Being a parent is hard even when everything is going great. So it’s especially challenging when your children begin making poor decisions. There is little worse than the feeling of having to watch your children suffer due to a choice they made that came with negative consequences.
How do we balance the role of love and support while allowing our children the freedom to make their own decisions?
Let Love Lead The Way
As parents, our God-given duty is to instill the best understanding, principles, knowledge and foresight as we can into our children. We aim to protect them and give them the best opportunities to succeed, with as little pain and failure as possible. This is all done under the power of unconditional love. It honors God to do our best as parents, even when we get it wrong. But the principle of unconditional love should always be upheld. Because our children are going to make mistakes; they are going to live their own life at some point.
One of the hardest parts of parenting is having to trust God in what He will do in the middle of our children’s storms. Sometimes, we can build more rapport with our children by simply being the refuge for them while they navigate their storms. We should never teach our children that love is some kind of reward for doing good and not bad. Loving unconditionally, despite watching our children suffer through consequences of their decisions, is very hard. But showing love despite the mistakes your child makes ensures that their trust in you remains strong.
See Their Point Of View
It is natural to want to guide our children based off our own journey through life. But when we do this, we are assuming that their life is identical to ours, and that their purpose and calling is the same as ours. But it’s important to recognize your child as a unique human being with his or her own unique talents, passions, goals and flaws.
Don’t take your child’s mistakes personally. Instead, offer support and understanding during a difficult time. Here’s one way to approach your child after they’ve made a poor choice:
“I know this has been really hard for you. I hate seeing you hurt and upset. I love and care about you so much. How can I be here for you?”
Trust me when I say our children always know when they have made a decision that would likely let us down. We don’t have to remind them. But by loving them, we open the possibility for discussion, which may bring about an opportunity to counsel them. Or, it might lend to their asking us for honest advice in the future where we can spare them a bad decision or two.
Set Boundaries When Necessary
There may be times where your children choose a path that goes against all that you believe in, and you cannot support their decisions at all. This is the most difficult trial any parent can face. In that case, you can choose to give love no matter what your child does with his or her life while still defining your boundaries. That may look something like this:
“I will always love you. But I cannot go where you are going in your life. However, I am always here in my love for you, even if I cannot fully support the place you are in.”
If our love is sincere, deep and unconditional, we will always leave the door of invitation open for a beautiful relationship with our children to thrive. Try to model the love of God and hold tight to the knowledge that He has a plan through their failures (as He does our own). Let your love be the bridge they can always return to, no matter what they do.