So what does it look like to let go without abdicating parental responsibilities? Dr. Jim Newheiser shares two lessons he learned from personal experience:
Listen to the kids:
Encourage parents to create an environment where kids can share, explore and discuss ideas with the parent—where the adult listens and interacts with the child and his ideas.
A thing I think I was failing to do was to really learn to listen to my kids as they were becoming adults. As they were forming their own ideas, I was trying to conform them to my ideas that I thought were the biblical ideas. As they began to think differently from me, I don’t think I gave them a lot of freedom to express those ideas, where I should have.
I think it would be very wise for a parent, when your child is becoming an adult, not to be threatened by them questioning their faith, even questioning your moral values, but rather [create a relationship where] they could feel free to talk about that and not be afraid that you’re going to bite their head off or dominate the situation, but [know] that you’re going to listen and understand and interact with them as the adults they’re becoming. And then your position, in terms of their heart, is really one of persuasion, not control.5
Enjoy the kids:
Also encourage parents to be intentional about building a relationship with the child, a relationship where two people just enjoy being with one another. Dr. Newheiser says, “Sometimes I was so busy trying to get it all right that I wasn’t enjoying my kids as much as I should. I was just so driven—we’re going to have our family devotions, we’re going to do these important things, we’re going to discipline for this, and it was all very intense. I’ve seen in families that have been the most successful: in addition to having discipline, they just have a great time together.”6
God does not hold parents responsible to control the beliefs and desires of their children. Instead, He asks them to trust Him with their children, and to relinquish the idea that they even had control in the first place.
Challenge your people to parent by faith: to reconsider current parenting habits from a gospel-centered perspective and to relinquish things they are trying so hard to control. Challenge your parents to have the faith to respond to parenting situations in ways they wouldn’t instinctively respond. This is a call to trust God with the results—by parenting His way.
How can you use the points in this article to help a family in your church who is struggling with parenting?
This article originally appeared here.