Avoiding Rebellion – Even With Your Teens – A Huge Secret to Happy Kids


ARE you struggling with rebellion in any of your kids? I would like to humbly share with you a huge principle that God dropped in our hearts, when we began this parenting adventure 27 years ago.  I talk to parents everyday, and hardly ever have I ever talked with another parent with this same conviction/understanding toward their parenting.  And so that you do not think  I /we are totally crazy and have come up with something completely erroneous, I will tell you that our 7th child turned teenager last fall.  As he did,  I pondered the 6 teenagers we have had, and realized we have never dealt with “teenage rebellion”.  We fight and argue with them, just like every good marriage fights and argues. But we have always delighted in them and enjoyed them immensely, far more than we ever struggled with them. As I reflected on why…..I realized it is because we always treat them with dignity and respect and honor, from the moment they are born, as human beings who have a right to all that they think and feel. And we love them intensely.
 As I asked them all their thoughts on this matter, Sam responded with a quote his friend Joel told him that his dad says (Our pastor Roger). “Rules and Regulations, WITHOUT RELATIONSHIP, causes rebellion.” We have always cared far more about their hearts than their behaviors. So, in that process, they have learned how to “behave” beautifully and be a blessing to their worlds – from their own hearts. Make sense?

Unfortunately, most parents go about this backwards. If a child trespasses, in any area, the parents deals with the trespass.  But our higher concern, has always been what is going on in their hearts? What are they thinking and feeling?? The Lord Himself has taught David and I both to always run to Him in complete honesty with whatever we are thinking, rather than running away. He has always “validated” our hearts and thoughts and helped us then to grow from that point of honesty. So, that is what we do with our kids. We never attempt to “shame” them for anything they feel or struggle with. We acknowledge their humanness. We talk about the difference the Lord wants to make and that He can make in their situations, and understandings and inclinations. We all acknowledge together, our desperate need for Him. We are very comfortable with our humanness and theirs. We KNOW that we only rise above our humanness, to any point of strength, as we submit our weaknesses for Him to perfect His strength in.
Anytime, any of our kids are struggling in any area, this is what we want to get to the core of….what is going on in their hearts. For as the heart comes into alignment, so do our actions. It would behoove us all to remember how much God Himself talks about looking at the heart of every matter, and every person, far more than He is concerned with the superficial reflections thereof.

(Back in July of 09, I wrote a post called “I am Ashamed” that may also bring further insight on this subject.)

My son Daniel is an RA at Oral Roberts University. Recently, he had to deal with a couple of boys caught for repeated marijuana usage. I reminded him to attempt to find out what was going on in their hearts and lives that propagated the action, even more importantly than disciplining them for it immediately. He smiled and responded, “I know Mom, that is what I am doing.”

When your kids believe that you care about their actual struggles and feelings and thoughts, they are much more inclined to want to listen to your input and opinions. I want to share a story from my college days… A situation I had with my Daddy. There was a period of time that I dated a few of the black basketball players on our ORU team. (Never mattered to me what color anyone is.) My Dad was always trying to convince me that this was wrong, according to scripture. So one day, on the phone, while he was home in Houston and I was in Tulsa, we got in this huge wonderful debate. (Fight). I made him present to me every scripture he could to support his case, and basically refuted each one, based on context, etc.
At the end, he conceded and admitted that it may not be wrong scripturally, but that it was a huge struggle culturally. And that marriage was hard enough, when you came from all the same backgrounds in common and understood each other’s roots completely. Since my Dad felt so strongly about it, I realized then that The Lord probably had a white man in mind for me and I could avoid a lot of needless heartbreak by honoring my Daddy. So I did. And he was right, about my life.
But I will tell you, if any of my children chose anyone of a different race or color, it would not be an issue with me in the least.
I honored my Dad because He was willing to hear my heart and express his heart to me.

Kids need to know what we think and believe. That is why our kids were given to us (specifically). But it is not our duty or right to tell them how they must live. WE give them all that we can, and then trust the Spirit of God to move in their lives.  I will go so far as to say….if you forbid anything, it is almost interpreted to them as an invitation, as soon as they can get away with it.  Is that not what Father God dealt with in the garden with His very first kids?? Selah
I have just never seen forbidding work, as a successful parenting tool.
I hope I don’t step on too many toes here, or offend your senses, but I want to share something very honestly, to maybe spare you the pain of children who leave your home and then “freak out”, or go over the edge.

This is simply a great illustration of the whole principle I am talking about. Let’s talk about drinking alcohol.
IF you have alcoholism in your family blood line, it is probably not a wise thing to have it in your home for everyone to freely consume. Or if you are in a some position of leadership that you have chosen to never drink, because you don’t want to cause anyone to stumble, then that is all good. It is important for you to share all these thoughts and convictions with your children. But let them discuss things with you and ask you questions, without “threatening” your authority. And you should be honest enough with them to let them know they will not go to hell if they consume alcohol, or any other such behavior that you do not support.

American Christians seem to be more hung up on this than anyone worldwide. Jesus wasn’t. There is no valid “excuse” for his very first “Miracle”. WE all know what that miracle was.
 May I share with you some of my real history here? I was raised in a very Godly home. The Lord was the center and focus of all that we did and lived for. I began having a glass of wine with dinner, with my Dad, around the age of 16. Legal age at that time in TX was 18. He told me not to drink outside of the house. And when I was on ORU Honor Code I did not drink.
But I have maintained a glass, early in the evening, for 3-4 nights a week my entire life. To this day, and I am 50 years old, I have never been close to drunk or even tipsy. When our kids turn 18, we allow them to have wine with us. No one ever drinks more than a glass. And I have many Christian friends who share our belief system here, and our wine, and I have yet to ever see one person, family or friend anywhere close to tipsy here.
WE teach our children that you never need more than one drink of anything really, but water. One glass of wine, one glass of milk or juice, one soda, etc., and then water. All you want of it! And so my whole family is quite comfortable with moderation and does not feel any need to go beyond our home to try anything more.

Yes, we firmly believe you should share with your children all your beliefs and convictions. And then as they come of age, let them be their own people. God does. He accepts and adores everyone of us – where ever we are on our journeys.  Allow your children the precious gift of being able to talk to you about anything that matters to them, even encouraging them to “think out loud” and process with them. You will probably be fascinated with your children’s minds and souls and their abilities to think for themselves. Cultivate that! Do not stifle it.

I am sorry if any of this offends you, or rubs you wrong. I felt a huge need for honesty here, since most parents I know are struggling significantly – over these very points. I will tell you most genuinely….all 10 of my children have very authentic and thriving relationships with the Lord themselves. None of us come close to perfect, but Jesus is truly the focus and Lord of each one of our hearts and lives.


(A word from my son Caleb.) Hey there, this is Caleb – 17 year old son of David and Toni Fowler. My mom asked me to read this blog to give her feedback and correction, if she needed it. She also gave me permission to add a comment. I happily accepted!
So before I say my piece, I’d like to make a quick disclaimer here: I may not be quite as polite with my wording as my mother is, I strongly believe in everything my mom just said, and everything I’m about to say. That being said, if I offend you with this, then I apologize. However, I’m going to say it anyway because I believe that it needs to be said. So if I do offend any of you, and you happen to live in our area, well then by all means please confront me about it to let me know how many “toes I stepped on.” I will be more than willing to converse individually with anyone who wants.

Though everything my mom blogs on are things that her and my dad have taught all us kids our entire life, I always get something out of them. This particular subject however has a certain significance to me. Just in the last couple years of my life, I’ve really come to realize just how special my parents are. I couldn’t be more thankful for the way that they have raised me, and a large majority of it happens to be about this topic right here.

When you’re told not to do something, what does that make you want to do?  Parents have to realize that us kids, we’re people too. I want you to think about the last person that you met. Were they nice?  Respectable?  Did they give you a firm handshake or make eye contact?  Did they make you feel like you matter and are important?  Or perhaps they blew you off, failed to even ask your name, etc. How did that make you feel?  Did you feel dis-respected? Maybe you felt because they didn’t show you any respect, why should you show them any?
That right there, is the thought process that kids have, toward their parents. Though it may sound crazy, parents have to first teach respect by giving respect to their kids, and then trust me, it will be returned. In the days we live in now, kids around my age are beginning to search for who they are.  And for most parents, that is inconveniently the age that we get our drivers license. If you have a kid who’s about to get his/her license, and that worries you more than it should, then I think it’s time to check your parenting.  As parents, it’s your job to make sure that your kids are confident in who they are in Christ. That is far more significant than any rule you could ever give us.

It is because I have been given respect by my parents, and  because I know who I am in Christ, that  I’ve never had the need to go out and party or get drunk. Parents, you guys have to realize that to us, a drivers license is freedom. So when most kids hit the age of 16 and acquire their license, if we don’t know who we are, we’re going to go searching in places that we shouldn’t.
My parents have always shown us love, and acceptance, and respect.  It’s out of this love that we want to honor them, kind of like how our relationship with God should be.

Please, take it from me, a 17 year-old kid. If you truly respect your children, and will raise them this way, they will respect you in return.

PS. Caleb is going on missions this summer to Panama and Costa Rica. He is raising those funds now for his trip. He works 2 jobs along with being a full time student and is doing really well at all of it! If you would like to donate any money to help him you may make checks out to “One to the Other” Ministries”, with his name in the memo. Our mailing address is 8177 S. Harvard, # 711, Tulsa, Ok. 74137. Thank you!



  1. Amy Gleason Bird said,

    February 19, 2013 at 7:45 pm


  2. Yvonne van Eijk said,

    February 20, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Loved every word from both you and Caleb. And I have send it on to many a friend. Simple truth that is so easily overlooked all the time, therefore indeed Rebellion arises.

    This quote from Caleb, Right on!! Thanks for sharing that.
    “Parents, you guys have to realize that to us, a drivers license is freedom. So when most kids hit the age of 16 and acquire their license, if we don’t know who we are, we’re going to go searching in places that we shouldn’t. “

  3. Kim Carl said,

    February 20, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Thank you so much for that blog! What amazing wisdom and insight God has blessed you with. It was so encouraging to read Caleb’s comments too. And I’m going to post that one comment by Sam (I think it was him, I read that part last night before bed) about “rules and regulations without relationship equals rebellion.” Wow! Great advice. My son Jade is 13 now and it’s a scary time for me as he separates from me. Your blog wisdom really helps!! Thank you and my God rain down blessings upon your family!

    • themothersheart said,

      February 20, 2013 at 9:33 am

      Thank you KIm! I really appreciate that and receive those blessings and send them back to you and yours!! Love the time and embrace this season! We have always enjoyed our teens soo much!!!

  4. Kelli Portman said,

    February 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    THANK YOU for taking time to share your wisdom. I know that is is tried and true for the journey God has given you.I will pass this on to several friends. This was perfect timing for our family!

  5. Katie said,

    February 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    I really loved this post Toni. I so agree with you, about getting to the heart issue and not just dealing with behavioral issues. Oh but where I struggle is making that priority! My heart got totally pricked when you said that about running to Daddy God and being honest with Him instead of pushing Him away. That’s totally how I’ve lived my life (despite hearing I’m disrespecting Him sometimes). Because I know He is loving and would rather me run to Him, even in anger and disappointment. Oh and to think of all the times I’ve missed being that for my kids b/c of…stuff basically, just unimportant stuff, business, laundry, or “me time”. *sigh* so convicted me, even to tears. Sometimes the heart stuff takes time. The relationship takes time and cultivation. It does have to be a priority. Your kids’ hearts have to be priority. Why do I need to be reminded of that? Such a sad truth that many of us do. Thanks so much for the gentle reminder Toni!
    Love you, Katie

    • themothersheart said,

      February 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Thank you Katie. We all really need reminding of these heart issues – that our hearts KNOW and our busyness makes us forget. Everything we could be doing is worth arresting for our child’s “heart”. Bless you darling!

  6. Mollie said,

    February 20, 2013 at 11:26 pm


    Katie forwarded me your blog & let me tell you, it was the perfect word for me (my children are not teens) but in reading, there are so many areas as a mother I felt convicted in! Thank you for your honesty & for sharing your life experiences! My prayer as that I can truly hear my children’s hearts in times of acting out vs just getting frustrated & disciplining them because they “did something wrong.” Thank you!

    • themothersheart said,

      February 21, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Thank you dear Mollie – that was my greatest desire in writing this post. That makes my heart sing. Please keep reading and go backwards on the blog. I think it will give you alot. Love you!

  7. Kathy Carroll said,

    June 17, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Thank you so much for this… so well said. Can’t wait for you book to be out! Love you lots 🙂

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