There is nothing more important to me than healthy relationships. First my relationship with Jesus and then relationships with others. As a parent, my desire is for our children to know I am their greatest cheerleader, and I want them to be who God created them to be–even if it’s not what I may have visualized for them. And if you are a parent, I’m sure you feel the same.
I don’t nesessarily feel qualified to share about this, but it is a burden I’ve had. And since a few of these are issues our family has struggled with, I assume we’re not the only ones.
Our family is close. But we are far from perfect and certainly have our struggles, as every family does. In fact, if you see families who appear flawless, you can assume they’re better actors than the rest of us. Since we’re all broken individuals, we will experience some levels of brokenness in our relationships. However, strong, healthy relationships are possible.
Our children have been a huge blessing and encouragement to us and so far, we haven’t faced dramatic teenage rebellion like some have. But we’ve needed to work through things, and I’m sure we’re not done.
One of the biggest challenges of parenting can be in the area of caring for our children’s hearts. Respecting their individuality while establishing boundaries. I find this to be daunting and impossible without tons of humility and wisdom from God.
Over the years of observing many families, we’ve seen how difficult it can be to have a balanced approach to parenting. There’s a tendency to either be controlling and limiting your child, or being too lenient without proper boundaries. Both can be rooted in fear. My husband and I have, at times, found ourselves on either side.
I want to talk specifically about children who have reached the teenage or young adult stage of life, and are still living at home. Because as our children mature, our parent/child relationship will shift as well, and a healthy balance is essential during this time.
As a child is maturing into their teenage/adult years, they will be discovering what they believe and what their values are. The key is to extend enough freedom to enable them to begin making their own choices, while not allowing something that will bring major damage or devastation. They need to be able to make some wrong choices. Too often we lay down the “rules” rather than asking them, “Why don’t you pray about that and let me know what you think God is telling you?” The goal during this time is to transfer them from listening to you, to listening to God.
This process takes so much wisdom!
Once a child is an adult but still living in the home, proper boundaries should be put in place. They shouldn’t be unable to do something simply because their parents don’t want them to, although honor is still needed. Parents need to be helping to guide our children to what is safe and wise, but we can stifle them and wound their hearts if we make issues out of everything.
For instance, I’m scared of heights. Like really scared. Although I’ve tried to defeat it, it’s still not something I’ve totally conquered. I’ve forced myself to go zip-lining and even found myself enjoying it a little, but I still don’t like heights. My daughter, on the other hand, can’t get enough adventures like sky-diving, roller coasters, etc. Caring for her heart means I can get excited about her adventures rather than allowing my concern for her to hold her back.
Caring for our teenage/adult children’s hearts involves listening to them. Really listening to them. And not being too quick to lay down the law. It means allowing them to discover who they are and develop their own likes and dislikes. Caring for their hearts means to help guide them in the way of righteousness while not forcing our values on them.
As I was preparing to write this, I asked my adult daughters for times I cared for their hearts and when I didn’t. These were their replies…“I’d say you’ve cared for my heart majority of the times, but the times when I felt you weren’t caring were when you were trying to be “doctor mom” and quickly fix things.”
Even if our motives are right, we can wound our child’s heart if we just try to “fix” them. It is always better to take the time to have a discussion and allow our child to help make the decision. Even during times we may feel a sense of urgency in thinking they’re heading down a wrong path.
My other daughter shared that what she appreciates about me is that I care for her heart and want to talk things through. I am sensitive to the feeling of walls being built between us and will make an effort to get to the place where everyone is understanding and caring for each other. But this is also what made her not feel cared about. She doesn’t feel “cared for” when I dig, and she feels forced to share when she’s not ready to. Again, our motives can be correct. But it’s important to lead rather than force.
The other side of fear-based parenting involves not establishing proper boundaries and allowing our children to be the controlling counter parts. The fear of upsetting the child or “stirring up issues” prevents us from being the protectors and authority within the home. If we’re so concerned to care for our child’s heart that we don’t establish proper boundaries, we will greatly hurt our children in other ways.
While adult children can make their own choices about the kinds of things they are involved in, you as a parent still have responsibility over your own house and the things you allow to enter.
We’ve seen parents allow their adult children to bring things into their homes that was negatively affecting younger siblings. This can be a tough situation because the parents feel if they don’t allow something, the child may simply leave, and then the parents will have less influence in their lives. However, you are your children’s God-given protection, whether they recognize or desire it. When an adult child struggles with honoring and respecting your desires and boundaries for your home, it’s likely they don’t fully understand or appreciate your protection. Or maybe you are approaching the issue in a forceful rather than loving way.
I continue to see the importance of balance in all things. In fact, the enemy delights in throwing accusations our way, causing us to parent with fear. Especially if we are attempting to raise our children in godliness. The enemy will gain greater access to our families if he can paralyze us with his lies and accusations.
However, accusations should never cause us to be afraid to stand for what we believe is God’s way and what is truth. We should still teach righteous living, respect for authority, and the dangers of ungodly choices.
My friend, God’s kingdom is under attack in the lives of godly families. Let’s not allow the enemy to keep us from teaching our children to be world changers and lifting a higher standard against the enemy.
If you are a young person, don’t be afraid to be “different” and stand for truth and holiness. If you are a parent, don’t back down on the godly standards you’ve established for your home. We are not called to force our children to make the right choices, but we’re called to lead them in righteousness.
Instead of allowing fear of your child’s potential choices to control you, do your fighting on your knees.
Instead of making quick decisions and rules in our family, we are learning how to better walk alongside our children. How to listen to their heart, give advice, but also step back and surrender them to the Lord. Teaching children only respect and obedience without love and relationship is a futile plan. The same is true with relationship without accountability.
God, help us to follow Your balanced plan for our families.
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)