A dad with teenagers submitted a question here about how to deal with the bitterness he feels when he sees no change in the behavior of his teens and feels like he can’t fix what’s wrong.
Dad, I’m going to be frank with you. Bitterness always flourishes when we focus on the morality of our children. If we focus solely on their behavior, on the things we find frustrating about them, the challenges we find overwhelming and are simply clueless as to how to “fix”, we will live in fear and frustration always treating our children with doubt and suspicion. While this is dangerous ground, it is also simple to change.
Simple, not easy.
Here’s the deal. First, you have to choose to believe daily, hourly if necessary, that God has given you these children, He has a purpose for them, and He will train them up in preparation for such things using YOU. He didn’t bring them into your life to shame you, humble you, or humiliate you. You just have to trust Him that by faith things are shifting on the inside of those children in their hearts even if you can’t see it outwardly yet.
Don’t get bitter, get better. Better at praying. Fasting. Speaking good things over them. Encouraging any small move you see in the right direction no matter how miniscule. First and foremost before any moral improvement or movement happens, these kids have got to know that they are considered righteous (in right standing with God) by their faith in Jesus, and they are loved and favored by God just as they are. Knowing your love isn’t based on their behavior is key. Knowing they are adored no matter what will loosen the grip of sin and help them to focus positively.
One other caution, parents. When you catch your child in an obvious moral blunder, you must quickly restore your relationship and move forward. For example, if you catch your child in a lie, please, at all costs, refrain from calling them a liar and placing the heavy and obscure burden of “earning your trust back” on them. Repair your relationship. Tell them you forgive them and love them like crazy. Explain to them that you know they are growing in integrity and they will be known as an honest young lady or gentleman. Any suspicions or cautions you have about them and their word in the future must be framed in verbiage that lets them know it’s not because you don’t trust them, but because you want to protect them. Do not continue to question their honesty or integrity or you will indeed raise a child focused on “not lying”…thereby fearful and struggling with having “enough” integrity rather than a child who sees himself as your words have framed them–absolutely trustworthy.
In the end, as parents we must believe that He who began a good work in us, in our family and in our children will be faithful to complete it. We choose to believe that good changes are happening on the inside of our children by faith, even when our sight tells us these kids are way off the mark. Keep marching, Dad. Keep praying. Keep believing and working and hugging and loving and teaching and training and tucking them in and kissing them…you will get there. He promises.