Prodigal Daughter? Hope and Help for Moms!

daughterDaughter. Is your daugher a prodigal? Then chances are, you are upset, hurt, sad, and a wet pile of other emotions. So what’s a mom to do? Where can she find help and hope? In this guest article that appeared first here, Suzanne Holland, listed in Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, gives you encouragement and a biblical plan of action. Reprinted with permission. 

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We get many calls to our counseling center from distraught moms who are seeking counseling for their teen or young adult daughters. Many have been dealing with the drama and heartache of a rebellious child for years before they call us, and they are at the end of their rope. They have done everything they know of to love and teach this child, but she is rebellious, worldly, and not interested in changing.

The roller coaster of emotions has got them frazzled and exhausted, and they want help for their daughter. These prodigals are rarely ready to sit down with a biblical counselor to talk about their sin and their need for repentance. If they are forced to come in, they are usually sullen and barely responsive, with crossed arms and an angry countenance.

In these cases, the best thing a mom can do for her wayward daughter is to get counseling for herself. She needs to understand that she cannot change her daughter, and she shouldn’t try. She needs to understand the truth about the situation and her part in it. Today, I’d like to share with you three things for a mom to remember when her teen or young adult daughter is in open rebellion.

1. Remember Who God Is

One of the temptations for a mom who is dealing with a rebellious adult child is to doubt the character of God. She might be tempted to ask, “If God is good, then why is he allowing this to happen? If God is loving, then why is He putting me through this? If God is all-powerful, then how can he allow my daughter to sin against me and our family in these ways?”

These questions are common and understandable, but they reveal a fatal flaw in the theology of the one who asks them. They show that the asker is basing her view of God on her circumstances, and not on the Bible.

If I base my view of God on my circumstances, then that means that the character of God is ever-changing. If things are going well for me, then God is good and He loves me. If things are going badly, then God must be evil or unloving or some other characteristic that is far from describing the God of the Bible.

But Malachi 3:6; Psalm 102:27; 1 Samuel 15:29; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17 and many other Scriptures inform us that God does not change. So, as your daughter goes up and down on her roller coaster of emotions, behaviors, and disruptions, you can rest assured that your God has not joined her in that. Don’t you join her, either. Rest and put your hope in the one and only God of the Universe who doesn’t change like shifting shadows.

2: Remember Who Your Daughter Is

Like all of us, your daughter is a sinner who needs a savior. Perhaps she made a profession of faith—even seemed to be bearing fruit earlier in her life–but now you’re just not sure whether she is truly saved. Maybe she firmly insists that she is saved. However, her attitudes and behaviors do not bear witness of the Holy Spirit working in her life. Even if she is regenerate, she is still being saved, in the sense of sanctification, so she still needs a savior.

Your daughter is an image bearer of God, created by Him for His glory. His deepest desire for her life is that she would bring glory to His name.

So, as you struggle with her behavior, attitudes, and actions, you must remember that you also were created for the glory of God. You can manage your own emotional response, by confronting yourself like this: “You were created to glorify God. How are you doing right now?”

Your answer to that question will inform your next step. If your response is biblical and God-glorifying, bravo! Keep it up! But if it is not, repent and ask the Lord to change your heart so that you can respond biblically.

3: Remember What Brings Glory to God

As believing moms, we do long to glorify God in our parenting. But when a child is rebellious, disrespectful, and mired in unrepentant sin, it is hard to know  the God-glorifying response. So let’s just take it down to three responses that we know for sure are always glorifying to God.

Three Awesome Responses! 

Worship God

Psalm 86:9, 12; Psalm 29:1-2; Isaiah 24:14-15, and countless other verses teach us that the worship and praise of God bring Him glory. When you feel angry, sad, rejected, and hurt by your daughter, let that be a reminder to you to worship the One who is able to change her heart. Pour out your heart in lament to Him.

Christian song writer Michael Card says,

Lament…encompasses pain, hurt, confusion, anger, betrayal, despair, and injustice. It goes beyond your personal relationships to consider how all creation groans to be restored to God. Jesus understood that lament was the only true response of faith to the brokenness and fallenness of the world. It provides the only trustworthy bridge to God across the deep seismic quaking of our lives.”

Worship God as you travel that bridge to seek His face in your deepest heartache.

Obey God

Regardless of what your daughter is doing, you are accountable to God for your response to it. If you are sinning in your response to her sin, all you are doing is multiplying sin! How does that bring glory to God?

The best thing you can do is to seek the Lord, walk in obedience to Him, and trust that He will strengthen you to do so. What does obedience look like in this case? For the answer to that question, we must look to Jesus.

He walked among a rebellious people while he was here on the earth. He loved them, taught them by both word and example, and welcomed but never forced them to follow Him. He never tolerated sin, but lovingly and firmly rebuked and corrected it. And, when they would not listen, he let them go their way.

Pray to God

This one doesn’t need too much explanation, other than to say that, if you don’t want to pray or think it’s a waste of time, then you yourself are in serious rebellion against God.

Have you given up praying for your child because you “tried that and it didn’t work?” Are you angry about the way your child seems to have turned out? Are you disappointed in God, feeling like He let you down?

My dear sister, these are dangerous thoughts that will only lead you to despair and bitterness. Turn from this kind of thinking now, and cry out to God in prayer and repentance. As you do so, you will find that you are worshiping Him, and this will lead you to walk in obedience no matter what your daughter is up to.

More Encouragement

Seeing our children grow up and walk away from our beliefs and practices is heartbreaking, to say the least. I personally know this heartache every single day. But our children’s choices do not have to determine our own.

God is who He says He is no matter what is happening in our lives. When your child screams at you and slams her door, God is still good. When she chooses the world over Him, He is still faithful. Even if she walks away, leaving your home and disappearing from your life, He loves you. He loves you with an everlasting love that never fails, never leaves, never loses patience. Cling to Him in your darkest times.

Resources

One of the best books I’ve read on this subject is Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls, by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert. I highly recommend it if you are struggling with these issues.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Blended Families: What to Do BEFORE Marriage

blended families

Blended families: Ups and downs, joys and messes. If you’re in a blended family, then you know what it takes to bring together two families. It’s hard work, isn’t it?

But if you’re considering remarriage after divorce or the death of a spouse: What should you do before you marry again?

Two words: premarital counseling.

Already blended. . .and struggling? Counseling works for you too. Don’t despair. Be encouraged. At the end of this article you’ll find helps just for you.

Did you know your family is among the 40 percent of married couples with children in the US that are blended? This percentage counts full- and part-time residential step families with children under age 18 as well as adult children.

In this article, you’ll discover four main things regarding blended families:

  1. Take it slow!
  2. How premarital counseling works before remarriage.
  3. Helping the children.
  4. Encouragement for blended families.

Slow Down. . .When You Want to Speed Up 

After years of parenting alone, it’s tempting to “follow your heart,” as today’s popular mantra advises, and marry quickly. As Ron Deal of Family Life Blended says, “You cook a stepfamily slowly in a Crockpot, not forcibly in a blender! Kids need more time than adults to get used to the idea of a wedding.”

For example, consider a couple I counseled who married within months of meeting each other. Fiona and Eli (names and details have been changed) were previously married and have five school-age children. (Two of the children also live their mom during the week.)

The couple disagreed over parenting, handling money, and dealing with the ex-spouses, among other things. Both of them are Christians and declared their love for each other. However, life’s struggles created significant stress. Fiona became controlling; Eli backed away. Sometimes he moved in with buddies for a few days for a break.

Meanwhile, the children were confused and acted out.

As one spouse said, “I just want to live and make life fun. It seems that everything is a task. I’m just drained.”

Do these words resonate with you?

Did you go through pre-marital or pre-engagement counseling before you remarried? What difference has it made? If you didn’t have pre-marital counseling before remarriage, do you wish you had?

Pre-Marital Counseling Before Remarriage

First, during premarital counseling, you’ll think through the compexities of combining families and determine if the marriage is wise.

Second, you’ll discuss topics that may have factored in to a previous divorce — everything from communication and conflict resolution to parenting styles and personality differences. You won’t address every potential problem in premarital counseling but you will see the glaring ones.

Third, you’ll consider reasonable expectations between the children and the new spouse. Did you know that children cling to the hope that their parents will get back together? I did when my parents divorced when I was age eight. But when you remarry, your childrens’ dream dies. This is a loss for them.

Helping the Children

In premarital counseling, you’ll discover how to listen to the children–their hope, their fears.

You’ll also learn how to talk to the children about God’s role in blended families. Now they’ll have more people to love and support them! This includes the non-custodial parent when possible.

Sometimes chidlren become fearful that the new blended family will also end up in a divorce. In premarital counseling, you and your future spouse will develop a habit of praying with and for your children. reassuring them and each other that you choose to glorify God always.

5 Encouragements for Already Blended Families

Is your family already blended? You’ll appreciate these reminders from Ron Deal. I encourage you to peruse his ministry website, where you’ll find extra resources.

  1. SLOW your expectations of how quickly your blended family will harmonize. Deal says, “The average stepfamily needs between five to seven years to form a family identity. In movies, love between adults and bonding with children happens quickly; in real life, it happens gradually.”
  2. INVEST in your marriage relationship. It is the the new foundation for your home.
  3. BE a united parental team while building relationships with stepchildren. What about disciple? Deal urges, “Early on, biological parents should continue to be the primary disciplinarian to their children while stepparents build relationship, trust, and respect with stepchildren.”
  4. AVOID common pitfalls. For example, a child who says, “You’re not my mom, I don’t have to listen to you” is telling you about their sadness that mom isn’t here. Also, keep some holiday traditions while creating new ones. Money matters can be confusing too. Calmly discuss how you will balance your responsibilities to previous individual financial obligations (such as paying child support) while combining assets for the new family.
  5. STEP UP your faith. Spiritual resources help everyone in blended families find grace for each other and strength for the journey.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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Saying Sorry Versus True Repentance

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When you hurt someone’s feelings, is it enough to say “I’m sorry”?

Or do these words fall flat when spoken without godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10)? Is there a preferred alternative? Is so, what?

Years ago these questions swirled in my mind when one of my children called her sibling a name, snatched an item without permission, or smacked her on the head.

In this short article, I’ll share. . .

  1. an experiment that flopped
  2. the change that made the difference.

The main point: Don’t raise a little pharisee who knows the right words to say. Instead, train up a child to who desires to please the Lord.

The ‘I’m Sorry’ Method

Several Christian moms at my church, Bible study, and MOPS swore by a method to change their dear children’s behavior after a skirmish.

Picture this scenario: Carrie tiptoes into older sister Mary’s closet and snags a super cool top to wear. Later Mary sees Carrie at school in her top and pointed words fly like daggers. Later at home their mom learns of the problem and tells the swiper to return the top and say “I’m sorry” followed by “I forgive you” from the other sister, then they hug. She requires both girls to say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” for the mean words, and they hug again.

The mom in the scenario truly believes she’s getting to the root of the problem and that the girls learned a valuable lesson about taking without asking first and using hateful words. Have you found yourself in a similar situation? How did you discipline your kids?

My Experiment

Sort of hopeful (but not confident) this method would work, I tried a week-long experiment with my three children. I clued in my husband. A united front, right?

The plan: When one child was mean in some way to another, the offending kid had to say, “I’m sorry” whether or not she felt sorry. The offended kid had to say, “I forgive you” whether or not she truly forgave her — and they hugged.

The goal: to instill a humble, contrite spirit leading to true repentance. But did it work?

Ah, no.

Laura called Julia a name, said “I’m sorry” while rolling her eyes, and Julia said “I forgive you” with great enthusiasm, bless her heart. Their hug resembled a vice grip you might witness on WWE. Within minutes John hit Julia in the face with a bouncy ball. It was an accident.

“I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you.”

Vice-grip hug.

Those two began throwing things at each other just to get to the vice-grip hug. Laura was “like whatever” and escaped to her bedroom.

When a lamp crashed and a cat flew out of the way, I stopped the experiment. I could not handle another six days! 

The  experiment flopped.

My children said the right words without an inkling of repentance. I was raising vice-grip loving, little Pharisees!

Change That Makes the Difference

The real point behind genuine sorrow is repentance. Wordly sorrow is fakery; it’s death.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corninthians 7:10).

“Sorrow,” in this context, refers to sorrow that is according to the will of God and produced by the Holy Spirit, says pastor John MacArthur whose Grace to You media ministry reaches millions. True repentance is impossible apart from genuine sorrow over one’s sin.

sorryThis was my problem and my kids’ problem: The “I’m sorry” were just words, not genuine sorrow.

Worldly sorrow has no redeeming value. This type of “I’m sorry” results from getting caught in a sin or from wounded pride, and leads to shame, despair, self-pity, and even death (see Mattew 27:3 for the account of Judas’ hanging).

Genuine repentance is at the very heart of one’s salvation. Believers repent of their sin continually as they turn from loveless thoughts, words, behaviors, and motivations and turn to God.

A person who is truly repentant experiences change in the inner person. Consider this:

But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15:18-19, NIV)

The Pharisees were experts in “good” behavior–as my children became adept at saying “I’m sorry” and vice-grip hugs–and missed heart change. True repentance cuts to the heart.

An Offer

Are your kids (young or older) driving you nuts? Do you need encouragment and godly counsel? Consider scheduling a free 15-minute phone call with me; contact me and we’ll set it up.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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Rebellious Child: Help and Hope for Moms

rebellious kid

A rebellious child is opposed to authority — yours! And his defiance hurts, doesn’t it? It causes you to question your effectiveness as a loving, godly mom. You may wonder if God has given you more than you can handle.

As a counselor I’ve heard from moms and dads who need help figuring out and responding to a rebellious child. My hope is to provide encouragement to you so you know. . .

This article is the last in a four-part series on teaching your children. The first one focused on younger kids, the second looked at teens, and the third considered young adult children. If you’re married, why not share these articles with your husband?

The goal: to encourage and equip you

with help and hope for your heart!

You Are Not Alone

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

“My daughter met this new kid who introduced her to weed. Now she sneaks out of the house and lies. What happened?”

“I can’t get through to my 24 year old. Over and over I tell him he has to get a job. He says he’ll look for one ‘tomorrow’ but never does.”

“Joey won’t do anything I ask him — pick up his stuff, turn off the TV, do his spelling homework. I don’t know what to do.”

Your child’s problem may be backtalk or bullying, stealing or sneaking out, lying or laziness — or all of these. Even “good” kids might rebel. They just coverup better, like my high-achieving high school friend who hid vodka in her locker.

Rebellion is worsening! In We Cannot Be Silent, R. Albert Mohler Jr. writes, “We are facing nothing less than a comprehensive redefinition of life, love, liberty, and the very meaning of right and wrong.” Do you agree?

God’s Word Has Everything You Need

As you wrestle through the issues of parenting a rebellious child, have you found hope and comfort in the all-sufficient written Word?

Romans 8:28 has an encouraging message. Please do not let its familiarity blow by you.

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.

All things. Including the hard. Especially the hard.

The Lord promises:

I will never leave you or forsake you. So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me? Hebrews 13:5-6

May I encourage you to read the Bible daily? Like nothing else, God’s Word strengthens you and comforts you. It instructs and convicts. It is God speaking to YOU.

Jot down important truths God impresses on you. Think on these truths (Philippians 4:8).

You Have an Identifiable Enemy 

When your son blames you, when your daughter refuses to follow rules — know this: Yes, your rebellious child is reponsible for their own sin. However, Satan loves to rip apart a family any way he can. He tempts your children to hate you! 

Mom, you are in a spiritual war. This war has an eternal significance. Satan is your enemy.

What you can do:

In addition to prayer and reading your Bible for strength, comfort, and insight:

  1. Discipline your rebellious child. Biblical discipline, say Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jim Newheiser in When Good Kids Make Bad Choices, is the process of setting clear standards for behavior based on the Bible, requiring immediate and respectful obedience, and then taking measured discipinary action when the rules are not obeyed. In a future post, I’ll spell out what this looks like in real life. Meanwhile, if you need help now, please contact me. I counsel by Skype and in person.
  2. Love your rebellious child. When your child–whether age 4 or age 24–acts like your enemy, choose to show them love (Matthew 5:44-45). Resist revenge. Do good. Forgive as you have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32). Speak life-giving words.

Remind yourself that your rebellious child is NOT the real enemy.

God Gives You His Power to Persevere 

Parenting a rebellious child affects you! You may experience anger, fear, and depression. Here are a few practical ideas for you to glorify God. Remember, you have God’s power to lead a godly life.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

  1. Pray for your child with your husand if you’re married (and he’s a believer). Prayer demonstrates your reliance on God.
  2. Thank God for the trial. (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4) Thanking God will lessen your anxiety and complaints.
  3. Ask God how you can change? Perhaps you are too permissive or authoritarian. Maybe spending more time with your child will improve communication.
  4. Ask your child for forgiveness. (Matthew 7:1-5) When you sin against your child, tell her you sinned, confess your wrongdoing, and repent. Your demonstration of true humility will have an effect for the good.

These godly responses toward a rebellious child may sound impossible.

Apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5

However,

If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. John 15:7

Truly, on your own it is impossible be an effective, loving godly mom to a rebellious child, but in Christ you can persevere. You can have true joy in the journey.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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Teaching Your Teen to Love God

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Teaching your teen to love God is among your most important jobs, isn’t it? And it’s tough. It can also be gratifying and wonderful and amazing!

Before long, your teen or preteen will graduate high school and be at college or in the workforce or Armed Forces. But maybe he’ll waste hour after hour playing Special Ops and trashing your basement.

Be encouraged, Christian mom, the Lord has equipped you to teach your teen well. He has given you the Bible, a “handbook” to solving life’s problems (2 Peter 1:7). He is with you, guiding you. He loves you and your teen. God never lets go.

This article is the second in a four-part series on teaching your children. The first one focused on younger kids, the next one looks at young adults, and the last one on you, the parent. If you’re married, why not share these articles with your husband?

The goal: to encourage and equip you

with help and hope for your heart!

3 Quick Helps for Moms

  1. Agree with the truth God requires you to obey and apply it. “Bring (your children) up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4, ESV

2. See the teenage years as a time of opportunity.

3. Be wise not naive. “So be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

From ‘Perfect Family’ to Rebellion!

Jim Newheiser, a pastor and executive director at The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship, shares a story of his eldest son. Barely 18, he told his parents on home visit that he no longer believes in God and was dating a Buddhist girl.

Then the youngest brother, age 13, rebelled too. He informed his parent he no longer wanted to be homeschooled. He desired to attend public school and be “normal.” Can you imagine the parents’ shock?

Has your teen or preteen shocked you too? Do her friends seem sketchy? Does he say “whatever” when you mention Jesus? Has she become a proclaimed atheist or a well-behaved “Pharisee” whose heart is far from God?

In When Good Kids Make Bad Choices, Newheiser reveals,

“We wondered if our sons’ rebellion was our fault. Did our kids turn away from the Lord because we failed to live for the Lord as we should? . . .Can we hope our rebellious children will eventually come back to the truth when they are older?”

Among the statements I’ve heard in my counseling office:

  • My daughter used to be such a good kid.
  • I’ve tried everything. I don’t know what else to do.
  • Do you think God is punishing me?

Not Just Hormones

Sure, hormones are raging, but something deeper is going on in the heart of a rebellious teen:

failure to fear the Lord.

The teen is choosing his way over God’s will. You’ve heard the familiar Bible verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from up” (Proverbs 22:6). Doesn’t this sound like a promise? That good parenting guarantees good kids? And that teens who stray from the Lord will return to Christ?

But the truth is, proverbs are maxims that describe how God has made the world to work, generally speaking. The authors of When Good Kids Make Bad Choices say the Bible teaches three factors, not just one, that determine how kids turn out:

PARENTS: Parents are responsible to honor the Lord and obey his Word in training their children, from infancy to teenage years.

CHILDREN, PRETEENS, AND TEENS: They are responsible to honor their parents and the Lord by responding in obedience.

THE LORD: He sovereignly rules over the lives of parents, children, and teens, and he directs them according to his good purposes.

Keep Your Focus of God

When your teen snaps at you or shuts herself in her room or refuses to do his chores or (you fill in the blank), you may feel like giving up. Fear overwhelms. Anger nips at your heels.

May I encourage you to keep your heart filled with truth about God?

His truth is hope.

You may want to turn inward and focus on yourself and your problems with your teen. Please don’t. Instead, look upward to the Lord, the one who has the real answer, who has given you an opportunity to grow spiritually.

Count it al joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Resources for Parents of Teens

Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp

Getting a Grip: The Heart of Anger Handbook by Lou Priolo

Growing in Wisdom: A Bible Study in Proverbs for Fathers and Sons by Dr. Ron Allchin, D.Min.

When Good Kids Make Bad Choices by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jim Newheiser

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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5 AMAZING NAMES GOD CALLS YOU!

Blessed, Daughter, Saint, and more!

In this delightful, four-color ebook, you’ll discover the precious names God calls you. Today so many Christian women don’t fully know their wonderful identity in Christ. Isn’t a time to know yours? Filled with scripture, photography, personal stories, and encouragement!

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