Where did I go wrong? Didn’t our values sink in at all? These are examples of questions parents may ask themselves, after their child breaks their heart. When children make bad choices some parents just can’t believe or accept it. When faced with this adversity, many parents don’t know what to do or what to say, so consequently they do nothing at all. These parents must learn how to parent with pain. It hurts to not force your will on your children, or to ask for forgiveness. An effort to secure a happy and healthy relationship with your children, a healthy relationship with God and yourself is needed first.
To Intervene or to Not Intervene
You must be willing to let your children make mistakes and gain his or her own experiences. Giving your relationship with your child over to God is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do as a parent. In The Parable of the Lost Son, (Luke 15:11-32) the man’s youngest son asked his father for his shares of the estate. His father gave it to him without hesitation, even though he may have known it would probably bring grief. One of the most difficult decisions parents have to make is deciding whether or not to intervene in their child’s life. As a parent, it’s natural to believe that as long as your children are living under your roof, they have to obey your rules. So we try to micro-manage and control them. But, you’re actually blocking them from getting the experiences that God wants them to have. It was an invaluable experience for this man’s youngest son to “live with the pigs” (running away from home or becoming a drug addict), then come to his senses by repenting and returning home. When your child returns home, have the same attitude that his father had when he said, “Welcome home son, I love you!”
No matter if your child loses their faith, become pregnant, or falls in love with a loser, know that it isn’t your fault. Many parents find it hard to get over certain things they’ve done in the past and take the blame for how those things affect their children (It doesn’t help when children constantly remind them of that past). Understand that your child will blame you for putting them through hard times, like barely having food in the house, divorce, your drug abuse, or working long hours. While these things definitely play a major role in a child’s development, also understand that once the child is grown, their responsible for their own life. Stop blaming yourself and ask God to forgive you. But just as importantly, forgive yourself. Learn from your mistakes and don’t take your child’s decision making personal.
Harmony at Home
As loving parents, some of us may have tendencies to give our children everything they want. But this doesn’t teach them responsibility. Deep down, children crave structure. While they love being spoiled at a young age, as they get older, they will resent not growing up in structured home. This “structure” begins with your relationship with God and your relationship with yourself. As long as you are focused on your child’s negative behaviors, your home will never be balanced and there will never be harmony. From my own experiences, I know that it takes a spiritual person to continually focus on the positive.
The Bible says in Philippians 4:8-9 “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Parents who detach with love understand that their peace of mind is very important and that they have done all they can, regardless of what their child thinks or says. It’s not saying they don’t love their child, it says they love their peace more.
Trying to discipline all of your children the same way can cause problems within your family, because not all children respond in the same way. Going back to The Parable of the Lost Son, the man’s oldest son felt cheated and was quietly resentful of his brother and self-righteous. He was angry at the return of his younger brother, and showed no love for either him or their father. Even though this must have broken his heart, his father patiently allowed his son to speak his concerns, complaints, and criticisms without minimizing his feelings. He allowed the expression of disappointment and anger. The willingness to let children make mistakes and the capacity to forgive them, are two important qualities all parents need possess. This comes from understanding that children need their own experiences, learning how to genuinely forgive yourself, and having a healthy relationship with God.