As a parent we love our children so deeply – they are the thing we protect the most, treasure the most. And in doing so, we want the best for them. So much so that when our child makes a bad choice, our heart hurts. I’m not talking about the teen who leaves home, or who makes a huge mistake with their life that is so contrary to all that you’ve taught. I’ve not walked that path and though I know those kinds of decisions break our heart – there are lots of choices our kids make along the way that we will struggle with. Big choices, little choices – either way we have to learn to respond well.
We can’t fix them
The first thing we want to do is fix them! We want the shake them at times and make them see how wrong they are and how simple it would be if they would just follow the truth! We may walk down this path – but it is a fruitless path. A heart that is set in their sin is not going to see the truth; they may not even want to see the truth. They will certainly switch off from our tirade.
Punishment doesn’t work
The second thing we want to do is punish them. We may feel embarrassed, frustrated, desperate, discouraged and we reach for our last resort – punish them. This doesn’t work either. They may or may not endure the punishment but all we’ve done is hurt the outside of them – and I don’t mean a spanking here – we may ground them, or take away something we think they treasure but it is all external.
We must deal with the heart
The problem is our child’s heart – they are not seeing things from God’s perspective, they have hardened their heart to God’s ways. This is the bottom line – it isn’t about us, it is about our child and God. Does our heart break because they’ve inconvenienced us? Or because they have disobeyed God and turned from Him?
It is so easy to parent to the behaviour. They do something – we react. That is the way of parenting; but it isn’t the way of heart focused parenting. So once we turn our attention towards the heart the next quick fix parents grab hold of is getting their children to be Christians. And of course, I want my child to love and know and follow Jesus, I want them to have that eternal peace with God but their faith has to find a practical application today, in their life today. Being a Christian isn’t about having eternal life, or having a relationship with Jesus – it is about becoming like Jesus: in thought, word and deed.
So when our children make poor choices, it doesn’t affect their salvation, they may want to hold fast to Jesus, but they need help in renewing their mind, in putting on their armour and walking in a way that reflects their changed and new heart. Our children need to be discipled; we need to help them grow and mature in their faith.
Our First Response is to Pray
The first thing we should do when our child makes a bad choice (of whatever dimension) is to pray. Parenting is a sequence of choices that I the parent make. I cannot afford to let my child push me to respond or react in ways that are wrong. See the irony here – we are worried about our child making bad choices, and in order to teach and train them, we make bad choices. We don’t want to get to that place. So the first response is to pray.
— Pray that God would guard and protect your heart – that He will give you a loving heart, a compassionate heart towards your child. That He would take away your frustration, anger and disappointment towards your child, and fill your heart with love as He loves this child, His child.
— Pray that God would move in this child’s heart. Only the Holy Spirit changes hearts – beseech the Lord – get down on your knees and pray in earnest for God’s intervention. As you do this you are recognising that it is a work of God – that you can’t do anything but God is bigger than any situation, God is bigger than your child’s attitude, God is bigger than our own short fallings.
— Pray that God would give you wisdom (as He promises He will, James 1:5) God has given you this child, He has given you a love for them, a responsibility for them to teach and train them towards godliness and for that He sent the Holy Spirit to teach, guide and comfort us. Wisdom is the practical application of knowing Jesus. How is knowing Jesus going to change how you now address your child?
Sometimes we need to travail in prayer. That is an old fashion word – in this day and age of instant gratification we want God to do it NOW and that is not always going to happen – we may need to carry this burden to God for a while – don’t put a time limit on God – spend time in His presence praying for your child, praying for yourself, thanking God for your child, thanking God for His love and wisdom.
Once we have taken it to the Lord in prayer we can step back into the situation with a different attitude. Our sad heart can change to a heart of peace. Oh for sure, the situation still hurts, that our child could have done such a thing, but there is a peace that surpasses all understanding. Don’t deal with your child till you have that in your heart.
Then you will experience God’s peace,
which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds
as you live in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:7 (NLT)
Over to you:
What helps you look at the heart not the behaviour when your children make bad choices?
(let me know in the comments)
Think Before Giving a Consequence: The purpose of a consequence is to teach our child why and how to do the right thing. Don’t punish your child for doing the wrong thing make sure you choose a consequence that is going to teach them what they need to do better next time.