Directing our children is a huge responsibility that I have been thinking about a lot this week. I think that there is a good example for us in Genesis 18:19:
For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.
Abraham is a man who was made famous by his faith, obedience, and humility. He had faith in God’s promises (even the ones that seemed crazy), he was obedient to God’s direction and his laws (even when it would cost him everything), and he lived humbly, putting the desires of his God before his own (even when it meant years of discomfort).
I would argue that these are the characteristics that we need to be great parent. The kind of parents that God would want in someone who would lead the next generation.
Earlier in the week I wrote a post called “A Lesson on Training and Instruction.” In it I referred to a friend of my daughter’s who was making some unfortunate, high-risk decisions. Since writing that post, I’ve learned that her parents have reacted in some pretty volatile ways. For years I worked in a counseling program for high risk youth where I would often see parents make similar mistakes. Blowing up in anger, calling names, and sometimes even withholding love. That’s what’s happing in this situation and I think it will have a predictable result.
So how do we react to news that our children have acted outside of God’s law? How do respond to things like sexual activity, inappropriate online activity, or sexting, while maintaining Abraham’s kind of cool? With my daughter’s permission I’d like to share how we did it.
- We had faith in God. Before we confronted her we prayed. My husband and I were both primed to say and do all the wrong things. Instead, we gathered all the self-control we had and let God speak before we did.
- We had faith in the church. We knew this was something that we shouldn’t face alone. We needed a sounding board and prayers from others. We also knew that we wanted to respect our daughter’s privacy, so we called two friends we knew we could trust before we talked to her. With them I had the freedom to cry, get angry, yell and say all the things I knew would be hurtful to her.
- We had faith in the process. We knew that we would never be able to say “Stop it, now” and expect her to listen. Instead we would have to speak softly, love truth, and pursue her gently (the same stuff God does with us!). This means that we didn’t have a talk, we’ve had many. We didn’t tell, we discussed. We didn’t become rigid and unreasonable, but we did consistently reinforce limits and boundaries. And whenever it was appropriate, we let go of some control, allowing her have the last word and left room for her to ask questions.
This isn’t easy and it doesn’t produce quick results. We are constantly working on developing our relationship with her and guiding her in the ways of the Lord. We’ll never be perfect, and neither will she. And we’re all ok with that for now.