Mom and Dad ask, “Where did we go wrong!?!” Continued… by Ken Nair
When our youngsters quit listening, it’s usually because they feel we’ve quit listening. Or they’ve decided they can’t convince us that they’re right and we’re wrong. If the last is true, a child is at the place where he or she has to decide whether or not he/she wants his/her own personal relationship with God. A parent cannot make this decision for the child! A child must make this decision for him or herself. A parent cannot have a right relationship with God for his or her child!
Point 2. Forcing the issue.
If you force an issue, insisting that your child make a decision, (and he or she are not yet defiant) your child will probably make the decision they know you want them to make. Initially, you may believe they’ve accepted your perspective only to find out later that is not the case at all. If you force the issue, and your child agrees just to “get you off his back,” might that not be construed as your forcing that child to lie? Again, when this happens, it is likely because a dialog is not taking place. At least, from your child’s perspective, this youngster is not fully convinced you really care.
Point 3. Controlling, managing and manipulating.
Remember the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11? The prodigal son’s father realized that his young adult needed to make some serious decisions about the direction of his life. His father didn’t debate him or try to control him. This loving father let his son go, hoping that the consequences of the son’s decisions would have a serious impact.
Incidentally, too many parents wait until problems arise before they sit down with their child to talk. Then, the conversations become centered on the problems, disobedience and the consequences of that disobedience. Conversations should begin while a child is a child. If you wait ‘till your children are young adults to conduct serious conversations, it’s usually too late. Don’t expect conversations to be normal. A lot of rebuilding will be necessary.
Point 4. Listening is more than hearing words.
When I mention the need for a parent to listen, I don’t mean… just hearing words. I mean it’s critical that a parent listen to the child’s spirit. You must listen to a child’s heart before you can understand what is motivating their attitudes, their conclusions, their attitudes, actions or words. There is no way to do that without taking the time necessary to listen effectively. Prior to any conversation with a child, a parent must purpose to put more effort into listening than talking.
This would be a good place to again call attention to the prodigal son’s father. He loved his son (or daughter as the case may be) even during the time his son had taken up running with the world, loose living and whatever else that might have included. Each day the father watched for his boy’s return. He saw his son coming far off in the distance and ran to hug him (even though his son reeked of smelly, stinky pigs). I like to believe his father smothered his son with kisses. What an excellent example for all who are struggling with their questioning, confrontational kids.
Now there’s a challenge! When a young adult realizes that being at home isn’t so bad after all, it is important that a parent does not give himself the freedom to use this opportunity to communicate to his son or daughter, “Well, now that you realized how rotten life can treat you, are you ready to come back and behave yourself?”
Point 5. Christ as Savior and Lord!
Even though you do everything you can, you cannot accept Christ as your child’s Savior. Neither can you determine for that son or daughter that Christ will be Lord of their lives. That also means you cannot choose how your youngster will conduct them self in their Christian walk.
I think many people have accepted Christ as their Savior. But I think far fewer have accepted Him as their Lord. Read Luke 6:46. It begins with Jesus saying, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and to not do what I say?” Christ could have communicated just as easily, “Because you are not obedient and you are not an illustration of me to the world, stop calling me Lord!”
Life Partners Christian Ministries and the Christ Quest Institute are dedicated to helping Christian husbands literally illustrate Christ to their wives and family. Illustrating Christ gives one incredible insight and enables a person to reinterpret and resolve life’s events, so that those events (even the painful ones) are seen as blessings from God.
Nancy, my wife, and I have our own testimony about children who abandoned everything we stood for. We struggled as we watched them over the years. We mourned as each one of our children got caught up in different phases of a worldly lifestyle. Their lifestyles were marked by drinking, drugs and immorality, as well as relationships with (to say the least) questionable characters. We felt like complete failures. Nancy and I struggled with questions about whether or not we were qualified to stay in the ministry. We wondered how our children could betray their own Christianity. Why were these children of ours questioning all of the standards we imparted to them? We also wondered where we went wrong.
Although I felt completely defeated, God convicted me and showed me that I could not allow myself to become passive about my responsibilities, especially regarding God’s command that I illustrate Christ to them each time we had an encounter. I challenged myself about my past unChrist-like character and how that character affected my children. Then, each time God let me see my character flaws, I needed to demand of myself that I make the necessary character changes within. That type of discipline was the key to making Jesus Christ Lord of my life. And, I am far from done; I also recognize this will be a life-long project.
As demonstrated in the story of the prodigal son, I believe each one of our children went through their trials and realized there was something much better at home. As time passed, each one of our children decided to make Jesus Lord of their lives. Now they each have their own deep quests to understand more and more about God and His ways. Not only did we get to patiently wait for them to make their own decisions about who God would be in their lives… but we also are now able to encourage them with a more complete understanding along with examples of Christ-like leadership as they walk through the same difficulties with their children.
It would be easy to believe that each child would have witnessed their older sibling’s experiences and trials then, as a result, decide not to walk that road; however that seems to rarely be the case.
We live in an evil world. I remember telling my children that the world was pagan, and it couldn’t wait for them to join it. This world would be so welcoming because it desperately wanted to chew them to pieces, so it could spit them out. My children, of course, could not relate to that illustration until after they had gotten out there in the world and experienced it themselves.
In conclusion, it’s been interesting to watch what causes young adults to get serious about their Christianity. The reasons why young adults get serious about their own Christianity may vary. The duration of their time away may vary. A few children decide to get serious shortly after they begin challenging the validity of Christianity. Others may take years to see the truth. The most common catalyst that I have seen that causes young adults to decide they want to be true followers of Christ is when they, themselves, experience marriage and start raising children of their own.
You may be saying, “I can’t wait that long for my children to make that decision!” However, you must remember it’s their life. They have to make their own decisions. However, if you feel you cannot let them decide who God will be to them and you feel that you must be the one who makes decisions for them, maybe you should consider getting a pet or a robot.
A couple more questions for you to ponder. Is God showing you how grievous it is when your child is not totally yielded and obedient? Is He using that occasion to help you understand how grievous it is to Him when you (His child) are not totally yielded and obedient to Him?
As God would prefer, do you daily interact with your family and the world, by seriously comparing yourself to Christ?
When and if you do daily measure yourself with Christ, you will start finding that there are answers for life. You will approach life from an entirely different perspective. Christ is completely aware of His Spirit, and, as such, is spiritually mature and fully functional spiritually. That means a Christ-like person will also become more aware of his human spirit, spiritually maturing and becoming more fully functional spiritually. Because God is Spirit, being spiritually functional means looking more affectively at life, from God’s… or the Author of life’s… perspective. And, The Author of life understands life and His designs for all of life’s events.
I believe children who see a more consistent, genuine Christ-likeness in their parents (in other words, parents who have yielded to Christ as Lord) are more likely to follow that example and make a decision to have Christ reign as Lord of their own lives. I also believe a parent who doesn’t see his child return to Christ, might need to re-examine his own Christ-likeness and evaluate his own yieldedness to Christ as Lord.
Two closing summaries.
First, this decision is your child’s decision! You cannot decide for them.
Second, keep track of and remember what God is teaching you through your trials. You may get the opportunity to pass on what you learned through your trials to your children once they return. Then your children, in turn, can pass those lessons on to their children.
I pray God will use this article to provide some answers, and bless those who are struggling with the, Where Did I Go Wrong syndrome with understanding and direction.