How a Rejection Mindset Grips Our Teenagers

Adolescence is a critical season in every person’s life; a time of life where roots of rejection can too often get the upper hand. Even the most well developed teens can be hit with traumas and dramas that infuse the lies of rejection. In working for ten years in youth ministry and in the past 15 years helping marriages and families, I have found the rejection mindset to be one of the top battles that teenagers face in their development.

In order to face these battlegrounds, we not only need love, but a patient strategy for breakthrough. 

Rejection and Peer Pressure

The pressure for teens to feel accepted is like none other. With the development of social interactions online, the influences of love, belonging and identity can become greatly intensified.

My generation did not have social media until way later in adult years, whereas, many children are entering adolescence with no reference of life without technology and online social connection. This has opened up a whole new arena for toxic interactions, unrealistic comparisons and more intense battles with self-esteem and identity.

My heart goes out to the upcoming generations. Even as I raise my own children, I am sobered to what they are facing and it is important we carry compassion and wisdom regarding these key seasons of development.

Questions that Arise

During the teen years, the deeper questions of the heart begin rising to the surface, even if they are not personal aware of them. The questions say:

  • Am I loved? Does anyone love me?
  • Do I belong?
  • Who am I?
  • What do I believe?
  • Is God real?
  • What’s my purpose? What’s the point of all this?
  • Do I believe what my parents believe?

Without a steady atmosphere of love, nurture and equipping, these questions will be answered by rejection more than truth. Some parents wait till teen years to start making major investments in their child’s life, when in reality, this needs to happen from both the father and mother from the beginning.

I have talked to many fathers who felt they would start being more engaged when their child was a little older, so they can do things with them and have more mature conversations. But the initial references for love, discipline and connection are formed in the earliest years. 

A teen heart starts to transition into what they believe, who they think they will be and they often challenge the belief grid they were initially given. The years of adolescence are meant to be formative years, where they can walk into adulthood with a more galvanized belief system and sense of identity to face the world as overcomers.

If those references were not developed in early years, nurturing the teen years can be very challenging, especially when we attempt to initiate rules and regulations with greater intensity, when relationship bonds have not been formed.

We live in a world where the financial pressures, daily busyness and pursuits of achievement often cloud over the simplicity of relationship connection. We can easily drift into thinking that kids don’t want it or are not paying attention. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Home Life and a Rejection Mindset

When a person reaches the teen years, toxic roots from the home and marriage can be at a more intensified level. Arguments, separations, strife and pressures influence the spiritual environment of a teen’s heart.

The quality of the marriage is what the child is receiving the most. One young man I know entered his teen years while his parents moved into more intensified arguments. The marriage displayed a lack of solidarity. They looked “fine” to the public, but behind the curtain was a world of quarreling and division.

In this contentious environment, he felt alone on how to process through the pain. He needed equipping on how to transition through his own development, but was left to “figure it out.” This led him to deep struggles with depression, eating issues and a propensity towards anxiety.

That is a major problem: we are too often left to “figure it out.” Children and teens that are left with little equipping will spend the rest of their lives wrestling with issues that keep them from living fruitfully.

That is why a priority of love is so critical, but there also needs to be a strategy on what each stage of life needs.

When parents don’t know what to do, sometimes it’s good to start with, “what would have helped me that I didn’t get?”

A Lack of Transitions

One of the most important factors in adolescent is the transition into  it. Most cultures have no tools for walking through the transition from childhood into adolescence and from adolescence into adulthood. It is in these stages we need  support, helpful conversations and empowering experiences.

Modern culture lacks the transitions that are needed in life. In my research of working with countless people over many years, I have observed key battlegrounds that become inflamed because of a lack of healthy transitions in their life. They navigated through adolescence, early adulthood, marriage and even parenting without any tools or equipping.

Too often, the only initiations modern culture offers are being old enough to drive, vote and drink. The only thing left is a possible initiation into a college fraternity. No wonder the teen and early adult years can be so treacherous. There is no system in place to transition into with what we need.

Generational Rejection

During this season, teens will start coming into contact with rejection mindsets that have been running in the family. Although what they say or manifest may seem odd at times. Listen carefully. For many of their battles are somewhat similar to what you battled as a teen, just a little more intensified.

The goal of rejection is to repeat the pain of the family line and initiate patterns of separation between parents and the teen. It is during the teen years that there often needs to be even more attention given to love and nurture. Yet many parents come under the lie that their child is not interested in their presence or love connection.

Looking to Invade

Rejection will seek to find any cracks of love in a teen’s heart, driving them to find significance and love in unhealthy ways. Survival tools that were utilized in the family tree now become options for living. Performance based living, addictions, isolation and rebellion can all seek for inroads.

Furthermore, if the father-mother relationship has not been properly established in the child’s life, they will become increasingly vulnerable to the pressure of their teenage friends. This is rejection’s playground.

The need for belonging is meant to first be planted in the home. Then friendships can become a healthy extension of relationships. But with a rejection mindset in play, separation from the family connection is the goal and connection to whoever will grant the most attention is favored.

It’s Not Just About Having a Loving Home

But please understand, a rejection mindset can still seek to form in a warm and loving home. If having a loving home was the only solution, than many families wouldn’t have the trouble are experiencing. 

What we forget is the spiritual war taking place over our homes, and rejection is on the front lines. It’s the enemy’s way of convincing a teen that they are unloved, even if there are clear signs that say otherwise. In the vulnerability of changing hormones, emotions and environments, the thoughts of a teen can change from day to day. In this predicament, rejection seeks to take advantage and infuse lies to create a wedge of separation between the teen and the parents.

Rejection’s Goal = Relationship Separation

If we are not discerning, we will become exhausted by irrational conversations and unpredictable emotional scuffles. It will wear a parent out and trigger their own personal areas of brokenness, insecurity and rejection. Too often, the reaction becomes relationship withdrawal.

“My kid doesn’t want to be around me or even care what I have to say.” This leads to no other option in the parent’s mind, but to leave their child to habits of isolation, which can include anything from videos games, endless social media interaction or online streaming.

This is the enemy’s goal, to create a sense of relationship separation, so that in the toughest of seasons, the connection and equipping of a teen needs are not present. Satan’s goal is to create a distance from the most important voices in a teens life–the parents.

Roots of Rebellion

A great example of how rejection fuels broken behaviors is in when rebellion manifests. Rebellion in the teens years results from broken heartedness regarding one or both parent relationships, whether there is factual evidence of this or not. Rejection doesn’t care if the open door is real or imagined, it works regardless.

In the emptiness and brokeness of love, rejection comes in to speak lies that convince the teen that (a) they are not loved (b) authority figures are not looking out for them and (3) you need to take life completely in your own hands and do life all on your own.

The rebellion pushes the teen away from the parent while thrusting them into a counterfeit replacement. Rejection is hard at work, because during this time the teenager’s fear of rejection and need for belonging is enormous. Longing for a sense of love and acceptance, teens will embrace a litany of belief systems and chase dangerous relationships, all for the sake of filling the void of love and acceptance.

History has shown us teens will do literally anything to find acceptance and an identity. Many teens will join gangs that have incredibly humiliating and dangerous initiations, to simply find a sense of family, distorted as it may be. Teens will attach to social groups of all kinds, all to feel a sense of belonging.

The Challenge of Ministering to Teens

One of the biggest challenges in ministering to youth is showing them how their broken heart is going to affect them down the road. They are young and carry a belief of invincibility, so it can take 15 years or more for the manifestations of their wounds and broken patterns to show up in full force.

Getting a Strategy

What we have to do is build within our children a strong sense of who they are so that they can be secure to walk and maneuver through this season effectively. Patience and abiding love is so critical, yet many teens are left on their own to figure things out, with no fathering, mothering or mentoring. No teen can victoriously walk through this time of their life on their own.   

Despite all of this, I am believing for a generation like those in Nehemiah’s day that will say, even at their young age, this stops here! I am praying for a generation that will learn from the mistakes of past generations and through repentance, tear down the works of rejection and build up a work of love, healthy acceptance and security.

The Biggest Lie

The biggest trap parents can fall into is believing that their love, presence and voice do not matter in the teen years. The lie can tell you that your child is annoyed by your love, when in reality, its what they need most. The manifestation of that love may need to become enhanced, based on this new stage of life, but a withdrawal of relationship and connection is what the enemy wants.

It appears the child is not listening and does not care. This is farthest from the truth. They just don’t always know how to communicate their appreciation. This is why teaching a child, teen and young adult to express their emotions effectively, without judgment is important.

The Strongest Force

The biggest key here is maintaining relationship. It needs to be the foundation. If rules are the foundation, the basis of connection will only be if the rules are being adhered to, followed by constant lectures, which only fuels rebellion.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying rules or discipline should not be in play. But if they are not grounded with love relationship, the child will see interactions only being built around rules, tasks and performance evaluation.

That is why having regular time to be together to just enjoy one another needs to be at the top of our families list again. Healthy connection, where the child knows he or she can be safe to talk out difficult issues fruitfully.

Don’t Believe the Lie

Rejection will build walls to keep relationship from flourishing. If parents give into the lies and back away, the child comes under the lies of rejection that says, “see they really don’t love you.”

I encourage parents, do not ever let the devil steal the power of your love and voice. You are the most important earthly voice in your teens life. No counselor, pastor, psychiatrist or specialist can replace the power of who you are to them. The cycle of rejection can be broken in your families life. You and your teen can break the cycles together.

That is when we issues with teens come to me, I focus the attention on building up the parent and helping them to experience personal transformation. When a parent becomes more healed and free, it flows down into their relationship with their child.

But the greatest place is when God can begin healing your own heart. Our parenting experiences point us more to where God is seeking to grow us up in greater degree. Will you let the Father heal your heart and enhance love connection with your teen?