Every parent fears the moment when your young adult child drops a bomb on you. They have made a life choice completely contrary to the standards you have set before them. On top of this blow, they seem to flaunt their decision before you at every opportunity. You feel hurt and betrayed, and maybe even a little foolish. How would Christ want you to respond?
For whatever reason, it seems common that our children test our reactions to situations. Will we lose our cool? Turn our backs on them? Will we ignore confrontation and choose our relationship with them even over the standards we have chosen as a family? Here are some thoughts on how to react when your child makes a poor choice.
Many times our kids either consciously or subconsciously push our buttons just to see how we will react. If they fear losing you, they may unconsciously try to push you away before you get the chance to leave them. Getting angry only justifies their behavior and feeds into their feelings that you don’t understand what they are going through. So keep calm and promise you will always love them. This isn’t to say that you are not allowed to have strong emotions over wrong decisions they may make. On the contrary, that straying sheep should touch your heartstrings enough to make you seek out the lost lamb and carry them home to a place of safety. Even though the frightened and confused sheep may try to bite or kick the rescuing hand, love compels the shepherd to press on. Further, the shepherd isn’t afraid to use the crook to draw a lost lamb back to the fold. Firm confrontation may very well be necessary, but it must be love that motivates every conversation and consequence, not anger. It is the love of God that draws all people to repent.
There may be times when we have to momentarily change our fellowship with our children. Although our relationship with our Heavenly Father is not altered by our sin, our fellowship can be. For instance, if an adult child is living completely recklessly and bringing total disorder to a family’s home, you may have to ask them to leave if they are not compliant to the law of the land (both literally and figuratively!). When this is done in love the child has the opportunity to observe not rejection, but rather your priorities and the reality of your relationship with Christ.
There are relationships we are to remain more loyal to than that of our children. The most important relationship is the one with our Heavenly Father. The world around us, especially our children, are watching our reactions to see if we really believe what we say that we believe. Standing by our beliefs even while those we love most challenge those beliefs speaks loudly of the reality of our commitment to our Heavenly Father. After all, how can we expect our children to obey or honor our advice against that of their peers if we change our standards in order to keep from confronting them? If we are unwilling to obey our Heavenly Father even at a cost, how can we expect them to overcome the pressures of society in their own lives? We are not to conform to this world (Romans 12:2). What better way to walk that out before our family than to face their opposition of biblical standards?
The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16). There is precious little influence that we can have over another person’s choices, but we can team up with God in prayer. Our God loves our child even more than we do. He can do beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Turn every anxiety for your child into a prayer for their relationship with their Heavenly Father (1 Peter 5:7). Pray God’s promises over your child and hold God accountable to fulfill them. Trust that God who began a good work in them will carry it on to completion! (Philippians 1:6).
The reality is that everyone is looking for something to live for that is worth dying for. If we cannot even risk relationships with our loved ones in order to remain faithful to God and his requirements, then we are not living what we say we believe. The Holy Spirit leads us as parents and gives us wisdom and peace when family storms hit. Remain faithful to him. You may be the only glimpse of Christ they see, so respond with his grace. In doing so, you will be serving your family to the highest degree.
Parenting is a job that is never "done." Get encouragement for every season of parenthood.