Teen daughter rebelling against faith, praying, etc

I know all of us have heard about the rebelling teen that does not want to go to mass, does not want to pray, etc. It’s a now-classic stereotype. Unfortunately, it’s now a reality in my house!!!

My 15 year old daughter has been getting increasingly anti-religious, anti-Catholic to the point where last night, while we as a family were getting ready to pray a rosary, she walked out of the room! This was a first for her doing this. Normally, she frets, complains, whines, etc. but at least stays with us and does what she’s required to do (she is the oldest of four children). Now, she has blatantly disobeyed us and I feel that this type of behavior will be getting worse not to mention the bad example she is setting for the younger kids. If she gets away with this, I feel she will next try to get out of going to mass with us on Sundays. She has already stopped receiving communion in the past couple of months.

She has always been a child of extremes. With her, it’s all or nothing. Her way or the highway. I can honestly say that I am not shocked by this given her personality. However, I am extremely disappointed since she is making these drastic decisions about her lack of faith at a time when she’s only a teenager and can’t possibly see the ramifications of a life without God or her Catholic faith. I think it’s a trainwreck in progress, but there’s no convincing her right now. My greatest fear is that she will selfishly make these decisions about giving up any faith life and once that gets a hold on her, she will never come back.

My question for those who have similar situations as this, do you punish her? Do you make it a point that she’s being punished for her disobedience and not because of her lack of faith?

She has had a very faithfilled life. We homeschool, we never miss mass. We watch EWTN and we pray a family rosary 3 times a week. What do we do?

Don’t push her. I think its natural. I almost did the same thing, really.

When I do go home from varsity (very occasionally) my dad and his new family pray the rosary. I still don’t get involved. It just ruins the experience for me. Encourage her to pray alone if she doesn’t wanna do it together. I dunno :shrug: teenagers are weird.


Some points:

You say, “she has had a very faithfilled life. We homeschool, we never miss mass. We watch EWTN and we pray a family rosary 3 times a week.”

–and where in there is there time or opportunity to be a 15-year-old? With all due respect, I am trying to be as respectful as possible, but this sounds like less a home and more like a convent. Coming down on her for not wanting to say a Rosary sounds a tad harsh IMHO.

–In that respect, does your daughter have any opportunity to interact with other 15 year olds, outside of Mass or a Catholic youth group? Can she play basketball? Be a cheerleader? Do anything that other 15 year olds do? Regardless of opportunity, does she actually do these things? I’m sorry, the way you make it sound, her entire life is a) very structured, and b) structured around Church & Catholicism – which can sound like, “walling someone off from the world.” I’m not saying she should be dating or whatever, but she’s probably figured out that there is a world beyond EWTN and she’s curious about it. What I am saying is that by your description, I can understand her rebellion – it may not be rebellion against God that is occurring, what may be occurring is rebellion against parental control, real or perceived, which probably all teenagers feel to some degree.

As to whether to punish, there is a difference between punishing disruptive behavior (which is fine) and punishing feelings (which is harsh). The disruptive behavior is bad…but it may be symptomatic of feeling like she is not heard, or her life is micromanaged, or having Catholicism forced on her. Can you compel her to attend Mass? Probably. IMHO there is a better way than compulsion, namely, a reasoned approach to why it is necessary.

Moreover, what is punishment going to accomplish? It might get her to behave in the short run, but in the long run punishing your daughter will accomplish…what? IMHO, what punishment will NOT do, and can NEVER do, is “lead someone to Christ.” Only LOVE can do that.

Hey, it’s your house, & I’m not going to interject my $0.02 beyond answering, but on that subject have you tried having a reasoned conversation with her about why she is behaving the way she is? 15 year olds aren’t 35, but they’re not toddlers either.


Remember not to force her to pray-that might backfire, and she could say, “My parents shoved this down my throat when I was growing up-Now, I want a break”.

That is directly what happend to me as a child. My parents didn’t homeschool me or pray the rosary as a family, but they sent me to catholic school, missing mass was never an option, and I needed to have my own time to say-“Look, it’s insulting to other Catholics if I call myself one, but don’t beleive any of this. It’s not fair to me, my family, or, in the long run, God” I had to find my way back the Church, and I did through free will-I made it back to the Church because it’s the epitome of The Truth.

I’ve known many families who I grew up with, forced religion down their kids throat and the kids rebelled, got preganant, got into trouble, etc. No, I’m not saying that it happend to every family, but I saw it happen many times in Catholic high school, catholic jr high, and my parish. Maybe it’s the New Hampshire water.

Being 15 is so hard, in so many ways. She may simply need a break. Let her pause and take a minute. It could simply be a phase of rebellion.

You may also want to point out that it is not a question of no Faith or your Faith. She may also feel she has no individuality in her Faith. Maybe you should sit down and talk to her about the possibility of meeting you half way - like attending teen mass on her own or with friends instead of whichever mass you go to and praying on her own. Tell her that as long as she is in your house these things are obligatory but how she does them is not as long as she does them. Sometimes teens don’t mind religion they just want to be able to do it without feeling like their parents are leering. One gentleman I was tlaking to was planning an outdoor retreat - he asked the teens what they wanted to do most in their free time- he figured it would be kayaking, etc that was avialable. The majority of them said they wanted Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament out there where they wouldn’t be told “how to pray” by their parents.

Let’s see, one daughter didn’t go to mass for six months. She’s now the one, in high school, that stands up for the Catholic faith amongst her friends. She has made her decision to practice the faith.

My son is still wishy-washy. He’s in college, sorting through it all.

There comes a time, I think, when everyone makes a conscious decision to continue their childhood faith into adulthood. It could be at 15, 20, 25, whatever. It’s not a poor reflection on parents or spouse when someone is at that place. They just are.

But, when it comes to teenagers, sometimes they just stick the knife in the place they know will hurt the most:shrug:

I would try talking to her to see why she isn’t taking Communion, wanting to participate in the family rosary, etc. Maybe there’s an underlying reason beyond just teenage years. Perhaps she read something that gave her pause and a misunderstanding of scripture is causing her faith crisis. Or that she’s wanting to stretch her wings by going to Catholic school. It could be that she’s wanting to participate in an activity that she thinks you’ll say no to and she doesn’t know how to express her desire. By sitting down and asking her why she’s rejecting these things maybe you can find a root cause that you both can work through.

I would agree with previous posters that forcing her to activity participate might backfire later on. One compromise could be that she doesn’t have to say the rosary, but she has to be in the same room as everyone else while it’s being prayed.

Good luck!


I’m a kid so you can ignore me :smiley:

I agree with the other posters here. but I think VonDerTann might have it right saying this.

I can understand her rebellion – it may not be rebellion against God that is occurring, what may be occurring is rebellion against parental control, real or perceived, which probably all teenagers feel to some degree.

AND NewsTheMan When saying this;

teenagers are weird.

We look at it as our duty to be weird and we take great pride in our weirdness - after all isn’t it that weirdness of past generations that gave us rock-n-roll:)

As to this statement you made:

not to mention the bad example she is setting for the younger kids.

Actually, I think it will be your example in this situation, instead of hers, that will have the most weight on them. You might try having the younger children pray for your daughter - without dissin’ her. They might learn more from how you pray.

You will have many opportunities to evangelize…like when she expresses an interest in something - saying something like “have you prayed about it”? When she says “yes” and says “But it didn’t get me anywhere” - answer with " Maybe, you should have gone to confession first"…

If she answers “No” to the “have you prayed about it”- Answer with “Why not”?

Don’t preach - keep it simple questions…like I typed…because we will be asking ourselves 'why not"?

I hope this helps:)

Hi Charybdis - When we are teenagers it is so easy to get caught up in our immediate circumstances. Friends, media, and the need to find ourselves etc. You are right, when we are teenagers and all our physical needs are being met by parents it is impossible to understand WHY we need God.

I imagine it is hard for a parent to realize that a child’s choices are their own…that a child CAN put their soul in jeopardy and that no matter how much we pray as a family, salvation is not a family event - it is a personal thing for all of us. This little thing that was once an appendage of yourself is now nearly a woman with all the temptation of hell at her doorstep.

I am sure most of us on here have had our time in life when we turned our back on God either in an extreme way or just a passive way when we stop believing in Him as though he were Santa Claus or some other childhood fantasy. Sometimes it isn’t until we have dug ourselves into such a despair without Him that we realize how much we need Him. You can’t navigate her path to God for her.
Rebellion is a part of being a teenager. In many ways it is healthy. The fight we have in us as teens against God and authority can often turn into the fight we have in us to defend God and the Church with all our might someday! I was a feisty, rebellious teenager and I know that God allowed me to gather all that up so that one day he could use me to be a defender of His Church.

My advice is not to turn this into a battle. Allow her to voice her opinions and turn it into a learning experience about the Church. Of course, pray pray pray for her! And try not to be a hypocrite in the way you live your faith, always with charity and kindness (I am not accusing you, I am just thinking back to when I was a teen, always trying to sniff out the pious hypocrites so I could reject the things I didn’t want to hear). I think it was JPII who said the youth are so important to the Church because they have such a profound, innate sense of justice. The hypocrite radar goes off pretty fast with teenagers. They are really searching for the truth. Be genuine and joyful in your faith, she is paying attention. It might not sink in or inspire her until years from now, but she is paying attention.

I think if you try to force her, it will make it even more likely for her to reject it altogether.

Think of ways to make the faith enjoyable for her, to increase the likelihood of her naturally choosing it.

Do they have a teen mass at you parish?
Would she join the CYO where she could share her faith with people her own age?
Peers are so important at her age.

Up until now, she’s had YOUR faith - the faith you’ve taught her, prayed with her, etc.

She is now a teen on her way to becoming an adult. She must discover her OWN faith life - not just “do” yours.

For some, this happens in high school, some in college, etc.

It’s normal.

She must now discover what SHE believes, embrace it, and (hopefully) return to it. No amount of shoving, punishing, or forcing will do this.

Do you want her to believe because this is what you’ve always taught her, or do you want her to believe because SHE realizes this is the truth? Which faith will be stronger?

One of the hardest things about being parents is letting go of our dreams. Perhaps the OP had dreams of the perfect Catholic family–a family of loving, polite, respectful children who grow up to be saintly teenagers who love praying the Rosary, love Mass, and have a deep faith like that of the saints of old, many who were teenagers themselves.

Unfortunately–or maybe fortunately–real life has a way of waking us up from our dreams!

It’s really, really hard for parents to accept that their dream is just that–a dream. I remember the day when I realized that my daughter would never be an Olympic figure skater. She was about six–gosh, that was hard for me to accept that she would just be a regular figure skater, not the next Kristi Yamaguchi! Sigh.

Your daughter is a real girl, not St. Catherine of Siena, who was also a real girl with a different calling. And that’s good! God makes all girls and loves them and has plans for each girl!

Drop the dream girl, and accept the real girl. That’s the best thing you can do for your daugher. She’ll know that you’ve accepted her, and she’ll be glad.

I agree with the other posters so far. Don’t make a big issue out of this. She’s going through the natural process of breaking away from her parents and becoming an adult. This is a hard time for her, even though you might feel like she’s enjoying every minute of testing you.

She’s sad in her heart, and her emotions are all over the place because she senses the end of childhood, and that’s a good thing and a bad thing. No more playing with dolls–the next children she has will be real. No more wrestling with Daddy on the floor because she has boobs now and that feels weird to her. Boyfriends–exciting, but scary–what if they’re jerks?

And she has sexual feelings now, but so many Church teachings seem to imply that sex is sinful and she doesn’t know what the balance is yet, so she lashes out in her frustration.

And Grandma and Grandpa are getting old and feeble and she can’t stay overnight with them anymore because Grandma doesn’t always remember names, and that’s sad and she realizes that death is real and that’s sad.

And she’s aware that money does not grow on trees and she wants more of it, but isn’t quite old enough to get a job yet. And there’s the future–college? Military? Marriage? A vocation??? Stay home and live in the basement and let Mom and Dad continue to take care of her?!


It’s really, really hard to grow up! Give the girl some slack. Back off and let her work through it.

I wouldn’t even have a big talk about religion with her. There’s no need. There’s no deep reason–the reason she is feeling the way she’s feeling about religion and everything else is because of hormones and the natural process of growing up, and she doesn’t know how to explain all that to you. She’ll feel cornered and there’s a good chance that you’ll end up preaching at her and possibly getting angry at her and the whole thing will turn into a huge loud fight and she’ll cry and you’ll cry and things will be even worse afterward.

Don’t do that to her.

I would simply tell her in a non-emotional way (which will be hard for you) that you respect her individuality, that you will pray for her to find her own way to God, and then ask her for a compromise–tell her that you will allow her to pursue her own path to faith, including opting out of the family Rosary and praying private prayers if she wishes, but you would appreciate it if, for the sake of her SIBLINGS, she would continue to attend Mass and participate in family rituals such as holiday traditions, birthday dinners (or whatever), etc. at least until she is old enough to live on her own. This is a gamble, but keep in mind that she is experiencing a lot of inner turmoil and sadness about growing up, too, and she isn’t vindictively desiring the downfall of her little brothers or sisters. I’m guessing that she’ll agree to the compromise for their sakes.

And also make sure that she realizes that you love her and you’re always available to talk to her. It’s just possible that she may have experienced some form of abuse from someone at the Church, and perhaps that’s why she doesn’t want to attend Mass. I certainly hope that’s not the case. Make sure she knows that you will listen to her and help her if she comes to you, just in case something awful like that happened.

And then after you have loosened her bonds a little and given her more freedom and allowed her to grow up like a real girl, pray your butt off for the next couple of years!! She’ll turn out fine, and probably have a family and raise the kids just like she was raised.

One more thing–if you choose to ignore the good advice that so many of the posters are giving you, and you choose to make an issue out of this and to punish your daughter and force her to pray and go to Mass and all the rest, you will regret it and cry many tears over your mistake. Yes, she’ll submit and do as you say–she has no choice because at this point, she has no money to leave you. But she’ll look for an opportunity to escape, probably with a boy, and she will get away from you and your oppressive ways (as she sees them) at the first opportunity. She’ll reject God and you, and you will suffer years of separation from her as she rebels big-time when she’s older because she wasn’t allowed to experience the normal rebellion that all teenagers go through. A lot of parents here can testify about their mistakes along these lines, and it’s heartbreaking.

I am going through this with my 16 year old daughter. She doesn’t want to pray the daily rosary with us or wear her scapular anymore. So we made a deal with her, that she can just pray bedtime prayers every night with us, and the rosary on Sundays. I myself stopped going to church at her age. But she agrees to still go to Mass on Sundays.

Try to take her to the Latin Mass. I am a teenager, and I never took the Faith seriously until I started going to the Latin Mass regularly. Its just a phase I think. I used to despise the Rosary and Mass. Now I pray the Rosary daily and attend Holy Mass whenever possible.

This prayer has worked for me before:

O glorious patriarch St. Joseph, who merited to be called "just’ by the Holy Ghost, I urgently recommend the soul of (Name), which Jesus redeemed at the price of His Precious Blood.

Thou knowest how deplorable is the state and how unhappy the life of those who have
banished this loving Savior from their hearts, and how greatly they are exposed to the danger of losing Him eternally. Permit not, I beseech thee, that a soul so dear to me should continue any longer in its evil ways; preserve it from the danger that threatens it; touch the heart of the prodigal child and conduct him back to the bosom of the fondest of fathers. Abandon him not, I implore thee, till thou hast opened to him the gates of the Heavenly city, where he will praise and bless thee throughout eternity for the happiness which he will owe to thy powerful intercession. Amen.

Do you know who she is hanging around with? Who her influences are outside of family?

Everyone else seems to tell you to give her some fresh air and for you to “give the girl some slack”, to some certain extent, yes, but you shouldn’t stop being aware of your daughter’s wanderings. You are responsible for her soul. Further, you are right to think of your younger children who are witnessing this bad example.

Perhaps, because we are so used to our schedules, she may feel like these prayers that we do are just “routines” and she may not understand why we are doing them, why we pray the Rosary, or why we go to Mass. She may be thinking, “well, what’s the point?” It is most important that we always keep up to date with our children.

I suggest that you and your daughter do some girl bonding time together. Take her out to eat, just her and you. Get to know her, her feelings and her experiences/struggles. You may have to do this a couple of times. I expect the first time you invite her, she’ll probably find it weird and think you have something up your sleeve. But don’t hide anything, just tell her that she is your daughter and you love her and care for her. Further, you want her to know that you are always there for her. Do everything with love. Be very gentle with her, but at the same time firm. Let her know she’s a got friend in you and you don’t have to do this with words, but through actions. Be a witness as well with your faith. Speak to her about Jesus and share with her your relationship with Him. Share with her how beautiful is Our God. Have dad involved too.

This experience may also help you with your younger children when they grow older. I would also speak to your priest and ask for guidance and counsel.

I pray for you; God bless.

CAF also puts out a great Apologetics series. Number 4 in the volume is against atheism and new age. You may want to get her that. I have used it with 12/13 year olds when they have made some points to counter them and let them read on their own. It will show that you are respecting her thoughts and opinions (well at least her ability to form them) and trying to educate her without changing who she is. It will also give you both talking points so you will be better able to discern where the issues in her belief lies. I would also recommend for five for all the follow up questions and problems she will have with the Church after that.

Our strategy for years has been to simply leave books and stuff hanging around the living room. Amy Welborn’s books are easy to read and fairly small. Just leave them out. They come and go as the kids hide them in their rooms (don’t want to get caught reading religious stuff!).

Keep it low key and they will not push away so much.

Thank you all for your very insightful and thoughtful answers!! I will definitely discuss all you all have shared with my wife and approach our daughter with love and tenderness and after that, pray, pray, pray!!!

God Bless you all!

I’m so terribly sorry Charybdis, I don’t know why I assumed you were the mother. Hence my reply a couple posts above this. Scratch the “girl bonding time” to father-daughter bonding time, etc. God bless!

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