When Our Children are Making Bad Choices

If our grown children have rebelled or are living outside the bounds of God’s plan, it can be gut wrenching and heart breaking. We can feel burdened with guilt and shame, feeling somehow responsible for the choices they make. This can lead to uncontrollable cycles of attempting to fix, rescue and walk them into the safety and protection we perceive they need. 

As a parent, God has placed us in a spiritually strategic role to first and foremost pray for our children. We have direct access to God’s throne. He is our Father, and is also parenting our children with us. Thus, He feels the hurt and grief of their poor choices with usBut God isn’t as eager to fix the wrongs in our children as we are. That’s because He understands that their choices, and the resulting consequences, are the most potent teaching tool.  There is no greater motivator than pain. Our physical body is rigged to react negatively when an injury occurs. This prompts us to care for that injury rather than neglect it.  In the same manner, bad choices are meant to provoke heart pain to the point of driving a person to want and need help. When we directly attempt to intervene in our children’s life to change the outcomes, we unknowingly can remove the very pain meant to promote maturity.  Wanting to help our children is the natural, human instinct. Learning to partner with God to allow our children’s maturity to root, even watching them make wrong choices, takes supernatural strength. Simply we put, we don’t know how to do this on our own. We need God’s help.
Some ways we can help our grown children:

Develop a plan to help encourage their maturity.

Offer structured, planned out help that responds to a crisis through a thought out plan rather than a reaction. We get caught in a moment, perhaps even manipulated and before we know it, we are paying a bill, putting up money for bail, opening our home to allow them to live with us. We need to know where we begin and where we end. We need to stop allowing their crisis direct our choices. And mostly, we need boundaries to allow them to make choices that places responsibility back in their hands. We can do this with help, or simply with prayer. What do I need to take care of me? How can I love my son or daughter?

Work through personal issues and strongholds.

Often, our children know our weak spots. If we have injuries in our heart that we haven’t had a chance to work through, it leaves us vulnerable to unhealthy dynamics. Anytime we are motivated by shame or guilt we place ourselves in a negative situation. God wants to empower us to make choices that align with Him. We may discover we struggle to do this because there is hurt in our own life that we haven’t yet addressed. This is a divine season to seek our healing and resources to find the roots and reasons we do and feel the way we do.

Offer freedom rather than control.

Children hate being controlled by a parent;  but at the same time they often want the benefits of what that parent can provide. Learning to not control does not mean we give them whatever they want. It means we stop trying to control their decisions or the outcomes in their lives. We remove ourselves from trying to manage, fix or change them. When we stop controlling them, we also stop allowing them to control us. This means we aren’t offering the things they want or need simply because we are trying to alter the choices they make.  At first, this will stress the relationship. But in the long-run, its the beginning of a new foundation. God designed relationships to give people the right to choose. When love becomes a choice, the relationship can thrive. Your child will respond to your love more than anything else you can offer. Love means you have their best interest at heart, and thus will make those tough boundaries to promote their well-being.

Respect Identity and Dreams.

We must learn to honor our children with their sacred right to choose their identity, direction and purpose. Sometimes our ideas for our children are well-intended, but they don’t necessarily reflect what God would have them to do. Our dreams for our children can frustrate them or place them in bondage when they don’t align with who we say they are. If we see her living far beneath potential, it’s okay to express our encouragement, positive enforcement and attitude of love, just so long as we don’t unknowingly set her up for expectations she can’t fulfill. As a parent, our dreams need to be kept in a safe in our heart, where we pray and bring them before God. But if use our dreams as a standard of measurement, it can hurt them more than help them.

The truth is, this task is overwhelming, and there are no easy and fast solutions. There is little grief that will plague us more than watching a struggling child. While you are powerless to control them, you have power in Christ to pray for him or her. You have the ability to make choices for yourself and for your sanity. You can learn to receive forgiveness and to walk without the strings of guilt and shame driving you. You can find the peace of leaving your child in God’s hands.

If you are facing the difficult dilemma of watching your child suffer through bad choices, learning more about boundaries and codependency can be helpful. We have great resources to assist you. Or try a celebrate recovery in your area. Here’s some resources:

  1. Sign up for Counseling  We work one on one with people to help them understand how to make these truths into a reality. We do have a short waiting list. Counseling is based on what you can afford.
  2. Christian Families in Recovery Workshop – We have a workbook and free videos that address the addiction cycle.
  3. Christian Codependence Workshops – We have online workshop resources that help deal with imbalanced relationships and the need to overcome control through tools of redemption, hope and healing.