Nobody intentionally sets out to fail as a parent. No one plans on raising an axe murderer. I’ve never met a mom who lies in bed at night envisioning how to mess up her kids.
I have, however, met many parents who can’t sleep at night because they worry—a lot—about the fruit of their loins.
Where did I go wrong?
How could my son make such a terrible choice?
What’s up with my daughter? Seriously, what does she see in that guy?
I raised him “in the Lord,” and today he doesn’t want anything to do with God or church.
The struggle is real.
The doubts are crippling.
The personal agony is devastating.
My mom experienced distress and misery on my behalf. Once upon a time, I was a prodigal son. I walked away from God, the Church, my family, and my faith. It wasn’t pretty. I broke a lot of hearts, including my mom’s. Gratefully, she never gave up on me even though no one would have blamed her if she had.
Motherhood is one of the toughest jobs on the planet.
So what can a mother do when she has a wild, out-of-control child?
First, remember that you are responsible for how you raise your children, but not always to blame for the way your kid turns out. You have great influence and a great duty. Ultimately, however, you are not responsible for the choices of your teen or adult child.
Do your best to pass the torch of faith and to raise your child in the training and instruction of the Lord. But if your child wanders, don’t assume you are a terrible parent.
Every son or daughter is born with a sin nature. Every child has a propensity for self-centered and sinful behavior. We all are prone to wander because of that frustrating thing called “free will.”
You can do everything right, and your child can still go terribly wrong.
That being said, some moms have good reason to feel responsible. Perhaps they consistently were a poor role model or demonstrated uncontrolled anger. Maybe mom was hyper-controlling or the opposite—completely absent as a parent. Obviously, a lousy mother has a negative impact on her offspring.
So what should you do if you feel like you’ve failed miserably as a parent?
Own it if you’ve blown it, but don’t get stuck under a cloud of shame. Failure as a parent does not disqualify you as a mom, but refusal to own your failure and to repent only makes matters worse.
Ask God to forgive you. Ask your children to forgive you. Confess your sin and then move forward. By the way, remember that there is no such thing as a perfect mom or a perfect family! Don’t deny your failings, but don’t live with unrealistic expectations either.
One of the great lessons you can always teach your children through personal example is the value of humble confession and a contrite heart. You fail. They fail. We all fail. But failure doesn’t have to be the end of the story.
One final thing . . .
Building or repairing and maintaining a relational bridge to your wandering child is paramount. As I have written many times before, it doesn’t matter how right you are if you’re not relational. Above all, do everything you can to live at peace with your child.
If you have a son or daughter who is far from God and maybe even far from you, don’t:
attempt to shame your child into change.
attempt to control or force good choices on your child.
attempt to argue your child into better behavior.
It won’t work. Trust me; I was that child, so I know.
The best thing you can do is to pray your guts out and stay the course as you model love and godliness in the following ways:
Show your child the unconditional love of God. That doesn’t mean there are no boundaries for their behavior, but it does mean there are no limits to your love. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love never gives up.
Practice a lifestyle of mercy and forgiveness. When your child hurts you and strikes out at you in bitterness and vileness, forgive as you are forgiven. In fact, forgive in advance of the offense.
Decide to speak well of your children and to bless them with your words of affirmation. Even the most messed up person in the world still is made in the image of God and is always of great value to Him. Treat your children as if they are special even when they don’t act like it. When they lash out at you, return a blessing instead of a reaction and pray for them even more.
Raising kids in a godly home does not guarantee godly children, so do the best you can, and stop beating yourself up. Focus more—a lot more—on being a godly and caring mom that your children are drawn to because of your example and undying love.
Most of all, never give up on the prodigals. They need you and your prayers more than they know.
May I pray for you?
Father, I know you are close to the brokenhearted. I know you hear the cry of every mom. And I know you love every child beyond measure. Please wrap Your arms around each mom and each of their children today in a way that will bring both comfort and change. In the name of Your Son, Amen.
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