My friend is her younger brother’s mother. He was born when she was 18 and their parents are late. Recently, she shared with me how frustrated she was that he had chosen to live a life completely opposite to how he had been raised. She had decided to wash her hands of him and leave him to live as he saw fit. He is, after all, an adult.

I also came across the story of a lady whose son would lie, litter, loiter and laze about. She had flogged him repeatedly and taken him for multiple deliverance sessions and yet he did not change. This boy was less than 10 and his mother was thoroughly frustrated.

Perhaps your issue is with your teenager – he changed practically overnight and you have no idea who the person who now inhabits your child's body is.

Did you train up a child in the way he should go but contrary to your expectations, he appears to be departing from it? Are your child’s words, actions and habits making you wonder where you went wrong?

I have news for you, no matter how good a mother you are, there are forces at work in the world intent on sending your child spinning off in a direction that you could never imagine. The world is bent on undermining the values you have tried so hard to instill into their lives. 

 

What you should not do

But no matter how bad things have got, Don't Ever Quit on Your Child! 

Do not give up your parental role…do not run away from confronting the behaviour, do not ignore it, do not pretend it does not matter.

Do not give up your leadership role…remember that in the absence of leadership, there is anarchy.

Never give in to disruptive or negative behaviours…the fact that he is your child does not make the behaviour right.

Do not forsake your relationship with him…do not remove yourself physically or emotionally from his life.

Do not forsake your love for him…no matter how he acts.

And do not over compensate with any other children you have…the fear of parenting them into the same behavioural pattern as the older one could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

 

What you should do

There are no guarantees or perfect formulas in parenting. Every parent has struggled, is struggling, or at some point, will struggle with one child or the other. Each situation is different and will need to be assessed individually but here are some principles that can help:

1.   Change your perception.

We are all born with gifts even though these gifts are often corrupted by sin  (Romans 7:21).

See your child from God’s perspective. Identify the talents God gave him, even if they are only evident in his misbehavior, and encourage the development of those talents. This kind of encouragement opens your child to hearing more about how God designed him. Take a cue from Jesus. He would always look beneath the surface and leverage on people’s challenges to draw them into the kingdom. Jesus didn’t treat misbehavior with an eye to just correct it, but with the goal of changing hearts. When Jesus met Saul, instead of doling out strong punishment, He met him with grace. Upon conversion, Paul learned to use his gifts of zeal, determination, and leadership that he had used to persecute Christians to draw people to Christ.  By all means correcting your child’s misbehavior, but also find a way to affirm and put to positive use, the gift that fueled it. 

Begin to see your child as capable of great things, in spite of his current misbehavior. As mothers, we can draw our children into God’s purposes when we step back, look beneath their immediate misbehaviors, and see the talents used to misbehave with a vision for how God might use those talents for good.  

2.   Help them learn from their mistakes

Teach your children that mistakes and shortcomings are a fundamental part of  life but what matters most is what they do going forward. God Himself parents each of us this way. He never minimizes the consequences of our sins. His words :  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (Revelation 3:19); Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7). At the same time, however, He stands constantly ready to forgive us of those mistakes and help us to learn from them in order to grow more into the people he created us to be. After Peter denied Jesus three times, He confronted him about his mistakes but used that lesson to call him to do better going forward (John 21:15–19). 

3.   Separate the process from the end result. 

As a Christian mother, would you want your child to believe that the end justifies the means? I think not! When all the focus is on the result, the lessons that can be learnt from the process are lost. Teach your children the “why” of things. “Because I said so” is not good enough!

4.   Get help!

If you broke your arm, you would get help, you would see a doctor, an orthopedic surgeon or a bone setter. If your child is ‘broken’, get help! Seek counsel! From a Pastor, from a godly parent who has gone ahead of you, someone who has “been there, done that, got the tee-shirt”, from a child psychologist. Perhaps even a friend of your child’s who has it all figured out…peer pressure is not all bad! Don't be afraid to let others know what you're dealing with. Shared pain is lessened, shared joy is increased. 

5.   Love him unconditionally.

Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

Do not change because of the circumstances. Have you always given him a gift on his birthday, at Christmas? Continue to do that. Be tough, yet tender, develop thick skin but retain a sensitive heart.  Hold on to the core of who you are.

6.   Pray

Pray for insight on how to deal with the issue. Pray for wisdom. Pray for clarity. Pray that the light of God will come and remove every darkness in your child’s life (Genesis 1: 2-3). Pray that his heart of stone will be made a heart of flesh. Pray that like the prodigal son, he will come to himself and come home.

My Sister, no matter how bad it appears, God has not abandoned you. When there is confusion and darkness, God is still there. He gives beauty for ashes, turns sadness into joy and mourning into dancing. Do not quit...do not lose hope. He is your strength and your shield. He will help you.