young children, if left to themselves, learn the bad more readily than the good.  Bad habits agree best with the natural heart, and things which they see and hear in infancy and childhood are deeply imprinted upon their minds.”  [iv]


Choose your children’s friends carefully.  Make sure you know the characters of the children your child is associating with.  This includes those they go to school with.

“The dangers of the young are greatly increased as they are thrown into the society of a large number of their own age, of varied character and habits of life.”  [v]

  1. Bad management. This comes in two forms – neglect or too much management.  When you neglect to give consequences, never follow through on commands, fail to train your child in right habits, allow your child to have his own way, or give him whatever he cries for, you create a lack of respect for authority = rebellion.

 A lack of firmness and decision will lead children to have a constant hope that if they coax, cry, or pout long enough they will get what they want.  This keeps them in a constant state of desire, hope, and uncertainty, making them restless, irritable, and rebellious.

The flip side is over-managing your children – to constantly be correcting, dominating, giving harsh consequences for childish mistakes, being legalistic in your approach to home rules, denying reasonable privileges – this also creates rebellion.  I’ve seen it in the eyes of teenagers that come from these kind of homes.

Harsh words provoke resistance.  Continual censure bewilders but doesn’t reform.  If you show a rough, severe, masterly spirit, your children will become obstinate and stubborn.  Ordering in a scolding tone will make your children do what you ask, not from love, but because they dare not do otherwise, eventually leading to rebellion.

Find the balance between justice and mercy. Blend authority with affection.  Win the hearts of your children while maintaining your expectations.

  1. Idleness.  You know the saying, “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop.”  Well, it’s true.  Idleness creates rebellion because a child has time to listen to the suggestions of the devil.  Keep your children occupied with useful things. You should allow some free time each day, but to have hours of unplanned free time is like leaving a garden unplanted – the weeds make their home there very quickly. Preoccupy your children’s hearts with good things so that there is no room for the bad.


Have your children do chores or schoolwork before giving them free time.  They will appreciate the free time way more this way. They will fight less and be less selfish in their play.

“Innocent pleasure is never half so satisfying as when it follows active industry.”  [vi]

Devise ways and means of keeping your children usefully busy. This is one of the surest safeguards for children.

  1. Lack of joy in the home. If the emotional climate of your home is unhappy you are creating a breeding ground for rebellion.  If you are constantly criticizing your spouse or children, always complaining, finding fault with everything, you make your home an unpleasant place.  The home should be a place your children love to be and parents create the atmosphere.

Start practicing joy and cheerfulness.  Choose to see the positive in your family members.  Commend your children for work well done or for effort put in.  Thank your spouse for what he/she does for you.  Make a list of things you are thankful for and review them daily.  Create new habits of positive thinking.  Smile.  Even if you don’t feel like it.

Take note of how you begin and end your days.  Do you say good morning to your children with a smile and a hug?  Or do you frown and grumble at them?  This sets the tone for the day.  Do you put them to bed with a song and a prayer, smiles and hugs?  The way they go to sleep will affect the way they wake up and you have the power to make that a positive experience.

Your home doesn’t have to be a breeding ground for rebellion.  There is a lot you can do to prevent it.

“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” ~Frederick Douglass~

[i] Child Guidance, 217, Ellen G White

[ii] Ibid 218

[iii] Adventist Home, 201, Ellen G White

[iv] Child Guidance, 202, Ellen G White

[v] Adventist Home, 468, Ellen G White

[vi] Child Guidance, 127, Ellen G White

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.


  1. Sherri | 28th Sep 17

    Good thoughts, thanks Jenny.

  2. Johanna | 4th Oct 17

    Hulle moet hierdie verpligtend maak vir alle voornemende paartjies wat wil trou. Kan net goeie resultate tot gevolg hê.
    Baie dankie Jenny.

    • Jenny Lovemore | 5th Oct 17

      Ja, dit sou gehelp het as ek ‘n paar van die dinge geweet het voor die tyd!

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